My friends are all too aware of the rigmarole we went through in order to get our little kitty to Italy. At one point, our friend Babi was going to fly on our dime to bring our cat to Italy. Here’s what happened to us and hopefully, anyone bringing a pet to Italy can learn from our mistakes!
So, like any person moving pets to another country, I did what I thought was rational. I called the Italian Consulate in Los Angeles and asked them what the procedure was for bringing my cat to Italy. I was directed to the consulate website for information and the necessary forms. The website states that my cat needs a rabies vaccination, a microchip, and the international health certificate. Easy peasy! I print the forms and contact our vet to set up the appointment. The vet tells me that the appointment needs to be within 10 days of our departure in order for the health certificate to be valid. I told them we also needed an updated rabies shot and a microchip. No problem – it can all be done in one visit. Fantastic, I think.
So we bring our beloved pet to the vet 7 days before leaving to get everything taken care of. Low and behold, we are told that the rabies shot was to be administered at least 21 days before entry into any European Union country! Huh what? Our vet made us sign a release saying that we were traveling with our pet at our own discretion and he wasn’t responsible for any problems that might ensue. And on top of all this, we still had to take our paperwork to the USDA office by LAX, as it turns out our vet isn’t officially authorized to sign the docs! We think everything is still fine and we’ll go ahead and bring our cat on the plane.
Well, after some more research and numerous calls and emails to friends who work at airlines, we were more confused than ever. Our airline claims that they know nothing about the 21-day rule. But when I called back and spoke to another agent, she was adamant about us not bringing our cat lest she be euthanized upon EU entry! WHAT?! I didn’t even know this was a possibility. There was no way we were taking that chance. Even my friend who has worked for an airline for years confirmed this could happen. Otherwise, our cat might have to be flown immediately back to the States; the better of two evils.
So I start calling friends to see if anyone can keep our cat for the extra 14 days and then begin to research pet transport companies. I found a company willing to take care of the transportation for a mere $3000. No joke! Our solution? My friend Cat was going to cat sit for 2 weeks and my friend Babi was going to get a free trip to Italy (using our miles) as our cat courier! This was such madness to work out. And the problem stems from the information I received from the Italian Consulate! Even after I called and told them about my dilemma, no one was able to give me any definitive information.
Two nights before we left, my husband was able to reach the minister of health and veterinary services in Italy. He told him of our plight and the minister immediately issued an email notifying the authorities in Italy (city and local) of the American cat coming to Tuscany! No joke. The next day we had the official letter translated and notarized by the Italian Consulate and then we were good to go.
To boot, after all of this… no one even asked us for any paperwork on our cat at any point! I couldn’t believe it! The airline took our paperwork just so that we could pay the $100 pet travel ticket. No one checked during our customs in Germany and no one checked in Italy either. Had we not notified the minister of health here in Italy, no one would have ever known that we even had a cat! However, because we did notify him, the official vet came to our home to give Sixx a checkup and then return after the remaining 14 days to give us an official health department seal of approval on our paperwork… and that’s how Sixx ended up in Italy!
Tips for travelling internationally with a cat:
- Call the consulate for the destination country and hope that whomever you speak with knows what’s going on.
- Print all the forms that you need to take to the vet’s office.
- Confirm that your vet is USDA authorized. If not, you will have to go to the USDA office which can be a pain depending on where you are located.
- Make 2 vet appointments: one for the microchip and rabies vaccination at least 21 days before travel; and one for the health certificate. (I think this is their way of making you pay double – just sayin’.)
- Make sure your pet carrier is within the specifications given by your airline. They can be very, very strict about this. I’ve heard that the airline can deny you boarding if the carrier doesn’t meet their expectations.
- Make sure you have the pee pads, a water source (we used a hamster/rabbit water bottle that attached to the carrier – other people suggest using ice cubes), and food in the carrier before boarding. You aren’t allowed to open the carrier once you are on the plane. (I unzipped the case a bit and pet Sixx… shh, don’t tell!)
- If you can, sit the carrier on your lap after take-off. It can get pretty warm on the floor depending on where you are seated and whether or not you have those TV screens that slide under your seat. I find that taking your pet off of the floor also helps with motion sickness.
I think that’s it! Boy am I glad that ordeal is over. Whew!