Are you planning to take your cat on a flight abroad? Do you want to visit a friend in another state and take your cat along?
If so, it is vital for you to have the correct documents when flying nationally and internationally to guarantee to return home to the United States.
Be sure to leave yourself time before your trip to ensure your cat’s required medical care and paperwork is completed.
This guide will help provide answers to all of your questions about traveling with a cat and pet passports.
What is a pet passport?
The European Union coined the phrase pet passport to describe the blue passport that cat, dog, or ferret owners could get from a veterinarian. This passport allowed the animal to travel freely through any of the EU member countries.
Individuals who live in the EU today continue to utilize the pet passport. It is excellent for those people who travel with their pets frequently.
The pet passport is well worth the money because it lasts the lifetime of the pet. This fact is valid only if the rabies vaccinations are kept up to date.
For those of us who live in countries outside the European Union, the term pet passport refers to the pertinent documentation that you need to take your pet to another country.
When you pass through customs, the officials will need to see particular documents to clear your pet.
Without the correct documents, you can experience significant inconvenience and stress. Most veterinarians can assist in creating a pet passport for your pet to enter almost any country.
For example, if you are traveling from the United States to any country in the EU, your pet passport must include:
- The country’s Annex IV and APHIS 7001 form. Each country’s form is different, but a licensed veterinarian must complete them and then endorsed by the State USDA veterinarian.
- A copy of the pet’s inoculation (rabies certificate) record must be attached to these forms.
Another example deals with when you are traveling to one of the United Kingdom countries, Finland, or Malta. These United Kingdom countries include England, Ireland, and Scotland.
You must have proof of a tapeworm test when traveling to any of these countries as well as the Annex IV and APHIS 7001 forms.
These items are just some of the basic requirements for a pet passport. Each country in the world may have different conditions, but every one of the nations will want evidence of good health and rabies vaccination.
A health certificate from a local veterinarian can be a great starting place for a pet passport. Some countries may also require import permits and other testing for a pet to admitted to the country through customs.
The first step in a pet passport is finding out the requirements of the state or country you are visiting. Sometimes it may require six months of planning to avoid quarantine.
What is the definition of a pet in turns of traveling nationally or internationally?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS), a pet can be defined as a privately-owned companion. This animal cannot be intended for research or resale.
The USDA APHIS also says that only dogs, ferrets, rabbits, cats, rodents, hedgehog/tenrecs, reptiles, amphibians, and pet birds can be considered a pet. It is important to remember that not all birds will be regarded as pets.
When traveling with a bird, the USDA APHIS and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service may be involved.
All applicable requirements must be met before you can fly with your pet bird. The USDA APHIS’s regulations vary depending on the type of bird.
If a bird is regulated as poultry, he or she must meet different requirements than other birds.
Some examples of the types of birds that are controlled under the poultry category include:
- Guinea fowl
If your pet is one of these types of birds, it is not recognized as a pet bird. If your pet is not listed above or if you are exporting or importing semen or embryos, your animal cannot travel as a pet. This fact means that the animal may fall under different requirements.
You can explore the different import and export regulations if your pet does not qualify as a pet for travel. The rest of this guide will focus on cats and their pet passports.
How much does it cost to fly a cat nationally and internationally?
Typically, when flying with your cat, it does not mean that he or she will get to sit next to you and enjoy the lovely views.
Unless your cat is an assistance animal or can fit under the seat in front of you in a travel crate, it will have to travel in the hold while you go in the main cabin of the plane.
For some airlines, cats are considered checked baggage, but others regard them as cargo.
It does not matter which way the airline classifies your cat, because either way, he or she will be placed in a particular livestock hold not in the same location as the suitcases. This hold is pressurized and temperature controlled for the safety of the animals.
The price of flying a cat depends upon the size and the weight of the cat and how far it is traveling. On average, the cost of flying any pet can range from around $35 to over $1300 which also depends on size, weight, and distance.
With the confusion of traveling with pets, the world’s airlines have added another layer to it by setting entirely different rules for the transportation of pets.
The first step is to determine which airline offers the best relocation services for your personal needs.
Once you have chosen the appropriate airline, you should call and speak to someone directly about your needs.
The following table has been included here to provide examples of the different regulations between the world’s airlines.
|Information about Regulations|
All flights allow pets
|In the cabin, $65 for small animals and up to $460 for an animal in the hold|
Pets allowed on flights under 17 hours long
|Up to $800 for an animal in the hold|
|American Airlines||Flights under 12 hours long allow pets||In the cabin, $125 for small animals and up to $200 for an animal in the hold|
Flights under 12 hours long allow pets
|Ranges from $125 to $200 for animals in the cabin area|
|EasyJet||Only assistance dogs are allowed on selected flights|
No extra charge for assistance dogs
Regardless of where your cat travels (hold or cabin), he or she must have a travel crate. The cost of a suitable container depends on the size of the animal. The size of the box is restricted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The crate must be large enough that the animal can turn around while standing and then lay down in a natural position.
The IATA has a variety of other requirements associated with traveling with cats. You can find the full list of conditions.
The travel crates range in price from $20 for an extra small box to over $130 for a massively sized crate. An IATA-approved travel crate can be rented from some airlines which can save you money.
When you reach your destination, your pet will have to clear customs. A passport check will be conducted, and most countries will require the pet to past a veterinary exam before entry.
Depending on tariffs, the price of the veterinary inspection, and other taxes, the fees for customs clearance can be between $40 to over $500.
When discussing the cost of a pet passport, it would be helpful to remember that each country has different requirements.
All countries require some type of vaccinations and may need quarantine or an animal import permit for the animal.
For example, if you are moving a pet to the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention require all animals entering the United States to be healthy. The number one required vaccination is rabies.
However, CDC allows dogs from rabies-free countries to enter the US without a valid rabies vaccination certificate as long as the dog lived in the country for at least six months. CDC also does not require blood tests or microchips for dogs.
The requirements for cats are even more relaxed. Regardless of where the cat was initially located, a valid rabies vaccine is not required.
The United States does thoroughly inspect every animal upon arrival. The animal can be turned away if any evidence of disease is present.
The United States likes to avoid quarantine for most pets except birds generally. All birds are quarantine for a minimum of 30 days after arrival.
How do I obtain an International Health Certificate for a cat?
When entering the United States with a pet cat, a general certificate of health is not required by the CDC. However, some airlines and some individual states may need them. Pet cats are required to undergo an inspection at all ports of entry.
If the cat has evidence of infectious disease, he or she will be denied entry into the United States.
Even if the cat appears to be ill, a full examination by a licensed veterinarian must take place before admission is granted. The owner must pay for this expense at the port of entry.
The United States does not require proof of rabies vaccination for importation. It must be noted, however, that some states will require evidence of rabies vaccination.
It is an excellent idea to verify with the state and health authorities located at your final destination.
Hawaii and the territory of Guam have quarantine requirements for all pet cats even those cats arriving from the United States mainland.
Since pets traveling to a foreign country can be time-consuming and sophisticated, the USDA APHIS recommends an International Health Certificate for cats.
The process to travel with an animal to some countries can take months. Before you begin the process, you need to know the destination country, date of departure, and how the pet will be traveling. The pet can go alone, as a piece of cargo, or with you in the cabin of the plane.
The following five steps can help you obtain a health certificate for your cat.
You must know the country of destination and when the pet will be traveling to this country. You cannot proceed with the health certificate until you have this information.
After you have the above information, you should choose a veterinarian as a partner to determine the country’s requirements.
These requirements can include vaccinations, tests, and treatments. An idea for this step is to create a schedule to ensure all needs are met before the date of travel.
Some other requirements may include import permits, other pre-travel approvals, waiting periods before travel, and timeframes for vaccinations, tests, and treatments.
Some countries will require the health certificate to be endorsed by APHIS after your veterinarian has issued it.
The health certificate must be within the validity period which is set by the country of destination. This validity period will be stated in the country’s health certificate. This process should be started as soon as the country allows.
If the APHIS endorsement is required, you must submit the health certificate to a USDA APHIS Veterinary Services Endorsement Office. You can send it by mail or in-person.
After the cat’s health certificate has been approved by the USDA accredited veterinarian and the APHIS, you need to be certain to complete any outstanding requirements for the destination country. For example, some countries require a tapeworm treatment after the endorsement.
What are some considerations when traveling with your cat?
The CDC suggests considering three unique items when traveling with your cat. The first item is the airlines. Each airline has different regulations about whether and how a cat can fly.
You should confirm if your cat can travel with you in the cabin or if it has to be in the hold. The airlines that do allow cats to go require the cat to be in a small carrier under the seat. It is also important to remember that you must care for the cat during any layovers.
It may be better to allow your cat to be transported as cargo, so he or she is in a heated and ventilated hold. This area may be better because it is quieter and darker than the cabin area. You can also choose for your cat to fly on a separate air cargo flight.
If this choice is best for you, be sure to ship the kennel ahead of time and ensure the door latches securely. A secure door can eliminate any mishaps while the cat is in transit. Your veterinarian can provide advice about food and water.
You may also want to reconsider flying with your cat during May and September. These are the hottest months of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. While the cargo area is climate controlled, the heat may affect specific animals negatively.
The consideration is your cat’s comfort. When your cat is loading and unloading, it is the most stressful aspect of travel for him or her.
Some tips to help this time less stressful are:
- Before the flight, encourage the cat to use the carrier.
- Be sure to book flights with fewer layovers and connections.
- Plan your departure and arrival time to avoid excessive heat or cold.
- Talk with your veterinarian about travel plans.
- Avoid tranquilizers and sedatives.
- Before leaving your home and check-in, walk your cat.
- Check-in as late as possible when your cat is traveling in the cabin.
- Check-in as early as possible when your cat is going as cargo.
The third consideration is the health of your cat. Regardless of all precautions, any animal can get sick or even pass away on an airplane.
If an animal does die while traveling, public health officials are mandated to ensure the animal did not die of a disease that can spread to humans.
This fact means an animal autopsy or other tests may need to be performed. As the owner, you are financially responsible for the means necessary to find out the cause of death.
You must also be aware that sometimes after this testing is complete, the animal’s remains cannot be returned to the owner.
It is always best to make sure your pet is healthy and able to fly. If doubt exists, it would be better to leave your precious cat at home with a trusted friend, relative, or boarding service. If possible, another mode of transportation may be an option.
What are the United States pet passport and regulations (excluding Hawaii)?
According to Pettravel, the following items are the United States regulations regarding cats. These regulations do not apply to the State of Hawaii and apply only to dogs, cats, and ferrets.
You are not required to identify your pet with a microchip. However, you should microchip your cat with a 15 digit ISO 11784 compliant chip.
This chip allows you to register your contact information before traveling in the case of your pet getting separated from you.
If a dog is entering the United States from a country that is considered high-rabies, the dog will need to provide evidence of a valid rabies certificate. The vaccination must have been given at least 28 days before arriving in the US.
The US will accept three-year rabies vaccination for dogs. For cats, the rabies vaccination is not required to enter the country. However, state and local ordinances for your destination may have different requirements.
Titer Blood Test
This test is not required for any animal from any country when entering the United States.
Screwworm and Tapeworm Inspection
If a dog is entering the United States from a variety of different countries such as Angola, China, Congo, Ecuador, etc., it will be inspected for particular screwworms.
This inspection must have taken place within five days of the animal entering the United States.
A veterinarian must confirm that the dog was inspected and the results were negative. This regulation only applies to dogs and cats are exempt from this requirement.
Tapeworm inspections are required from collies, shepherds, and other dogs used in the handling of livestock.
If the dog comes from Canada, Mexico, or regions of Central America and the West Indies do not have to have this inspection. Cats are also exempt from this requirement.
As of May 1, 2018, the USDA import permit is required for any animal entering Alaska from Canada by land.
If the dog is imported to the US for commercial resale or adoption, it must have an import permit. You can get an import permit from the USDA. A cat does not require an import permit.
A licensed veterinarian must sign a veterinary certificate for all cats, dogs, and ferrets. The document must be in English or translated into English.
The certificate identifies the animal, dates of vaccination, and the manufacturer and expiration date of the animal’s rabies vaccine.
Any pets entering Alaska from the mainland can use the APHIS 7001 form as long as it contains a unique, trackable identification number. The form cannot be downloaded from the internet.
Air Entry into the United States
Any pet can enter the United States at international airports located in the following cities: Chicago, Seattle, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Miami, Los Angeles, and Houston. Every animal that enters the US must be free of evidence of disease that can be contracted by humans.
Kittens do not have to evidence of rabies vaccination, but it is recommended to travel with a recent health certificate.
Kittens may be subjected to a particular state’s rabies vaccination regulations. It is also important to remember that some cities ban specific breeds.
What is the difference between a United States pet passport and a European Union pet passport?
If you live in the European Union, your cat can get his or her own passport. This passport is valid for the life of the cat as long as vaccinations are kept up to date. However, in the United States, it is not possible to get a pet passport.
In the United States, the term pet passport often refers to the documentation your cat needs when traveling to other countries. The exact required forms vary according to the destination’s regulations.
A health certificate is one form that most countries require. A licensed veterinarian can help you pick the appropriate documents.
Every country has slightly different requirements for cats, but all countries typically need some form of the good health certificate and proof of vaccinations.
So, if you plan to travel, the bare minimum paperwork will be a health certificate which is also known as a veterinary or sanitary certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian.
According to USA Today, if you are planning a trip to any European Union country, a USDA-endorsed APHIS health certificate, Annex IV form, ‘Declaration of Non-Commercial Transport’ form, and the cat’s shot records are the minimum required documents.
It is also possible that proof of tapeworm testing or treatment may be needed for some European Union countries. In other regions, the countries may require the cat to have other immunizations before he or she is allowed to visit.
Some countries also require an import permit. Since these different requirements change frequently, a licensed veterinarian is the best way to get up to date information.
It is also possible to do your own research on the topic. Pet Travel’s Pet Import Rules and the various department of state/customs of the destination countries are excellent sources of up to date information also.
The United States tries to avoid quarantining animals, but some states like Hawaii have a mandatory quarantine period before the pet is allowed to enter the state.
Rabies-free or rabies controlled countries may also require a specific quarantine time before entry is granted.
This fact is especially true for animals coming from a country which is categorized as a high-rabies country.
If you produce a blood titer test that evaluates the level of antibodies in the bloodstream and observes a four to six months waiting period, some countries may waive the mandatory quarantine period.
However, if you observe the waiting period without getting the test, your cat may be quarantined or returned to the origin country anyway.
Your best option is to research the pet import regulations for your destination country at least six months before traveling.
What else do I need to know about cat pet passports?
A variety of countries are members of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). This scheme is a system which allows pets to travel to the member’s country without having to be quarantined.
The document that officially records the pet’s information is called a pet passport.
If the regulations are followed, the PETS system speeds up and simplifies the requirements associated with cats traveling between the member countries.
The United Kingdom originally introduced the PETS system for pets entering or returning to the UK from European Union countries.
In the past, the UK had extreme measures in place to safeguard against rabies. One of these safeguards was a mandatory quarantine period of six months. This procedure made it almost impossible to travel with a pet promptly.
On October 1, 2001, a group of European Union countries began to utilize the PETS system. This scheme allowed animals (following the proper procedures) to travel freely to and from any country that was a member.
In the past few years, this scheme has been offered to a variety of other countries including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. The appearance of a pet passport changes with the country.
Some countries issue a pink A4 sheet and other countries use a small blue booklet.
These pet passports contain information such as the following:
- Microchip or tattoo number associated with the animal
- Rabies vaccination certificate
- Signature of officially approved veterinarian
In December of 2014, the United Kingdom introduced a new passport. This style of a passport has extra security measures and laminated strips. Even though the new style of the passport was introduced, the old form is still valid.
Some individuals confuse the pet passport with a small purple folder. This folder is not a pet passport, but a folder that is typically issued by a veterinarian. It contains the complete records of the cat’s vaccination history.
As stated previously, each country has different regulations when it comes to pet entry.
Some of the most common requirements include:
- International Society of Pharmacovigilance approved subcutaneous microchip implant
- Rabies vaccination with proof it is working
- Between 24 and 48 hours before travel, the animal must have been treated for fleas, ticks, and tapeworms
- Letter or certificate from a veterinarian that states the animal has no sign of disease
- A certificate from the government that agrees with the veterinarian
- Some countries require specific carriers or import/export points for a pet to enter
Finally, it is important to remember that the PETS scheme is not standardized yet.