Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Transporting Your Pet Cat from the US to New Zealand

Transporting your pet cat (or dog) from the United States to New Zealand is a major pain and quite expensive. But if your pet is family, you do it anyway. Although Air New Zealand requires that you contract with a pet transport company anyway, you still end up responsible for a lot of the legwork yourself. I wanted to provide a summary of all the steps I went through in moving my cat plus the costs I paid so you know what you're getting into beforehand.


New Zealand Government Biosecurity - personal pets
Air New Zealand - travelling with pets
USDA APHIS office contacts by state
Kansas State University Rabies Laboratory

1. Get your cat microchipped. (~$75) My cat had been microchipped years earlier with the US standard which is 125 kHz. The New Zealand standard is 134.2 kHz, so I thought I would have to get him a second one. Thankfully, the pet transport company said it was okay to use the US microchip (keeping in mind that vets in NZ will not likely have a reader that can read the US one if your cat gets lost).

2. Get your cat a rabies vaccine 6 months to 12 months before departure. (~$75)
Every vet visit must also include a full regular exam to check the pet's health and see if there are any fleas or ear mites, so you must pay the exam fee plus anything extra that needs to be done.

3. Get your cat an approved travel carrier/crate. ($60)
The cat must be able to stand fully upright and have room to move around. The pet transport company can give you further guidance on how big you need to get for the size of your cat. I ended up buying a small-dog size carrier from PetCo that had the holes for them to be able to zip-tie it to seal it, as well as the appropriate latches along the sides and the door. 

4. Prior to 3 months before departure, get your cat's blood drawn for a rabies titre test. Also get your cat a FCRVP vaccine. ($79)
The other vaccine was required by the quarantine facility I selected.

5. Mail the blood tube to the Kansas laboratory authorized to run rabies tests for international transport. ($64)
It was significantly cheaper for me to package the blood tube myself and give to UPS than to have the vet mail it for me (they quoted me around $150). The people at UPS were confused on whether or not they were allowed to ship it since it's hazardous material and had to consult with managers, but thankfully I had already researched it on their website and as long as it is packaged according to their instructions (inner seal, outer seal, absorbent padding, etc.), it can be shipped just fine. After checking their procedures, they finally agreed with me and accepted it. 

6. Pay the Kansas lab fee for their rabies test ($85).
This fee can be paid online.

7. Mail the results to your nearest Official Vet office to receive an official endorsement/seal of approval. ($127)
After a few weeks, the Kansas lab will send the test results back to your vet's office. Assuming your cat tested in the acceptable range for the rabies antibodies, you now need to mail that paperwork plus some other paperwork to your state's USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) office for their seal. I had to call and email several people to figure out which office was the one that handled pet transport seals.
8. At least 6 weeks before departure, make a reservation for your cat at the quarantine facility in the city in NZ you are moving to. ($500 deposit at my facility)
There are only a few authorized quarantine facilities in the main cities. To pay the deposit, I had to make a wire transfer at my bank. Facilities have limited capacity, so I booked my cat's spot months ahead of time.

9. At least 6 weeks before departure, apply for an import permit from NZ authorities. ($150 [$167 NZ]) 
They now allow this paperwork to be submitted electronically, so you scan and email the required paperwork to them.

10. In the 30 days prior to departure and at least 2 weeks prior to the 2nd treatment, get your cat its 1st external and 1st internal parasite treatment. ($82)
You must use Frontline for this, so make sure your vet carries that. I had to go to Petsmart and buy an expensive 3-pack and bring it to the vet's office since they normally use Advantage. Your cat will have to swallow one or two pills of Dropal for the internal treatment.

11. In the 4 days prior to departure, get your cat its 2nd internal parasite treatment.
This can be done at the same time as the next step.

12. In the 2 days prior to departure - can also be on the day of departure - get your cat its 2nd external parasite treatment and its inspection and official certification by a vet that your cat is ready to fly. ($140)
As I was not flying out of my home city, the pet transport company allowed me to get both parasite treatments done by its vet office. I also had to go with them to the USDA office to have them read my cat's microchip before they would sign off on the paperwork. Fortunately we were one of the first there in the morning so it didn't take too long, but I was told that sometimes there are lots of pets ahead in line and it can take hours. The pet transport company also took care of notifying the NZ authorities at the port of arrival that my cat was on schedule.

13. Pay the myriad other fees associated with transportation. ($1570)
These were all calculated and paid to the pet transport company ahead of time. Customs/USDA ($450), Cargo on Air New Zealand - varies by pet weight and kennel size ($670), and Pet transport company handling fee ($450).

14. After 10 days of quarantine, pick up your cat and pay for the remainder of the quarantine fees. ($700 [$825 NZ])
Since I didn't have a certain type of work visa, the NZ authorities charged a 15% customs tax on my cat!!

Total cost in US dollars to transport my cat from the US to NZ: over $3,700.

Fortunately, my cat made it safe and sound to New Zealand, although I am having to spend even more money on boarding him at a cattery while I look for pet-friendly housing. If you have any questions about the process, feel free to contact me.

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