When I was 15 years old, my mom and I made a life-changing decision to leave Brazil and move to the ever-freezing land named Canada. Prepared as I was to bid farewell to my family and friends, there was one little thing I refused to leave behind — two, actually: my cats.
Moving with Pets
I never understood people who dispose of pets like they’re objects you can donate to goodwill.
Animals have feelings and I would be lying if I said I didn’t hold a certain level of grudge against people who abandon animals. I know that there can be legitimate reasons for a family to put a pet up for adoption — a new baby in the family, possibly allergic to the pet, for instance, is a valid reason. But moving away generally isn’t.
Anyone who tells me they had no choice but to abandon their pet because their “new apartment building has a no-pet policy” will never convince me. You might not have a choice when it comes to moving away, but you do have a choice when it comes to looking for a new place. If you choose a new apartment over your pet, chances are I won’t ever respect you.
That being said, knowing I was moving to Canada, I thought “well, how do I bring my cats?”
The process was long but not nearly as complicated as I thought it would be.
Before the trip…
First things first: we had to take both cats, Amy and Kelly, to the vet. We made sure our cats got shots from all the mandatory vaccines, and the vet proceeded to give them a general check-up examination. Once the vet could determine my cats were vaccinated AND healthy, she signed a health certificate.
The next step after having a complete cat vaccination medical record and a health certificate signed by the vet for both cats was to submit the documents to the Ministry of Agriculture in Brazil, so they could recognize and certify them as legitimate documents. The Ministry then issued us international health certificates, identifying our cats’ names, age, sex, breed etc.
The thing about this certificate, though, is that you have to get it right before your trip, because the certificate is only valid for 1 week, from the date it was originally issued, which means we had to provide the exact date we were planning to board the airplane.
At the airport…
Checking in at the airport in Brazil, my mom and I had to pay around $100 per cat, and then we just carried on with our schedule to board the plane holding our kitties.
Now, when it comes to the air travel itself, there are a few ways to go about it. Each company has a different policy. Some companies won’t allow you to bring your pet on board with you, so your pet must travel on the cargo plane. I personally don’t trust that method, because I’ve heard horror stories about animals dying or getting left behind for weeks before meeting their owners again.
My mom and I chose to fly with Air Canada because, according to their policy, we could bring our pets on board so long as they weighed no more than 10kg. Another thing they required was that each animal needed a separate pet bag/carrier. We were lucky neither of our cats weighed more than 10kg, and since I wasn’t travelling alone, it was easy for my mom and I each to carry one of the bags with our cats in it.
Given that it was a 10-hour flight, and we were worried about our cats freaking out, meowing, peeing, pooping etc, the vet suggested we gave them a few drops of cat stress & anxiety relief medication, as well as making sure they wore diapers. We did that, and the cats were pretty quiet during the flight. They were awake for the whole duration of the flight, but they were calm. At some points, my cat Amy meowed very loudly — but there was a baby on board crying all the time, so people didn’t even think Amy was responsible for the noises.
And that was that. We arrived in Canada safe and sound. Upon our arrival, the immigration officers just checked the certificates and double-checked our cats to make sure they were matching the description, and then we were good to come into Canada. Now our cats are more Canadian than Brazilian!