Wanderlust Wednesday: Traveling with Pets

As we frantically sort out the last-minute details of traveling for two months, I thought I would start sharing a few details of our big adventure. It’s been stressful preparing our home for renters, finding our rental in Barcelona, and making sure we have our long checklist of little tasks completed before leaving…not the least of which is making sure our cats don’t end up in quarantine when we arrive.

Yes, masochists that we are, we’re taking our cats!

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Say what?!

The requirements for traveling with pets vary from country to country…and even state.  Who knew that Hawaii had such strict standards, even for animals coming from the mainland U.S.?  Thankfully, quarantine is not required in Spain, as long as we follow the appropriate steps within the requisite timeline.  That means:

1. EU standard microchip.  If your pet doesn’t already have the 15-digit variety, you need to have one inserted, even if they already have “the other kind” (whatever kind that is). Or, you can bring your own reader for “the other kind”, if that’s what your pets have. (Of course, where do you get one of those?!) Despite many conversations over the past 5 years about getting our guys microchipped, we never did. Now, they’re all chipped up! No duplicates necessary.

2. Rabies vaccine.  These must be given AFTER the microchip is inserted, not before. So, even if your pet’s most recent rabies vaccination is still active, they’ll need to get it again. This was, sadly, the case for our guys. They had just gotten their rabies vaccines in the spring. I’m not crazy about giving it to them again but, thankfully, they haven’t ever had any negative reactions to vaccines.

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No more shots!

Oh, and did I mention that these vaccines need to happen 21 days before travel? That means that we were running around like crazy chickens a couple of weekends ago trying to find a vet available on short notice. Thank goodness for Urban Animal, a local drop-in vet clinic with extended weekend hours.

Side note: I once had a crazy boss who told all of my co-workers that I had rabies after my little old lady cat, Maggie, bit me and I had to spend three days in the hospital getting IV antibiotics so that I wouldn’t lose the end of my thumb or develop sepsis. True story! She also called me Marcy.

3. Health Certificate. Within 10 days of travel, an exam must be performed by a certified vet who then signs off on the official health certificate which is presented in both English and, in this case, Spanish. I worked with a pet travel site to gather all of the necessary paperwork, so I’m hoping that it’s everything we need.  The whole “official vet” scenario is another story.

A few months ago, when we first started hatching this wacky plan, we mentioned it to our vet. “Oh, no problem!”, she exclaimed, “I’ve done this for a lot of pets. We just sent a cat to Korea.” Fool that I was, I took this to mean that she was a “certified vet”…not so much!  What would this adventure be without a twist at every turn? Looks like we’ll be adding a trip to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Office (APHIS) down in Olympia this week for the “official official” sign off.

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Can’t you just ship us?

4. Carrier. From the get go, I’ve insisted that our guys travel with us in the cabin. I’m certain that this whole experience will be stressful enough for them without being shipped in cargo. Only four pets can fly in coach and two in first class on any given flight, so I was relieved when we were able to book them on our preferred flights on such short notice.  The only problem has been finding a good carrier.

I’ve had a heck of a time finding one that fits within the specified dimensions. On a flight a couple of weeks ago, RF sat next to a woman returning from a cat show. She recommended a SturdiBag. It seems great, just a little too long. Sherpa makes a bag specifically for Delta (our airline, in partnership with Air France), though, it too is somehow longer than the quoted requirement.  Our local pet store carries a Petmate that’s the closest fit, but it seems like such cramped quarters!

Eh, why pick one now?  I still have 3 days to decide… Right?!  Oof.  Wish us luck…

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