If you’re attached to your loving fuzz ball as much as most of us are, you will probably have a hard time parting with them when heading abroad. Fear not! If you do you research on where you are heading and plan in advance, you can likely take your pet overseas along with you! We had cats in Kuwait and my previous cat, may he rest in peace, had ventured to Thailand and Nigeria without problems – just some extra time at the vet and a little money.
As usual, investigate where you are heading. Every country has different rules regarding the import of animals. If you are heading in on a tourist visa, it may be even more difficult but sometimes possible. For those coming in on work visas, it’s a lot easier since you will have a residency status. If your employer is arranging housing for you, always check with them first to see if having a pet will be okay. Cats usually fly, but large dogs may not. If you’re securing your own housing, check ahead on this as well.
As far as getting them in, cats are easiest, and dogs are to an extent as well. If you are a ‘take my eyes but not my hamster!’ type, you may be out of luck. Rodents are usually not on the list of accepted animals. Exotic animals are usually out as well, so say goodbye to your helper monkey.
For almost every country you go to, you will need a health certificate from your vet and up-to-date rabies vaccinations (this is usually the only one they care about). Sometimes this can take up to nine months (to make sure the vaccinations result in antibodies and all that medical mumbo jumbo). In almost all modern countries, there will also be a quarantine period. Fret not – you can visit your critter and the period is usually no more than a day or two. So plan to hang at the airport hotel and bring extra yum yums since they won’t provide food for animals in the quarantine kennels.
You may have to microchip your pet, too. Japan, for instance, requires this or will consider the animal unclaimed (even if you are standing there holding its leash). Some countries require advance notice that you plan to bring in an animal and you will have to fill out and send in paperwork usually 2-3 months in advance of your arrival.
Don’t forget about flying! Some airlines will allow you to bring your pet (cats and small dogs) in the cabin with you. Some will require you to keep them in a portable kennel in the cargo hold. There will always be an extra charge for this and it can sometimes be substantial. There are also airlines that fly pets only and you can pick your little munchkin up separately. It all depends on your budget and the rules of the country you are heading to. In my experience, Continental, Lufthansa and AirFrance have always been very cabin friendly with small pets.
Be smart about flying with your little buddy. Remember, they’re not like us – us strange hoomans so used to flying through the sky in a chair with no leg room. When I fly with my cat overseas, I make sure to pull up his food well before departure (so he won’t need to use the bathroom on my feet), and I like to bring a little washcloth and keep it soaked for him to suck on so he doesn’t get parched. Leave something familiar in his carrier, like a toy, so he feels more at ease. A very small piece of Dramamine (I use ¼ pill) can help them sleep or at least keep them calm for their adventure with you.
For more information about taking your pet overseas, visit the US Department of Agriculture’s website on traveling with pets.