How to Move Internationally With a Cat

All countries have their own guidelines and procedures that need to be followed when importing a cat. This includes having your pet vaccinationed or getting approvals from authorities of the destination country. Some countries like Australia have a mandatory quarantine on all pets for a few days after arrival. The quarantine is done to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in their country.

Before Your Move: Finding Out if You can Take Your Cat

The first thing you’ll have to figure out is whether your cat is allowed to go to the country that you are planning to move to. Not all countries will allow you to import a cat. There can also be restrictions on importing certain cat breeds, or specific things you need to do to legally import your cat.

The USDA website can help you find out what if anything your cat will need to legally enter the country. Most countries will also list any requirements they need met on a government website. This might take a little bit of digging, but at least you will know exactly what they require before you get there.

They can help you understand their policies and guidelines that their country has when it comes to moving with your cat. There will likely be paperwork and documentation that your vet will need to fill out in addition to any that you’ll need to do.

If you plan to rent a home in the new country you’ll need to know, will the property that you’re moving to allow pets. Certain communities or residential properties may have restrictions on allowing pets in their areas. For example, Japan being a Rabies-Free Country has very strict rules for allowing pets in apartments. If you are renting a house in Japan, inform the landlord that you will have a cat living with you. This can help you prevent last minute hassles and problems.

Consulting Your Vet

Once you know that you can move with your cat to the destination country, the first person you should talk to is your vet. Your vet will know your cat’s health history and any precautions you may need to take. They can give you advice on what needs to be done, and the safest way to move your cat. They may have experience helping others move before and help make sure you don’t forget anything that needs to be done. 

Traveling for a long time will make your cat anxious and your vet can advise you on giving them anti-anxiety medications to keep them calm during their trip. Anti-anxiety medication will make the entire trip easier for your cat.

The one thing your vet will likely advise you against is giving your cat any type of sedatives before their flight. In the past this used to be considered best practice. Now we know it adds a number of health complications that can significantly increase the risk of death during your cat’s travel. It’s just not worth the risk.

Getting all the Documents Ready

The process to move with your cat is not easy and there is a lot of paperwork that’s involved. Depending on the country that you are moving to there will be specific certificates, vaccinations, health check-ups, blood test reports and other documents that will be needed so your cat can travel. The amount of paperwork will depend upon the specific country’s policies. You’ll need to find out all the details well in advance about the documents needed by the destination country. 

Some countries may require you to provide your cat’s past vaccination records. A few vaccinations are given when your kitten is only a few weeks old and you should have the records with you. Some countries may also require your cat have specific vaccinations within a time frame before entering their country. Rules for vaccinations vary between countries.

If your cat doesn’t have a microchip then you will need to get them microchipped. It’s a mandatory requirement in all countries to import pets. When moving to the EU (European Union), pet owners are required to apply for a Pet Passport. 

It’s also necessary to get a signed medical certificate from your vet about the health condition of your cat. Keep several copies of all the documents with you and carry the original ones in your carry on luggage.

Scheduling Appointments for Vaccinations and Certificates.  

Once your documents are ready you should move on to booking appointments. If the destination country requires you to give specific vaccinations to your cat then contact your vet to get an appointment. Be careful to time the vaccination date to follow the guidelines of the destination country. A few countries require you to have your pet vaccinated exactly 3 weeks before their departure. The day of vaccination is counted as Day 0. 

A health certificate will also be needed from an accredited vet. This describes the medical condition of your cat and certifies that they are fit to fly. Most countries consider this certificate valid for 10 days, time the appointment accordingly. The certificate may also be required to be sent to the nearest USDA APHIS (United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) office. They will stamp the certificate that will allow your cat to move abroad. The delivery and return shipping fees will need to be paid by you.

After all the vaccinations and documentation is completed make sure to double-check and see that you haven’t missed anything. Any mistake on your part will mean that your cat won’t be allowed to move abroad with you. This will require you to hand them over to someone else and it could take a few months before they can come.


Another important thing to look into when moving into a new country is what is the rabies designation of the destination country. There are 3 designated categories for nations when it comes to Rabies –

  • Rabies-Free
  • Rabies-Controlled
  • High Rabies Country.

The United States is a Rabies-Controlled country and traveling to Rabies-Free or High Rabies countries will determine additional procedures that might need to be followed. This can include but not be limited to your cat being quarantined. The rules have relaxed over the years and it is generally done if your pet has not waited the required number of days in the originating country after being given their rabies vaccination. 

Preparing Your Cat for Travel

Once you have an idea what documents are required and the procedure that needs to be followed, it’s time to prepare your cat for travel. The logistics arrangements, airline guidelines and policies will need to be figured out. 

Find a Good Airline

Finding an airline that has pet-friendly policies is the first step to prepare your cat for travel. Different airlines have their own policies when it comes to traveling with a pet. We recommend you get information from multiple airlines to find which one has the best rates and policies.

The pet policies of different airlines can vary, call the airlines or visit their website to find out their specific requirements. The airlines may also require their own documentation that is different from what’s required by the destination country. Make sure to have all the documents with you.

Find out if your cat can be carried in-cabin or needs to travel in the cargo section of the plane. This information is important because it will help you decide which type of kennel to buy for your cat. Most airlines have guidelines on the dimensions of the kennel. You’ll need to know what the airline requires before purchasing a kennel.

Traveling in the cargo will be a stressful experience for them. To minimize their stress following things should be considered:

  • Direct Flights – If possible always book direct flights. A direct flight will keep your cat from being stressed unnecessarily due to airline transfers and unexpected delays.
  • Attach supporting documents – A permanent identification on your cat’s collar and the kennel must be attached. The identification will allow the airline and airport authorities to easily contact you if required. All the documents relating to your cat’s vaccinations and health should also be attached to the kennel. This will allow customs officials to expedite the process of verification.

After you have narrowed down an airline, go ahead and make the bookings. If you are allowed to carry your cat inside the cabin, the airline may charge you an additional fee.

Call up the airlines a week before the scheduled departure to find out if your cat’s ticket is confirmed. You don’t want to reach the airport and hear that their application has been rejected for missing documents and filling incorrect details.

Getting the Right Kennel for Your Cat

Only an airline-approved carrier or kennel is required for your cat. For in-cabin travel, a soft and flexible kennel should be purchased. If your cat has to travel in the cargo section, you’ll want a hard kennel. Make sure to check if the kennel can provide adequate ventilation for your cat.

Before purchasing a kennel find out information about the list of airline-approved carriers and the dimensions that are allowed. For both the soft and hard kennels buy a suitable pee pad and line it on the bottom of their kennel. Special care should be taken when your cat is traveling in the cargo section of the plane. Use a plastic tie to tightly secure the door of the kennel so that it can’t accidentally open. 

Copies of all the necessary documents like vet certificates and vaccination records should be attached to the kennel. This will ensure that the customs officials of the destination country can easily refer to the documents when they receive your cat.

Should You Use a Pet Moving Service?

If you follow the steps mentioned above then you may not have to book a pet moving service. A pet moving service can charge you thousands of dollars for doing exactly what is mentioned above. To prevent any last-minute hassles it’s suggested that you start preparing well in advance (approximately 6 months) of your trip. Be sure to keep all the required documents ready and to follow all the procedures.

An important thing to know when deciding whether to book a pet moving service or not is to be aware of the fact that moving abroad with a pet is quite stressful. If you already have a lot of things going on and don’t want to be stressed regarding flying with your pet you can ask a pet moving service to make the necessary arrangements. Find out about the different services and rates offered by pet moving services before booking one.