Moving to Hungary with four persnickety cats.
September 30, 2019 6:57 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are in the early stages of planning a move from Ohio to Hungary and figuring out how to move our four spoiled felines.

Complicating factors:

* Giles was born feral and freaks out about everything. Getting him into a carrier is hellish.

* Scarlet pees in the carrier the second it goes in the car. Our vet is two blocks away.

* Nigel is Siamese and a VERY LOUD BOI who will not stop telling you about the injustice of being in a carrier.

* Spike. Ah, he’s fine. He’ll fall asleep. But he’s pretty big (16-17 lbs)

I’m not feeling very comforted about any of the options.

If they go in the heated/pressurized cargo hold, Bad Things could happen. If they travel in the cabin, Peeing and Screaming could happen. Possibly all of the above.

How have YOU moved multiple cats transatlantically?

Did you bring extra people with you so each cat had an in-cabin guardian? / did you split up among multiple flights? Am I crazy for wondering about taking them by boat? What’s the current thought on sedatives?

Hope me, dear MeFi! Thank you.
posted by to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total)
Are they all chipped with ISO compliant chips recognized by Hungary? Make sure you do that and understand all pet immigration laws. Here’s an unofficial and non-authoritative guide.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:06 PM on September 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

We’ll be having them chipped before we go, SaltySalticid, I’ve read up on the current regulations. I moved a dachshund from the Czech Republic to the US but that was 20 years ago and the German flight attendants made it a breeze. Four cats is proving to be a little more logistically challenging!
posted by at 7:21 PM on September 30, 2019

Maybe you could get new carriers (I love the ones with fleece attached in the bottom -- the cats don't slide around since they can grip it), and embark on a systematic desensitization process? Let cat get near carrier, give treat. Let cat learn that getting head in carrier gets treat... work up to zipping the carrier closed, then gently barely lifting the carrier, all leading to good things. Then carrying carrier outside then immediately inside, then out to car and back, etc. It could be fun. Although with four cats, that's a little bit of a time investment, and you really need a few days anyway.

There's a carrier-focused process in Clicker Training for Cats, I believe.
posted by amtho at 7:23 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

BTW the bottom fleece parts are washable, and it's still great if you put thick towels on top -- they don't slide around nearly as much either.
posted by amtho at 7:24 PM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Gabapentin is the greatest substance known to mankind.

Although my flight wasn't as long as yours (just East Coast to West Coast), I doped up the cat that gets panic attacks if he's being moved in his carrier, and he did just fine -- slept the entire time. (I should have doped myself up as well; he was actually so deeply asleep it scared me, but he was perfectly fine.) Obviously, standard 'talk to your vet' advice, but it made the flight stress-free for the poor lil dude.
posted by kalimac at 7:28 PM on September 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Kalimac, did you do a test run with the sedative? I’ve read that a lot of cats have paradoxical reactions, and after watching a post-seizure dachshund have the EXACT OPPOSITE reaction to a sedative, that’s worrisome.
posted by at 7:36 PM on September 30, 2019

I have two equally troublesome cats and I moved them cross-country on a plane. I brought them in cabin and I did bring a friend along so we had one cat to each passenger. I also sedated mine, with a kitty friendly dose of Xanax the vet prescribed. I did practice with the sedatives at home twice before we flew, and they worked great.

I very nearly had to relocate them overseas once, and I did consider a boat, but having flown them once now successfully it’s what I would recommend. Make sure you ask for a private screening room at TSA if you do go this route, it was offered to me when they noticed my feline companions and it was fast and easy.
posted by nancynickerson at 8:03 PM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Kalimac, did you do a test run with the sedative?

Yes! The vet gave me a few doses for just this reason -- I want to say around 4? Half a pill per dose, for a Very Large Cat (~14lbs), and I was able to do a test run at home, and work out timing. I don't think it took him quite as hard as on the plane, but it was clear he was going to go all doped-up and not panic or anything. I wound up giving him a dose a bit before we left for the airport, and that served more or less until we reached our hotel room, a good 9-ish hours later. (Presumably aided by him just literally not moving until the plane started to descend. He woke up, meowed a few times, but was chill when we landed.)
posted by kalimac at 9:10 PM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think part of the issue with sedatives is that there can be reactions at altitude - so talk to your vet! It seems like it could help though.

When we moved our (big) cats across the pacific we used carriers for small dogs, which gave them enough room to stand up, stretch, and turn around. I can't remember if they were allowed to travel together - I think not, but they boarded together definitely. I also think they had to go in (temp/pressure controlled) cargo rather than the cabin due to the length of the flight.

One of our cats is also a very loud protester, but it seems to be on principle as she's always lounging, completely relaxed, like Cleopatra.

I really can't give more specific advice without pics...
posted by jrobin276 at 10:29 PM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

There are absorbent carrier inserts to keep your cats dry if they do pee in transit, it looks like DryFur is one brand.

There are also businesses that specialize in shipping pets, boarding facilities near you might know more about what companies are available locally.
posted by momus_window at 10:42 PM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just moved 2 cats and 2 dogs from the US to Russia. They all flew in the cargo hold with no problem, but my one dog gets motion sick so i packed her crate with extra towels and stripped and disposed of them before turning her over for the flight, so maybe try that with the peeing cats to keep it a little fresher.

I was worried about the cargo hold, but honestly it was the way to go.

I flew from JFK aorport in nyc and my biggest warnings are the following: allow extra time to check in, like an extra 90 mins. They had me running between the check in area, a scale to weigh them, the airline desk to confirm and pay for the pet transport, and a special cargo area where they are received. I was very read on rules and regs for import and export and had records in both languages and all anyone ever looked at was if they had a rabies certificate within a year. This was disappointing because it was a huge time and money expenditure to get a usda seal on all the paperwork which was supposedly required, but it never even came out of the file.

Most importantly and something i did not know: the TSA will have you remove each animal, one at a time from the crates so they can inspect the inside of the crate and they will have you pet the animal thoughoughly (or they will do it) to check for...razorblades or something? Anyway, at JFK this area is in a corner of a very busy departures area and i was scarred shitless that one of the cats would get away and end up lost in the airport. If i did it again, i would put harnesses on the cats or something just to make that part slightly easier. I did have to unscrew one of the crates because the cat would not budge, but the tsa staff were patiet, if not slightly amused by the situation.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:08 AM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you try to take them in cabin, you will have to have friends since airlines have a one pet per person policy. Many also have a 2 pets per plane or per class policy so check that before booking since you might need to be on 2 different flights.

1. Giles - be wary of just how freaked out we get. I have a cat that was born feral and she was okay on a flight but gets so freaked out in other circumstances that her vet has expressed concern that she will have a heart attack if pushed into something that terrorizes her (she no longer goes to the vet’s office for this reason).

2. Scarlet - use puppy per pads and swap them out as needed. I had a plane- bound cat take a dump in her carrier. You want to be able to remove any messes as easily as possible for everyone’s sake.

3. Nigel - don’t worry so much about him - he will likely settle down eventually and even if he doesn’t the plane, once in the air, will drown out his meowing except for your nearby neighbours. I had a cat do this for a good 2 hours on a flight. No one seemed all that bothered even though it stressed me out.

4. Spike - Spike is actually your biggest challenge. Most airlines nowadays have a weight limit of 8kg per pet (including carrier) and the last two we flew enforced it. You might get lucky but you need to also be prepared in case Spike is denied boarding and put in cargo instead.

I would also be cautious of sedatives. For at least some animals the sedatives make them look calm but they are fully aware of what’s happening and can’t do anything about it, making it quite traumatic for them.
posted by scrute at 5:19 AM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Boat/train isn't crazy. I know someone who did an East Coast -> London move by boat to accommodate an elderly cat. I also once met a (very chill) cat on a train travelling between Barcelona and Seville.
posted by corvine at 5:48 AM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Forgot to mention, i flew aeroflot, which does service budapest. I had a fine experience and they have space on transatlantic flight for 10 pets as far as i remember, but they required us to first book the flight then phone their customer service to book the pets (it wasnt an online option) and had there not been 4 spots left they were going to move us to a different flight. We booked a week ahead of time because our move was a shitshow. I found aeroflot very accomodatiing for what its worth.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:43 AM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

You can take the Queen Mary transatlantic and then drive, but it looks like it's $1600 per cat, back in 2016. That's pretty outrageous seeing as an oceanview stateroom is that much per person.
posted by wnissen at 9:44 AM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

My friends flew cross country from SFO to Rochester NY with two cats, a dog, a toddler, and the in-laws came along to help. If it's possible to have help, it would be good to have help. If not, sleepy drugged kitties are a lot less trouble.

+1 to harnesses

+1 to trying to not worry about the cats crying on the plane. People will get mad about this but honestly people bring children on to planes all the time, and those kids scream and cry and drive people crazy, and people somehow survive it. People will also survive if your cat cries during the flight.

Good luck!
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:10 AM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

jrobin276 + all, here is my Cat Tax:




posted by at 5:43 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

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