Expat Pet Series - 2 - Welcoming an Expat Pet to the Family
February 2, 2015
I had always wanted a pet but thought our lifestyle deemed it impossible. A lot of thought and research had been done in the year before my afternoon of procrastination (see previous post here: ) to which I discovered you CAN move pets around the World. Although it appears "doing it properly" can involve employing a reputable pet relocation service, which is by no means cheap.
I've listed below what I considered when getting our Expat Pet (or should have in retrospect any way). Obviously, there are the usual lifestyle and financial considerations which are readily available on the internet but the below is to assist serial expats:
1. Cats vs Dog: Whilst I had only ever grown up with cats, we had toyed with getting a dog for a while. If you are thinking about getting a cat as an Expat - I would strongly advise you to have an "indoors cat". This is not cruel, in fact I've known certain adoption companies and breeders to make humans sign agreements to say the cat will never be allowed outside. I say this for many reasons but in short - they are less likely to get injured, lost, involved in a territorial war/fights or car accidents if they live a life of indoor luxury. Bringing all kinds of "presents/rodents" home in your new location could also expose them to diseases they can't be vaccinated for "Like, waaaa? I thought you wanted a diseased lizard in your bed? I picked it out just for you"! Unlike dogs, cats are often left unattended outside, which could leave them vulnerable in changing environments. Unfortunately, I know of an expat that had their cat eaten whole by a snake in their garden - so sad. Personally, I'm just waiting for the day when it is socially acceptable to take cats out on a lead. I saw this in Vancouver the other day but the cat decided it wanted to climb a tree. You know when an umbrella catches the wind the wrong way and sends you flying (without the class of Mary Poppins)? Well, the Owner was frantically holding the lead up so high -it looked like that. Dogs will probably weather the relocation itself better and be more adaptable to change with your love and support. Cats are renowned for their hatred of change but should be okay in their own time once their new palace has been set up and established.
2. For the more untraditional Expat Pet: You'll find most immigration policies tend to focus on cats and dogs without mentioning importing other types of animals for non-commercial reasons. I tend to think that may demonstrate that moving the non traditional pets can be more difficult but let me know your experiences please!
3. Breed: When choosing our puppy I researched breeds and have to admit I thought it as stereotyping so took it all with a pinch of salt. However, after clocking in many hours at the dog park I feel I can say with confidence that the breed characteristics can often be rather spot on (along with good upbringing and training). With cats, you can even find certain breeds that are better suited to indoor life, like Ragdolls for example (see my parents' Ragdolls below, don't be fooled - they are little thugs)
4. Size: This mostly relates to dogs unless you have your heart set on a leopard or tiger but if you are a serial expat the size of the dog may be a consideration. Your homes may differ in size from tincy (such as Paris, New York and Hong Kong) to rather expansive (I haven't had the joy of expansive yet so I leave this one to your own imagination). Also, some airlines/countries will let you take smaller dogs in the cabin with you making relocation or holidays a lot less stressful and cheaper. Landlords will also often be more accommodating to small dogs. Our dog is 7 pounds, which means we've been able to train her to go on an artificial grass patch on our balcony for those really inconveniently timed potty breaks (when going down 25 floors in your Pj's at 6:30am in the pouring rain doesn't seem appealing). I don't think you would want a big dog doing this all over the balcony, her pees are miniscule! That being said, there is absolutely no reason you can't have a larger breed for an expat dog - it just depends on the circumstances.
4. Confident, Independent and Socialised: Relocation will be stressful for your fur baby but trying to give them the tools and attributes to cope with it as best as possible is only fair. I occasionally put our dog in day care to ensure she is well socialised and can happily function without me outside of the home. Vancouver is great as there are a lot of nice dog parks but it is incredibly important to expose & socialise them with other dogs as early as possible. Try to introduce them to lots of different sounds and experiences in a controlled manner (such as heavy road traffic, travelling in the car or spending time in a doggy carrier while shopping). As an example, we felt our pup could cope with a firework display so took her along, she enjoyed a lovely walk along the seawall with lots of cuddles and treats throughout the display, which made it into a positive experience. I should have crate trained our dog so she won't find the aircraft crate so daunting but it just didn't work for us. As you know, cats have their own life rules and principals so this absolutely does not apply to them.
5. Obedience (bah ha ha again - not applicable to cats): I found that the puppy training courses were not for the dogs but actually to educate owners on how to train their doggies outside the course. Changing relocations, situations and cultures may mean you need to depend on your dog's behaviour more. Be consistent and put the hours in - every single minute spent training together will pay off in the future. I promise.
6. Multiplied Expense and Effort: In addition to the cost of the relocation, you will find it may cost more money having an expat pet. For example, pet insurance may vary or be unavailable in different locations; your pet may have a pre existing medical condition that the new insurer in your country will not covere. Vet bills also vary drastically across different countries, as do shelters, walkers and catteries. Relocation is hard enough, especialy when you have Children but your devoted pet deserves a great deal of consideration and help through the change too.
Of course, I couldn't resist putting ina picture of my little baby above. Have you got an Expat Pet? What would you add to this list of considerations for getting and raising an Expat Pet?
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