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Flying Home with Cats in Tow

And we’re back, but only for a limited showing. Now that Dan and I have moved out of Maastricht, I’ll only be making a few more posts before officially moving my blogging activities over to a new site. The website won’t be going away right away, but do expect to see changes some time in the future. I’d like the articles to continue to be available for new expats; in as much as they can be useful as things change. But for now, let’s talk cats.

The number one question I’ve gotten with our move back to the United States is “What about the cats?”. Would we be moving them? How? Do they have to be in quarantine?

Of course since the cats came with us from the US, we knew they would return there with us. I just didn’t expect US regulation on cats to be so straight forward. The USDA regulates the import of all animals, pets or for resale, and while their regulations on dogs and birds are pretty strict, about the only thing you need for a cat flown in cabin or hold is an inspection upon arrival. The inspection runs about $100 and they recommend you contact the airport before your flight to make sure someone is on hand. We avoided this inspection, as you’ll see below.

KLM/Delta in contrast has more strict regulations. They both required a rabies booster shot and a statement of health that was no more than 7 days old. We used a Pet Passport, an EU standard document for pet records, which was very handy. I hope that our vets here will be able to continue using it to track our cats’ visits and inoculations. Naturally the airline also had strict, and sometimes contradictory, regulations for the carrier, when to feed your pet before flight, etc. We were told to follow Delta’s rules since it was their airplane we’d be flying on (even though we booked through KLM). Finally you’ve got to get pre-approved to bring a pet aboard an airplane. Since there is limited space and other restrictions, it’s a good idea to get that approval early, as we discovered.

Flying Freight

The trickiest and more frustrating part of moving the cats actually arose from the time of year. In the winter most airlines restrict when you can transport a cat in the hold; generally because not all airplane holds are heated or because the animal could end up sitting on the cold tarmac. KLM/Delta had strict temperature rules, which is fine, but seemed unable to enforce them evenly. That was a problem. After weeks of no response from KLM, I contacted Delta (whose airplane we would be on) and they told me the cats could not fly in the hold. It would be too cold out in Amsterdam (remember how warm it was in early January? Seriously Delta?).
Of course Delta somehow didn’t communicate their decision to KLM and when we checked in the airline rep wanted to know where our animals were. Oh well.

Our alternative? Flying air cargo on the same plane. This meant we would have to contract with a third party company and paying 3 times as much. The paperwork was, fortunately, the same and the company we used did include carriers and pick up in Maastricht so we didn’t have to drive the cats up to Amsterdam with us.

In fact, except for the cost I was pretty cool with the cats going air cargo. They were on the same plane as us, I knew they would overnight in a proper pet hotel, and we got a day to clean up without pets under foot. Unfortunately the positive aspects of the experience were overshadowed by 2 hours of driving around Logan airport and the docks in Boston trying to get someone to sign our import documents. We had been given the impression that the contractor was taking care of all the clearance documentation and we just had to pick our cats up. Instead we had to track down an official who had the ability to release the animals to us. An official we found on in an office building several miles away in the docks for cruise ships. My takeaways?

 

  1. I’ll never use VCK Logistics as a pet carrier again. I don’t know who got their lines crossed, but I wasn’t impressed.
  2. If you bring animals in cargo into Logan Airport, give plenty of time to do paperwork.

Fortunately both Agatha and Einstein have settled in well over the last several weeks. They like their new, bigger space in my inlaws’ basement and I suspect the kibble they’re getting now might be a little less fattening. They’ve both lost weight, but they seriously needed it.

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