Expert tips on moving with your pet to another country

With searches for ‘moving abroad’ seeing a 22% increase in April (vs. March), more people than ever might be set to make the big move to another country, but what does that mean if you’re a pet owner?

Moving yourself as well as a beloved pet to another country can add extra stress and will require additional planning and preparation, so financial services provider for immigrants Remitly has put together a collection of tips and advice on how to successfully (and safely!) move your pet to another country.

1. Plan well in advance

Relocating your beloved pet to a new home abroad is definitely not as simple as buying a ticket, turning up at the airport and getting on a flight. When there’s an animal involved you should factor in that the process can take from as little as three months to as long as a year depending on where you’re relocating from and to. It certainly pays to factor in realistic timescales at the very beginning of the process so that you can be sure as possible that your pet can be with you from the very beginning of your new adventure rather than having to join you later.

Compliance Manager, Lucile, who moved her pet cat along with her family from Luxembourg to Ireland, and mentioned that she didn’t plan far enough in advance: “I could only plan everything within a month or less. Overall, I had a month and a half to completely relocate, based on the terms of my contract of employment, and had to arrange a place in day care for my son before I could begin planning the relocation.”

2. Consult your vet

It’s imperative that you consult a trusted vet ahead of any international move. They’ll be able to tell you if they have any concerns about the health of your pet, how travel may impact them and, crucially, they’ll be able to give you advice on what’s needed for the country you’re travelling to so that vaccinations are fully up to date. It’s useful at this stage to get a full copy of your pet’s medical records as you’ll need these throughout the process and, should your pet require any regular medication, it’s best to try and stock up on supplies ahead of your move so that you have some time in your relocation country to set up a new prescription.

Lucile mentioned passports and vaccinations were essential: “Due to pet passports and vaccinations, we could not move the cats right away as they had to have had their vaccine booster more than three weeks before moving and we could not manage this timing.”

3. Find out the pet import laws for the country you’re moving to

Every country is different when it comes to pet import rules so this stage will take some thorough research. Sadly there’s no one resource that summarises absolutely everything you’ll need to know because there are so many different caveats. This resource: https://www.bringfido.co.uk/travel/international/ is an excellent starting point for an overview of what each country is looking for and how strict they are on letting in different species and breed with regards to rabies.

Lucile, who spoke to her vet prior to moving her cats, was advised of different laws regarding mandatory microchipping: “The vet added a microchip to my cat who at the time only had a tattoo on his ear, because tattoos are not officially recognised anymore (which I was not aware of).”

However, the best possible advice here is to search for ‘importing an animal into (insert your destination country)’ and you’ll be served with the relevant page from your relocation country’s government website. This will list all their requirements and considerations for everything you’ll need to prepare in advance of you and your pet’s move.

4. Speak to your airline or travel provider

When you know which airline you’ll be flying with, call them as soon as you can to discuss what their guidelines are with regards to travelling with a pet. It’s likely that they’ll have their own, or additional rules for travelling with an animal but even if not, you’ll be able to find out what you’ll need to do on the day of travel and what you need to bring with you.

Lucille, who looked into airline travel, opted for a ferry to move her pets: “We searched all over the internet to find the best solution to relocate our pets. At the time we needed to relocate them, the only solution we could use was actually the ferry. We were not keen on them taking the ferry originally as it is a long journey for pets. But it turned out this was our only available solution eventually, so my mum kindly brought them over to us by sea. Airlines would not accept for one person to carry two cats, and eventually it became impossible to organize our pets’ relocation by the air.”

5. Ensure all your paperwork is in order

Treating your pet’s paperwork with as much care as your own passport and wallet is a good rule of thumb here! Investing in a good quality document wallet is a good starting point so that you can easily keep all necessary documentation in one place. You’ll need to include vaccination records and certificates, your pet’s passport and a health certificate from your vet as an absolute minimum and also ensure that you have abided by the documentation requirements of your airline and relocation country. It’s well worth making copies of everything too so that there’s no last-minute stress if you inadvertently misplace a key letter, certificate or piece of signed paperwork.

6. Prepare your pet for the move as much as possible

Whether you’re travelling with a cat, dog or any other animal they will need to be in a suitable crate for their flight. Similar to the first time you take them to vets in a basket or crate, it will definitely help them to acclimatise to their travelling surroundings as soon as possible as it’s likely they’ll take a bit of time to associate their crate with positive feelings and behaviours. If you’re unsure, you can discuss with your vet to get some further tips and expertise on how to do this most effectively but, a good starting point is to fill it with some of their favourite treats and comforters such as blankets, bedding and toys.

To prepare for moving her cat, Lucille mentioned: “The vet advised us to not take the ferry due to the length of the journey (which was 18 hours), and to use essential oils to calm our pets. Airlines would not allow one person to carry two cats, and eventually it became impossible to organise our pets’ relocation by the air.

“I am amazed at how our cats adapted immediately to their new environment. This, after a first trip by car for several hours, spending two weeks in a different (unknown) house, and a new journey of over 18 hours (car – ferry – car again).”

7. It’s all in the timing

Sometimes, the timing of your move is out of your hands and has to be done quickly to take advantage of a new job offer or the perfect accommodation that’s become available. If this is the case, then you should consider whether it’s best to move your pet at a later date when you’re settled and have the right amount of time to finalise all the necessary paperwork. Although this won’t be possible for everyone, your pet could stay with a family member or close friend whilst you relocate and arrange your pet’s move. If time is on your side and you can select a date at your leisure, then to make life as stress-free and comfortable as possible for your pet, it’s worth selecting a flight when it’s neither too hot nor too cold and outside of peak periods.

Lucile is still yet to move her horse, which requires a lengthier process: “There are specific services for horse transportation, and I think horses are usually carried by professional transporters specialised in horse transportation.

“I haven’t chosen yet if she will go by air or sea. This will depend on several factors such as cost, the horse’s wellness (conditions of transportation, duration, etc), and what is available at the time she relocates. This is definitely more of a concern for me than our cats were (also because my horse is very young). So far she is embarking extremely well, and I absolutely don’t want her to get traumatised by transportation, so she refuses to embark anywhere else following that.”