Moving abroad can be very exciting but at the same time quite daunting! The amount of work needed for having everything arranged prior your arrival to your new home can leave you completely exhausted. But what if on top of that you have a pet?
Some people might consider that the most sensible thing to do is to leave your furry companion with a family member or a friend, or even put it for adoption with the hopes that a nice family will take care of it. But that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case!
In this post, I would like to tell you the story of how my boyfriend and I managed to bring our cat Moka with us to Sweden! I hope this information becomes somehow useful for anyone who is in a similar situation.
Before starting… DISCLAIMER!!!! Different laws apply to different countries so please, check the rules that apply to your country of origin and the country where you intend to move to. Additionally, everything in this post applies only to dogs and cats (mainly cats since our pet is a cat). If you have other kind of pet, it might be listed as an exotic species so you need to follow different rules.
For reference, the countries we crossed with our cat when moving to Sweden were the following:
Mexico → USA → Russia (layover at the airport) → Denmark → Sweden
Our looong looong trip
I know that after looking at the list of countries above you might be asking yourself: did you travel through five different countries with your cat!? That sounds like a nightmare!
Well, yeeees… but at the same time no. For example, crossing from Mexico to the US by land was quite easy since the only requirement is a health certificate signed by your veterinarian, and an up-to-date vaccination card. Also, we didn’t need to show any kind of documentation for our layover in Russia, and once we entered the EU through Denmark and got Moka’s importation documents stamped there, we were allowed to travel to Sweden without a problem!
So, in this post I will be addressing the trip between the US and Denmark.
Before traveling: What do you need?
When my boyfriend and I decided that we were bringing Moka with us to Sweden, the first thing we did was to enter every single site we could find on Google that had any kind of information related to the topic. As you can imagine, this can take eons, so I will post at the bottom of this article the links to the websites we found to be the most useful.
But in short, what do you really need to do in order to bring your furry friend with you to Sweden?
1- Know the rabies status of your country
One of the first things we learned after our extensive googling, is that since the EU is considered rabies-free. The rabies status of the country where you are traveling from (rabies-free, rabies-controlled, or high-rabies) plays an important role on what kind of documentation you need for your pet. Fortunately, we were traveling from Mexico and the US, both rabies-controlled countries, which means that we weren’t required to do a rabies antibody test or to put Moka in any kind of quarantine.
If your country is not listed as rabies-free or controlled, you are required to do a rabies antibody test. This test needs time, so you need to plan ahead quite a bit. Please, for further information read the links I posted at the end of the article!
2- Microchip your pet in advance
Id-mark your pet with a microchip that complies with ISO 11784/11785 and apply HDX or FDX-B technology. Basically, ask your vet for a microchip that works in Europe. These microchips are easily recognized because they have 15 digits.
3- Vaccinate your pet
As I mentioned before, rabies is a big deal when traveling with your pet to the EU. So, make sure to vaccinate your pet and don’t miss any additional shot. Also keep everything tidy on your pet’s vaccination card — this will be very helpful when your vet fills in the forms for the health certificate.
WARNING! Any shot received BEFORE the microchip implantation will be ignored, and you will need to re-vaccinate your pet. In our case, we microchipped and re-vaccinated Moka against rabies one year prior our trip just to be on the safe side.
If you need to re-vaccinate your pet because the validity date of the last vaccine is about to expire, make sure you do it at least 21 days prior traveling! If you wait and do it close to your departure date your pet might not be allowed to travel with you.
4- Documents! EU Health Certificate and Owner’s Declaration of Non-commercial Movement
The final thing in our list, and the most nerve wrecking. You must get an EU Health Certificate filled and signed by an accredited veterinarian, and a non-commercial declaration signed by you, both endorsed by the veterinary authority of the country you are traveling from (in this case, the USDA for the US) within 10 days of entering the EU. So, add this to your “last minute things I need to do before I jump on a plane and move to the other side of the world!”
Ok, so now, step by step this is what we did:
First, we made sure to have the correct forms for the certificate and declaration from the USDA page, then started looking for an accredited veterinarian.
For some reason, this was the most challenging part since we couldn’t find any source that listed all the accredited veterinarians in the area. We finally found someone thanks to Yelp! And made an appointment. The vet was really nice and she had Moka checked and our papers filled, stamped, and signed in less than 20 minutes.
The next step was to get the documents endorsed at the USDA office. This took hours and all of our patience. For the Endorsement Office of the USDA in Los Angeles (the city where we departed from), you don’t need an appointment, you just need to drop in, queue, and hope you get your documents endorsed that same day (you’d be surprised of the amount of people that travels with their pets). Once your documents are endorsed (basically they put a super biggie stamp on your documents) you are good to go!
Which airline did we use?
Before booking your flight, you need to make sure that the airline allows you to bring your pet on an international flight. Usually, this kind of information you can find it in the airline’s homepage. Also, you might want to read on their policies about pets on the cabin since it is quite scary to check in your pet for an 11-hour flight.
The airline we travel with was Aeroflot. The main reason we picked this airline was because it was cheaper than others, but also it allowed us to travel with Moka inside the cabin which was extremely important for us!
Here are some tips that worked for us when traveling with our cat in the cabin:
- Before traveling, allow your pet to get used to the kennel or the carrier so it feels safe when traveling in it.
- Pet diapers (the ones you put as flooring) are lifesavers! Just put a few layers of them and if you notice that your pet peed or pooped, you can sneakily remove and dispose the upper layer of diapers and still have some extra for the next emergency.
- If your pet gets nervous and starts making noises, distract it by petting it or giving it treats so it doesn’t bother other passengers.
- Just give sedatives to your pet if the veterinary recommends it. Sometimes they are not even necessary if your pet is used to travel.
I arrived into the EU! Now what?
Finally! The last part of this super long post! Once you finally arrive to your destination, make sure to stop by customs with your pet and its documents so you can get them reviewed and stamped. This stamp is really important because is the proof that you imported your pet correctly into the EU.
Hope you found this post useful and if you have any question, please leave a comment below. Safe trip!
- Jordbruks verket (Swedish Board of Agriculture). This is the government instance that is in charge of all animal imports and exports. Here you can find in detail all the information you need about importing your pet into Sweden.
- List of Countries and their rabies category
- APHIS homepage. You can find all the information needed and the pdf of all the documents that you and your vet need to sign and fill in.
- Link to pdf of the EU Health Certificate and non-commercial movement declaration.
- Link to pdf of how to fill in the EU Health Certificate and non-commercial movement declaration.
- Pet Travel.com has tons of information that are quite useful!