I think any travel obsessed pet owner has wondered at some point or another how complicated it would be to move their cat or dog abroad with them. When I decided to move to Spain I knew there wasn’t a chance I’d be willing to leave Brady behind for an entire year, so I dipped my toe into research to see just how tough it would be to get him a pet visa to Europe. And despite my fears that it would be incredibly complicated, it was actually much easier than I had imagined. There are three main steps.
1. First up was his rabies vaccination and international compliant microchip (ISO). The vaccination for cats has be done at least 21 full days before traveling to the EU, but can be no more than a year. Make sure the vet you go to has experience dealing with international travel requirements/paperwork. Cost: Appointment: $45, vaccination: $19.50, ISO chip: $55.
2. Second vet visit has to happen within ten days of travel. During this visit, the vet fills out your pet’s health certificate. Vet visit: $65, health certificate around $80.
3. This health certificate then has to be brought to the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) to be certified. It was easy driving distance for me, but I’d imagine if you’re far away you could overnight it (I’d call to make sure, obvs). In LA they were really helpful when I called. ($20)
The surprisingly hardest part of all was finding a flight that would allow a pet in the cabin internationally. I automatically booked through American, because I’ve flown with Brady on two round trip flights with them before. However when I called to book him in, I found out they don’t let animals in the cabin on transatlantic flights, and I’d have to fly him in cargo. I started freaking out because of the millions of pets in cargo horror stories I’m sure we’ve all heard, but before I could really process this they took me off hold and told me it didn’t matter anyway, because the day I was flying the weather would be too hot for any animals to be permitted in cargo, regardless. She said pretty much any flights around then would be (and this was mid/late September). The cost of a pet ticket was $100.
I spent a few hours wondering how anyone moves cats or dogs abroad in the physical sense. If it’s still too hot in September, it must be too cold pretty soon after. Also, they’re stuck in cargo! Then I heard Lufthansa allows small pets in the cabin on international flights, as does United and Swiss. I had Ultimate Rewards Miles that could be transferred to all of them, so into research mode I went. Swiss made the most sense with my schedule, so we had a nice little layover in Zurich before landing in Madrid.
Now that we’re here, the last thing I’m unclear on is if I need to get him a kitty passport in Spain. That’s what is used within the EU, and I’m not sure if his documentation expires at any point. I’m pretty sure if I ever want to take him to the UK, who are a bit more strict, he’ll need one. I also have to look up what I’ll need to do to move him back to the states, if that’s where I end up once the program is over.
Obviously do your own research because requirements can change, but this is a good starting point for what the process will look like, and a good price estimate. It ended up costing more than I expected ($384.50 total), but was so so so worth it.