cats overseas travel

Immigrating With Your Cat

Or, How Bacardi Found His Voice

A few days ago I received one of those friendly little reminders from Facebook about what I was doing “3 years go today.” There was a photo of our cat, Bacardi (albeit 5 pounds skinnier), captioned “tomorrow this little guy is leaving the heat of Australia and heading off to Canada ahead of us. Can’t believe this move is actually happening!” 

I’m sure he wouldn’t have believed what we were about to do to him either.

immigrating with cat

It’s been three years since we latched Bacardi into his little airline approved pet crate and sent him on his way with Aussie Pet and Animal Travel. He would fly from Brisbane to Sydney; have a rest stop in Sydney, fly from Sydney to Vancouver (for another rest stop) and then on to Winnipeg. He would go from a 40 degree Brisbane, to a negative 40 degree Canada, all within the space a few days.

When planning our move to Canada, leaving Bacardi behind was never a question. The three of us were a family. If we were moving so was he. Even though the cost of shipping Bacardi with the pet agency made us wish that he was a bit more of a financially contributing member.

Bacardi lived a charmed life in Australia. He came and went as he pleased; our windows and back door always open against the tropical heat of Queensland. We had a large yard, in which was a benevolent ruler. Thorough border patrols were conducted daily for lizards or noisy parakeets. He wouldn’t stand for them screeching at him from the branches of the avocado tree. Possums he graciously tolerated. From time to time he would even let the odd one eat from his bowl.

possum eating cat food


snake in australia

The first few months in Canada were tough. It was one of the coldest, snowiest winters in Canada and none of us were used to the being cooped up indoors or the limited hours of daylight. I cried. Johnny cried. Bacardi, a previously very nonverbal cat, suddenly found his voice and cried too. His days of patrolling the neighbourhood against unruly possums and dive-bombing magpies were over.

bacardi the cat

The first turning point came when we adopted our second cat KC, one snowy night just before Christmas. KC with his crooked tale and missing, frost bitten lip who had been found living in the insulation shed of a lumberyard. He was supposed to be a foster cat of my aunt. Johnny bonded with him and he came home with us, Bacardi’s new brother.

We weren’t sure how Bacardi would handle the arrival of a new, adult male cat. But KC is the easiest going, teddy bear of a cat. He took to Bacardi straight away, despite Bacardi’s skepticism. He followed Bacardi around, cuddling up against his turned back at night or licking his paws while he slept. He forced Bacardi to love him back.

canadian geese

In a few months the cats become the sweetest friends. Soon the two of them were racing around the house and tearing up and down the furniture. Bacardi, who had been listless and moody for the first month in Canada, suddenly perked up.

And eventually the snow melted and Bacardi braved his new world. There weren’t possums to befriend, but there were rabbits to chase, geese to be chased by, mice to hunt and even deer that followed him around the field behind our house. The days were long, the sun was warm and his new surrounds were endless.

immigrating with your cat


We won’t live in Canada forever. Eventually Bacardi (and KC too) will go through the entire process again.  But this time, I’m glad they will have each other.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when immigrating with your cat:

  • Do your research. Which, if you’re reading this, means you’ve already started! But really, talk to friends, get on the forums, read past the first page of Google. The last thing you want is to get everything together, only to find out that the country you’re moving to have changed their rules or that your pet is on the list of those that aren’t allowed to fly.
  • Decide early on if you want to go with an agency or do the leg work yourself. Flying out of Australia require you to use an agency so we didn’t have a choice. Flying back can be done by yourself. We didn’t mind paying extra to have all the paper work handled by experts and it was comforting knowing that Bacardi had several comfort stops en route to Canada.
  • Give yourself lots of time. We started prepping Bacardi for Canada three to four months we left to give us enough time to gather the paperwork, complete all the vet visits and secure his travel with the pet shipping agency. The Australian Agriculture website has a nifty calculator that you can use to work out the pre export treatment date for your pet. While not everything applied to Canada, the site gave us a good idea of general time lines that can be applied to most international moves.
  • Go with your gut. Aussie Pet and Animal Travel wasn’t the first agency to pop up in my Google search and neither did they have the flashiest website. But chatting to them, I felt comfortable straight away and knew that they would be the ones to take care of Bacardi.
  • Not matter what country you’re planning on moving to, IPATA is your friend. They can also help you find an accredited pet-shipping agency and are full of useful resources. Be patient, kind and compassionate. A move is a huge and scary thing for a cat. Three years later and Bacardi still doesn’t like to be picked up or handled. He met a lot of strange people in the last few months before we left, several who groped, injected and grabbed him. The poor guy has since lost the acceptance he had for strangers in Australia.
  • If you’re making your own arrangements, pick your airline wisely. There are plenty of airlines that allow pets to be transported internationally, but not all pet policies are created equal. Your preferred air line might not be your pets best option.

Have you moved overseas with your pet? How did you and your pet handle the change?

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