Share |

An In-Depth Guide to Moving Abroad with Pets

Can and dog sitting in cardboard box ready for moving day

Moving to another country is an exciting but challenging task—especially when you have dogs, cats or other pets to consider. Depending on the species of pet, their size and the country you're heading to, there are a few different ways to handle the move. Let’s take a look at some of the more common methods of moving abroad with pets, so that you can start planning your own international escape!

The first thing to consider is whether you want to move a lot of belongings—like furniture, books, electronics and appliances—to your new home. For some, this is an essential part of relocating, while for others, a fresh start with a couple of suitcases and a cat is the main goal. So, ask yourself, how much stuff are you taking with you? Is it a van full, a trailer full, a suitcase full? Knowing how much stuff is coming with you will help you to make a decision on whether to use airline checked baggage, a hired moving truck, or your own car to make the trip.

Cargo or Carry-on? Flying with Cats & Dogs

When it comes to cats and dogs, there are a few ways to get them to your destination. You can drive with them in your own vehicle or hire a pet transport company to do that part for you. Cats and dogs are also permitted to travel on most airplanes, depending on the specific airline rules. Pet tickets generally cost between $75 and $200 per pet. Air Canada, WestJet, British Airways, Delta, United Airlines, Japan Airlines and many others allow cats and dogs in good health to travel either as cargo or in the cabin as carry-on baggage. If your pet is sick, airport customs agents may decide it can’t fly—so be sure to have health records on hand and a veterinarian’s health check document saying the pet is healthy enough to fly. This won’t usually be necessary, but it is better to be overprepared than under!

Cats and small dogs that fit into a carrier (usually soft-sided) with dimensions of about 27cm x 40cm x 55cm can be booked as pet carry-on in the cabin. In-cabin pets come with you when you board the plane and go under the seat in front of you for the trip. The dimensions of the carrier vary slightly from company to company, so triple-check to make sure you get the right size. Cats and dogs in the cabin must be left in their carriers until you’ve exited the plane.

The other option when flying is to book pet passage as cargo. This is the only flight option when moving overseas with a large dog, or other pets whose species aren’t allowed to travel as carry-on luggage. Animals travelling in the cargo hold go with the passengers’ checked baggage and must be inside a hard-sided plastic carrier or metal kennel as specified by the airline’s policy, so they are protected from any shifting bags around them. As in the cabin, animals must be able to comfortably stand up, turn around and lie down within their carriers.

Pet cargo holds are climate-controlled so as not to be too hot or cold, and the air is pressurised just as it is in the cabin to maintain an appropriate oxygen density. Physically speaking, your pets’ well-being is properly catered to on all reputable airlines—however, some pets become very anxious and scared when they find themselves alone with strange animals in this loud environment. It’s up to you and your veterinarian to decide if such a journey would be problematic. Older animals and those with chronic health problems should perhaps ride alongside you in a car instead of flying—or at least be restricted to as short a flight as possible.

Flying with cats in cabin, as well as small dogs and birds, is preferable for most pet owners since they can check on their pet throughout the flight and have it on hand if there is an emergency disembarkation. Think of cargo as a secondary option and use it as necessary. For example, each air passenger is only allowed to bring one carry-on pet, so if your pets outnumber you, someone will have to travel with the checked bags.

When professional pet transportation companies arrange flights for your pets, the cost includes a personal flight for a companion. If you need to take separate trips, you will have to ask a family member or friend to accompany your dog. The same goes for cats, so if you are wondering how much it costs to ship a cat one way, the cost is about the same. Reptiles, birds and other exotic animals must also be accompanied.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Dog Overseas?

When flying with a dog, you’ll need to purchase a pet ticket when you buy your own ticket, and there will be a fee of about $100 per flight whether the dog stays in the cabin with you or flies in cargo. Every animal that flies on a plane must be in the care of one of the passengers, so it is not normally possible to put your dog on a plane if you are not going to be flying. The easiest country to move to with a dog is therefore dependent on which airlines accept your pet and which countries they connect to that have reasonable animal import regulations. Check each country’s regulations individually to get an idea of where might work best for you and your pets.

Moving Overseas with Birds

It’s a good idea to get your bird used to its travel carrier before moving day, to avoid stress when it’s time to travel. There are several backpack-type bird carriers available for large or smaller birds, with perches inside and a window to see out. Some bird owners use these to take their bird friends hiking or for walks around the city! The more you use the carrier, the more comfortable your bird will be staying in it during the big move. Some birds prefer wide windows and others prefer a small window where they can see you and not much else.

Birds can be easily transported in a specially designed travel carrier in a vehicle or on a plane. If driving with your bird, secure a seatbelt around the carrier to keep it in place. Make sure the perch you’re using is the right width for your bird. If the bird can grasp three-quarters of the way around the perch, it’s a good fit. Put something soft at the bottom of the carrier in case the bird falls.

Some birds suffer from car sickness, which you should quickly discover by going for short drives to acclimatize your bird to car travel. If yours experiences an upset stomach or vomiting, try boiling some ginger in water and using the cooled tea to replace your bird’s regular water an hour or so before travelling. As with people, ginger can calm a bird’s stomach—but be warned, not every bird enjoys eating raw ginger root! Tea is gentler and should do the trick for your bird. Movers won’t usually allow pets to travel in packed vans or trucks, so they need to ride in a personal vehicle.

Airlines that allow birds to travel in the cabin will usually do so if it fits into a carrier under the seat. Otherwise, it will need to go into cargo. In both cases, the carrier needs to follow precise regulations in terms of size and composition.

Prepare for International Animal Import Laws

When you arrive at your destination via plane, or cross an international border, you will need to speak to a customs agent to make sure you are not bringing anything dangerous into the country. “Dangerous” includes unvaccinated or invasive animal species, and for this reason each country has its own rules about animal importation. North American countries, for example, require pets to have been recently vaccinated for rabies—and if you don’t have documented proof in the official language of the country to which you are moving, your pet could be denied entry.

Make an appointment with your vet for a health check and vaccine boosters as close as possible to your moving day. Usually, rabies boosters need to be administered within a week of your arrival abroad for your pet to pass customs. You can check what documents your pet will need on national immigration websites.

Prepare for Unexpected Messes Along the Way

Don’t forget to pack paper towels! And water, and a bit of soap, while you’re at it. Travelling pets are bound to make messes along the way, so be prepared with a couple of cleaning supplies. It’s also a good idea not to pack up your pet with their favourite blankets or toys in case they get covered in something yucky and need to be thrown out at some point on the trip. Puppy pads in the bottom of cat and dog carriers could be a big help as well.

Talk to Bird’s Moving and Storage to Get All the Moving Details Just Right!

Bird’s Moving is here to help you plan and execute a problem-free international move. We’re a St. Catharine’s moving company partnered with United Van Lines so that your home furnishings and other belongings can be moved quickly and safely across the continent, meeting any overseas connections necessary. We’ll talk you through the process of moving cats, dogs and other pets and prepare you for every step. Get in touch with us today to start planning!