Pothead, Potato, Pigs, Pussycats, Patchouli, Pat Metheny, Pavlova, Prince, and plenty more.

A story of intercontinental pet travel

Exactly twCat with paw over faceo years ago five of my pets made a gruesome journey in order to join me.  They flew from Halifax, NS, Canada  → Toronto  → Barcelona  →  by ground transport to Cantabria, where I was waiting for them.

Back in Canada many people asked me why I was going to take them with me (because of the cost).  Are you kidding?  I would never have left Canada otherwise!  I had to find a new home for two cats, which was bad enough.

On a non-commercial basis you can import five pets to Europe.  It is a costly and time-consuming affair.  Even if you let others handle most of it, you need to be involved and do your homework.

Abdicate, abdicate! (but verify)

Let the professionals handle everything, even if it costs an arm and a leg.  They should know exactly what they’re doing.  At the bottom I share some of what I’ve learnt.  I’m telling you, it’s much, much easier to emigrate with kids!

A quiet afternoon in a pueblo (or barrio) in Spain

Five pets after long voyageHere they are, my five critters, acclimatising in Spain one day after arrival.  All in all they were underway for almost 36 hours.  This particular Saturday afternoon they were all spaced out in my bedroom where I sat reading.  It was a fairly large house but they all congregated with me.  So sweet.  The tail of the ginger cat is just visible on the right hand side.  He very rarely is a bed sleeper.

Heaven or hell, was the journey cold that gave you eyes of steel?

Wide eyed catThe worst leg of the journey was probably the nine hours or so it took from Barcelona to Cantabria.  It would have been shorter from Madrid, but then there would have been a stopover in Amsterdam.  The animal inn in Nova Scotia recommended a direct flight with a longer road trip.  The pooch and one pussycat despised car travel and they both arrived wide-eyed with dilated pupils.  It didn’t last long once they saw mommy…  None of the pets received medication during the transport – it’s controversial.

Traveldog, Spain – Good service!Traveldog Spain

I still thank my lucky stars that I opted to have the animals cleared at Barcelonacat carrier airport by a service.  This service was recommended by a Spanish vet who worked together with the animal transport agency in Nova Scotia.  The driver waited five hours before the animals were cleared to go.  Imagine, if I had waited all that time, with my limited Spanish, I would have had a major migraine and not been able to leave at all for perhaps days!!!  Expensive, but worth every cent.  He SMS’ed me a few times to let me know that they were well and the expected arrival time.

Pins and needles

old gypsy woman maskMy pets and I had been apart for several weeks while I househunted in Spain and they boarded in Canada.  There just wasn’t any other way.  It broke my heart and at one point I almost canned the whole thing, wanting so desperately to be with them.  The older I get, the worse this becomes.  By now, my gypsy travel genes are completely dominated by my pet attachment ones.

This became eerily obvious when half an hour before my pets were scheduled to arrive in the pueblo I became aware of a strange sensation in my arms.  Pins and needles subtly travelled from my fingertips to my elbows.  I did not know that feeling and said to myself ‘if that isn’t my pets coming around the corner, I don’t know!’  Five minutes later, headlights pulled into the pueblo: Traveldog.


Nature area the NetherlandsAh, it seems like a long time ago.  The animals and I are happy now, but it took almost two years and three countries to get there.  Spain was a nightmare, especially for the pets.  There are many loose dogs in the countryside of Spain.  Owners just don’t care and they are arrogant should one of their dogs attack and wound your animals, even if their dog jumped over your garden wall!  I didn’t have the stomach for it.  Had I known, I would never have gone to Spain.  Had I known, I would never have had all the stories that I worked into my manuscript, or movie script, whichever one I’ll finish first!  There’s the advantage that each disadvantage seems to have.

Had I known that the Netherlands is full of ticks and that the area where I settled is the worst of all, I would perhaps not live right next door to one of the most beautiful nature areas in the country.

Had I known that you can’t have it all I would have been less demanding when I was younger. 😉

I hope to never live through a similar ordeal again.  Pooch, pussycats and I are staying put!

Action tips for international animal transport

  • Consult your vet and pet transport agency regarding the type of chipping and vaccination required in destination country (check online to be sure).  Ask both for quotations (my vet gave me a discount on the chipping because I had five pets).
  • Anti-rabies has to happen at least 30 days before you arrive in most countries, if not all, but must also not have expired.
  • Some destination countries, such as UK, require a special anti-rabies process, called tethering, which must start at least six months before you import your pet(s) (read the regulations for each country where this is required – no quarantine is required if all goes well).
  • Again, rabies (the bugger), I remember reading that if you fly via England, you must also adhere to that country’s anti-rabies regulations in case there is a delay and the pets need to temporarily board – so much to think of!  So I did not fly via England, naturally.
  • If you suspect at all that you need to board your pets, have them vaccinated well ahead as many animal hotels require that this was done three to four weeks before they take them in, especially in Europe where they seem to be stricter with that than in Canada (there is a long list of prerequisite jabs).
  • In Canada the vet writes a health, vaccination and chipping document for each pet.  This has to be stamped by the Food & Health Inspection Agency – this document is only valid for FOUR months!  I, atypically proactive, had this done early and I had to redo them in case I would not be able to send for the animals before the end of the four months.  $100 down the drain.  It does not pay me to be efficient, damnit!
  • Also in Canada, the vet needs to do a final health inspection within a week or so before they finally depart!
  • This list is probably not complete.  Be extra diligent, that’s all I can say.

Comments on: "The Pooch and the Pussycats go to Spain" (6)

  1. Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. U have an awesome blog, like me your a cat person. I take in the strays and look after many till re-homed. Currently have 2 full grown cats and 2 kittens in the house. Ps I did reply to your comment on my blog. X

    • Good to hear from you! When I lived in Canada I ended up adopting too many cats because I lived next to a bunch of barncats. “You can’t save them all,” another cat lover who fed alley cats told me. This became my motto because taking in too many cats upsets my animal household and therefore me. It was very difficult in Nova Scotia to find a home for even kittens, which is why two of my cats are an inheritance from the barn – they are divine though. I don’t want to think about how many cats I would have had, had I stayed there as my (old) neighbour would leave for months on end! Are all your cats looking for a home or are some yours?

  2. I remember what a nervous wreck I was flying with my (one) dog across just half the USA! We both survived just fine, and I had done a fair amount of research before the trip. I, too, elected to not sedate her (why risk it!).

    A trick I learned from my reading was to freeze the water in the dish that attaches to the inside of the kennel. That prevents the water from sloshing out while the kennel is loaded on the plane. After a while, it melts providing water for the dog.

    I will say that on both landings she was returned to me very quickly. In fact, on return home, she was in her kennel at the baggage claim by the time I got there! Traumatic trip in the anxiety sense, but 100% successful in the result.

    Glad it all worked out for your pets, too!

  3. Good for you for making it all work. I’m so sad to leave my cats just for a weekend, so I would have done the same thing!

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