I’m looking for some advice. My husband and I are moving to Sweden at the end of the month from Seattle. We are taking our giant cat Hax0r with us. He is too heavy to fly in the cabin, and will have to go under the plane as cargo.
Sadly, all I can find online are horror stories about lost or injured pets.
Have you ever traveled overseas with your fur baby? What advice would you give?
I could really use some success stories to help calm my tits over the whole thing. –Cherisse
We recently moved from Canada to the UK with our large cat and exceedingly nervous dog, who is scared of everyone other than us. We were very worried about the animals traveling alone (they both had to go in the cargo hold) and the whole customs/veterinary procedure on the other side. All this worked for us:
Contact your airline and find out as much as you can about their animal cargo regulations. I think all major air carriers have a special department that deals with animals – we flew Air Canada and they have shipped dogs, cats, horses, even hippos! Make sure you know all the vaccinations etc. that your pet needs and have them done in plenty of time. Same for microchips. Inform yourselves and your vets (not all vets know the regulations, and remember they vary A LOT from country to country). Make sure all your paperwork is in order and that you have photocopies.
Make sure the animal carrier you have is big enough for your pet. We followed IATA guidelines but when the animals got to London we were told that our cat’s carrier should have been bigger. There are more guidelines on getting a carrier for a dog than a cat, but basically they need to be able to stand up, sit on their bums, turn around. Ideally there should be space in there for them to have a separate wee/pooh area. Buy training pads for puppies to put in the cage, that way spills and mess get soaked up as much as possible.
If there is anything you have that smells of you or them (that you don’t mind never seeing again), put that in the carrier too. The last month we were in Canada we put down an old t-shirt where our cat usually slept so he would have an item that smelled of him. We also had the cages in the house and would throw treats in them to get the animals used to being near/in their cages.
Take bottled water and zip-lock bags of the animal’s food with you when you drop them off at the cargo bay. These will be strapped to the top of their cages so your animal can be fed/given drink (for flights over a certain length animals need to be fed.)
I would also advise asking your vet about sedation/calming options. We (and our vet) decided that our dog should have a strong sedative because of his temperament. As he is youngish (5) and healthy the vet had no problems giving him that – we just tried it out on him 2 days before we flew to make sure there was no adverse reaction. We had a much milder sedative for the cat (he is older and we thought he would handle the experience better). In hindsight I wish he had had a stronger sedative as he was shaken by the whole thing.
Our animals were well cared for and had to boarded for one night upon arrival (mix up about de-worming treatment). The dog is a changed animal – he is far happier and less nervous than before. The cat was upset for a few days (hiding in the new house, not letting us touch him, vomiting up hairballs) but after 4 days he started coming out a lot more and it took about a week for him to be fine. I think cats don’t deal with moves and changes as well as dogs do as they are so attached to their environments, but having them with you in your new home is worth it.
Good luck, and although there are some air transit horror stories out there, there are far more success stories that we don’t hear about. Think of all those show animals that get taken across countries!