Monday, November 29, 2010

Travelling with a cat/dog/pet on a transatlantic flight

Asn most of my readers know or have guessed we moved out of Egypt awhile ago. We travelled with our cat whom we adopted in Egypt. So I am often asked by my friends about the requirementsfor flying with pets.Here is a short synopsis.

In the last year and a half, I've made 2 trips with our cat, one was from Cairo to Dubai and then from Dubai to India.

Everyone (vets, online travel sites, professional agenices that help with animal relocations) I checked with, heavily recommended that she not be sedated. I think it would have been better if I had sedated myself on the first trip, I was a nervous wreck until I had her back in my arms! Comparatively on her 2nd flight, I wasn't worried at all, because she came off perfectly fine at the end of the first trip.

My cat hates being in a moving vehicle. She is a Turkish Angora, large (5+kilos) and stubborn. But she adapts very easily. So how a cat reacts to the travel and new location is very personality dependent.

Most airlines will not allow you to carry a snub nosed cat, because of air pressure, they do not allow certain breeds. Persians are one such breed that are not allowed (it could be different for Europe and America, but Middle East and Indian subcontinent airlines don't allow snub nosed cats or dogs)

Some airlines will allow you to carry pets as hand luggage (but you have to get prior permission) We had to put her as accompanied pet and in the luggage section on both flights. Emirates airlines has a seperate section for pets on board their aircraft, but they go in as cargo. UAE insists that pets come in as cargo, no matter which Emirate you land in (their vets are stationed at the cargo village and all pets have to come into UAE as cargo except throughbred falcons)

If your pet has to go in as cargo from Egypt, then you will have to go to the cargo village near the Cairo airport. Talk to them at least 10 days before travel. They will tell you all the paperwork they need from their side. A little baksheesh in the right hands will smoothen the process considerably.

How much money? I'm not too sure. My husbands office sent the guy in charge of handling government agencies with me and he spoke fluent Arabic and paid whatever was needed. An Emirates airline pilot friend spoke to the Emirates cargo chief in UAE who called the Emirates cargo head in Egypt to smoothen things and he kept calling the guy until we were all safely on board. (International wasta works too :) ) so we didnt have to pay the Emirates cargo guys in Egypt anything.

You also have to check what are the requirements at your port of arrival. And keep those papers ready too. Its different for each country.

When we travelled out of Egypt, they just wanted a bill of health and her vaccine card at the Egypt airport cargo village and the permission slip from the UAE that would allow her entry there. Getting the permission slip from the UAE was a whole other nightmare, including her blood being sent to Germany for checking if the rabies vaccine administered in Egypt was genuine and had enough antibodies.

Basically you need to
1. Have your cats vaccinations and medication up-to-date
2. Check online for requirements at port of arrival. - get those papers ready
3. Talk to people at the cargo village or the airline you are flying for their requirements

Get all these papers in order.

 In the end, everything at the Egypt end can be "managed"! Worry mainly about the destination requirements.

When I flew from Cairo to Dubai. Our cat had to travel as cargo (UAE reqt). Egypt Cargo wanted her there 5 hours before departure (becuase their doctor also had to examine her and other requirements) We had to pick her up at the cargo village in Dubai, a couple of hours after the flight landed (they gave us a call when she was ready - doctors check etc)

When I flew from Dubai to India, we carried her with us as luggage to the regular check-in area and someone took her from us at the check-in counter and carried her to the loading area. In India, we asked an attendant at the baggage carousel, who went outside and brought her in and gave her to us at the baggage section.

I knew a lady in Egypt who regularly carried her 2 tiny dogs (chihuahua size) as hand luggage when she travelled to Europe and back. The dogs had European passports and she used to fly business class.
So its very country and airline dependant. Check how it works in the country you are travelling to.

We asked the flight stewards to check that she had been loaded on both flights as we were on the same flight. They have a method of doing it, if you ask them before they shut the airline doors. It was a huge relief to us to know she had been loaded and the flight was less stressful after that.

When I flew Dubai to Delhi. I just took her with us 2 hours before departure to the regular check-in in Dubai. If you have to do this in Cairo, you may want to drape a shawl/stole over her cage. The noise and smells can stress your cat/dog out.

Egyptians being Egyptians wanted to stick their fingers into my cats cage and touch her at the cargo village (she's long haired and pure white) that really stressed her out. If you have a dog, I don't think you have to worry much. My friend who flew out with her 2 german shepherds from Cairo called it the parting of the red sea phenomenon when she took her dogs into the airport :)

So relax, but check for your destination reqts. Autralia, Europe (except Switzerland) and the Middle East are quite tough.


Connie said...

Excellent advice. Traveling with pets is stressful, but it tends to freak out the owners more than the pets. Not saying it isn't hard on the pets, but they don't have to deal with all the worry! I'd add that it is also a good idea to investigate expeditor/transportation services that can board and ship your pet for you. We've done this a number of times and found it to be a very easy and safe way to move. Our cats would be spoiled rotten at a kennel for a few days, then, handled and shipped by pros who know all the 'ins and outs' of the process, and finally delivered at the other end after we reached our new home and set things up for them. We've had very good results. This is also a tax-deductible moving expense because, although we consider our pets 'family members', according to the government, they are merely 'property' to move. (of course, check the latest regs, but it always has been in past!)

insteadi said...

Excellent info! If it's ok, I will add my experience travelling to Europe, because when I was searching online in Spring, it was difficult to find info in one place. I just travelled to Paris from Cairo with a cat bought in Egypt. I used Egyptian Mao Rescue Organisation (EMRO) - they deal with all cats, but specifically rescue and adopt Mao cats. To go to the EU the cat needs a certificate from an EU lab proving it is vaccinated against rabies. Once obtained, as long as the animal is vaccinated annually with a record, this certificate remains valid (so you can do this at any time and if you suddenly get transferred, there is no problem). EMRO takes the blood sample and sends it to the German lab (sample needs to be taken at least 90 days before leaving Egypt to avoid quarantine in the EU and at least 30 days after the actual rabies vaccination - so start planning at least 4 months ahead). They also handled all the paperwork with the Ministry of Agriculture that is required when an animal is bought/adopted in Egypt in the last week it is in the country. Checkin asked to see these papers, but nothing more.

Air France allow a cat in a soft bag/box with a combined weight of under 5kg in the cabin if pre-booked and it costs US$200 (payable upon checkin - our cat was 6.5kg with bag and there wasn't a problem). It must stay in the soft box the entire time it is in the plane. I bought a cheap one on Road 9 that the cat managed to break just before getting on the plane, so I would recommend buying something really strong (a few people have since highly recommended Sherpa bags).

I bought a lead on a chest harness for my cat a year or so ago and would put the harness on him periodically in the house to get him used to it (giving treats when it was on etc). I kept the harness on him in the travel box and when we had to get him out (security), I attached the lead before bringing him out, just in case he went crazy and tried to flee.

I did not sedate the cat, although he was highly stressed (shy cat and doesn't like strangers - not good in an airport) because I heard that if some customs officials see a dopey cat/animal, they are required to retain them to confirm it is sedated and not sick. This is particularly a problem if animal is in the pressurised hold and there is a connecting flight, because the airport vets see the animal without you.

Yasser said...

What if your flying from california to cairo only a pet german shepherd alone..any suggestions or thoughts would help. Thanks

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