Traveling with Cats from USA to Europe on an Airplane Cabin - Tips, Requirements & Step by Step Guide

A friend of mine who lives in the US recently asked me how on earth are we able to bring Captain Ahab and Little Zissou with us in all of our travels. As I was telling her about the processes and tips, I realized that maybe a lot of our readers have the same questions as her. So, if you are a cat-parent from the United States of America (or any nationality but will be coming from the USA), here is a list of the things you need to know if you want to bring your cats with you on your next European trip!

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A quick heads up though, this list might look a tad too burdensome for most, the upside of all this is that if you are coming from the US, the requirement of putting your cats in quarantine for a period of time has long been removed. So yay for that!!!

1. Implanting of ISO-Compliant Microchip, a modern day innovation.

Although medical check-ups and vaccinations are the first thing that comes in your mind when thinking about preparing your cat to travel, it is important to know that for convenience, you must have you cat implanted with a microchip for his/her identification.

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This is pretty important since the EU has made it a mandatory requirement that cats must be implanted with an ISO compliant (11784 and 11785) microchip. These new types of microchip which contain 15-digit numbers and are recognized the scanners used in almost all entry points in Europe.

However, if your cat happen to have an older version of a microchip, you need not worry! According to United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS for brevity), the same may still be allowed as long as you have a compatible reader/scanner with you, or if you do not have one with you, you may contact a European Veterinary official in advance to verify availability of a compatible reader/scanner.

2. Updating of your cats vaccination for rabies, tapeworms, etc.

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You might be wondering why this is not the first on the list when this sounds more important. That is because the vaccination of you cat must be done AFTER the implanting of the microchip which i mentioned above. To have your cat vaccinated before number 1 above who be a waste since the same shall be considered invalid.

For your convenience and to save time, this may be done on the same day as the procedure for microchip. But please, please, take into consideration the capacity of your cat to endure all of this in one day. If your cat is pretty strong, then you may do so.

As an exception, according to the USDA-APHIS, in the countries of Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Switzerland, pets less than 12 weeks old that have not been vaccinated for rabies are allowed entry! Keep in mind though that this list is exclusive, meaning outside of these said countries, a rabies vaccination is a mandatory requirement.

3.  European Union Health Certificate; signed, sealed and delivered!

It is very important to note that all the procedures above need to be recorded and signed in the EU Health Certificate by an accredited USDA veterinarian which you can download here. Once your fur-baby is vaccinated, you can now proceed to the “signed, sealed and delivered” part of this whole list. No, we’re not gonna sign, seal and deliver your cat - just the EU Health Certificate.

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Only an accredited USDA veterinarian can validly record and sign an EU Health Certificate. Once signed, it must then be endorsed by the APHIS Veterinary Services Endorsement Office, 10 days prior to your arrival in the EU. The endorsement may be dispensed with only if the health certificate was issued by a military veterinarian.

Some additional fees such as endorsement fees need to be paid in this stage.

4. Done!

Once you complied with all the above requirements, you may now travel with your cat to EU! Your EU Health Certificate remains valid for a period of 4 months and as long as you and your cat do not leave EU, otherwise, you will need to re-apply again.

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If you will stay for a longer period than 4 months or you want your cat to have multiple entry to EU, you must secure your cat an EU Pet Passport.

Please note: The steps/procedure discussed in this post apply only to pet-parents traveling with 5 cats or less as mandated by the European Union, if you are traveling with 6 or more cats, different procedure applies.

5. Coming back home.

Lucky for cat-parents, the USDA does not provide for any restrictions for returning cats. However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides that:

“Pet cats are subject to inspection at ports of entry and may be denied entry into the United States if they have evidence of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. If a cat appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense might be required at the port of entry.”

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So far, this is the only rule cat-parents must keep in mind when returning back to the US with your cats. Needless to say, to avoid issues and problems on your return, always keep your cats healthy and safe while traveling around EU so that your fur-baby will be at the pink of health once you arrive home.

Happy travel with your cats!


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