Brandy the Cat is quite the jet setter.
Brandy, International Cat of Mystery. Photo – Copyright Calvin & Susie, LLC
Born in New York City, raised in Los Angeles, and spending her “retirement” in Honolulu, she is none too unfamiliar with the rigors of long distance travel. However, Brandy recently added a check to her bucket list that most cats never even dream of.
Brandy got a stamp in her passport — “Cats-port” — she went to Japan!
No, my husband and I didn’t just send her off to Japan with a can of tuna and a phrasebook. Of course we went with her. And while it is not always favorable to have your pets travel with you (obviously stress, health, cost, etc.), sometimes, if you are going to be gone for a long time, it is the only option you have.
Now I will say that bringing your pet to a foreign country is something not to be taken lightly. It takes a lot of preparation and detailed paperwork. With Brandy’s solid health record (at least two years) it took us about three months to prepare her for her trip to Japan from Hawai’i. Luckily Japan and Hawai’i are both rabies free zones, so her health certification/quarantine (or lack thereof) process was relatively simple.
When we moved her from California to Hawai’i, it took us almost one whole year to get all her veterinary needs in order for transport — AND to avoid quarantine.
If you are moving your pet — cat, dog, bird, ferret, reptile, any animal — off of the continental United States, your first step should always be finding out the quarantine and health requirements of your destination. You might be surprised how long it can take. Every place is different, and you never want to be rushing when it comes to your pet’s well being. The last thing you want are surprises on travel day.
Amidst all the vet visits and documentation, it’s easy to forget that just like you, your pet will be hungry and tired after a long journey, and will probably want nothing more than to just settle in comfortably at their destination.
So here is a checklist of the things I carried WITH me when I transported my pet to Japan. Her carry-on bag was bigger than mine, but in retrospect I was so happy I “overpacked”.
And while I realize that every trip is different, I think this a good jumping off point to start assembling your pet’s travel bag. You know your pet. The question I kept asking myself while I was packing Brandy’s bag was, “What brings her comfort?”.
Carry On Bag
I should note that I highly recommend carrying a few days worth of your pet’s immediate needs in a carry on bag instead of checking it. Checked bags can get lost, you might get stuck somewhere — you don’t want to have to improvise with a nervous or confused pet in a strange place.
Your Pet’s Travel Confirmation
Think of this as your pet’s plane ticket (if you’re traveling by plane). Planes, trains, or automobiles, any paperwork that confirms that your pet has “booked passage” on a vessel should be with you at all times. Everything should go smoothly, but just in case there’s any confusion this paperwork will identify who your pet is, help to track them, and confirm that they were indeed “okayed” to travel on your specified mode of transportation.
Most airlines request this information and paperwork (PRINT IT OUT), upon check-in and pick-up (if thy are flying cargo).
ALL Health Certificates, Quarantine Documents, Permission to Embark/Disembark Forms, etc.
Again, PRINT EVERYTHING OUT. It’s great to have a back up on your iPhone or tablet, but a hard copy is always necessary.
Your pet’s Health Certificate may be the single most important document you carry for your pet. Without it, almost no overseas or foreign port of entry will allow your pet entry. And even if somehow your pet ARRIVES at the port of your destination, many countries reserve the right to put your pet right back on a plane back to the US if their health and/or quarantine paperwork is not in order.
I’m not kidding. They will return your pet back to the US — ALONE.
Triple check every entry document you need when traveling to a foreign or overseas port. Understand the document. Know which is her “permission number” and which is her “ID number” or “microchip number”.
And make sure (with your vet preferably) that all descriptions and official documentation is consistent. When we were transporting Brandy, we were told if even her COLOR was described slightly different in any of her documents (“brown, black and white” vs. “brown, white, and black striped”), she would run the risk of being shipped back to the US.
All Departments of Agriculture or Quarantine should have a checklist for domestic or international pet travel, as well as timelines and restrictions, on their website. Print out these rules, and go over them with your vet. Chances are, they have either seen such instructions before, or they understand some of the terminology better than you do.
This information should be contained in her health documentation, but I made sure to have her microchip number written down as well as the TYPE of microchip it is (ISO and AVID are most common, but there are other brands). Not all microchip readers can read all microchips, and if officials are having a hard time reading your pet’s microchip, it might be because they are using the wrong reader.
Brandy is on a lot of medications and supplements. I carried all of them with me, as well as the prescription information from her vet. One of her medications required refrigeration, so I put it in an insulated pouch. I made sure all her meds were in one big Ziplock bag, so if security needed to take a look, they were all easily accessed. Also, if any spills happened, the mess would be contained.
Brandy really needs her meds to maintain her health, so I taped all her tubes and bottles shut, just in case. I didn’t want to risk spills that might leave her without her medication.
I might have gone a little overboard with food. I carried 10 cans of cat food (roughly a month’s worth) with me. I was a little paranoid. My bag was very heavy.
But I really wanted to make sure she had HER food upon arrival. I wanted to make things as normal for her as possible, and nothing comforts a pet like food. THEIR food. Since she also takes her meds with food, I didn’t want to take any chances that she might refuse her meds with an unfamiliar food.
In case you’re curious, Brandy eats ZiwiPeak ‘Daily-Cat’ Cuisine canned cat food. I stocked up at the store before I left. Though Brandy is typically on a raw frozen diet, I alternate occasionally between her Primal Pet Foods Raw Frozen Mix in chicken (a raw meat formula that is technically “incomplete” — I add additional supplements to meet all of Brandy’s feline needs) and ZiwiPeak canned cat food. I like ZiwiPeak because it’s partially raw in a BPA free can, gives her some variety (she’s obsessed with chicken), and has an appropriate protein content. Plus she loves ZiwiPeak. To me, this is the next best thing to her raw frozen food.
In the future, I’d probably carry about two or three days worth of food in my carry on in the future. In total, especially going to a foreign country, I’d carry about a month’s worth of food total in my luggage. That way, you have enough of your pet’s food to keep them happy and fed while you find their food locally, find a suitable substitute, or order their food from an online retailer.
Food was the number one thing that helped Brandy adjust to life in Japan.
Your Pet’s Bowl
I made sure to pack Brandy’s own food and water dishes. Since she’s a cat, her little metal bowls were light and easy to pack, with larger animals it might be more difficult. However, if at all possible I’d recommend it. These dishes smell familiar and maybe even TASTE familiar. Every little bit of comfort helps.
Giving Brandy a treat when we were reunited in Japan (we had no choice but to fly her in cargo…it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do) was so soothing to BOTH of us. Not normally a “treat cat”, she happily accepted the Bravo! Mariner’s Medley freeze dried fish treats I knew she was partial to. I’d like to think it was like a little confirmation that things were going to be okay. Again, food is comfort to pets. Even better, you plus food.
I should add that I think it is just as necessary to stock up on treats as it is food. Though it might be easy to find 100% “all natural”, “all fish/chicken/beef” or whatever treats in a foreign country, you may not necessarily know where or how that “all natural” meat was sourced. Better safe than sorry (until you know better).
I went on a little “shopping spree” at the store before I left!
I brought Brandy’s favorite lamb toy with us in my carry on. Upon releasing her in her new surroundings, having her little friend to bat around and sniff, brought a little sense of normalcy to her. At least I think so. The night she arrived, she batted “Lamby” around then settled in for a nap. Lamby now lives in her “secret corner” behind my husband’s shirts.
Something That Smells Like Home
This may sound a little gross, but I made sure to pack a dirty tank top of mine and a dirty t shirt of my husband’s. I laid these out on our bed so Brandy would have something that smelled safe and familiar. We also put dirty t shirts in her carrier.
Familiar scents are one of the best ways to calm your pet down.
Cat Litter/Pee Pads
I made sure to carry some litter in a baggie (the biggest one I could fit in my already bursting carry on) and some pee pads. Luckily I use Oxbow Eco-Straw Litter, a highly absorbent pelleted litter, so a little goes a long way.
I wanted her litter to be familiar, as where a cat uses the bathroom is very important to them. I also brought pee pads in case she had an accident around her new litter box. That first night, I did not have enough litter to completely fill her box, so I lined it with a pee pad and covered it in as much litter as possible. She immediately scratched around, and used the litter box. We had no accidents.
Leashes, harnesses, collars, ID, etc.
A leash for your dog is a must. A collar with identification is also a must. Brandy had her tags taped to her carrier. As an indoor cat, she does not typically wear a collar with tags, but it might be wise to get her used to it the next time she travels. Identification for your pet could be a lifesaver.
So that’s what I brought with me. Some say I was a little obsessive, but it was worth it to have some of the comforts of home waiting for my cat.
I hope this list helps you if you ever have to make a BIG trip with your pet. If you ever have any questions please feel free to ask us for help at the store, or even contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Traveling with your pet is difficult, but with the right preparations and forethought, it can be minimally stressful and very successful.
~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger
As always, check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet or body care. The Calvin & Susie Blogger always researches to the best of her ability, but she is not a vet. This blog is not in any way meant to replace veterinary advice or care. When in doubt always ask a vet.