Especially this time of year, animal shelters and rescue organizations are in desperate need of foster parents for kittens as they become overwhelmed with the number of young animals needing help. Without foster parents kittens are turned away to accept whatever fate awaits them or are euthanized in large numbers. When foster parents give them a safe haven they set them up to be healthy and adoptable animals. Foster homes free up a shelter’s resources and space so that other animals may be helped.
I hear from people that fostering is a great idea but they couldn’t then give them up and I understand this. A few years ago I was at a farm near my favorite fruit stand. I noticed a box and started hearing noises coming from it. I was told that someone had just “dropped” it off. I looked down at four dusty and hungry kittens and thought “The last thing I need right now are 4 kittens/I cannot leave them there.” So instead of coming home with peaches, filberts, strawberries and honey in my shopping bag, I came home with The Farmstand Kittens – Peach, Filbert, Strawberry and Honey in a dirty cardboard box. Once at home, I prepared meals and a bubble bath for each. I had no idea that in 4 weeks time they would grow up to be the worst furry heart thieves I would ever meet.

The kittens grew up sweet and healthy. When they would see me they would race across the room to climb up my leg, purring furiously. Or they would pile up on my lap and nap for hours. In the afternoons I would set up a puppy pen in the garden and let them play and explore. I grew incredibly attached to them and them to me.

I’d like to say when the day came to take them to the local shelter to be adopted I congratulated myself for a doing a great job and packed them up to take back, albeit with a little sadness. But no, instead of that experienced animal rescue person who had done this before, I became a blubbering, crying, snorting, hiccupping, emotional mess. I would decide to pack them up and take them in and then one second later “No! I’m keeping everyone of them!” Finally with the help of supportive Facebook messages, emails, tweets, text messages and phone calls I was able to take them to the shelter. All four kittens were adopted within a day of returning to the shelter and being spayed or neutered.

It was not easy to say good bye but I would have felt much worse NOT fostering them and wondering what kind of life they would have had as stray cats. And when I get the next call that there are more kittens to foster, I’ll forget for a while the hard part and I will race to get all my supplies ready to welcome a new little bunch of furry heart thieves.

Pikachu the rescued cat.This is Pikachu. We found him in an island at the center of a busy street in Makati’s central business district, taking shelter inside a covered spotlight that is used to light up the monument standing in that island. My husband spotted him when he crossed that island walking back to our house from the mall. And as always, we have no idea how he managed to get himself at the center. My husband imagined that it will only take a little time before the kitten becomes desperate for food and water that it will dare to cross the busy street with lots of speeding vehicles, and then get hit and die. This kitten was very challenging to catch. The first time, it wouldn’t come out behind the spotlight so it was quite difficult to get to him without hurting our eyes. We can’t exactly see where he is hiding so my husband just left food and water for him to get through the night – and day for that matter, because the second attempt was the next evening.

The next evening, I came with him to help again. We tried to lure him with food, and eventually he stepped out. As soon as we grabbed him and tried to put it in the cat carrier, I don’t know how he did it but he somehow escaped my hand and jumped out – went back to the spotlight. That’s when we realized, we should call him Pikachu, from a Japanese anime Pokemon – because he’s a pain to catch. Again, we left food and water to get him through another day.

And so the next evening again, we came back with the hopes that he is still there. This time, it was still quite early in the evening so we kinda attracted some attention from security men roaming around the area. They were wondering what we are doing in the monument. Fortunately, after explaining that we need to get a stray kitten out, they tried their best to help out too. They even tried to check if they can radio someone who have access to the spotlight, since the spotlight is enclosed and is locked. They weren’t successful in unlocking it, but at least they were there to give us moral support. Eventually, Pikachu came out to get his food and we were able to catch him.

Pikachu sleeping

He was scared at the beginning, but it took only a little time before he was able to socialize with our cats. He immediately became friends with Sylvia. Other than being dirty and dehydrated, Pikachu was a healthy kitten. Eventually, we found him a good home to care for him. He is now living with other cats in a farm.

Pikachu and Sylvia chilling out on bed. This photo was taken the day Pikachu was adopted. Just like our other rescues that's been adopted, we miss him dearly. But we are happy to know he have a family to care for him.
Pikachu and Sylvia chilling out on bed. This photo was taken the day Pikachu was adopted. Just like our other rescues that’s been adopted, we miss him dearly. But we are happy to know he have a family to care for him.






(Quick links to Part 1 and Part 2)

Now that you have prepared the document requirements and tests to get your beloved cat in European Union, the final step is how will you fly them out.

Although I read about pet shipping services, I chose to fly with them in the same aircraft. The first thing I researched is for a reputable airline. Here are some factors I considered when I chose the airline to travel with my pets:

  • Choose an airline that has good reviews in terms of pet handling.
  • Choose an airline that has more direct route to your destination. In my opinion, I’d rather have them move once to the aircraft, and then disembark only once, rather than have a number of connecting flight which means they will be moved/handled more than once that can cause more stress for the animals. This also makes me paranoid of losing them, like how you lose baggages.
  • Choose an airline with a comprehensive pet policy. This was very important for me to see how much documentation they have when flying with pets because this kinda gives me a feeling that the airline really cares and is serious of the safety of your pet while in transit. This gives me peace of mind.
  • Be prepared of the costs. The cost depends on the destination. But from Philippines to The Netherlands, I paid $200 per pet.
Lottie on top of his airline approved carrier.

I chose KLM Royal Dutch Airline because by far, they have good reviews in pet handling, as well as they have the most comprehensive pet policy I’ve found in the web. They even have a video about how they take care of the pet in transit and their pet hotels if you have a long lay over before your next flight. Besides, I’ve been a KLM customer and I’ve never been disappointed by this airline. I was happy with how organized the staff were the moment we stepped in to the airport till our destination.

When you get your airline figured out, make sure you understand their policy to avoid delays. It is very important to read the airline’s pet policy to avoid delays and further stress, so make sure you comply with everything they have stated in their pet policy documentation which should cover everything that you need. Some pointers:

a. Prepare your documents. Photocopy them beforehand. I made 2 copies of each document so that there’s no need to get them photocopied in the airport to avoid delays. Contact your airline for how many copies you need to make things faster when it’s time to fly.
b. Keep your original copies with you. Photocopies are left in a pouch attached to your pet kennel.

It is also important that you call your airline to make the arrangement for your pet prior to your flight. I did the arrangement a month  before our flight to make sure that they have a reserved space for my pets. Most airlines have limited slots for pets so it’s better to get them reserved.

Note that there are airlines that allows pet in cabin, and some that doesn’t. If you plan to take your cat in the cabin, check if the airline allows it. Usually, if they allow pet in cabin, the requirement is to have a carrier that can fit under the seat. There is also a weight requirement which should be stated in their pet policy documentation. If your pet is big, you might want to consider checking in your pet as a baggage because it’s not only that the airline will reject the pet in the cabin, but it will also be uncomfortable for your pet to stay in a small carrier for a long flight.

If you are checking in your pets as a baggage, there are also a number of things you have to comply with. To give you an idea:

a. Your kennel/carrier must be made of rigid plastic with a metal door.
b. If your kennel have wheels, you have to remove it.
c. There should be 2 bowls attached in the carrier, or one bowl with 2 compartments for food and water.
d. Your pet must be able to stand with head erected, and can turn around comfortably inside the kennel.
e. You need an absorbent material on the flooring of your carrier such as news paper or a small blanket. I used dry pads (like flat diapers) so in case they pee, it will be absorbed.
f. The door locks must be secured, but padlocks are not allowed.
g. Don’t sedate your cat/dog.
h. 1 pet per kennel.
i. Kennel must be properly ventilated, with small holes on the sides (which normally pet carriers have anyways).

The airline-approved pet carrier we used to transport the Pupicats to EU. It's made up of rigid plastics with a secured metal door and screws.
The airline-approved pet carrier we used to transport the Pupicats to EU. It’s made up of rigid plastics with a secured metal door and screws.
Pan trying to model how perfectly and comfortably fitting it is inside her carrier.
Pan trying to model how perfectly and comfortably fitting it is inside her carrier.

I got this information from KLM Royal Dutch Airline website. Please feel free to visit their site by clicking this link for more detailed checklist.

I’m extremely happy that I was able to get all my 6 cats safe and sound to EU. Like I always say, it is indeed a lot of work, but it doesn’t need to be stressful. If you have an ample time to plan, and you are equipped with the information you need, it will go smoothly. All it takes is determination :). As for me, my  cats are my family. I love them to death and they are worth all my hard work. I could not imagine myself leaving them behind, get them adopted or whatever, all because I need to move my life some place else. They are part of my family now, and you don’t leave family behind. I’m all they’ve got. We now continue our happy lives in a lovely city, Berlin.

After Nishi’s rescue, I have become more compassionate towards strays. In a few months of raising Nishi, it felt like the experience have opened my eyes in such a way that I see the strays more often than I used to. I know they were there even before, but I was disconnected then, and oblivious to the stray population problem.

My husband is a runner and usually does his training in the middle of the night when road traffic dies down and crowd has mellowed. One night he came back saying he heard a crying cat somewhere along his route but couldn’t find where it’s coming from. He said he just gave up because it might be inside a building or a compound where he couldn’t access anyways.

The next evening, he trained again and went to the same route. Surprisingly, he heard the same cry. The cat has been crying for 24 hours now. He tried to look for it once more, as it bothered him so much that this cat has been in the same spot in the last 24 hours, miserable and crying. Finally, he found this little gray tabby kitten at the corner of some Jewish church. He called me up and I immediately went with food and water.

Patrick was confined in the vet clinic. His eyes were filled with mucus due to a respiratory infection. He couldn't open them up.
Patrick was confined in the vet clinic. His eyes were filled with mucus due to a respiratory infection. He couldn’t open them up.

The kitten’s eyes were shut and full of discharge. It was also skinny and very filthy. It was a very scared kitty. I offered it some food. We couldn’t make up our minds what to do with the kitten. Obviously, in his condition, he will not survive on his own. The condo we were living in doesn’t allow pets and Nishi is already a secret. It is also close to impossible to sneak the tabby kitten because it just won’t stop crying. But we also did not have the heart to leave it like that, knowing that he will never make it by himself. We ended up driving to the 24 hour vet clinic and had the kitten treated, and then boarded him for the night.

It was St. Patrick’s day, and so we named him Patrick. It turned out that Patrick is suffering from a respiratory infection. After a week of being confined and treated in the vet clinic, we smuggled Patrick in the condo. We figured, Nishi could use a company. It wasn’t easy introducing the two to each other, but eventually, they loved each other.

We isolated Patrick for a few days just to make sure he's free from infection. Nishi tirelessly guarded this "new creature", watching its every move.
We isolated Patrick for a few days just to make sure he’s free from infection. Nishi tirelessly guarded this “new creature”, watching its every move.
Patrick and Nishi
Nishi was jealous for quite some time but eventually grew affection towards Patrick. To this day, Patrick is the only cat that Nishi will play with. Nishi doesn’t like cats so much, but Patrick’s an exception.
Patrick the beautiful boy
With lots of love and care, Patrick grew up to be a sweet baby boy. His eyes are so crossed he looks so adorable.
Patty is a gentle and a very smart cat. He loves to talk too! He would talk to you when you call his name – even when he sleeps.
Patrick, trying to be a model.

We recently sold the cat crates we used to bring the Pupicats in Germany because it’s just too big for normal use. Besides, we aren’t moving anywhere anytime soon. As much as I want to keep all of it, we are also running out of storage space. 5 huge crates takes a whole lot of space.

We got a cooler carrier to replace it instead – a deluxe pet travel carrier back pack with wheels! I know that winter is far from being over, but I’m so looking forward to use this and take my cats to the park once the weather is favorable. Well, it can only fit one – and I can only carry one anyways so they have to take turns. We can do by seniority, or if they can, they can try paper – scissors – stone (bato-bato pik in Filipino), and whoever wins go first.

Mark, sporting the pet carrier back pack while Nishi is inside, wondering what the hell is going on.
Mark, sporting the pet carrier back pack while Nishi is inside, wondering what the hell is going on.
Pupicat and Trolley
Everyone’s sort of curious with their new carrier. Everyone wants to give it a try.

(Quick link to Part 1)

Nishi, waiting for her connecting flight in Schiphol Airport, NL.
Nishi, waiting for her connecting flight in Schiphol Airport, NL.

One of the EU’s requirements for your cat to enter the EU territories coming from third countries that doesn’t have favorable rabies conditions is the rabies anti-body titration test, also known as the Rabies Titer Test.

So what is a rabies titer test? There are numerous articles online that explains what a rabies titer test is and they can really go technical I often find myself lost. But in layman’s term (and a very shallow definition :P), it’s basically a blood test that measures your pet’s immunity to rabies virus.

Rabies titer test must be done by an EU approved testing laboratory. Unfortunately, the Philippines doesn’t have one. To get this done, here are my recommendations:

a. Get assistance from a veterinary clinic that has experience with pet export/travel.

– Although I believe that every veterinarian knows the process of rabies titer test and where to get it, I strongly recommend to go with a veterinary clinic that has expertise or experience on pet travel, just to make sure that everything is correctly done. This is by far, the easiest route.

b. Get ready for the costs.
– The titer test is something you should really plan ahead because not only that it takes time, this is also not cheap. In 2012, Animal House Veterinary clinic in Jupiter St. Makati, estimated the cost of PHP20,000.00 (about EUR326.00) for each cat, and may even give you a discount if you have a second cat. I’m not entirely sure if this covers everything, but I would advice that you call and inquire what is covered in their package. I didn’t spend much time researching which vet clinic to go with and what their rates are but Animal House is by far the most reasonable and I’m comfortable with since all my cats were taken care by them since the day I rescued them.

So why is it so expensive? Consider the following process:
(A special note though, I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the following process if your vet clinic supports it. Please check with your vet clinic if all of these are covered by they package price.)

a. The vet extracts the blood from your cat and make a serum from it as the specimen they will send out to the EU accredited testing laboratory.
b. The serum needs to be in an airline and laboratory approved container.
c. The serum also needs to be inside a specialized box, approved by airline and laboratory, with a specialized dry ice that can last for 3-5 days to maintain the temperature of the sample/s so as not to spoil/contaminate it.
d. The sample/s has to be shipped overnight, or the fastest they can get, with a reputable shipping company.
e. The vet clinic arranges and pays the testing fee of the accredited laboratory.
f. The vet clinic also shoulders the fees for certificates and export forms needed to get the samples out of the country.
g. When the results are out, it will be sent to the clinic.
h. Eventually, when you are ready to fly, the vet clinic prepares your document requirements (Health certificates, export permit, EU pet export forms).

In my case, I have 6 cats to fly out so it doesn’t seem to be cost effective to take the PHP20,000 package as I thought it would be cheaper if I do it my way. Meaning, I took care of getting the airline approved containers, arranged the lab tests in Australia (there are closer EU approved labs btw) and shipping. Nevertheless, the vet clinic (Animal House) still played a vital role in this process because they were the ones to extract the blood and get me the permits necessary to ship out the samples. They also assisted me with the document requirements when we are finally ready to ship out.

Some important information about rabies titer test that may be handy for you:

1. Your pet must have a microchip first before carrying out the rabies titer test. This is for identification and documentation purposes of the certificate. I was required to get this done first before the titer test.

2.  Rabies titer test results doesn’t expire. Once it’s done and you passed, it’s done – provided that your cat’s vaccination is always up to date. So never skip a vaccination. And, keep the original rabies titer test certificate please ;).

3. The rabies titer test should be carried out at least 30 days after vaccination and 3 months before the move. I find this part somewhat confusing so I’d like to elaborate on this.

  • If your pet’s anti-rabies vaccination is not yet overdue, you can carry out the blood test. Re-vaccination before the blood test is not necessary since technically, the previous vaccination isn’t expired yet. You don’t really need to worry about failing the test provided that your pet gets his/her vaccines regularly with no lapse. But if you are in doubt, asking the vet is always the best thing to do.
  • If your pet was just vaccinated, you need to wait at least 30 days from vaccination date before you can extract blood for rabies titer testing.
  • Rabies titer test must be carried out at least 3 months before you move. Meaning, even if you have the titer test results, you can’t just fly out right away. You need to wait 3 months from the date of the test before you can fly to EU. I’m not sure what’s the waiting time for, but that’s their policy.

4. Rabies titer test must be done by an EU – approved laboratory. I went with AAHL in Australia, but I then figured there were a number of accredited labs in South Korea and in Japan.

If you want to read more about EU’s requirements for pets coming from a thirdcountry with unfavorable rabies conditions, please visit their site here.

Now on to part 3.

Every time I think about our great move to EU (Germany, for that matter) this year, it always makes me feel accomplished and relieved. And no, it’s not about me moving myself and my life here. It is because we managed to bring our 6 beloved cats with us, in one trip, from one side of the world to another.

Traveling with your pets can be really stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. You just need to be organized, well-informed, and of course, plan carefully. I’d like to share my experience and write it as informative, concise and as simple as I can with the hopes that it will help you have an idea of what to take care of in the event that you want to move or travel with your pets to EU.

Nishi in the plane, sneaking out of her carrier.
Nishi in the plane, sneaking out of her carrier.

Because I want to be as informative as I can, this blog entry will be divided in 3 parts:

Part 1 – Cat Document Requirements.
Part 2 – The Rabies Titer Test.
Part 3 – Basic Airline Requirements and Choosing Your Airline.

A special note though; I’ll be writing about my experience moving my cats from the Philippines to EU (Germany). Every county have their own animal import/export rules and regulation and this blog entry will be particularly about EU countries. 

Paperworks/Documents Required:

1. A Pet Microchip.
– This is not a document, but this is one of the requirements. Your cat should have a microchip installed. This can be done by your local veterinarian.

2. A Rabies Titer Test Certificate (Rabies anti-body titration test)
– Your cat’s blood sample has to be tested by an EU-approved rabies serology laboratory. Unfortunately, there’s no accredited laboratory that can perform this in the Philippines. You can get the list of accredited laboratory here. Note that they have to pass.

3. Your cat’s vaccination card.
– Anti-rabies vaccine is a requirement for your pet to enter EU. Your cat’s vaccination card will serve as a proof of anti-rabies vaccine that your cat had. Make sure that your cat’s vaccination is up to date.

4. Health Certificate.
– This is issued by your local veterinarian/veterinary clinic.

5. Export permit from Bureau of Animal Industry.
– This can be taken care of your local veterinary clinic.  The export permit is only valid for 10 days. I suggest that you process this together with the vet’s health certificate a few days before you leave. In my experience, it only took a day to process this. I took care of this 5 days before our departure.

6. EU’s Pet Import Certificate form.
– This should be filled out by your veterinarian. I took care of this together with the Health Certificate and Export Permit so they are all dated together. You can get the form here.

If you want to personally check the EU’s requirements, you can read more from European Commission website.

Now, on to Part 2.