• Claudia T.

What you should Know Before Flying your Cat Abroad😸🛫

This is Chloe, trying out his pet carrier

Ok, let's be realistic here: if you could run a poll and ask a cat who ever had to fly inside a tiny box if it enjoyed the experience, I'm sure the answer would be "umm...nop!"- be honest, you wouldn't like it , either! (we had to return the pet carrier in the photo, as it was obviously too small for Chloe!)

We have no choice, do we? You are moving abroad with pets, and if you are anything like us, pets are family, period. You wouldn't want a family member being uncomfortable, would you? So during our family's many relocations, we have tried (as much as we could) to provide them comfort during this process. From choosing the right carrier to choosing the right relocation company, we did everything to try to minimize stress.

There is a lot going on during a relocation abroad, so much so that it's very easy to forget what you should be paying attention to when it comes to your pets. They are very sensitive to change, they take longer to adapt and forget traumatic experiences, they get attached to a known environment probably as much as they get attached to you. I'm not an animal expert or a vet, so take everything I say here with a grain of salt, but based on my personal experience only, I strongly believe they take a change in physical and social environment as an important change in their routine, and it will be very difficult for you to predict how they will react to all that, especially if you are moving them abroad for the first time. Some animals could stop eating or drinking after they arrive, some could try to escape ( or actually manage to do it) before you leave, some could even predict you are trying to "catch them" to put them in the pet carrier, some could literally pee and poo the minute you put them in the pet carrier - we had all that happen to us before. Trust me, they KNEW we were going somewhere, you could see it in their eyes!

Jupiter is saying "We're going WHERE?"

Finding the right size pet carrier

I remember one time when we flew Chloe to Dubai - the handsome cat in the top photo - for the first time. He is a relatively large cat, almost the size of a Maine Coon. An average size cat carrier was too small for him (as seen in the photo), and other sizes were too large for him. I had to go from store to store looking for different brands of pet carriers to find one that was just the right size. Always measure your pet and always be very particular about the size of the carrier you're buying, especially if you're flying a cat. Also, some stores would recommend you buy a much larger carrier - don't fall for that, buy the right size carrier and check with your pet relocation company what are the carrier size requirements for the airline. They also required that we replaced the plastic screws that came with the carrier with metal screws and washers - that was not an option, so be aware that they might ask you to replace those. Also make sure you train your cat to use the carrier a few weeks before the flight, to minimize stress - add a piece of your clothing, unwashed, when they "try" the carrier and also when they travel.

After they arrive: watch for signs of stress

Wilson (as seen in the photo below) was the smartest cat we've ever had. He literally could tell us when he was hungry, tired, when he wanted to go outside, or when he wanted to travel with us, if we happened to go on vacation somewhere without him. He would literally sit inside our suitcases - sometimes even sleep in them!

Here are a few #signsofcatstress to watch for after you and your cats are in your new home:

  • Going #1 or #2 outside the litter box, or going too often

  • Digestive Issues like diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting

  • Too much Grooming

  • Too much Scratching

  • Too much Hiding

  • Too much meowing, meow-walking or meowing in the middle of the night

  • No appetite or too much appetite

  • Being extra clingy or not wanting to be touched at all

  • Staring out the window for too long

  • Trying to sneak out the door (hiding behind or under furniture, waiting for a chance to run out the door)

What you can do to help

Kelly Rascoe, from "Trupanion.com", writes in her article,"Understanding Cat Stress and What to Watch For":

"Besides spending quality time with your cat, take the time to bond. For instance, you could take a cat-nap together. Additionally, a little play always helps, consider some mentally and physically stimulating toys. Another option, cats need space, so make some place for them to retreat to. Certainly, the cuddle time and snuggles are much appreciated, but don’t overwhelm them if they are feeling uneasy. Consider taking it day by day and let your cat lead the interaction."

I totally agree with that. Cats take a little longer to realize you are not going away without them and not leaving them behind. They are very attached to their owners but also home-bodies, and until they feel absolutely, positively, 100% SURE that you are NOT going away leaving them behind inside an unknown house that happens to magically have all their stuff (and your stuff) in it, they will not rest and they WILL try to get out the door. Keep a close eye on them. Find a safe spot for them to sleep and don't move their stuff (cat bed, scratch posts, tents..) around the house. Make sure the cats have access to litter, food and water in the same place - even if you decide to move them apart later, keep them together (not too close) at first. Take some time to play with them - or ask the kids to do it- and have a piece of your clothing where they usually sleep. Also, make sure that you have litter, food and water always available, and show them where it is right after they arrive in the new place. Oh, and one other thing: play SOFT MUSIC, and if it's cold enough, have the fireplace turned on, if you have one! The photo says it all:

Wilson relaxing by the fireplace

One last tip:

If you're going to have strange people coming to the house doing installations, deliveries or repairs, make sure they are put in a room with the door closed. I have lost count of how many times I said to appliance installers "please do not let my cat get out" - and they did 😠. And if all else fails and your cat still shows signs of stress, be prepared to take it to be seen by a Veterinarian.

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Hello there!

I'm Claudia, freelance writer, blogger, follower of Christ, expat wife, mother of twins, Architect, Chef, golden retriever and cat lover.  I'm passionate about cooking, travel, piano, gardening, crochet. Read more


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