We Took Our Cat Overseas, Here’s What We Learned.

Three years ago, my wife and I moved from the UK to Indonesia where my she had gotten a job in a private school. One year later, we rescued a 4-year-old cat, we called her Perdu, French for ‘lost’. We lived just outside Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta, a place where there are a lot of stray cats. They were badly treated and malnourished, so when we saw Perdu, we had to help. Fast-forward two years and my lovely wife gets the opportunity to work in Hong Kong. We had to go, and we couldn’t leave a member of our family behind, so we brought Perdu with us!

Making the decision to move a pet to another country wasn’t something we took lightly, here’s how we did it, and what we learned.

Were we being selfish?

Whether we wanted to take Perdu with us to Hong Kong was never in question, we couldn’t imagine her not being with us. The question was should we take her with us? Who were we doing it for, her or us?

We could have left her behind, we had a lovely friend who had three cats who would have taken her in but, you see, there’s no guarantee how long she’d be in Indonesia. International teaching contracts are usually 1-2 years so, potentially, we’d just be passing the decision to move her on to our friend.

Still, I needed to be sure that we were doing the right thing so off to the internet I went…and that’s where I learned about quarantine.

4 months in Quarantine.

Yes, you read it right, 4 months!

The government department that deals with the import of pets, the AFCD, separates countries in to 3 Groups, each with their own quarantine procedures. If we’d come straight from the UK, a Group 1 country, for example, there would be no quarantine. We’d have all flown on the same flight and Perdu would, no doubt, be walking on the laptop brushing her tail in my face as I write a post about how easy it is to bring pets to Hong Kong! Similarly, if we’d have come from the USA, then…no quarantine! A few more forms to fill in; i’s to dot, t’s to cross, but again, Perdu would be here, fighting for my attention. Despite the long quarantine, we knew we had no choice, we couldn’t leave without her.

Will she be ok?

When we found out that it would be 4 months, the doubt set in again. How hard would it be for her?

This question, it turns out, isn’t an easy one to find an answer to. The psychology of cats is a rather sparse field academically. Therefore, studies into the effect that quarantine has on cats are hard to find. I did manage to find a study by the University of Cambridge on the ‘effects of quarantine on cats and their owners’. The researchers found that there were physical and behavioural changes in the 16 cats in their study, some that lasted after quarantine. 16 is a small group though, and the results were taken from a questionnaire filled out by the owners, so relatively anecdotal evidence. I needed to do what everyone who’s ever found themselves way above their head in internet searches realises I needed to ask a professional.

If in doubt, ask the vet!

We were lucky in Jakarta to find a fantastic vet who we trusted so got in touch and had a chat. Our vet told us that cats are extremely resilient and, in her opinion, deal with quarantine quite well. This is an opinion that has been echoed by several other vets I’ve spoken to since. Of course, it’s not ideal, they’d rather be stretched on a rug in the sun and then wake up and instantaneously need to run at 80mph around the house, but as long as they have room to jump, toys to play with, food, and a litter tray, then they’re generally ok.

Finding a pet transport company

There are people who love animals as much as you, maybe more! Some of these people, inevitably end up in careers where they look after the wellbeing of animals. Vets come to mind first, obviously. There are unsung heroes out there though, people you never think of until you need them, one of these is pet transport companies, and it’s worth researching and finding a good one. There are companies that will offer a door to door service; picking your pet up, handling all the export and import documents and then delivering the pet to your new home.

As Perdu needed to go in to quarantine though, we opted to use an Indonesian transport company until Perdu reached Hong Kong and then a Hong Kong based company after that, just so we were sure that they were familiar with the quarantine procedures. We relied on our Indonesian vet’s recommendation and the recommendation of a friend who had transported her dog to Hong Kong.

Trust is the main thing here; you’re putting the wellbeing of your pet in someone else’s hands. Do your research and if you get a bad feeling, walk away, there are plenty of companies out there. When I say they’re heroes, I really mean it? The companies we dealt with handled everything, sent us pictures at various times during the journey and were always on hand to answer questions, no matter how small.

Up, Up and away!

So, the day arrived, the day that Perdu was flying. We were nervous, guilty, sad…all at once. We just couldn’t stand looking at Perdu’s little face, knowing that she had no idea what was coming.

The driver arrived from the Indonesian transport company and with some reluctance, Perdu got into her crate and was taken away. We tracked her flight and not long after it landed, we got a picture from the Hong Kong transport company of our Perdu in Hong Kong!

Oh, the relief, Perdu was safe! She was taken to the quarantine centre and settled into her home for the next 4 months. It’s a room around 1 metre by 3 metres with different levels for her to jump/sleep on. The best part is that we can visit her for cuddles any day of the week. The staff at the quarantine are all lovely and truly care for every cat and dog there.

One man my wife spoke to says that he considers them all his own pets and treats them as such and it shows, they are all happy. We’re just past the halfway point now, 2 more months and she’ll be in our new apartment with us. Until then, she’ll just have to put up with an ‘I miss you!’ squeeze every now and then.

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