Fluffer: Our Cat

Fluffer riding in the Jetta from Austin to Boulder

As we near closer to our move date (end of January) our list of things to do is getting a bit longer. The relocation company has provided us with a lot of assistance, but the one area that we’ve been somewhat on our own is: traveling and moving our cat, Fluffer.

Honestly it would be much easier to leave Fluffer in Colorado with family than take her to France, but our oldest daughter would more than likely not get on the plane to France without her beloved cat. Which means I’m tasked with researching what is needed to travel with a cat on a plane and move her to France for a year- fun.

Here is what I’ve found out: there is no one resource with definitive answers regarding what you have to do to travel and move a cat to France. There is plenty of information out there, but some of the information is contradictory and we have no idea which source should be trusted. Based on my limited time researching a move to France, this seems fairly common- multiple sources saying almost the same thing, but typically having at least something contradictory. You’ll also find a lot of information about someone moving from the UK to France, but not as much information for an American moving to France.

Based on my online research and information we have gotten from our local veterinarian, here is what we believe are the requirements to take a cat to France. There are really two parts- 1. Country/EU requirements, 2. Airline requirements.

French Requirements (from what we understand):

1. A cat needs a valid veterinary certificate stating owner details, description of the animal, details of identification and a vaccinations record. Here is a link to the certificate (PDF file) from the French Embassy. After you get the veterinarian to check out your cat, they will fill out all of the necessary information. Then supposedly you need to get the USDA to sign it. Here is the link to local USDA offices where you obtain the signature. The connection of the certificate to the USDA is still a little unclear to me, but I am sure we will know more soon. We had a veterinarian fill out the certificate yesterday and are waiting on more information.

2. A cat needs a valid rabies vaccine and certificate. There is contradictory information about how long in advance you actually need the certificate before you travel. Some sites say you must wait 21 days between the last shot of vaccination and travel departure, others say there is only a wait if it is the first round of vaccinations, and others don’t say there is a wait at all. To be safe, we got Fluffer vaccinated yesterday, more than 21 days before our flight to France.

3. A cat needs a microchip or tattoo to help with identification. The microchip must be a standard ISO 11784 or annex A ISO standard 11785. If the microchip’s standard is different, you must bring your own scanner in order to read the microchip. In the United States, you may acquire the microchip standard ISO 11784 on the web at : http://pettravelstore.com. It should be implanted only by a veterinarian. We got a microchip placed in Fluffer yesterday at our local veterinarian. After you get the chip implanted you typically need to go online to associate the ID in the chip with your pet’s information.

4. Once we get to France, I believe we will need to get a EU Pet Passport. This will allow us to move through the EU with Fluffer, but I doubt she will travel much with us. Traveling with a cat is not fun, so we avoid it unless we are moving or she is going to the veterinarian.

Update: January 20, 2011: After you get the microchip or vaccination you must wait 21 days before the USDA will sign and approve your certificate.

Airline Requirements/Information (according to Lufthansa):

1. If you want to take your pet on a Lufthansa flight it is suggested that you tell them at the time of booking and then notify them again within 24 hours before your departure date. You can do this by contacting the Lufthansa Reservation Offices. There is a cost of of $70 to $400 US depending not the size of your animal. In Fluffer’s case we are expecting to pay about $200 US.

2. The first decision is whether you want to transport your cat in the cabin or in the cargo hold, this also effects the price. We haven’t decided this yet, but are learning towards the cargo hold.  Spending 10 hours on a plane with three kids is hard enough, but add a crying, moaning cat and it turns the trip into pure torture. I’m nervous already that Fluffer is going to make so much noise that they are going to land the plane in Iceland and kick us off. In order to get the cat on the plane we also have to abide by all the import and export by-laws of the respective countries (see above).

It is also essential to ensure that the cat is eligible to travel not only to or from France but also any other countries it may pass through- which means if we fly through Germany, she has to meet the requirements for Germany as well. Currently I haven’t researched German requirements, but I am hoping they are similar to France and the rest of the EU. Add something else to my list.

3. Since our cat will probably ride in the cargo area, we got an IATA certified carrier yesterday at Pet’s Mart. Animals that aren’t transported inside the cabin will be transported by Lufthansa in appropriate containers in an air-conditioned area of the cargo hold. The container must be large enough to ensure that the animal can stand up and has sufficient space to move. Furthermore, containers should be equipped with a water dish (empty).

If you choose to carry your cat in the cabin, the weight of the animal (including transport container) can’t exceed eight kilograms. The animal has to be kept in a box measuring not more than 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm. You can use your own transport box if it has the necessary measurement and is watertight and bite proof (too bad that don’t make sound proof carriers).

4. You need to be at the check-in desk at least one hour before departure to ensure that your pet is settled and ready for transport.

5. I’m not sure if this is a requirement or not, but it has been suggested to us that we include several items on and within the IATA certified carrier. These items include an absorbent pad, food cups, water cups, and live animal identification labels. We purchased all of these things for Fluffer and also got her some toys and treats with catnip.

6. One of the more controversial topics regarding animal transport on planes is sedation. There are quite a few opinions on this topic across the web, but for Fluffer we haven’t decided whether to give her a sedative or not. To be safe, we had the veterinarian provide us with some sedatives, but they aren’t a requirement for transport. I’ll let you know what we decide to do on our travel day.

To date, we’ve spent about $350 on preparing Fluffer for travel to France and this doesn’t include the $200 we will probably have to spend to get her on the plane. By the time we’ve gotten to France we will have probably spent closer to $600. I’m wondering now if I should have bribed our daughter with $500 in cash to leave Fluffer in Colorado. It seems like the easier thing to do, but I guess Fluffer is part of our family and it will be fun to have her in France once we get past all of the travel.  Stay tuned for a new photo blog we will be launching: Fluffer in France. I’m making my kids blog and post photos about Fluffer’s adventure in France since we are going to all of the effort to bring her.

If anyone has additional information about traveling with cats to France, please feel free to comment below. As I learn more, I’ll update this post. Hopefully this information will be helpful to someone else taking their cat to France.