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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moving Elderly, Sick Pets

Nathalia send me this email...

I have two elderly cats, one is approaching 18 and the other 16.5. My 16 year old is epileptic and receives medication 3 times a day. She has been seizure free for about 4 months, but they can start up at any time…or so has been the case since they began about six years ago. My 18 year old is healthy, although the vet tells me she is in stage 1 or 2 of chronic kidney disease.
I am moving to New Zealand in August. I have begun preparations for moving the girls, but my vet suggested that I leave them behind because she did not think they could withstand the flight from Indianapolis to Auckland (flying cargo for most of the flight), plus being quarantined for 30 days in New Zealand upon arrival. (she was worried about my 16 year old going long stretches of time without her medication)
I am really torn about what to do. I could break the trip up, at least from Indy to LAX to give the girls a few days of rest before the long cargo flight. And from what I gather, I could visit them in quarantine and they would take care of administering medications.
I do have family members who have agreed to adopt my girls, but I’m devastated by the thought and have been trying to figure out what kind of impact that would have on them, as opposed to the stressful move with me. Do you have any thoughts on this?
I would tend to agree with your vet that this might be too much for kitties.  Stress is one of the things that can induce a seizure, and you won't be able to give medications while your epileptic kitty is flying across the Pacific.  I'm also not sure how comfortable you would be putting the care of old, less-than-healthy cats in the hands of a stranger for a month.  This would be a very, very hard trip on them physically, and though they might make it through just fine, I believe that there is an equal chance of having problems.  Going to live with some of your family members would also be stressful, but I don't think that it would be quite as bad as such a long international trip.
I know that this is an extremely difficult decision, and it's hard to leave such life-long partners.  As tough as it is, this is a time to put aside your own feelings and look at what's best for your cats.  Unfortunately, there is no guarantee either way, as they could do fine traveling with you and have problems back with family.  But I do think that the odds are best for them by staying in the US.  If they were younger and healthy, I wouldn't have any qualms about them traveling so far, but that's not the case here. 
In the end it's a matter of better or worse odds and not a black-and-white issue.  If you feel that you can't be without them and that they are so bonded to you that they'd suffer away from you, then it might be worthwhile to take the risk of travel.
Good luck with your decision!


  1. Why do they have to fly cargo? With them being cats, can't you take them on the plane with you and fly them as carry-on?

  2. I agree with the previous comment...I've traveled with my pet in the cabin...I would consider calling the airline and checking with them about your may still be hard on your kitties because any flight is stressful for pets but at least they will be right there and you can watch them. Hope all turns out well!

  3. its a tough one - no matter which route you take it will be stressful for your elderly cats. If you leave them with relatives they will be stressed in their new surroundings and with new people. If you bring them they will be stressed on the aircraft whether in the cabin or in the hold and when they get to somewhere new they will be stressed even if you are with them. My sister moved up the road from where she used to live and both her cats were really traumatised by the move even though their territory as such was the same as they could still travel back to their old dwelling - it took them at least 12 months to settle in their new home and they were young cats. No matter what you do it won't be ideal. I wish you the best with a very tough decision.

  4. thanks for the comments...unfortunately, New Zealand does not allow pets to fly in the cabin, when they are coming from other countries. Same goes for the UK, and some other places. I would also have to hire a pet transport company to arrange the trip to the cargo section of the plane, which means I wouldn't be around the girls for close to 20 hours. I appreciate the well wishes! Nathalia.

  5. Nathalia,
    What a heartbreaking choice you are faced with! Unfortunately, I strongly believe if you take them on this trip you are facing a high probability that one or both of your cats won't survive this ordeal.

    I know there are warnings about pets needing to be healthy to travel in cargo. Please google this because even seemingly healthy pets die in cargo all too often.

    Thirty days of quarrantine would also be extrememly stressful so even if your cats could travel in the cabin this would be risky.

    Lastly, I have a cat with kidney disease and by the time it is diagnosed, 2/3 - 3/4 of kidney function is lost. Stress is one of the worst things for these cats and can easily trigger a "crash" where there is a very sudden decline of kidney function requiring emergency care, hospitalization and IV fluids. Dehydration is already an issue w/kidney disease and plane travel is very dehydrating. On top of that it's likely that they won't eat enough both on the plane and in quarrantine which can trigger all sorts of other major problems. I'm very surprised they would even accept your kitties w/their health issues.

    I can't imagine having to leave my furbaby behind but please think how you'd feel if one or both don't survive the trip. Would the family member who agreed to adopt them provide a loving home for them? One thing that helped my cat adjust to moving was to bring her to the new place several times beforehand for "visits". Starting them w/access to only one room is also a must. Also, if they already know this person that's a bonus and either way s/he can also make some pre-move visits to you and your cats on their turf to build trust/familiarity etc.

    Good luck Nathalia, I really feel for you.

  6. Couldnt agree more with that, very attractive article



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