This post is mostly for my mum. She keeps asking if I’ll write more about our cat, Monty, who we brought to Vancouver with us. I realise that does not really fit into the “walks” or “larks” that I normally write about. BUT there isn’t a huge amount online about moving countries with cats, so maybe this will be useful for someone else one day!?
As a kitten, Monty was one of the cutest little dudes I have ever come across. He was the runt of the litter from a family in Hendon so when I first brought him home he was teeny! He had massive blue eyes and to start with he never seemed to blink! Marc and I both fell in love. I mean how could you not!?
Now, we have been thinking about moving to Vancouver for a while. This was partly to escape the London pollution (which gave me asthma over the last year), and partly because Marc and I both love the idea of living somewhere with easy access to mountains *and* career opportunities. The main deal-breaker was whether we could bring our little monster with us. I did loads of research online and most people agree that Vancouver is full of pet lovers BUT it can be really hard to find a place to rent if you have a pet. This didn’t sound particularly hopeful so I joined pet friendly rental groups on facebook and started searching for possible places to live aaaaages before we planned to move. It seemed like there were possibilities, so we put in a request to move with Marc’s company, and crossed our fingers.
Monty is now a fully grown, 4 year old goofball of a cat. His main hobbies are inspecting his territory from our garden fence, sleeping with his bikini out for the world to see, and wrestling with my husband Marc. We did have a couple of very kind offers from people that said they were happy to look after him for a couple of years, but it’s not often you meet a cat with such a lovely personality. We just couldn’t leave him behind.
Advice if you’re thinking of bringing your cat to Canada:
- Talk to your vet first! I mentioned that we were considering taking Monty to live aboard about six months before we moved. The vet told me to read all the regulations from the Canadian Government and also all the regulations for bringing him back to the UK on the DEFRA website.
- For us, it sounded like getting into Canada would be a breeze, it was just bringing him back to the UK would be more complicated, unless we got a pet passport and had him micro-chipped.
- At least 2 months before you go, you need to take your cat to have a rabies vaccination and to pick up his pet passport.
- The Pet passport lasts for 3 years, so if we decide to move back to the UK within that time, Monty can come back with us easily. If we stay longer we’d have to prove that his rabies vaccines are all up to date and go through more hassles. This might be the main thing to put a limit on how long we can live in Canada.
- You will need to buy a IATA approved pet carrier.
Advice for flying:
When flying with a pet you can either take your cat with you onto the flight (some airlines said they would allow this) OR put him into the hold. I didn’t want him to go into the hold at first because I thought he’d be freezing. But I soon found out that most airlines have a special pressurised section for pets. It’s just like the main carriage, but without the trolley service. I found out the pet policies for each of the Airlines that fly between the UK and Canada, so you don’t have to:
British Airways: Monty would have to go in the cargo we would need to book it through IAG World Cargo. I asked for some quotes and most of them were over £1000. Eep!
Lufthansa: We could take Monty in the cabin if we pay 70 Euros/ $100 CAD.
Max dimensions for box: 55cm x 40cm x 23 cm
Finnair: Could take him in the cabin, in an IATA-approved pet carrier if cat+carrier is less than 8kg.
The maximum dimensions for a soft pet carrier are the same as for normal carry-on baggage, as long as the carrier is flexible enough to fit under the seat in front of you and your pet can stand up and lay down comfortably. Max dimensions were not very clear; either 56cm x 45cm x 25cm or 40cm x 30cm x 15cm
Iberia: €150 charge for pets
Could take him in the cabin if he is less than 8kg. Max size carrier: 45cm x 35cm x 25cm
IATA approved case: The cage or pet pack should be strong, ventilated, with a waterproof floor and it should be safe.
A pet is always charged as excess baggage, even if a passenger carries no other bags.
Before checking pets in, passengers should feed and water them, as this is generally not possible once the flight is underway.
Air Canada: Could take in the cabin if he is small enough to sit in his cage. $100 CAD charge
Max size carrier: Hard-sided 23cm x 40cm x 55cm Soft-sided 27cm x 40cm x 55cm
On Boeing 777-300ER and 777-200LR aircraft, the pet carrier cannot be more than 21cm x 38cm x 43 cm
You’ll need to arrive a full 30 minutes prior to the recommended check-in time for your flight as you must see an agent at check-in. Passengers travelling with pets cannot check in online or at airport self-service kiosks.
Air Transat: He can only travel in the hold.
Rates and charges shown apply only to animals checked into the cargo hold. Amounts may vary and will be charged in the currency used in the departure airport.
To and from Europe: CAD $275 each way per animal.
Upon entry into Canada: A CAD $30 fee (plus tax, per animal) will be required for inspection by Agriculture Canada. Arrivals from the U.S. are exempt.
Originally I liked the sound of flying with Monty at our feet so we could comfort him. But then I spoke to another lady who moved with her cat to Canada the previous year, she said going with Air Transat was relatively easy. She also mentioned that it is better in the hold as you can use a large cage, rather than a teeny one that squishes under the seat in front of you
In the end, Marc’s work booked us flights with Air Transat, so we just went with them! We called before we booked the flight to check there was space for Monty, then called back after the flight was booked to reserve one of the spaces for pets on the same plane. There are 5 spaces on each flight, so book it quickly! In the end, Monty was the only animal on his flight.
On the Day:
We woke up super early to lock our cat flap. We gave Monty some food and drink before we finished off our packing and cleaning. We’d bought a massive IATA approved pet carrier from pet planet. It was Japanese and folds down to take up less room, so it seemed perfect for us. I wrote Monty’s name all over it (as well as my name, contact details and our destination.) You probably don’t have to do that, I was just paranoid that he might get lost. I also figured if it is obvious what his name is, maybe people will comfort him on his journey. We also taped some doggy-nappy-mats to the floor of the pet carrier so if he needed to relieve himself, it could all be absorbed, and not too stinky.
We had to arrive at the airport 3 hours early, but we were closer to 4 hours early. This meant we could check in as soon as the check in desks opened. The staff were all really friendly, but Monty started to miaow. He had quite strong opinions and he didn’t want to be in a pet carrier in this loud place. To be honest, leaving him with the airline staff was pretty stressful. It tied my tummy up in knots.
Poor little dude.
Once we arrived:
The lines for immigration on a Saturday afternoon in June are loooong! We had to snake around the airport (in view of the amazing mountains – squeee!) for almost 2 hours. Then, we have to wait again for our work permits.
By the time we made it to the baggage hall, our bags were the very last ones from our flight to be claimed. Some kind person had taken them off the conveyor belt so they sat there looking all lost and alone. However there was no Monty in sight. We had to ask three different members of staff to help us before we finally found the oversized baggage counter. Monty was there, sleeping sadly in the corner of his cage. He looked like he had completely given up on the world! However as soon as he heard our voices he jumped up, started “meep”ing and shoved his nose right up to the doors to get a good smell of us. I have honestly never seen a cat seem so relieved!
It seemed like he had made friends while he waited, as a member of staff ran over to say goodbye to him. She then radioed “Monty gone” to someone else who must have also been worried that his humans had abandoned him. As we left the baggage area and wandered into the main airport, Monty started to be interested in everything around him. He suddenly realised how popular he could be. As I’d written his name all over his box, as we walked out of the airport, there were lots of “hello monty” “goodbye monty” voices as people tried to see him. He kept turning around to collect squeals from people in different directions!! He had around 30 admirers just in the queue for taxis at the airport. Then in the hotel lobby, the man who checked us in kept introducing him to other guests so they were all ooohing over him. Our taxi driver showed us photos of his cat too – Vancouver folks seem to really like pets!!
Somehow he held his bladder for the entire journey. I had called ahead to our (cat friendly) hotel a few days before we arrived. The concierge had kindly bought some cat little and cat food. That meant as soon as we let him out he could have something to eat, drink and stink out our hotel room with a mighty poop. Phew. Once he’d explored our hotel room, he found the best cat spot, on the window sill. His new view looks down at the world and over to the pigeons on the roof of the next building.
Monty has been in this hotel for just over a week now, so he is far calmer. Now he has started to play hide and seek. His new favourite place is sitting on top of my folded clothes on one of the shelves. Or sneaking behind the curtains (it’s camouflage-like as this hotel is a trendy shade of grey.) He also approved of the grey sofa next to the window. It provides cat friendly views as well as a place to stretch out when needed.
So that is my cat update for mum, and hopefully some helpful information for other cat-travelers.
Finding a cat friendly apartment in Vancouver is a whole other story BUT we have managed it. Monty will be able to move into his new home on the first of July. Phew.