Moving My Cat Internationally

Maozer

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I had lived as an English teacher in China for some years and thought I would stay here for quite a few more. That's why I took my best friend Maozer into my house. I need to move back to the U.S. now and I am frantic trying to find a way to take Maozer with me for a reasonable fee (not $5000 USD!). The health part, vaccinations, quarantine and all that is fine. He's also neutered.
Can anyone help me find out how to get my cat from Guangzhou China to Des Moines, Iowa on a discount ticket?
 

Count

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Unfortunately moving pets internationally is a nightmare. I looked into that when I was considering buying a cat from USA and shipped to Turkey. I asked a few IPATA certified (important) carriers and the best quote was 1500$. Nevertheless I didn't go through with it, and bought from a local breeder. You might be able to find a better deal than 5000$ but be prepared for at least 2000$.
 

neely

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She's a witch

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Can you just take Maozer with you in the cabin? You buy a ticket for yourself and then book a spot for your cat, he goes under the seat in front of you. Hopefully there are airlines flying from China to USA that allows that? Most American airlines do, but I don't know if there are different regulations from China? I'd shop around. It's also the safest way for cat to be transferred.
I moved my cats from Europe to USA that way and it was as smooth as it could be, it costed me around 100 euro per cat.

Edited to add: Adelei Adelei has done it from China so maybe she can advice further?
 
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Adelei

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Maozer, I've successfully brought two cats from China to the USA in the last 2.5 months. I'll be taking my third when I finally move in a few months (I had to take them separately because China only allows 1 cat per passport at a time.) Other than the fact that I had to buy plane two extra plane tickets for myself, it's actually quite cheap. I flew on Delta and paid a $200 pet fee each time. To get the exit permit/health certificate, it cost me 200 RMB. So total, that was it, $200 USD and 200 RMB.

If you're in Guangzhou, you've got it even easier than I do. I'm in Xi'an. There are lots of guides on the internet on how to get your cat out of China, but all of them only talk about Shanghai, Beijing (or sometimes Guangzhou). I had to figure out Xi'an on my own, which was quite a task. However, once I did, it wasn't that hard. And what I found out will apply to you as well. You can also search online and find info.

You need to make sure your cat has had the Rabies vaccination at least one month before the flight AND the rabies vaccination MUST be in a special booklet given by licensed vets in your departure city. In Xi'an, we call it the "green book". I think in Beijing they call it the "red book". I'm not sure about other cities, but in Xi'an there's not just one vet that can issue it - lots of vets can, but a.) they have to be government certified and b.) you might need to tell them you're planning to leave China, otherwise they will often just put it in their own vet-specific booklet. The Xi'an green book says "Dogs Immunity Certificate" and "Supervised and issued by Xi'an Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Bureau". Even though it says "dogs", it is also used for cats. Just a heads up - when I asked different vets if they were government certified, none of them had any idea what I was talking about. But when I told them I was planning to take the cat to America, they pulled out the correct booklet. I stressed a bit over the fact that they only put the Rabies vaccination in the green book and still put the other vaccinations in their vet-specific booklet, but when I actually took the cat for the exit inspection, they didn't care.

You need to carefully choose the flights you will take. Try to book the whole trip through one carrier, even if some of the flights are run by a different carrier. Also, you'll need to leave the country directly out of the city where you get the rabies vaccination and do the exit inspection. For you, that won't be a problem, as Guangzhou is a major hub. For me, it presented a bit more of a problem, since very few international flights leave from Xi'an. Basically, I got on Wikipedia, looked at the Xi'an airport - it gives a chart listing airlines and destinations, so I found the few airlines that flew to international destinations and worked from there. For me, I found that Korean Air flies from Xi'an to Incheon. Delta is a Korean partner and flies from Incheon to Atlanta. Both airlines have a fairly good reputation with pets. I could have booked with either airline, but I chose to book through Delta because they operated the longer flight.

However, BIG IMPORTANT thing here - if you fly with two airlines, like I did, MAKE SURE you call the other airline a few days after you book the ticket to make sure that they have the pet request on file! The first Delta agent I talked to told me I didn't need to call Korean Air; Delta would put the request through and take care of everything. I meant to call Korean anyway, just in case, but VPNs and the internet in China being what it is, there were several weeks leading up to the flight when I couldn't get a decent connection on my google phone number to call them. I finally called them the day before the flight, only to find that they didn't have any record of the cat at all AND that they required requests to be put in 48-72 hours before the flight! So I called Delta and spoke with a supervisor, explaining what the agent who booked the flight had told me. The supervisor moved my flight out a few days and I called Korean back and managed to get the request approved (though it was a super stressful few days as I waited to get the approval!) I also had trouble with Korean the second time around, even though I called a month ahead of time. They eventually approved the request but I had to call them multiple times.

You'll need to buy a carrier that fits the requirements for each flight you're taking. The airline websites list the size requirements, but individual planes may have different requirements. I got one where all 4 sides accordion out. You can't take the cat out of the carrier on the plane, but you can open the accordion side up to give them a little more space. I also found it to be more convenient for actually seeing the cat and making sure that they were ok. And I could open it up a little and put food or water in the carrier or just pet the cat without worrying too much about him/her escaping.

Seven to twelve days before the flight, you'll need to take the cat for the exit examination. You'll need to find the specific location for Guangzhou and you'll also need to call them to find out exactly when you should bring the cat. In Xi'an, they didn't want me coming any earlier than 7 days prior to my flight. Most information I found online (usually talking about Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou) said to take the cat to the Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau. However, my bad luck, they were right in the middle of moving the office from the main location (close to me) to a location an hour away across town when I was trying to take my first cat. I had Chinese friends trying to help me track down the right place, but we kept getting mixed messages, being told to call this number - only to find that person had no idea what we were talking about, etc. We finally were given the personal cell phone number of the lady in charge and although she yelled at my friend and hung up on him the first time he called, we finally got the information we needed and found it was now at the Shaanxi Xi'an Export Processing Zone. All that to say, you'll need to get a Chinese friend to help you find the exact location and what day/time you should go (unless you speak really good Chinese).

The exit "exam" wasn't an exam at all. I had to take the cat, the vaccination booklets, my passport and a copy of my passport. They had me take the cat out of the carrier, took her picture, examined the documents and made copies, etc. I paid 200 RMB and that was it. It could be more involved in Guangzhou - I honestly just don't think they care to actually do it here. The certificate itself claims that the animal was examined by Xi'an Customs District and found to be healthy and free from clinical signs of infectious or contagious diseases and also that the animal is free from screwworm. But they literally didn't touch my cat, lol. Anyway, a few days after the "exam", I had to return to pick up the Animal Health Certificate. The certificate is valid for 14 days from the date of issue - which is one reason why it's good to go only 7-10 days ahead of time, in case you have problems and have to change your flight like I did the first time.

When I got to the airport, it was a bit of a hassle. I got in one line to check in, but when they saw I had a cat, they sent me to another. That kept happening to me the whole trip. They took me to the customs man who examined the cat's vaccination booklets, health certificate, etc. and filled out some forms. The first time through, he didn't want me to take the cat out of the carrier, but when I took my second cat, I did have to take him out. Then they took me back to the check-in counter at Korean, I paid the $200 pet fee, they gave me a receipt (important for when I transferred over to Delta in South Korea) and sent me on my way.

You will not likely have this problem, since Guangzhou is bigger and handles more animals (it's one of the three main ports that pets normally enter and exit through), but both times I went, I had a really difficult time getting the Chinese security check officers to allow me to remove the cat and carry him/her through. Both times they wanted me to put the cat through the x-ray machine with all the luggage. The first time, I did manage to carry the cat through, but when I got to the other side, they had me hold her and frisked her. I have a special harness specifically designed for air travel with no metal on it, but they made me take it off of her so they could frisk her some more. The second time was even worse - this lady with serious arrogance and power-issues got into a heated argument with me about putting the cat through the x-ray machine. I kept telling her (in Chinese) that it wasn't good for the animal's health, but she kept refusing and her claims kept getting bigger and wilder (to save face, I guess). I kept telling her I had carried the cat through with me in February, but every time I said that, she'd just say "No" in English, which made me want to strangle her, b/c she was so arrogant and yet stupid that she didn't realize she was actually saying "no, that didn't happen" rather than "no, you can't do it this time". She eventually started telling me that their manager said no (they didn't consult a manager) and then that it was Chinese law. Honestly, I was very worried and questioning what I would do if I really couldn't win - should I cancel my trip or just give in? Then with a super smug look on her face, she finally called the real manager over., sure that he'd back her up. He pulled me and the cat aside and gave the cat a pat-down while they sent the carrier through the machine. Then they carried the carrier back to me, I put the cat in and they carried it around the machine and handed it to me on the other side. This is the one thing I'm seriously stressing about next time. But again, you shouldn't have to deal with this, since Guangzhou sees a lot of animals pass through. I think Xi'an just doesn't have that many going through, even though it's a city of 11 million people. In both South Korea and Atlanta, they told me to take the cat out before I could even unzip the bag, so obviously other countries know better than to put a cat through an x-ray machine.

Before the flight, I ordered some feliway spray through taobao. At home, I sprayed that in the carrier ten minutes before I put the cat in it. I took some food, litter and a portable litter box with me. Both times, I offered the litter box to them at the second and third airports, but they were too scared to be interested. I didn't give any food or water until about 5 hours before the long-haul flight was over. My first cat did drink a little, but didn't eat anything. I don't know that my second cat drank or ate anything at all. My first cat was pretty quiet, but she did meow at times - not loud enough to disturb anyone. The second cat was quiet as a mouse. No one even knew I had a cat. My third cat is a talker, so I am concerned about her. But she responds to feliway well, so hopefully that will help.

The final thing you need to prepare ahead of time is the US part. I think the state you enter the US through is the important one, but I'm not 100% sure. I entered through Georgia, which has the same requirements as my home state. In Atlanta, when going through customs, I told the customs official about the cat. They sent me to another area where they inspected the rabies vaccination and health certificate. For most states I've looked into, these two things are all that's required, so it's really super easy. When I reached the final airport in my home state, I just walked right out to luggage claim - it was a domestic flight so there was no one to even look at the cat. That's why I think it's the state you enter the country through that counts. Some states may require a rabies titre test or a microchip, both of which would take several months extra in China to prepare for.

I can't tell you exactly which vets offer the correct booklet in Guangzhou or where you need to take the cat for the health inspection, but get on wechat and ask around. I'm a member of an animal rescue group as well as a pet group in Xi'an. Since Xi'an is a lot smaller than Guangzhou, I'm sure there's probably multiple groups like that there. People in my group were able to point me to vets that were government certified and could issue the green book. There were also people who had taken animals out of the country, but unfortunately for me, their information was a bit outdated since the office was in the middle of moving when I was preparing to take my first cat out. But you should be able to get all the help you need if you can find someone on wechat to ask. And get a Chinese friend or coworker to help you call the entry/exit bureau about the health exam and possibly go with you to translate.

Sorry for the long post. I could have cut some of it out but perhaps I just needed to rant a bit about the frustrating security people in Xi'an, lol.
 
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rubysmama

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Adelei Adelei : Thank you so much for your detailed post. I'm certain Maozer Maozer will find it extremely helpful. I'm going to bookmark it, as well, for future reference.

Good luck Maozer Maozer with your travel back to the US with Maozer. Good luck, as well, to you Adelei Adelei , when you and your 3rd kitty return home.
 

maggiedemi

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I offered the litter box to them at the second and third airports, but they were too scared to be interested.
How did you carry a litterbox and litter with you? Where did you take it out for them to use in the airport?
 

Adelei

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How did you carry a litterbox and litter with you? Where did you take it out for them to use in the airport?
You can buy a portable litterbox on Amazon, and probably Chewy, Walmart and others as well. It folds up so you can put it in your carry-on. I'm not crazy about it - when unfolded mine is still crimped in at the places where it folded. I even used mine to store books and papers and other random things in for months before the trip - so it was completely shaped like it should have been. It didn't help though, just being folded up for a few hours made it lose that shape. But at least it's better than nothing.

A lot of airports have rooms for pets. People usually use them for dogs to relieve themselves, but there's no one standing at the door to keep cats out or anything. However, I have done this trip enough times that I know of spots in the airports that are secluded and quiet. I was worried that the room smelling of dog might make them even more nervous. But as I said, they weren't interested anyway. I felt better offering it than not offering it though.
 

Adelei

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Oh, P.S. I just put the litter in a large ziploc style bag. I didn't actually carry as much as I usually put in a litter box, but there's only so much I can fit in my carry-on. I tossed it after the last use as it wasn't needed anymore.
 
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