Moving With A Cat Within Europe
Meet Oscar, our 7.5 kg cat who adopted us in Lithuania. This tough cat wormed his way into our home and our hearts. But when we shared we were moving, a surprising number of people asked if Oscar would be making the journey with us or if he'd be left behind in Lithuania.
How could you leave such a fluffy, snugly family member behind? But this is an issue that I've witnessed a lot during my times living abroad in both China and Lithuania: people adopting pets temporarily and then leaving them behind when they leave, without arranging an alternative home for them. I think this is a horribly rotten and irresponsible thing to do. But, I'd like to think that people who do this aren't inherently bad, maybe they just don't know how easy it can be to travel or move with a pet.
So, let's talk about my experience moving Oscar from Lithuania to Italy via a flight through Frankfurt.
Moving Internationally in Europe with a Cat
So, if you've been following along with our move and re-settlement, you'll know that on July 1 we moved from Vilnius, Lithuania to Florence, Italy. A few months before we left, we did some preparation to get Oscar all of his necessary moving documents; here are the steps we followed:
Who knew? Pets need passports to travel!
- First we took Oscar to his vet to update his vaccines, get a chip, get the vaccine paperwork, and get the paperwork for the cat passport.
- After securing the paperwork for the cat passport, we had to go to the animal immigration/emigration office to apply for the actual passport and were required to bring Oscar to this meeting.
- Then we had return to the immigration/emigration office to pick up the passport (without Oscar).
- Finally, we had to bring the passport to the vet for it to be signed (without Oscar).
Following these steps, we were all set to legally travel with Oscar, but we needed to book our flights and secure a spot for an in-cabin pet. Before booking the flight, I looked up the best airline for pets and the airline with the most lenient luggage policy. So, it's no surprise that my favorite European airline -- Lufthansa -- had a great policy for both.
With Lufthansa, you can't purchase a space for your pet without already having a booking. However, since space for pets is strictly limited, I'd suggest calling Lufthansa to check that the flight you'd like to take has space available. Then, make the booking online and quickly call Lufthansa back to secure the space needed for your pet. This is what I did to book a spot for Oscar on our flight with Lufthansa and it was simple.
When you arrive at the airport, you must show your cat's passport, pay the pet fee, and weight the pet in the carrier. For Lufthansa, the pet plus the carrier could weigh no more than 8 kg to fly in-cabin. Once you get to security, you'll need to take your pet out of the carrier and carry him/her through the metal detector. Because we were juggling a lot of luggage, a stroller, a cat, and a toddler, the friendly security staff helped me hold Oscar while I got the stroller and cat carrier sorted.
The Best Cat Carrier for Large Cats
Oscar is a large cat, weighing just under 8 kg (17 lbs), so we had to ensure that Oscar plus his carrier weighed no more than 8 kg and fit within the measurements stipulated by Lufthansa. I also wanted to make sure that Oscar wasn't too cramped and uncomfortable during our approximately 6 hour transit time. After weeks of research, we settled on the Petsfit Expandable Carrier*, which ended up being an excellent choice.
In the airport, we were able to open the extendable side of the carrier to give Oscar room to spread out and stretch. I jammed the pockets on the side full of his paperwork, a baggie of cat litter, and a package of cat food to use when we arrived at the hotel. I also liked that it has access both in the front and the top. Many of the other soft pet carriers I looked at both online and in the stores didn't appear to have sufficient enough mesh sides, and I ultimately chose this option because there was ample breathing space and I liked that the side could extend.
The Petsfit carrier also cleans really well if your pet has an accident.
Tips for Flying with a Cat
- Bring a shoe box lid (or two) and a baggy of cat litter, and hit the bathroom during layovers to allow your cat the chance to relieve himself/herself.
- If your cat gets upset during the flight, pet him or her. It actually really helped to calm me and Oscar (because flying with a pet is stressful!).
- Bring loads of wet wipes. Oscar had a rather messy accident during the first leg of our flight (I'll blame it on the very bad turbulence we hit), so J took one for the team and cleaned him and his carrier up with wipes, water, and paper towels in the airplane bathroom.
- Bring a small plastic bowl to offer your pet water during layovers. Dehydration is a worry with flying for humans and pets alike.
- If you might not have access to a store when you arrive, pack some food in your carry-on so you can feed your pet upon arrival.
How could you leave such a sweet, fluffy face behind? Have you flown or moved with your pet?
*Please note that links marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. This means that ISO earns a tiny percentage of the purchase at no cost to you. This helps me keep ISO up and running. Thank you for your support!