A personal experience of the process undertaken when travelling with pet cats from Pakistan to USA via Turkish Airways. Includes details on things required for airline, pet travel documents and pet travel accessories for a journey from Karachi, Pakistan to New York, USA.
If you have been following the blog for a while, you would know that I have two pet cats. They have been with us for 9 years now. They are family to the point where I sometimes call them my youngest siblings.
We had to decide on what to do about them when we decided to emigrate. I was moving to Australia whereas my parents were moving to the US. We honestly had to clue on what needed to be done when a Facebook group by the name of “Pet Talk” came to the rescue. It was where I read up about this girl taking her cats to the US. And that’s where I found out that it is possible to take pets abroad, and while the process is cumbersome it is by all means doable.
The first thing was deciding where to take the cats. Though I call them my cats, they are truly family pets and far closer to my mother than me. Australian quarantine is one of the toughest in the world. They also needed to move together. Though this sounds simple in writing, doing the research, convincing the family, being ready for going through this process and eventually going through it took a few months.
There are three main things that are required for pet travel: –
- airline approval
- pet travel documents
- pet accessories for travel
I have in the end ended a section on things to be careful of when planning air travel, so do read that too.
All airlines have pet travel policies mentioned on their website with regard to the kinds of pets allowed on the aeroplane, the carriers required, whether the pet will be allowed in the cabin or in the cargo, and the respective charges.
In order to check whether the pet will be allowed to travel, the airline requires the following:
- PNR for passenger – this can be generated via reserving a ticket online or at the airline booking office. Ticket should only be paid in full once approval is received.
- Pet Breed
- Cage Dimensions. Weight, Height and Length.
- Weight of Pet and Cage together.
Send all this information to the airline and they will respond with an approval of whether the pet can travel, or if they need further documents. If the pet cannot travel on the specific flight, switch your flight, and if the pet isn’t allowed to travel on the specific airline, go for another airline. Make sure confirmation is written, not verbal.
Office Location: The Residence Tower, Showroom No 106, Plot No D 18, Khaliq-uz-Zaman Road، Karachi, 75530, Pakistan
Note: Turkish Airlines is considered to be the most pet-friendly airline, even allowing pets in the cabin.
Phone: +92 21 111 310 310
Note: Qatar Airways does not allow Persian cats on board, whether mix-breed or pure-breed.
Pet Documents Needed:
The number of pet documents needed will vary from country to country, but these are the ones that I got ready for my cats to travel to the US.
Also known as the pet passport, this is the most important document required for your pet to travel. Make sure vaccinations are up-to-date and are mentioned in the book. The owner’s contact details, pet breed and microchip number will also be mentioned in the book. Make sure that the owners contact details correspond with whoever is taking the pet abroad. In my case, I was doing the legwork, but my mother’s details were written everywhere.
Note: Certain breeds are not allowed on specific airlines, so be sure of the breed especially if it is a local or mix-breed.
Animal Care Centre – Dr. Isma Gheewala
Address: Khayaban-e-Nishat, D.H.A Phase 6 Phase 6 Defence Housing Authority, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh 75500, Pakistan
Phone: +92 21 35851296
Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y7hp6zbf
This is not an essential requirement for the US, but is required for the government health certificate so best to get it done. I got micro chipping done by Dr. Isma, but this can be done by any vet.
Price: Rs.3000 each.
Rabies Titer Test:
This test again may not be required by all countries, but best to get done. It is conducted by Tabani Diagnostics at Gizri in Karachi. Make sure to take the pet(s) as well as the vaccination booklet as these are required for the final report. The doctor will take a blood sample, and the final report will be ready in about 4 – 5 days.
The US doesn’t require the rabies titer test, but again we thought it best to get done because of the quarantine certificate required later. EU countries and UK require the rabies test, with the added caveat that the sample needs to be sent to an EU/UK approved lab
Price: Rs.6000 each.
Tabanis’ Diagnostic and Medical center
Address: 10th Gizri St, Lower Gizri Gizri, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh, Pakistan. Next to Mehran Flour Mill
Phone: +92 21 35866220
Google Maps: https://email@example.com,66.9774391,12z
This is a certificate stating that the animal is safe and fit for travel. It again requires pet breed and owner contact details, as well as the vaccination records book. This is available from any vet, and I got mine from Dr. Isma.
Note: This is valid for 10 days, so keep travel dates in account when getting it made.
Price: Rs.500 each
This is one of the most difficult parts of the travel procedure as it requires going to the government quarantine department in Nursery Karachi to get the document. Reach the department, and let them know that you want a quarantine certificate. They will give you a challan for Rs.175 each/pet that needs to be deposited in a National Bank of Pakistan branch. They also require a copy of the ticket, passport, NIC of the person taking the pets for travelling purpose as well as the vaccination records, rabies test, and health certificate. Keep two sets of documents just to be on the safe side.
The pets will be examined/seen by a doctor, after which a quarantine certificate will be made. This entire process took me about 3 hours, and that’s why make sure your pets are hydrated and comfortable in the car. The center has a couple of stairs and my cats needed to be bought inside, so keep that in mind. They will also ask for bribes. In my case, I was asked for Rs.9000 then Rs.5000 and then finally Rs.1500 each, that too because that’s all I had in my purse.
This is valid for 7 days, so keep travel dates in account when getting this made finally.
Price: Rs.175 fee challan each and potentially a certain bribe on top of it.
Animal Quarantine Department
Address: Pakistan Employees Co-Operative Housing Society Block 6 PECHS, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh, Pakistan
Phone: +92 21 34552679
Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y8rery2k
Cash for Pet Travel
Pets don’t have a ticket, but they do get charged as baggage and this money is charged at the airline counter in PKR at the current dollar rate. All airlines have their own rates stated on their website. The rate quoted by Qatar Airways was 350 dollars per cat while Turkish Airlines charged us 450 dollars for two cats.
Pet Accessories Needed:
Jet Box/Airline Carrier:
The cage/carrier that the pets travel in need to be IATA approved, and they need to fulfil the requirements mentioned on the airline website. I got my jet box from Dr. Isma, but they can be purchased at PetPal or Paws & Claws in Karachi. It’s best to check them in person to make sure the pet can fit and is able to move around. I had initially gotten two separate carriers for my pets, but Turkish Airlines asked me to get one only, so I exchanged my medium sized carriers for one large carrier. This helped as both cats then travelled together. Policy for two pets being allowed to travel together are available on the airline website.
Price for single jet box was Rs.7000 each, and the large jet box was Rs.15000.
Water & Food Dispenser:
These are available at PetPal and Paws & Claws in Karachi. The water dispenser needs to have a water bottle attached, and any disposable soft drink or water bottle can work. They both need to be put in such a way that water and food can be given from outside the cage. The water dispenser cost us Rs.1000 each, and the food dispenser cost us Rs.700 each.
The pets can of course spoil the cage, so what we did was get disposable sheets from the pharmacy and then put them on floor of the cage in 2-3 layers. Twenty sheets cost us Rs.290.
Make sure to put a personal piece of clothing or anything that has the owners smell in the cage. That will help in calming the pet during air travel.
Once the above items are arranged, it’s also necessary to acclimatize your pet to travel. Make the carrier comfortable, and start putting the pet in it for a few minutes each day, going up to a few hours so it can start getting used to the carrier and not panic when travelling. I would keep the carrier with the door open in my room, and my cats would come and sniff it, and at times even sleep inside of it.
Just before travel, we placed a blank sheet of paper with the word ‘LIVE’ on the cage, along with my mother’s contact details. A set of pet documents is also supposed to be attached as well as pet food. Only dry, not wet as that cause the pet to fall sick or vomit.
Things to be careful of when planning pet air travel:
Do everything yourself and have it in writing. Do NOT hire an agent, unless there is absolutely no option.
We had decided to go for a travel agent for our tickets because we wanted to make sure nothing went wrong. We went to him a month before the planned dates, and our only criteria was an airline that would allow our cats to travel. We gave him all the information, settling on Qatar Airways since it offered us the best rates and also allowed pet travel. One day before the flight, we found out that he didn’t get approval giving us an absurd excuse that the airline refused because it was a local mix-breed cat instead of a pure-breed. Ended up e-mailing Qatar myself, who then told me their policy states that they don’t allow Persians on the plane.
We obviously couldn’t do anything about it as all documents stated that our cats were Persian mix-breeds. So we called up Turkish the next day in a panic.
I was in the phone with Turkish Airlines and they got everything done in a few hours. We just had to go and pay the ticket for our flight the next morning. They told us to keep three sets of all the documents just to be on the safe and that was about it. We could have easily gone to their office directly instead of having to go through a travel agent who didn’t do the one thing we kept on saying again and again.
Make sure that information and approval is received in writing, not verbal.
Even though the travel agent had told me not to worry, everything is settled, I still called up Qatar Airways to check out their procedure. I called them three times, asking if pets are allowed, mentioning the breed, cage dimension and weight of the cats. I also confirmed the price charged for both the cats, and in all cases, they stated clearly that there are no issues with Persian cats. Had they told me on the phone that no, they don’t transport Persians, we would have just booked Turkish Airlines because of course airline policy cannot be changed.
Once I sent them the e-mail, they responded saying no. It made me realize that our travel agent might never e-mailed them in the first place because they would have said no to him too. I would have sent an e-mail earlier but it just slipped my mind in the process of getting the documents for the cats and my own packing. Plus, my travel agent confirmed me on the phone, and so did the Qatar Airways agent. Lesson learnt, and a major reason for writing this blog post is that other people do not have to go through the same issues.
Similarly, try to keep inquiries on e-mail so that there is a record. If there is no response on e-mail, message on social media. Airlines are very active on Twitter and will respond with details that their local team may not know.
Keep a check on vaccination and document validity.
Every country has its own regulations regarding document validity. For instance, we needed to make sure that vaccinations were up to date only, but certain countries require booster shots to be administered within 6 weeks of pet travel.
Documents also have a certain validity. For instance, the health certificate is only valid for 10 days, and it is a pre-requisite for the quarantine certificate, which is only valid for 7 days. The documents need to be made so they are valid with at least a day or two for buffer in case flight gets delayed, or any other issues.
Final Airport Shenanigans:
Coincidentally, my mother and I had planned our flights on the same day so she was going to the US via Turkish Airlines and I was going to Australia via Qatar Airways.
When my mother arrived at the airport, we had to hire a porter because the jet box was huge, and well, the cats caused quite a furor at the airport with many people checking them out. Only the custom people required the documents, but other than that there was no trouble.
At the Turkish counter, my mother received her boarding pass and she was asked to put the pet food inside the carrier only. She filled the containers with water, and then left our cats at the counter. The staff said it doesn’t matter where she keeps the food because no one really feeds the pets. This was a bit upsetting since it’s clearly stated on their website that live pets are checked every hour on the journey.
But in the end it was alright because our cats reached safely to the US. Shaken and scared but safe and healthy. My mother was a bit worried about where to go when collecting cats, but it was quite simple. They just bring them out once all the cargo is removed. No quarantine required.
Lastly, just want to thank the admins of Pet Talk (particularly Sarah J.K) for facilitating a community where pet lovers can discuss their problems. Also want to thank Efaza for writing her experience down and motivating me, and Ali Faisal Zaidi for answering my queries at the last moment.
If you have ever traveled with pets or thinking of travelling with them in the future, do share your experiences in the comments below.