Learning how to travel with your cat can expand your horizons to new cities and even countries. Our ultimate guide can help prepare you for any destination, by ensuring you have the correct documents for your feline friend when travelling from the United Kingdom.
Table of contents:
How do I travel with my cat?
Travelling with a cat can be a new experience for any cat parent, but the key is to make them feel as comfortable as possible – and to prepare as far in advance as you can, to help with that. There are various way to make your cat feel relaxed on their new adventure, including:
Help your cat feel positive about their carrier: Make their carrier a part of everyday life at home, by placing toys and treats in it, and encouraging them to go in and out of it freely. Then, they’ll hopefully feel safer when they have to be in it for longer.
Test travelling with your cat by taking a test drive: Once you feel your cat is comfortable inside their carrier, take short drives with them. Then, gradually increase the distance each time you travel with your cat, to help them get used to the idea.
Place their favourite blanket (or something else that smells of home) inside the carrier: this creates a sense of familiarity for your cat when travelling.
Paperwork, preparing and passports (oh, my)
Whether it’s being able to take your cat to see family overseas, or taking your cat on a tour of famous landmarks (like say, the KattenKabinet cat art museum in Amsterdam), you want to know how to travel abroad with your cat. Problem is, you’re baffled by the paperwork you need. We don’t blame you. Taking your pets on holiday can seem like a complicated business – but luckily the team at KatKin are here to make things clearer. In our next blog in this series we’ll talk about how to look after your cat and make things calm and happy for them en route - but first, let’s talk about what you need to get in and out of the countries you go to.
It’s important to note too, we’ve based all this on what you need for travelling with your cat if you’re currently living in the United Kingdom. So, if you’re a KatKin fan reading this from another country, double-check the laws where you are (and in your destination country) before you travel.
Travelling in the EU, United Kingdom or Northern Ireland
What you’ll need to travel with your cat depends on where you want to go: there’s one set of rules for the EU and between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and another for travel to non-EU countries, which we'll cover in the second half.
Travelling with a cat to the EU or between Northern Ireland and Great Britain
If you’re travelling with a cat to the EU or between NI and GB, each cat you’re travelling with needs:
Proof of an up-to-date microchip
Proof of an up-to-date rabies vaccination
An Animal Health Certificate OR a pet passport issued in the EU or Northern Ireland
When you get your cat microchipped and vaccinated, your vet will provide records for you, so make sure you take these with you when you travel.
How do I get an Animal Health Certificate?
First things first: talk to your vet and find out if they can issue them. If they can’t, ask their advice on what other vets in the area might be able to help. Once you’ve found a vet who can issue it, you need to take your cat(s) to the vet no more than ten days in advance of your trip. When you go, you’ll also need to take proof of your cat’s microchipping date and their vaccination history.
If everything’s in order, the vet will sign your Animal Health Certificate, and at that point it’s valid for entering the EU or travelling between GB and NI for the next ten days, and for coming home within the next four months. If you’re planning to visit multiple countries, great news: it’ll also be valid for the next four months for onward travel within the EU.
Don’t forget: you need an Animal Health Certificate for each time you travel with a cat, so you can’t just use the same one you used for your last holiday.
What do I need to know about microchips, vaccinations and travel?
If your cat hasn’t had their microchip and vaccinations yet, your vet will be able to help. The main things to note are:
Your cat needs to be at least twelve weeks old to have all the right vaccinations and boosters, and 10-12 weeks to have their microchip, so if they’re a little younger, they might not be ready to see the world just yet.
Airlines, trains and ferries within the EU can read any microchip that meets the right standards: International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards ISO 11784 and ISO 11785. Your vet will be able to advise you on whether yours is right – and the chances are, if your cat’s been microchipped in the UK you’ll have no problems – but if not, you’ll need to bring your own microchip reader.
Your cat’s vaccination record needs to be fully up-to-date, with all the facts written in the right places by your vet. It might sound fussy, but if anything is written in the wrong parts of the form, your cat might be stopped from travelling – and we obviously don’t want that.
How many cats can travel with?
If you’re travelling with a cat to the EU or between NI and GB, you can take a maximum of five cats, unless you can prove you’re taking them to attend a competition or a show. Now let's talk about the rules if you're travelling to a non-EU country.
Travelling to a non-EU country
Beyond the EU, different countries have different requirements for bringing cats in. For instance, if you’re travelling to Iceland, your cat needs blood samples to check for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, less than thirty days before they travel. Meanwhile, if you’re travelling to Australia, there are specific rules on travelling with Bengal cats, to make sure they aren’t too close to their Asian leopard cat ancestors.
Wherever you’re going in the world, you’ll first of all need an Export Health Certificate, and that should tell you what you need to know.
What is an Export Health Certificate and how do I get one for my cat?
An Export Health Certificate makes sure that your cat meets all the right health requirements for the place you’re going to. You won’t fill it in yourself though: you’ll nominate what’s called an Official Vet or OV (a qualified vet who can fill in the form). Every country is different, but here are the rough steps you need to follow when travelling with a cat:
To apply for your certificate, first speak to your vet and make sure they can act as an Official Vet, or get them to recommend someone who can.
Next, visit gov.uk’s Find an export health certificate page, and search for the form for cats and the country you’re going to.
Read the specimen certificate and the guidance notes, then scroll down and you’ll find steps to apply, depending on whether you’re in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.
You’ll also have to nominate your vet at this point and they’ll fill in forms at their side too.
Ready to start travelling with your cat?
Now that you’re ready to get all your papers in order, it’s time to start planning for your journey and preparing to travel with your cat. All that’s left to say is: bon voyage!