Over the past six years our family cat Crystal has travelled thousands of miles – as well as regular trips from London to Devon, she’s been to France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Belgium. And this year she’s coming to Croatia.
Rabies law has changed this week
And she isn’t the only pet who’s going on hols with the family. Two years ago I wrote a feature for the Daily Mail on the rise of people taking their pet abroad. Now, the latest news is this week the rabies laws have been relaxed. Instead of having to have your cat, dog or ferret vaccinated (and blood tested) six months before coming back to the UK, it is only three weeks. Added to that it appears although dogs need to be wormed, cats no longer need to go to a vet for a check up 24 to 48 hours before we cross the UK border.
But why take our cat with us in the first place?
While I don’t think many cats will enjoy travelling, for us taking Crystal with us has been the ideal solution for our cat and us. Six years ago my sister-in-law, Jan, moved into our house to look after Crystal for a fortnight and it was a disaster. Poor Jan. Despite her best efforts, for two weeks Crystal refused to eat – culminating in a phone call from a vet while we were in Cannes suggesting ‘an exploratory op’ as he was very worried about our cat’s health. Fortunately we were coming back the next day – so I refused – and as soon as we opened the front door, Crystal ran to her food bowl.
A few months later and having covered herself in Lily Pollen (I had no idea Lillies were deadly to cats…) Crystal had to be rushed to the vets for life saving treatment. Luckily she was OK but after three days the vet again was concerned. She’d eaten nothing and worse, was refusing even water. I have to add here she is a Pedigree and although I didn’t know it when I acquired her, her breed (an Exotic) are known to be more like little dogs. At home she rarely chooses to go outside and she is always at my side. Our vet said she was desperately homesick – he let her out early and she rallied immediately. The next time I saw him he suggested we get her a passport.
Incredibly, Crystal loves travelling. She adores the car – she has a seatbelt for a small dog which just clips over her – probably because it’s the one time she gets to sit on my lap for hours and I don’t keep getting up. And when we fly she snuggles in her handbag, which slots under the seat in front of an aircraft.
We’ve never had a toilet accident and she’s never been sick travelling. At airports she attracts lots of attention and she loves it (provided she’s safely in her handbag away from strange hands.)
We’ve found virtually all hotels in Europe will take Crystal and 99 per cent of villa/apartment owners do too (even if they initially advertise no pets.) At hotels, she emerges from her handbag (we always carry her into reception in that) tail up needing the loo and ravenously hungry.
When we get to our destination, we let her out straightaway – even outside in the gardens – because she likes to explore her new place immediately and get her bearings. From then on life is much as it is in the UK with Crystal – it’s also such a joy to have our cat with us.
Some tips if you are considering taking your dog or cat abroad.
* Eurotunnel is the best way to cross into Europe – your cat or dog simply travels as usual in the car with you. On the way back to the UK you will need to produce your pet passport before check-in.
Flying with your pet
* Sadly unless your pet is a guide dog, no cats or dogs are allowed in the cabins of planes flying over British airspace (yes, really.) To fly from the UK to Europe your cat or dog must go in the Hold. Crystal has flown once in the Hold from Gatwick to Tenerife. As the plane’s engines roared on take-off I was very worried she was right next to them. At Tenerife Sur airport we had to negotiate armed guards surrounding her in an Aircraft hangar to collect her. I was shocked to find her in her cage with no water. Her flight also cost five times what ours did. Never again. Now when we fly, we drive through Eurotunnel to Brussels airport and get a flight from there – Crystal travels free in the cabin with us as a piece of hand luggage. I must add here there is a weight restriction of 6kg including the handbag (and your pet must fit into a pet handbag) so if your pet is bigger than this, you have to drive (or your pet must go in the hold.) Eurostar does not allow any pets.
* We always pack her own food and cat litter, feeding bowls and brushes – my suitcase is pretty heavy with tins!
* We never put Crystal on a lead but we are lucky she only likes to come to the pool/in the gardens with us and when we go inside, she follows. When we go out at night we leave her in the villa as we would do with our home in the UK – bizarrely for such a fluffy cat she adores the heat and never has any problems, however hot it gets.
Find out more about a pet passport: DEFRA
Would you take your pet abroad? If so, do you have any pet tips to add? Let us know below…
And if you think your pet is as well travelled – or more travelled than Crystal – get in touch here: Contact Alison.