This past Monday, my kitties, Marco and Cairo, and I finally arrived in Austria. After some crazy last minute preparation and a long day of travelling, we were so happy to reach our new home. I decided to post about this experience instead of the myriad of other things that happened the week leading up to the move and now this first week we all spent in Austria. I hope it will be more informative for all my readers and that you enjoy our story. Updates on what we’ve been doing are forthcoming in new posts!
Most of the information I would place in this section will actually have it’s own dedicated post that I will do separately, solely regarding the “requirements” presented by the USDA for American’s interested in travelling with their pets to foreign countries.
As with any successful preparation, you need to start early. First, contact your veterinarian at least two months ahead of time to let them know that you will be traveling with your pet. Depending on vaccinations needed, you might really need this time to get everything done and satisfy any requisite waiting periods. If your vet is not familiar with the requirements, you’ll need to do your own research and educate them on what your pets need from them. Speaking with the vet also allows you to prepare for any prescriptions, tests or tranquilizers your pet will need during the trip and while abroad. Keep a file for each pet so you have this information and prescriptions readily available. As for tranquilizers, I received a prescription from my vet for one, but after discussing it with my boyfriend and family, I decided to only use in on an if-needed basis. I knew my cats were great travelers after driving with them in the car two hours to visit my parents most weekends. However, if you think you might need to use medication to keep your pet comfortable, you might want to test it out on them before the journey to see how they react.
Second, let the airline know that you will be travelling with your pet (what kind of pet, how many, etc.). You’ll need to find out what, if any, requirements they have regarding this. It doesn’t hurt to go online as well and print out any information to back up what they tell you so that you have something in writing in case you have issues at check in.
Third, get the appropriate carrier for your pet(s) to be contained in during the travel. I bought two soft carriers, one for Marco, one for Cairo. To get them comfortable with their carriers, I left them out in the house so they could explore and smell them and also used them on several car trips before the big day. This is essential as they will be stuck in these carriers for a very long period of time so you want them to feel like they are safe there and they have familiar smells and toys or padding in there.
Thirdly, prepare for the worst. I had toys, treats, food, wipe pads, paper towels, water, dishes and other things in case we had an unexpected layover, potty issues, etc. Use your imagination. Luckily, this time, we had no issues and I didn’t need any of these items.
Luckily, our friends were able to drive us all to the airport in my car so for the first hour of the journey the cats were in familiar territory and could stay relaxed. Once we got out of the car in the departures area, it was pretty warm out and we had to get all our luggage out. Despite their first exposure to bustling travel, the cats were pretty good during this time. Marco cried a little bit but Cairo was quiet and seemed calm. We proceeded with check in and to security. During security we had to take each cat out of the carrier and hold them while we walked through a metal detector. My boyfriend held Cairo and I held Marco. They behaved pretty well and we made it through. They were happy to go right back into the shelter of their carriers after that.
Getting settled on the airplane was interesting. We had to be strategic about it as we each had to hold a cat in their carrier on our lap the whole time. Meals and bathroom breaks were actually welcome to me as we got to switch up and stretch our legs. During take off (and landing) we had to place the cats in their carriers on the ground “under our seats” (which didn’t totally happen because it was cramped down there). I think this was a bit scary for the kitties as they didn’t have our hands in their comforting them and it was probably loud and they felt all the movement being on the ground. They didn’t complain however and we picked them up as soon as we could.
Overall, the flight attendants and everyone on the plane made no issue of the cats. Some people seemed interested, especially kids, and were looking in at them. During the flight as we got comfortable and my boyfriend and I each tried to catch some sleep and watch movies during the time warp that is sitting in coach on a trans Atlantic night flight, the cats were mostly asleep as well. We each were pretty good about opening the carriers just enough to stick our hand or hands in to pet them or just leave our hand there for comfort and calmness. The cats didn’t really take advantage and try to get out of their carriers, for the most part. Cairo at one point did get restless and kept coming out. Luckily, my boyfriend was able to keep him at least on his lap and in between us. We were all under a blanket that I put over our heads and laps so we could have some semblance of darkness and calm. Since Marco was stretching while he was asleep, his whole head and neck were out one end of his carrier resting on my arm and Cairo actually took advantage of this and cuddled up to him. It was too freaking cute.
We arrived in Vienna (finally!!) and had to go through immigration and another security checkpoint. Immigration was a breeze. My boyfriend took both cats just in case questions were asked as he is a citizen of Austria. The official didn’t say a word to me or him. At security, we had a choice. We could leave the cats in their carriers and put them through the security conveyor thought the x-ray machine or we could carry them over to a separate checkpoint and go through a metal detector. However, with this option we also would have had to subject the cats to a physical exam by an airport official. We thought this was going to be a waste of precious time (we had a connection to catch) and also the cats would not like to be subjected to a physical poking and prodding by someone they don’t know. They went through the conveyor and it was fine, no issues. We went on our merry way to our next gate which was a connecting flight to Salzburg and would only be a 35 minute flight.
The next flight was a bit much. We had to walk out on the tarmac to the airplane and walk up the stairs to the cabin. It was very warm out and the AC on the plane was not working properly. Marco was overheated and panting. I felt so bad for him and we tried to fan him off, remove the padding from the bottom of the carrier and I gave him some water on his lips. He became cooler as we ascended and seemed to be better. However, take off and landing of that flight was just something to get through. We were so happy when we landed and could step out of the plane into the fresh air.
After that flight, we were able to quickly get our bags and into the car of my boyfriend’s mom and on our way home. It was about a 30 minute drive through the mountains which was again taxing on the cats. I let them come out of their carriers a bit more but also hoped that they wouldn’t get motion sick from the curvy mountain roads!
The new digs:
We let the cats out as soon as we got in the front door. We quickly set them up in the bedroom with food, water and litterbox so that they could explore one room and not be overwhelmed with all the other areas of the apartment. While I was half dead, they seemed to have a renewed energy as they wanted to sniff everything and explore every corner of their new place. I passed out into a deep 5 hour nap shortly after we got home and ate and showered. During that time, my boyfriend brought his cat Yoda (only a month younger than Marco and Marco’s former roommate- more on this later;)), back home after Yoda was staying with his parents while my boyfriend was in Florida for the past two weeks. He told me later that everyone sniffed each other and proceeded with establishing the hierarchy of the house. Apparently Marco hissed at Yoda and Yoda hissed at Cairo. So there you have it. Cairo is the youngest at 8 months. Marco is just over 2 years old and so is Yoda.
This week the cats have really come into their own and seem very happy. Everyone is getting along great and playing. Marco loves that he figured out Yoda’s cat door to the patio likes to spend time out there. They all seem to have their favorite “spots” in each room. They love the fresh air when we have the windows open. They are still my little shadows and like to follow us into the rooms where we are hanging out. They like to sleep in bed and cuddle.
Overall, this travel experience to Austria has been a success. It was a hard and long day for us all but I’m glad we are all here together and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France