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How to travel with pets internationally - with Alison and Meike

April 17, 2018

How to travel with pets internationally - with Alison and Meike

Hello Alison, and Meike!

Pet: Cat

Breed: Unsure

Age: 3

Likes: Beef treats, tummy rubs, sleeping on mummy’s shoulder at night

Dislikes: Dogs, tummy rubs, when mummy rolls over at night (selfish!)
Indoor/Outdoor Pet: Indoor

Hello girls, Thank you for taking part in our blog today! 

Would you mind filling us in on some background, When did you first get Mieke? 

I’ve had Mieke for three years now; I had been living on my own for a little while and wanted a pet but didn’t live in a flat that was large enough for a dog. At the time I wasn’t a ‘cat person’ because I hadn’t interacted with many cats and they’d always seemed cold or not affectionate in my eyes. It didn’t help that when I was little, my dad had told me that all cats ‘exploded at random’ (to get me to stop asking/bugging him for a kitten)…So I was a ‘dog person’ through and through….

But then my friend’s child was gifted a gorgeous ginger cat named “Pumpkin” for her 4th birthday and I fell in love with the little ball of fluff. I was at my local adoption center the next week. I was initially there to look at another kitten named Jerry, who was very cute and shy - but Mieke (then known as ‘Lulu’) jumped onto my lap, dug in her claws, and told me (not asked me) to take her home. She’s been with me ever since!

What made you decide to move from Australia to the UK?
It must have been a huge decision whether to take Mieke with you!

I am an Actor/Writer/Adventurer and after I had finished obtaining my qualification in Acting for Stage and Screen at the Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art, I wanted to come to the UK to get international Acting experience and training. I’ve had some success, and last year was in a number of plays in Canterbury; I was also on an episode of Britain's Worst Serial Killers on Sky Pick - I’m currently auditioning for a number of TV roles, and am collaborating with some other writers for a new original TV series.

There was never any question in my mind about whether or not to bring Mieke with me on my adventures - although I had many people tell me I was stupid for wanting to take her! When I adopted her I took that responsibility very seriously, I’m her forever home (no matter what country I’m in). When I said I was moving overseas every single person I told reacted in a way that involved the assumption that I would get rid of her - I even had someone offer to ‘put her to sleep’ for me so I didn’t have to deal with the emotional pain of re-homing her! I insisted I was taking her with me and I found a way to make it work. I figured I wasn’t the first person to move overseas with a pet, so it can’t be that hard. If other people can do it, so can I.

What sort of protocol did you have to go through to bring Mieke to the UK? Did she need a pet passport and luggage? Was it a lengthy process? Did she need jabs/medication for the flight etc.

I decided I wanted to have professionals help me get Mieke overseas, because I didn’t want to risk filling out paperwork incorrectly and have her sent back because of a stupid mistake I had made. I did a lot of research into different companies and their policies. I found that most places do not sedate animals anymore because of how dangerous it is - if the animal wakes up mid-flight, they can have a panic attack and die; some animals also have long term medical problems as a result of the level of sedation they’re given. I decided I didn’t want her to be sedated, even though she would be scared, because I wanted her to be awake and scared/stressed out rather than be put to sleep and potentially never wake up again - or have her get so scared that she died of a panic attack on her own in the bottom of a plane without me there/her knowing I wasn’t too far away. So I hired a company called "JetPets", they gave me a bit of a check list of things to get done before the move.

She needed a rabies vaccination and a certificate that said she definitely didn’t have rabies and was up to date with her other regular vaccines. I made sure her worming and flea/tick doses were up to date as well. Then a day before I left, someone from "JetPets" came to pick her up in an approved sized travel crate. I arranged to have her land a few hours before me so I didn’t have to wait for her paperwork to be processed on the other end. Because she was coming out of Australia (which has high bio security laws) she had about a 5 minute quarantine period. It wasn’t a lengthy process, I just made sure she was up to date with her health and I kept copies of all her paperwork just in case.

How has Mieke found the UK?
Has she acclimatized to the drastic change such as in weather, heat, environment?

Well she complained for weeks about the flight.

I could tell she was stressed and confused, but it was also very sweet that she felt less stressed whenever I was around and would snuggle me a lot for comfort. She adjusted really well to the climate because she is so fluffy - the heat and humidity in Australia used to dehydrate her a little.

I used to have a cooling mat that would cool down when pressure was applied to it - so she could lay on top of it and keep her belly cool. She also used to drink a LOT of water to stay hydrated. Since being in the UK she has been super snugly in the winter, but seems really content with the temperature here. She will always complain about something because she’s a cat, but she’s really impressed me with how resilient she is.

What was Mieke’s first reaction to the move? Did her character change?

I’ve learned she doesn’t respond well to living with other cats or dogs - When I first adopted Mieke I knew she wasn’t very social with the other kittens in the adoption center, and because I was living on my own in my flat, other animals weren’t going to be an issue for her.

When I moved to the UK, I found a place to live in Whitstable with a woman who had two dogs and a cat and a few chickens - that stressed her out way too much, and way more than I expected. She never ‘got used to it’ as I was told she would by most people. “Just give it time, she just needs to adjust”…. Nope! She would mark her territory a lot when living with other cats, her fur was matted and clearly reflective of her stress levels, she was really misbehaved and would wake me up more than usual at night, she also didn’t want to snuggle loads and would hide from me.

Now that I’ve moved to a flat where she is the only animal, she is REALLY content and happy!!!She’s also back to her normal snugly self. So her reaction wasn’t so much to the international move, but more the move in living conditions and quantity of animals in her space - which could have happened in any country really.

Did you have to slowly introduce Mieke into British cat products eg food?

Thankfully I didn’t need to because I we have Advance cat food in Australia, so I was able to get her the same food she used to have in Australia. It took a little while for me to find it, but that was more to do with my own adjustment period than anything else, I was unfamiliar with the shops and their stock when I got here. The UK also has ‘Dreamies’ treats, and Mieke is very happy about that because they were her favourite back home in Australia too.

Any advice for others who might want to move country with their pet?

Save up your money and get a professional to do it for you: It is less stress for you and for the animal.

If you don’t fill in some paper work correctly, and the animal gets sent back to its origin-airport, it’ll cost you money and time and stress trying to correct an error that a professional company won’t make because they understand the process better than you do. It also means you’re reunited with your fluffy-butt sooner rather than later!

Also, if you can crash with a friend who is fine with having your pet in their house in your destination-city, that will save you loads of stress in trying to find pet-friendly accommodation before you get there. You don’t want to end up paying too much for a bad space that is pet friendly but not where you want to be living.

If you’re stressed, your animal will pick up on that too, they’re smart. Best thing I did was crash with a friend who was fine with having Mieke with me while I took my time to find the right kind of accommodation that worked for both Mieke AND me. If you don’t have anywhere to crash for free, look at getting a pet friendly Air BnB for a month and give yourself time to search for the right place that way. Or, have a friend or family member temporarily look after your fluffy love while you go over first and set yourself up properly, then send for them.

The less stress you encounter, the better you’ll be able to help your fluffy one. You want to be able to go to the houses and inspect the space/meet your housemates rather than trusting pictures on a website or emails from strangers. I’m starting to save to be able to bring Mieke on my next adventure, and I’ve had a friend who said she can take care of her while I get myself set up and ready for her. Don’t be afraid to lean on your friends and family for support - but remember to buy them a bottle of something as a thank you and recognise that their help is very much appreciated!!

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