Hello, hello! Welcome to part 2, what is meant to be the feline-focused post, on “Our Cross-Country Border-Crossing Extravaganza”. Here, I will be talking all about our week-and-a-half long road trip, totaling a little over 55 hours on the road, crossing into the US from Canada with two kitty cats. Just a quick disclaimer, as always: I’m not a veterinarian (or a lawyer) and can’t answer any specific questions to your case or to your pets’ needs. I’m just here to share a brief snapshot of how we successfully pulled off a once-in-a-lifetime road trip, traveling across Canada, to immigrate to the US with our two kitty babes.
If you’re new to the OCCBCE series on Nesting Nelsons, I highly recommend starting from the first post to read for context. In Pt 1, I discuss basics on how we found a new place to live and dove into some immigration-specific details we had to make sure to address prior to leaving. Through the post series, I will detail the cross-continent move from Waterloo, Ontario to Seattle, Washington that my husband, James, and I completed.
So, here we go…
A Quick Intro on My Furry Babies
James and I adopted these two munchkins on Christmas Eve in 2013, after having just moved to Waterloo. We knew we wanted “a cat”. We went to the animal shelter and immediately found these two babes. They were a part of a set of three, initially raised by a local foster parent. However, one of the sisters had been adopted by the time that we saw them. Sometimes we joke that they were our “BOGO” kitties because the shelter was running a “Buy One, Get One Free” offer on animals that day. Without a doubt, we would have wanted them both even if the offer wasn’t on. When we adopted them, we renamed them “Scout” (grey and white) and “Sugar” (black and white). The name “Sugar” has since morphed into “Boogie”, short for “Sugar-Booger”, an endearing nickname I grew up hearing my grandparents call me when I was a little girl. They are very social cats by nature and get along well in spite of the occasional jealousy of getting more coveted attention from the humans.
Scout and Boogie are both used to a dry kibble diet from Blue Wilderness. Scout loves wet food from Blue Wilderness, but Boogie will only eat dry aside from Rocky Mountain Trout (flaked). Neither of them go for treats, but they do both like catnip toys. They are both mildly overweight and Scout has always been the bigger cat. Both are in excellent health and we’ve only taken Boogie to the vet once, when she decided to get into my Valentine’s Day lilies two years ago. Most. expensive. Valentine’s. gift. ever. I felt so badly for James. But Boogie recovered well and the yellow pollen eventually worked its way out of her fur. For a while, she looked like she tried to eat a melted “Macaroni and Cheese” crayon.
So, at the time of travel, we had healthy cats, aged about a year and a half. They’d never traveled in the car more than 30 minute trips and were accustomed to the indoors where they like to hang out by the window to talk to birds.
Papers Required for the Cats (plus things I didn’t need, but obtained anyway) & The Outcome
So, first thing is first; I scoured the Internet for any papers we might need with them. I found a lot of information on travel papers required for cats who fly across the border, however, I think that pet delivery agencies or specific airlines should provide these necessary documents for those choosing to fly their feline. Since this wasn’t the option I chose, I didn’t do a lot of research into this route. However, I do remember it being an option requiring more paperwork.
International Health Certificate
I found a lot of conflicting information on whether or not I needed an International Health Certificate for my cats. However, the most helpful sites were on CBP, this link on gonorthwest.com and eventually with the most state-specific information, via this link on avma.org. It did not occur to me that there would not only be USA-soecific requirements, but also state-specific requirements as well. Since we chose to bring them in my car with us and since we were crossing into Washington State, we were not required to have an International Health Certificate to prove their physical health.
But because I’m me, I got one from the vet anyway and made sure it was completed within 7 days of crossing so that the physical completed would be considered valid. I really did not like the possibility of having to leave our babies at the border, so I went a little over and beyond what was required.
Proof of Rabies Vaccinations
During my exhaustive Internet search, many, many sites list that cats (and other pets) require an updated rabies vaccine and proof of it when crossing the border. I decided to go ahead and schedule the kitties’ rabies vaccinations at least 30 days in advance on our border crossing date to make sure that if we had any adverse reactions, there would be time to take them to the vet. While we were getting rabies, we also updated them on their Rhinotracheitis-Calici-Panleukopenia yearly booster. The kitties hated this day at the vet and very-much sulked for about an hour afterwards. However, their rabies vaccine is good until 2018 and their RCP is a yearly booster, so we won’t have to get shots for a little while.
So, as far as paperwork, when we crossed I had :
- an International Health Certificate for both cats, signed and dated by the vet. I printed and provided a blank form for each cat found here and the vet signed it on the date of exam.
- a Proof of Vaccination Certificate, from my vet, on both cats, for their updated rabies and RCP vaccines, as well as proof of their vaccines they had when they were first adopted
- a Certificate of Health, from the vet, for both cats, stating that they both had physicals, were free from infectious diseases and were released for travel by their vet.
The outcome? I wasn’t asked for anything about my cats at the border. Not a single document. Sigh. However, I was prepared in the case that they did need to see proof of health and vaccination.
I do recommend for those traveling specifically from Canada into the US, to check the state laws of the state that you are moving to. In Washington, our cats had to be registered with the state once we moved with a proof of current rabies vaccination. It was helpful that I had copies of this on hand to send in to the state. We were also arriving via car which may have made all of the difference as far as needed paperwork. From what I understand, for those flying their cats, there are airline-specific requirements on top of country requirements for pets. I’d recommend calling the individual airline to see what their requirements or restrictions are if this is your route of bringing your babes into the US.
A Little Trim (Grooming Time!)
My cats rarely receive a haircut, but by the end of the summer, they were looking a little…uneven. Boogie has an enormous undercoat and was doing the feline equivalent of molting as we were trying to pack everything up. I wonder how much hair made it into the boxes…
Anyway, I went ahead and scheduled an appointment with Petsmart to get a haircut and grooming session for them. I made an appointment online a month in advance. However, on the day of, it didn’t go as planned.
When I showed up to Petsmart, the groomer specified that she wouldn’t cut the cat’s hair, unless I wanted, specifically, a “Lion’s Cut”, which was also very expensive. When I described to her that I wanted just an all-over one-length trim, plus a sanitary cut around their butts, it was as if I had ordered some god-awful, super-detailed, above-and-beyond-the-scope request for a haircut. During our discussion, she said that she didn’t recommend I ever cut my cats’ hair because they were domestic short hair cats.
So, we were at a strange impasse; It was the “Lion’s Cut” or nothing, which, had I known, I would have tried to schedule in with another groomer entirely. But now, I was down to less than a week to travel and I doubted any other grooming place could slide them in, plus my babes were getting really freaked out by the big dogs barking in the waiting room. I decided to have her groom the cats, trim a little around their bums and call it a day. They would just have to cross the border with their uneven topcoats and contrasting neatly-trimmed bums.
To be frank, I have gotten my kitties’ hair cut before at a cat groomer in Waterloo and they called this quick all-over trim I was requesting a “Comb Cut” or “Teddy Bear”. The kitties come out clean and fluffy with the hair all one-length. I also usually pay a little more to get what is called a “Hygiene Cut” where the hair around their bums are trimmed so that nothing gross gets caught on long kitty hairs. The former is cute; the latter is functional. The combination works for us for a yearly haircut.
So, even though that kind of ended any hopes I had of continuing with Petsmart grooming, they did get a bath and blow dry for their big border-crossing debut. This wasn’t required by any means, but I just wanted to put these little ones’ best paw forward in their new country.
On the Road (Details of the Trip):
I’ll jump right to it: I think that I have fluke kitten children that travel well, at least once they are settled. We traveled about 3,000 miles (roughly 4800km) and spent about 55 hours on the road over the span of 10 days.
Our driving schedule looked a little bit like this:
- Day One: Waterloo, Ontario to Wawa, Ontario; around 11 hours in the car.
- Day Two: Wawa, Ontario to Kenora, Ontario; around 11 hours in the car.
- Day Three: Rest day.
- Day Four: Kenora, Ontario to Melfort/St. Brieux area in Saskatchewan; around 11 hours in the car.
- Day Five: Rest day.
- Day Six: Melfort/St Brieux, SK to Calgary, AB; around 9.5 hours in the car.
- Day Seven: Rest day.
- Day Eight: Rest day.
- Day Nine: Calgary, AB to Hope, BC; around 9.5 hours in the car.
- Day Ten: Hope, BC to Seattle, WA; around 3 hours in the car.
The kitties recovered well on the rest days and would immediately toilet once we got settled into the new spaces each time. The cats would not drink any water, take any food or toilet while we were driving so I watched them closely at night to make sure that everything was happening as it should. So with that, we decided to push through during the days and to give them some recovery time at night. The cats mostly slept while in the car, with the aid of the ThunderSpray (see below). At times, they were alert and looking out the window. Thankfully, no sibling issues were squabbled about between the two in the backseat while we were driving and no bathroom accidents occurred while on the road (or in the hotel).
At one point, one of the carriers had flipped over and we had some continuous meowing until we pulled off the side of the road and got it set up again. Then, they fell into a long sleep. We successfully circulated the AC throughout the car, but it was very mild during our drive so we didn’t worry too much about them getting too hot in the car. We also didn’t stop for food; We stopped here and there for a brief gas-up and bathroom break, but we stayed on the road to decrease car time.
Road Trip Supplies: What We Bought and Actually Used
PetEgo’s Cat Tube (Large) – Highly Recommend
I scoured the Internet for a large crate in hopes that I could buy our cats the most space possible with the most comfortable ride possible. They would be in this thing for 55+ hours. After an exhaustive search online, I found the answer to my problems. Behold, the wondrous cat tube by Petego. I waited for it to go on sale on Amazon and ordered the large size (meant for a large dog, but whatever). Once it arrived, we spent about a month with it in the floor. Boogie immediately took to it as her new tube toy and Scout occasionally ran through it.
Throughout the entire road trip, we were so happy to have this thing. We placed pee pads (training pads for dogs) and blankets in the bottom of it just in case of an accident and so it would be a comfortable ride that smelled like home. The cats were able to stretch their legs and re-position themselves. While on the road, we also placed their smaller hand carriers within the tubes so that they could have a tight space to sleep inside of, if they preferred it. This worked very well. Both cats slept inside of their carrying bags on either side of the tube and also had large-enough space to share the middle area of the tube to walk around.
Whenever we went to a new hotel, we unhooked the cat tube and brought it inside with us with the cats inside of the tube. It functioned as a giant carrier. On one day at the end of the trip, Boogie became feisty and tried to dig out of the carrier. In spite of lots of clawing attempts, the netting held up beautifully and didn’t break or rip whatsoever. I highly, highly recommend this carrier.
ThunderSpray Pheromone Cat Spray
We bought this spray and routinely used it throughout our trip. Before we left out every morning, I sprayed it two times (to cover the length of the carrier) in the tube an hour prior to departure. After a long day of driving, we would unload the cats and set up their bathroom station. James or I would spray the area with the litter box with one spray as soon as we entered the new room.
This worked out very well. The only real unrest and signs of anxiety we had were on the final day where we drove for 2 hours and passed through the border. I think that this had a lot to do with the very smokey room that we’d rented the night before. My allergies were messed up from being in this room and the cats were also sneezing after a night’s stay in this room. (For the record, this was a designated pet room so we couldn’t really request a room change). On this day’s driving, we had two very grumpy cats. Scout mostly slept while Boogie meowed loudly for about an hour and tried to claw her way out of the cat tube. Overall though, this cat spray worked very well.
Everything that we already use like their litter box, plastic bags, litter, bag of food, food dishes and water dish came with us. These items were familiar and we didn’t buy anything new here.
For their food, I brought along a small bag of Blue Wilderness’ chicken favored kibble, which is what they normally eat. I also brought along the one can of wet food that my super-picky eater, Boogie, will eat, that Scout also loves: Blue Wilderness Rocky Mountain Trout (Flaked). I bought a few cans of some moist food, trying to think about alternatives in case they stopped eating their dry food. Our kitties ate regularly, each night, when we settled them into their new accommodations. Food and water were one of the first things set up at each new place, aside from the litter box.
With litter, I usually used a half of the litter bag for each nighttime hotel stop and made sure to throw the bag and litter away when we checked out. We went through about 3 small bags of World’s Best Cat Litter total over the span of our entire trip, which required 5 overnight hotel/accommodations changes and left us with enough for a little bit of litter when we arrived to our new place.
A short note on pet-friendly accommodations and our experience there. James and I learned the hard way that when purchasing a pet-friendly room on Expedia, it is always a good idea to follow-up with the hotel to confirm that they also know that you are bringing pets.
When we arrived to Kenora, we showed up at the hotel and they had no idea that we needed a pet friendly room, in spite of us using the pet-friendly filter for displayed hotels on Expedia. I know now that there is a “special requests” box on one of the order pages on Expedia where you can type in that you need pet-friendly accommodations for the type of pet you are bringing.
As a result of the error, we wound up spending an hour or so in the staff break room of the hotel, in order for the hotel to clean a pet friendly room. Boogie ran behind the printer and had a ball trying to sneak behind things. Scout just stayed in the tube as people wandered in to clock in and clock out.
From there, forward, we made sure to specify in the box that we were traveling with two cats and to also call the hotel directly after booking to confirm that they knew we were bringing cats.
That’s the kitty-specific leg of the prep, without giving too much away about our trip prior to road-trip focused posts. I hope you find the information here about our cross-country and cross-border kitty prep to be of help to you. I encourage anyone who is preparing for an immigration crossing with pets to research the national requirements and the individual state requirements for vaccinations and travel papers to see what all you may need for your specific crossing.
As always, feel free to comment or ask any questions in the comments area below!