I’m continuing my moving series with something that was incredibly important to me, which was bringing my cat Pigeon with me to England. If you don’t know already, I have an 8 year old cat, who is honestly just the greatest joy I have in my life. He’s my best friend, and I simply couldn’t leave him behind. That being said, it wasn’t the easiest process getting him to the UK, and I wish someone had outlined step-by-step what to do in order to bring him with me. So I thought, why don’t you be that person for someone else? So without further ado, here is all you need to know about getting a pet to jump the pond with you.
Note that all of this information is from the perspective of bringing a cat from the USA to the UK. There may be difference depending on what kind of animal you are bringing and where you are coming from.
First things first
To start things off generally, your pet must have the following to enter the UK:
- a microchip that is internationally readable
- a pet passport or third-country official veterinary health certificate
- an up-to-date rabies vaccine (more on this later)
Dogs must usually have a tapeworm treatment as well. If you don’t follow these rules, they could possibly put your animal into quarantine for up to 4 months, at your expense. It is also possible that your pet will be refused entry. Another important note is that you must arrive 5 days before or after your pet. That is something to keep in mind when making your travel plans. Here is a helpful overview of what you’ll need to bring your pet to the UK.
A lot of the rules about bringing a pet to the UK depend on where you are traveling from. Information about the differences can be found here.
Getting the microchip & vaccine
I started out by getting Pigeon microchipped and vaccinated. The biggest thing to remember is that your animal must be microchipped before or at the same time as they are vaccinated.
As Pigeon has always been an indoor cat, I’d never had him microchipped, but he did have a current 3-year vaccine. Regardless of his previous inoculation, I had to have him re-vaccinated at the same time as his microchip implantation. I opted to do them both on the same day, to just get it over with. One thing I want to mention is that if you know well in advance that you’re moving with a pet, hold off on vaccinating them until you can do so for the documentation. Pigeon ended up getting pretty sick after the chip and vaccine, and had to stay overnight at the vet (they said it wasn’t due to the vaccine, but I totally think it was). If I had known that I’d have to re-vaccinate him, I would have just waited in the first place.
Definitely mention to your vet that the microchip must meet International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards in order to be read in the EU. Additionally, the vaccine must be given at least 21 days prior to your arrival. If you are traveling from an unlisted country, there are additional steps to take.
Pet Passport & Health Certificate
This part was honestly pretty annoying and complicated to get done. The long and short of it is, some countries issue pet passports, and others issue health certificates. The USA issues health certificates, so that is what I went with. There are different certificates, depending on where you’re coming, how many animals you’re taking, the type of animal, and when you are traveling. I was bringing one cat from the USA, and traveling same day, so this is one I used. If you’re not sure which to use (and are traveling from the USA) visit the USDA website to determine what you’ll need.
Once I found the correct certificate, I scheduled an appointment with my vet to have them fill it out. They really took their time, even calling other vets and the USDA to make sure it was correctly filled out, which was amazing and I appreciated greatly. After it was filled out by the vet, I then had it endorsed by the USDA. I happened to live in the same city as Florida’s USDA office, so I made an appointment to get mine endorsed. If that isn’t possible for you, you may have to mail it in. Bear in mind that you have to have the certificate filled out and endorsed no more than 10 days before you arrive in the UK. More information on getting a pet passport or health certificate can be found here.
There are specific routes and airlines you can use to travel to the UK with a pet. The full list is extensive and can be found here. The biggest thing to note is that there are no airlines/routes (that I could find) that will allow you to fly direct from the USA to the UK with your animal in the cabin. This put me in a dilemma, because I really didn’t want to do layovers with Pigeon, but it also made me really nervous to fly him in the cargo hold. But alas, I opted to go with British Airways to fly him cargo, direct from Orlando to London Gatwick. There are other airlines, even services that do everything for you, but I was honestly really happy with the way BA handled everything. I can’t speak for other airlines, but British Airways specifically won’t book pet travel more than 2 weeks prior to departure. If you can, call exactly two weeks before your flight to arrange the travel. Here is all their information about booking travel with pets.
It’s hard to give you general information about booking the pet travel, as much of it will depend where you are departing from, and arriving to. I honestly just rang them and explained what I was trying to do, and they sorted it all out via phone and email.
There are specific guidelines to the type of carrier you need to bring and what can be in/on it. The airline will generally specify what they require. I bought this one, which was recommended to me by a really helpful, lovely woman who had also brought her cats to the UK. I also bought this pack of accessories, which included zip ties, a pee pad, metal bolts, live animal stickers and a water/food dish.
Some airlines require you to switch the plastic bolts the carrier comes with to metal bolts. I found out after the fact that BA doesn’t, but I switched them just in case. Better safe than sorry! I also got a hamster water bottle and attached it to the front of the cage, in case he got thirsty on the flight. Additionally, I made an ID card and zip-tied it to the front of the carrier. This was totally unnecessary, but it made me feel better.
Something to note is that they don’t want your animal to be wearing a collar, harness, or have any toys in the carrier with them. This is just in case the animal gets distressed and catches themselves on something. They basically just don’t want the animal to choke or strangle themselves while traveling. I did however, include in the “bedding” a shirt I had worn to sleep for a few nights. This was so that Pidge had something with my scent on it, which hopefully kept him a bit calmer in-flight.
At the Airport
Once you’ve gotten all the logistics sorted out, all that’s left is to actually bring your pet to the airport. Usually, you’ll have to drop off and pick up your pet at the cargo areas of the airport. Look up ahead of time where these are located, as they can be some ways away from the actual terminals. The one at Orlando was about 15-20 minutes away from where you actually get on your own flight. I was instructed to drop Pigeon off 4 hours prior to his departure, so I made sure to plan ahead for that. I won’t lie to you, it was really hard leaving him there. But they assured me that they do this all the time, and there was no reason to worry. And then he was off!
Once I landed in London, and collected my bags, I called their pick up location to see if he had been through customs yet. He was, so I went to collect him from the cargo area of Gatwick (again, maybe 10-15 mins away from the actual airport). British Airways was so great, they had let him out of the carrier, offered him food, water, and a litter box. They let him sort of lounge in their kennels while he waited for me. He did so well, the lady at the desk commented on how calm he was, more than once!
Paying for Pet Travel
This was the super rough bit. It is not cheap at all to bring a pet to another country. As I mentioned before, you can opt to go for services that do literally everything for you, including booking travel, sorting out the paperwork and even picking up your animal. These range anywhere up to $7,500 (yes, that is a real figure a company sent me). With British Airways, since I did everything except fly him there myself, my total for the flight (which included the customs, etc, etc) was $1,092. Now, keep in mind that prior to that, I paid for his vet visits, vaccine, microchip, and the USDA endorsement. Between the vet visits for the chip and vaccine and getting them to fill out the certificate, it cost me $414.48. The USDA endorsement fee was $38.00. The pet carrier and accessories combined were $64.07. In total, all the moving costs came to $1,608.55.
- For information on bringing any animal other than a cat, dog or ferret, have a look at this link.
- On rules pertaining to guide and assistant dogs, check this information out.
- If you are traveling with more than 5 pets, have a look at this page.
- Check out all the guidelines according to APHIS on bringing your animal to the UK from the USA.
I hope that this was in some way helpful to anyone that is trying to bring a beloved animal with them to the UK. I know it can be super stressful and overwhelming, but you will get through it. If you have any specific questions, or I can help in any way, let me know in the comments below.
As always, thanks for reading & stay golden!