Friday, March 18, 2011

The Cat Who Went to Abu Dhabi

Rogue is our almost 5 year old farm kitty and she just arrived in Abu Dhabi last night after her international flight from Chicago, through Amsterdam and then on to Abu Dhabi. Shipping a pet is not for the feint of heart and we hemmed and hawed about whether to put her through it for months before we finally made the decision to go ahead. The process requires time, money, patience and a leap of faith that people you've never met will care for your cat like you would. Now, having her here safe and sound and seemingly unscathed, we're glad we did it.

I started out doing some research on line and found tons of information, which actually made it harder than easier. There were some conflicting pieces of info and it was hard to find specific, clear instructions on what it would actually take to get her over here. I did quickly find out that UAE does not require a quarantine period, which was a huge factor in our decision making process. It was also very clear that she would need all her shots updated and a microchip, so I decided to start there and made an appointment with our vet.

On the way to the vet, Rogue cried and screamed (yes, screamed - I now know where the term caterwauling comes from!) the whole way there, and I thought, "what are we planning to do to this poor little kitty?" Once at the vet, she calmed down and handled her shots and the microchip like the little bruiser she is. Surprisingly, the vet had helped prepare a number of animals for shipping, but none to the Middle East so they weren't clear on the details. They did, however, put me in touch with the US Dept of Agriculture where I could get additional information.

At this point, I had connected with an American Vet clinic here in Abu Dhabi, so knew I had the receiving process under control. They were very helpful and informed of the microchip requirement and the paperwork I would need to obtain. The challenge was time zone - it seemed to take forever to get responses back and forth. I also got more info from the USDA and figured out I would need a health certificate for Rogue that is only valid for 10 days once issued.  Finally, it became clear that I would need to hire a pet shipper on the US side to handle the documentation and airline arrangements. Originally, I thought I might be able to manage this myself, but many airlines won't even allow it and require you go through a pet shipper. Let's just say the shippers on both ends were worth every penny (and we paid them a lot of pennies. :)

I got in contact with a shipper in Chicago (the closest to Madison) and she clinched the decision with her reassurance and obvious experience and love of animals. Within 5 minutes, I found out she had just shipped out another cat to Abu Dhabi and does it 1-2 times per month and had the details down pat. I was convinced, and Rogue was destined to be an international kitty. The best news is that the shipper was able to take care of the final health certificate and all the other last minute paperwork as well as flight arrangements and boarding in Chicago. This meant we didn't have to burden my in-laws with all that running around. They were already doing enough by keeping her for 2 months ... and putting up with cat hair everywhere, cleaning cat litter and everything else having a pet in the house entails. We can't thank them enough and are soooo grateful for their help!!

The shipper picked Rogue up from my in-laws in Belleville and then stopped in Madison to pick up another cat making the same trip. Another Epic employee was also shipping her cat and we used the same shipper and decided to do it at the same time. The cats then stayed in Chicago for 2 days while they got examined by the vet there and issued their health certificates. We got updates from the shipper each day and while Rogue was initially a little upset she seemed to calm down and by the time it was time for the first leg of the journey, she seemed comfortable in her crate and ready to go. (Thanks again to 'grandpa' who helped her get used to her crate by feeding her bits of canned salmon in there! ;) She was off to Amsterdam and we were left to wait and worry.

While I don't have any specifics about how she was in Amsterdam, the plan was that they have a long enough layover that the kitties can get out of their crates, get some food and water and have all their bedding changed. When Rogue arrived, her crate bedding was neat and clean, so I'm guessing the plan was exactly what happened. After a brief rest, they were off to Abu Dhabi.

The cats are required to travel as Cargo, and I don't even want to think about what that means, but we had heard that this Thursday flight was preferred as the handler's 'knew what they were doing' and took good care of the animals. When Rogue arrived in Abu Dhabi, our shipper on this end received her and sorted out all the paperwork. Come to find out, the paperwork that was supposed to arrive from Amsterdam with the cats, didn't, so the process took another hour to negotiate and our shipper has to go back to the airport today to finish up the process. Luckily, they didn't keep Rogue at the airport until this was sorted out!!

And then she was here. A little skittish and scared, but not upset or panicked. She got out of her crate right away and started exploring the apartment. A few irate meows, but some purrs too. She poked around for about an hour I would guess and then I headed to bed (it was after 1am by that time). This morning she was sleeping with us on the bed and currently, she's next to me watching me type. Seems to be a little quiet, but otherwise doing well. We'll keep an eye on her to make sure she uses the litter box and starts eating, but I think in a few days she'll start to trust that the ordeal is over and be back to her sassy self in no time.


  1. Glad she made it safe and sound, Renee! Those critters are more resilient than we sometimes give them credit for. Enjoy her! Nancy

  2. I've had to do international health certificates also. I'm the only one in our office willing, cause they can be a pain. The USDA only gives guidelines because they don't want to interfere or go against the country of destination guidelines. They give you suggestions of who to contact, but since the rules seem to undergo change with some frequency and language barriers and different countries of origin it can still be difficult to get all the correct info extracted easily. Also, the 10 days for the health certificate includeds getting it delivered to and signed/stamped by USDA office and returned back to travel with the pet. Seriously, a pain and numerous phone calls. Glad Rogue made it ok and even more glad they didn't hang her up at the airport in Amsterdam because of paperwork problems!

  3. Thanks a bunch for sharing Rogues adventures to Abu Dhabi. It is possible that my kitty will be taking a similar plunge, and your story has given my husband and I a pretty clear idea of what to anticipate. Thanks again. I will be checking back for more updates on Abu Dhabi Adventures!!!