Moving house is stressful enough, but moving to a different country adds a whole new level of unknowns and uncertainty – especially if you’re taking your cat with you. About fifteen years ago, my family and I moved to Norway – with two adults, two children and two cats, we were quite a circus heading off!
It was a time of a lot of change for all of us – new jobs, new schools, new language – but for the cats, it was also the point in time that they went from being outdoor to indoor kitties.
I was actually quite surprised at how much preparation was needed for moving the cats. At the time, the UK was known for being stringent with quarantine, so was a relatively easy country to move from – but we still needed to have plenty of forewarning to get everything ready. Wherever you’re moving to, my advice is to speak to your vet and to the airline you’re travelling with well in advance to find out what you will need to prepare.
The vet will let you know about all the vaccinations you need. If your cat doesn’t already have a micro chip, you’ll probably need to get one for them and have everything in place well before you travel. We had to arrange for a Norwegian vet to meet us at the other end to inspect the cats as well. A decade on, when we moved back to the UK (sadly only with one cat by then) we also had to have the cat vaccinated within 24 hours of travelling – which was an added element of preparation to take into account!
We were flying with British Airways, and I have to say we were really impressed with the level of service and support for traveling with the cats. One of the unexpected extra costs was that we had to have BA approved cat boxes, which were made of wood and incredibly heavy. I suppose they have to be sure that the kitty won’t escape during the flight! In terms of paying for the cats to be on the flight, it was charged by weight (but, thankfully, the woman checking us in averaged out the weights of the cats so as to spare any humiliation for the ‘rounder’ of the two!).
Saying good-bye to the cats at the airport was tough – we all felt quite worried about how they would handle the experience. But again, the staff were fantastic – they even found us on the plane to let us know that the cats were on board and safe, that they had put the two boxes facing each other for reassurance, and that (to our huge relief) there were no dogs traveling with them in the pressurised hold.
On arrival in Norway, the cats came out on the conveyor belt alongside our luggage – I can’t imagine what they made of it all, but they were certainly happy to see us. A quick check from the Norwegian vet, and we were cleared to enter the country.
With the trauma of the flight out of the way, our next job was to help the cats settle into the new apartment. We had a few of their favourite toys easily accessible on arrival, and one of the rugs that they used to curl up on in the old house.
The cats adapted well. For the first few weeks in the new apartment, they spent a lot more time than usual in each other’s company – but they soon found their favourite spots and the best beds to curl up on. They also seemed perfectly happy to shift to being indoor cats. Neither had been particularly prolific hunters when we lived in the UK – and for one of them especially, she seemed much more relaxed without the need to navigate the outdoors and the neighbourhood toms.
We were lucky to move near to a local vet, who was extremely welcoming. At the time, we had to change the type of food the cats had been used to – and also had to get them back into the routine of using a litter tray now that they were shifting to a life in-doors.
Years later when we returned to the UK, we had to go through a lot of this all over again – by then with only one cat, who was getting much older. The fact that she was an indoor cat meant that we avoided the quarantine issue – and by then the micro chipping was the norm, so paperwork was reduced.
Having had these two experiences, I would recommend that you get as much advice as possible about moving country with your cat – and that you make sure you allow enough time for all the vaccinations and potential preparations you might have to make. Good luck!