The Expat Diaries: The Great Kitty Dilemma.

Henry1I had a different post written for today’s Expat Diaries entry but I’m saving it for another day as there’s something pressing on my mind: Henry. Yes, my cat.

When I decided to stay in London for the long-term, I’d planned to bring him here with me. I’ll have my new visa by the time Matthew and I go to visit my family in Canada this fall and I figured it would be the perfect time to move him over. Now I’m not so sure.

This is no small expense. Because the UK doesn’t allow pets to enter the country in the cabin of the airplane, the cost of Henry’s one-way flight is almost as much as my return. There’s also expenses for getting travel documents from his vet and a handling fee at the UK airport. But I’ve been anticipating this and saving for it. It’s not what I’m worried about.

Henry might not seem like it because he’s such a bossy guy but he’s an anxious cat. If he has to stay inside for too long he starts ripping out his fur. And he’s neurotic about his routines.

A flight to the UK, including drives to and from the airport, would mean being in a carrier for at least 15 hours. And that’s if there are no delays.

He’s settled with my mom right now and there’s no reason to think he’d be happier with me than he is with her. I’m starting to wonder: is this fair to him? For a human, 15 hours, even if miserable, is something we can endure because we can understand the experience and know that it will be over eventually. But of course cats don’t have this kind of rational thinking. He won’t understand what’s going on.

You hear about plenty of cats who are moved internationally without any problems at all. But then there are others who are affected by the experience and never seem the same afterwards. And of course there are horror stories of pets who die in transit.

My mind is reeling, asking myself: Am I selfish for wanting to put him through this? Even if he gets over it eventually, is it worth the trauma on the day? Is it less selfish to let him stay the king of his Canadian neighbourhood and give a home to a British cat in need? What metric can I use for making this decision?

Moving to another country brings with it so many benefits, new experiences, and adventures. But it also comes with sacrifices and challenges you’ve never faced before. Sometimes it’s surprising which ones will really trip you up.

I’m sure that people without furry friends could be confused by the level of distress I’m experiencing over an animal, but I know my fellow crazy cat ladies will get it.

If you’ve had experiences moving animals abroad, I’d love to hear what it was like. Or even if you haven’t, how you’d go about making this decision.

Love, tiger stripes, & whiskery kisses,


  1. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have moved if I had a pet. I DO have a dog in Canada, but she is a family dog and is 16 years old, so her moving with me was never an option. I have been thinking of the logistics of getting a cat in the UK but I think honestly that would be the deciding factor in my having to stay here. Basically, if I get a pet in the UK, it will be my way of committing to another 10-15 years here.

    That said, I think the worst case scenario isn’t likely to be the norm, and he will likely forget about it fairly quickly. If he is anxious you could also sedate him a bit? It’s too bad you can’t break the flights up into smaller bits, but I know there’s the whole ocean thing and the needing to be checked within 24 hours of the vet check thing. It’s tricky.

    • It’s tricky because I originally planned to come to London for a year so it wouldn’t have been an issue. But now I’m definitely staying in the UK. At least it would be a one-way move…but he’s not allowed to be sedated for the air travel so I’m not sure whether I can provide any certainty of his comfort. It’s nice hearing from another animal loving expat though. Thank you so much for commenting. xx

  2. A fellow expat brought over her two cats without any fuss. But if it were me, I’d leave him at home. The idea of a kitty suffering for 15 hours just makes my heart hurt. He’s happy, safe, loved, and looked after, yes? I’d give a home to a British kitty who isn’t all of those things. But I’d be sad too.

    • Thanks, Phoe. To be honest, it’s really helpful getting other people’s input. I can’t stand to think of him suffering either :( xx

  3. I understand how completely horrendous you feel – I’m currently plotting a move from my family’s cozy seven acre farm in rural New Hampshire to the hustle and bustle of Washington DC. My heartstrings are struggling because I have a dog, Huck, who is the greatest love of my life and who, at four years old, has only ever known the farm. He’s a large dog too – a whopping 86 lbs – and while my friend and I will be living in the outskirts of the city, somewhere dog friendly and with a yard, my parents are making me question if taking him so far from home to a life he won’t understand is fair to him. While I’m thinking how can I ever leave him behind? The thought of it makes me sick – however I also can’t live with my parents forever either.

    It’s not the same kind of travel, for I would drive him down there and he would be fine, but the adjustment to life is the greatest concern. I understand that portion of your situation and feel for you.

    • I hate to hear that you’re going through this but I have to admit, it’s comforting to know that you understand. I suppose it’s all part of growing up – making decisions that help us grow and also having to make difficult decisions that are in someone else’s best interests. I’m really sorry you’re struggling with this heartache. But I hope you have a wonderful time moving to Washington! xxx

  4. A friend of mine has moved his cat to and from France without issue – in one direction, the cat was in the cabin with him; in the other, he (the cat) travelled with a specialist animal cargo handler. When he was “cargo” it took about fifteen hours but the company took really good care of him and kept my friend updated with texts and phone calls throughout – he sulked a bit when he first arrived but got over it within a few hours. But he’s a very adaptable cat. I don’t think my two would take it nearly as well – they both took a few days to come around after moving house within the one city! You’ll have the best idea of how well Henry handles change and unusual circumstances.

    • Henry’s always been completely adaptable when it comes to moving into a new place but I’ve never had to travel with him for more than a couple of hours and that was in the car. I wish I could be more certain about how he’d handle it. Thanks so much for commenting! xx

  5. I know exactly how you feel! I absolutely have to take my one cat with me because she was declared by her first owners and we have a tribe of cats with claws. I want to take her also because she was given away due to her family moving overseas and I don’t want to do the same to her. My other cat, however, may be better off staying because this is the only place she’s really known. Judging by Sarah’s comment … maybe you can fly to Paris with him in the cabin & take the chunnel? I will NOT take my baby as cargo! Absolutely no way!

    • I’d thought about trying to do something creative like this but unfortunately the travel costs are then too prohibitive. I don’t understand why the UK requires pets to travel as cargo… it seems really unnecessary. When are you taking your cat overseas? I’d love to hear about your experience. Thanks so much for commenting! xx

  6. It’s such a hard choice, I don’t envy your decision. Would he have to stay in quarantine for any period of time? (I know animals coming into Australia, from anywhere other then New Zealand have to)
    I moved my cat from state and used a pet carrier that air freighted him. It was expensive, but worth it. While my cat was only in the air 2 hours, he didn’t have any problem. He was a little skittish when he came out of his cage, and whilst exploring, but as soon as he heard my voice, he perked up & now he owns the place. Also, something like feliway at the new place may help, if you decide to bring him.
    Whichever decision you make, it will be the right one. xo

    • Aww! It’s so sweet that your voice calmed him down. Thanks for letting me know that it went so smoothly! xx

  7. Tori says:

    I’ve travelled and lived abroad for most of my life and so I’ve had a lot of experience with moving pets internationally. The biggest thing I’ve found with my family’s pets and with my friends’ pets who have travelled internationally, is that the older the animal is the harder the transition will be. Older animals are less resilient to the whole ordeal of travel in the first place but they also don’t adjust as well to the new environments. Its also important to consider that if the cat can’t be sedated during the trip it could get travel sickness (something I never even knew animals could get until it took my dog a good six months to recover from international flight a few years ago). It does all depend of course on the animal itself but I agree that you really have to consider if it’s a gamble youre willing to take. Good luck either way!! xxx

    • Luckily Henry’s not being old but the regulations say he can’t be sedated. It’s so helpful to hear your experience because I wouldn’t want to put him through something that could potentially make him feel unwell for so long! Thanks for commenting. xx

  8. when my mum and I moved to the UK from Florida, we made the decision to take our cats but decided it was best for our dog not to put him through the trauma. He was a tad anxious and was so loving and attached to individual people that we feared for his welfare in transit and in foster care during the months it would take us to move (he often refused to eat without someone he knew when he was anxious), while our cats were extremely laid back and less of a concern. Nowadays I’m not sure I would’ve wanted it for them either, though. They made it through and were back to their usual selves in no time once we had a house and had them move in with us again, but we were also fairly certain that their fosterers abused them as they were returned to us with a terrible fear of newspapers, magazines and loud noises. As much as I loved them and cherished the time I got to spend with them (they’ve sadly since passed away of natural causes) I’m not sure I would ever risk my pets being in someone else’s care again unless I knew them personally. Not an issue with your furbaby of course, although I guess you never know with airport staff etc. too.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that happened to your pets – how awful! There’s so many factors to consider that it’s difficult to even think of them all. Thanks for commenting. xx

  9. Sarah says:

    i feel your pain, what a hard decision to make. I’m not living with my cat at the moment but luckily he is close enough that I can visit. I miss him so much though. I would try and find a way to get him there if it was possible without too much stress

  10. I’ve never moved to another country with a pet, but I have had friends who have done it. Based on what you’ve said in your post, as hard as it is for you, I think that in this case Henry’s safety and well-being comes first, and he seems to have it pretty good at your Mom’s. I know you must miss him terribly, but as you have noted, it will be an ordeal to get him to the UK, and if something did happen to him in transit, you would never forgive yourself. It’s a different story if you are able to drive your pet from one city or province to another. If you have definitely decided you’re staying in the UK, and the time is right, there will be a pet that will need you. If you don’t want the time commitment of a kitten, there are probably lots of loving senior cats that would love to be part of your family.

  11. I’ve never traveled, let alone lived abroad, so it’s not surprising this kind of dilemma never crossed my mind before. But I can completely understand how that would be a difficult decision! I hope you and Henry can come up with a great solution, whether he joins your expat adventures or remain the king of his Canadian neighbourhood!

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