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Looking to travel abroad with your cat or travelling with a pet after Brexit? Find out more in our guide.

Should I travel abroad with my cat?

While it is legal to travel abroad with your cat and re-enter the UK - as long the mandatory requirements are followed - it is important that you carefully consider the welfare of your cat before doing so. Cats are generally very stressed by travelling and become disorientated in a new environment without the familiar smells of their home territory. They are more likely to get lost or distressed. Taking your cat abroad for a holiday isn't a good idea, but there are some times when travelling with your cat may be unavoidable. If you're emigrating to another country or considering a new place of residence, you'll need to make sure you plan carefully to ensure your cat travels safely. 

If you decide to take your cat abroad, it is best to speak to your vet before travelling to see if any preventative treatments are advised for the specific area you are travelling to. UK pets are even more vulnerable than local animals as their immune systems have never previously come across the exotic infections mentioned above. It would be an avoidable tragedy if they became sick, or even died or transmitted disease to other animals on their return. If a cat becomes sick on return from travelling, owners must seek veterinary advice straight away.

What you need to know about taking your pet abroad

You can enter or return to the UK with your pet cat if it:

  • has been microchipped
  • has a pet passport or third-country official veterinary certificate
  • has been vaccinated against rabies - it will also need a blood test if you’re travelling from an ‘unlisted country’

It is currently illegal to bring a cat to the UK from any country overseas without it either going through quarantine or being imported via the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). PETS was introduced to allow people to travel with their pet cat, dog or ferret.

The regulations were changed at the end of 2011 so they are now less stringent, in line with the rest of Europe. The requirements for travel vary depending on which country you are visiting. Details can be found at www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad. Always check the latest information. Animals entering the UK without a valid pet passport must spend time in quarantine on arrival, until they have complied with the requirement of PETS.

The quarantine regulations and the PETS are designed primarily to protect the UK’s human population from rabies; they are not in place to protect pets from all risks. There are many other potentially fatal infections found in parts of Europe and the wider world which are not present in UK pets, such as:-

  • Babesia, transmitted by ticks, which causes fever, lethargy and anaemia in cats
  • Ehrlichia, transmitted by ticks, and which also causes fever, lethargy and anaemia in cats
  • Heartworm, which affects a cat’s circulatory system and lungs

As the changes in the regulations have made it simpler to travel with a pet, the number of animals travelling has increased, with fewer controls, and we are likely to see more exotic disease in the UK.

Regulations may change once Britain has exited the EU. For more information about travelling with your cat after Brexit, see below.

Bringing cats to the UK

The change to the Pet Travel Scheme may also encourage well-meaning cat lovers to bring cats home from holiday; many are affected by the plight of animals abroad, particularly when they witness first-hand the poor conditions that some of these animals are in and naturally they want to do something to assist them. While this might be perceived as helping the individual, it is very stressful for them, it risks the introduction of disease, and there are many unwanted cats in the UK as it is.

The best way to help the greatest number of these animals is to support organisations that are carrying out work locally such as running neutering programmes and providing education. These are the most effective ways of improving animal welfare in the longer term.

Remember to update your cat's microchip

It is vital to update the details stored on your microchip’s database with contact details for the country you are in. In the UK you can do this by contacting Petlog – on 0844 4633 999 or via petlog.org.uk – or Anibase – on 01904 487 600 or via www.anibase.com – simply putting your cat through PETS or quarantine does not automatically update your records, so it is important that you remember to do this.

Your cat may face a further period in quarantine or even euthanasia by the authorities if he becomes lost, you cannot be traced and his legal entry to the country cannot be ascertained. For your own records also keep your cat’s unique microchip number safe.

How can I travel with my cat after Brexit?

If you're looking to travel with your cat after Britain leaves the EU, read the Government's information on pet travel to Europe after Brexit. To ensure you can travel with your cat after Brexit, you should start to prepare at least four months before your travel date. 

In the event of a No Deal Brexit, current EU pet passports issued in the UK will not be valid for entry to the EU. 

Cat owners need to prepare the following before travel:

  • ensure your cat is microchipped
  • ensure your cat's rabies vaccination is up to date
  • allow at least 30 days after your pet's last rabies vaccination before returning to a vet for a blood test to check it has worked
  • wait three months after a successful blood test before travelling
  • return to a vet within ten days of travel for an Animal Health Certificate

Please note: If your pet's vaccinations are kept up to date, you won't need to repeat the blood test for each journey

To prepare for changes, visit www.gov.uk/guidance/pet-travel-to-europe-after-brexit

Getting a health certificate 

You must take your cat to a vet no more than ten days before travel to get an animal health certificate. For this, you'll need the following:

  • proof of your cat's vaccinations
  • proof of the date your cat was microchipped
  • a successful rabies antibody blood test result

Your cat's animal health certificate will be valid for

  • 10 days after the date of issue for entry into the EU
  • onward travel within the EU for 4 months after the date of issue
  • re-entry to the UK for 4 months after the date of issue

Arriving to the EU

If you're travelling with a cat, you'll need to enter the EU through a designated Traveller's Point of Entry. You will need to present proof of:

  • your cat's microchip
  • their rabies vaccination
  • successful blood test results
  • tapeworm treatment
  • your cat's health certificate

This may change after Brexit. For the latest Government advice, updates can be found at www.gov.uk/guidance/pet-travel-to-europe-after-brexit

Settling your cat into a new home

Moving home can be a tricky time for your cat - especially if you're moving to a different country. Cats can easily become disorientated by a new environment. Some careful planning will ensure that your cat settles in quickly, ensuring less hassle for your home.

Find out more: moving home guide

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