Whilst some will consider moving to another country in itself a highly stressful experience, I’ve got to say, moving a 19 year old cat (who’s never been much further than the back door) across a continent has proved to be the most ‘cat’-astrophically stress inducing process by far.
For those up to speed on developments, she’s made it. She arrived into Calgary airport on a direct flight, in a purpose-made wooden crate, and was unimpressed by the surroundings and the fact that her usual warm bed had been substituted for mere strips of newspaper.
It’s been a long process. Right from the start, I was reluctant to leave her in the UK and indeed, the local vet saw no reason why she shouldn’t fly. That decision made, it was left to finding an animal transporter who would successfully get her from ‘A’ to ‘B’. And, I found an absolutely excellent shipper who solely transports small live animals across the world – usually, New Zealand and Australia; so the prospect of sending a cat to Canada for them was not a big deal in the slightest. They also kindly let her ‘board’ with them for the last 6 weeks whilst we found somewhere to live and get ourselves sorted, regularly keeping me updated with how she was and the latest news.
My biggest concern was the weather. And by weather, I mean snow and sub-zero temperatures. It didn’t help to discover that there are no direct flights to Edmonton from the UK after the end of October. This means a round trip of 588km to collect her from the ‘local’ airport in Calgary, 3hrs driving each way. Manageable if the weather is good, but with snow now on the ground and me being slightly new to the ‘driving on ice’ experience, I was nervous about the journey to say the least. I also had to take the 3 ‘kids’ who viewed the whole saga as an adventure. Unlike me, their only concern was having enough sugary snacks to last the journey and whether their iPads would hold out for the full trip there and back in keeping them entertained. I did suggest we could adopt a more traditional style and perhaps talk and spot things on the roads (which was met with rather withering looks from all 3), and I finally conceded that virtually driving in a straight line between Edmonton and Calgary on one road, in a prairie region probably didn’t offer the full range of stimulation that would last them for 6 hours.
Anyhow, I had a stroke of luck. The weather held for me and the journey was long but straightforward.
Having never transported a cat – or any animal for that matter before, I wasn’t sure how this was done. Travelling as ‘cargo’, they are managed by a ‘cargo’ team for that specific airline. Finding my way to Calgary from Edmonton was a piece of cake compared to navigating the whereabouts of the Cargo office at the airport – which was completely away from any passenger terminal or the usual entry points I’m familiar with. Reams of documentation are required and upon arrival at the cargo office, you wait for the animal to be unloaded, received by the cargo team and all required documentation completed. This takes about 1 hour after the plane has landed.
Once you’re provided with the landing documentation, you physically go to Customs to get clearance. This is held with a border official who requires considered responses to all questions posed and checks all the papers to assess the validity of bringing an animal into the country. If they are satisfied, you’ll get clearance stamped on the papers – plus relieved of $31 dollars. Goodness knows the protocol for what happens if they refuse to sign …
Back to the Cargo office, the Customs papers with the ‘clearance’ stamp enable the team to charge me a further $55 dollars and I’m finally issued with the last piece of paper which allows me to obtain (and see) the cat. Moving to another room, and what can only be described as a warehouse complete with JCB’s and mechanical equipment hoisting goods around, you present this final piece of paper and they offer over the cat.
For the price of the shipment across the waters, you’d be under the impression that the cat is treated to first class luxurious seating and the full use of a personal butler. I suspect the reality is more along the lines of being placed alongside the passenger luggage in the hold with not so much as a touch screen TV in sight.
So, after a further 3 hours in the car to our new home, she’s now in situ, favouring a bed in the back of a cupboard where it’s warm and she’s left to herself. She’s eaten lots and been out for a quick look around and walk around the house – before taking herself back to her domain and catching up on some serious catnaps.
It was worth it and lovely to see her back with us. However, for anyone considering doing something similar, I’ll warn you now that it’s easier giving birth …