Importing a pet cat (or dog) to Europe can take a lot of work
and involves lots of preparation time.
It can also be stressful on your animal, I highly recommend that you consider leaving your animal at home, or at least initially taking some shorter trips first to acclimate your animal to travel. Flying in a carrier can be a terrifying and loud experience, and the pressure changes may be painful.
That being said, sometimes it's worth bringing an animal along. I travel to Europe for months at a time, and instead of leaving my cat at home lonely and miserable, she comes with me and (after the flight) is a much happier animal.
Sedatives are discouraged because it is unknown how it will effect the animal at altitude. I used to use acepromazine, which acts like a sedative (but is not). It's like turning down the volume knob on her senses, and she calms down considerably. If you're using acepromazine, I suggest doing a test dose before your flight day so your cat can get accustomed to taking it and so you can figure out how long it takes for the acepromazine to kick in - I started giving it to her about 45 minutes or more before the flight. These days she's travelled quite a bit (she racked up about 1/3 million miles before passing), and I don't give her any meds, which is quite a change from the cat who would start howling if I even carried her outside my house.
This document outlines the steps that I needed to go through to import my pet cat to Sweden. I've since flown her into a few other countries in Europe using the Pet Passport system, which greatly simplifies this process. I couldn't find this information in one place, and it's rather complicated, so I've compiled it here. This is for non-commercial import of animals (5 pets or less). Your mileage may vary, please read all the documents and check with your vet to be sure.
I've used Sweden as an example, because they're one of the hardest European countries to import animals to (except the UK), in fact it used to be impossible without a 6 month quarantine.
While in Europe, I highly recommend getting a EU Pet Passport from a European vet. This will make return to Europe in the future much easier, I wish I had done it on my first trip.
Bringing the animal back to the U.S. should not be a problem if you've done all the paperwork that Europe requires - I've travelled with my cat many times and had no problems. The cat is a U.S. cat in my case, and the U.S. lets you bring animals back after travel.
The U.K. used to be near impossible to bring animals into, but they have (finally!) relaxed their rules. See UK Pet Import Requirements
Here are the basic steps you'll need to take.
Further explanation comes after this list.
Note the disclaimer at the bottom of this page! Sometimes the regulations change, so doublecheck this information for your situation!
See the Website section for some airline regulation
All animals must have identity marking, either a tattoo or a microchip.
The chip must be marked with an ISO standard or else you will need
to bring your own scanner.
The animal must receive an approved rabies vaccination after
being identity marked. (You can probably do the rabies and microchip
during the same vet visit). Other countries have different testing
requirements, for example France also requires vaccination against
"infectious feline leucopenia" and requires testing 3 months before
travel, whereas the UK wants testing 6 months before travel. The
timing of the rabies is the first thing you should check.
Titering is a blood test to ensure that the rabies vaccination has
worked. This has to be done 120 days or more after the rabies test,
and must match the identity markings.
You need to have a USDA approved vet fill out the Veterinary Certificate E9.163
(was E9.45 until 2012)
and then you send it to the USDA for endorsement. Your private vet
will likely qualify as a "USDA approved vet," call the USDA to check.
It's not clear whether the USDA endorsement needs to be done within 10 days of travel or not (i.e., before or after deworming). Sweden doesn't seem to care, they just need it signed within 4 months of travel, but the USDA tells me that some airlines require this. Call your airline and check. United told me that they suggest "within 30 days" but they won't turn animals away without health certificates (that's an oddity).
Once you have the blood test (titer) paperwork showing the microchip number, your vet will fill out the E9.163, excluding the "Serial Number of the Certificate" (section 1) and the "Endorsement by the competent authority" (section 5). Send E9.163 to the USDA with $24 and a SASE.
Some countries/airlines may require the "International Health Certificate" (stating that the animal is healthy) and some may require the "Bilingual Health Certificate" (E9.163). I've used just the E9.45 (the old E9.163) and been fine, but the USDA will sign both of them for the same cost as one. If you're unsure, just do both, though getting a health certificate requires having a vet checkup beforehand.
The USDA has told me that the rabies cert must be more than 30 days old but within the last year. If it's more than a year old, they claim you need a booster, though Sweden claims that no booster is needed if the vaccine hasn't expired (i.e., if you are going back to Europe after a year). This information will be on your past rabies certificate - most vaccines last 2-3 years.
Finally, the E9.163 certificate has a section for "tick treatment" but I've called sjv.se and they've told me that it's not required (which explains why it's not listed on their website).
See the Website section for USDA contact info.
Within 10 days of travel the cat must be dewormed against Echinococcus spp
(tapeworm), this needs to be put on the Vet Cert. According to sjv.se,
you can do this after the USDA endorsing.
The cat needs a deworm <10 days before every entry into Sweden!
That means if you travel to another country first that needs
deworming, and then enter Sweden more than 10 days later, then
you need to deworm again. My vet tells me that the deworming pills
should be safe for multiple uses such as this.
Go To Europe!
Bring all the documents, all the health certs, vet certs and rabies papers.
You must declare at customs that you are importing an animal. When you
go through airport security you will usually need to show them the receipt
for the airline showing that you've paid to bring the pet. If you have
multiple terminals that are interconnected, it's possible you could
go through the security for another airline and skip this, though
sometimes they also check at the gate. When you get to the metal detectors
you will need to take your cat out of the carrier and carry it through
the metal detector. I've found that my cat's collar and tags aren't
enough to set off the detectors.
If you think you may ever return to Europe, or if you plan on
travelling around Europe, you should go to an EU approved vet
and get a pet passport. Then you can enter most countries and
you'll only need the passport and a deworm (and possibly proof
of rabies vaccine and tick?).
Swedish Board of Agriculture
|Forms and information
-> Animal Health & Welfare
-> Import & export of live animals
-> Dogs and Cats
-> Low-risk countries
-> Publications (for forms)
Swedish Animal Welfare
|Not very useful
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
|Many country regulations
Office of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
I also travel to Spain.
Only requires chip, rabies, titer and cert?
Federal Veterinary Office
I also travel to Switzerland.
Accepts: Pet passport (EU is okay), microchip, rabies.
|Embassy: +41 (0)31 323 30 33
|A little stricter, see below
|DEFRA: +44 (0) 870.241.1710
|For endorsing E9.163 form
South San Francisco: (requires appt) 650.876.9358
|For companies that help with the travel process
I've had a few people ask about litter boxes while travelling and 'accidents'
on the plane. Here are my experiences, your mileage may vary. I made a
travel litter box by cutting up a plastic sheet that had notches in it
so it could fold into a secure box. I'd put the whole thing into a large
trash bag (a sort of cheap litterbox liner) and then fill it with litter.
Usually the first order of business wherever I arrived was to buy some
litter and setup her litterbox, though sometimes I carried a small supply
of litter on the plane if I was landing late at night.
UK Pet Import Requirements
You can import cats and dogs (and a few other pets) into the UK if
you meet the following conditions (according to the UK "DEFRA" website):
To contact me go to my contact page, but please
realize that all the information I have about travelling with
a pet is on this page! I do not travel with my cat anymore because
she sadly passed away at the amazing age of 18, after travelling for
something like 1/3 million miles with me. If you have more
questions, ask your vet or contact the embassy for the country you
are travelling to. Good luck!
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