We have two cats that we adore. One of them, I owned in the United States, and the second we added to the family in Italy. Of course, we wanted them to go with us to Tangier. Well, you can’t put them in a case and take off across the borders of other countries these days. There is much work to be done!
In the European Union, in order to travel outside the country with your pet, you must have a Pet Passport. Yes, that’s right, a pet passport! We have spent hour upon hour for our own documents to come to Italy, stay in Italy, get married in Italy, so the idea of getting documents for our cats is just as daunting. Where to begin?
Start with the Veterinarian
The first thing we did was to schedule an appointment with our vet to ensure that all the needed vaccinations were in order. We took both cats to the veterinarian that we normally use and they gave them the needed shots. Vincent, my son had brought from the United States a few months after I moved to Italy. He already had a microchip placed in his neck. Felix James needed the microchip as well.
The veterinarian also examined the past records and documents of Vincent. That is where our first obstacle arose. The documents for transporting Vincent are in the name of my son. That is because he was the one transporting him to Italy for me. Unfortunately, those documents represent “ownership” in the eyes of the Italian government, so the veterinarian said we would have to “transfer ownership”. We needed a letter from my son indicating that he was transferring ownership to me. We also needed a copy of my son’s passport. I wrote the letter in Italian and sent it to my son for him to sign. He did so and returned it along with a copy of his passport.
The veterinarian also indicated that we needed to call the ASL, or health center to make an appointment for the pet passports. We did that the following day, (April 28th) and found that the available appointment was August 8th! Wow! I’m glad we started the process early.
The office sent us confirmation of the appointment by email, along with the bill for the passports. I had to pay the bill before we came for the appointment. The cost of each passport is 56.71 euro. I paid these bills at the post office and obtained a receipt for the payments. On the day of the appointment, we are to be there at 9 a.m. with both cats and all of their records from the veterinarian, along with the “ownership” documents. We don’t have anything official for Felix James, but he visited this veterinarian as a kitten, and she assured us that this would not be a problem.
The Day of the Appointment August 8, 2017
The thought of dealing with any documents in Italy causes me a lot of stress. I hardly slept all night and was awake long before the 8:15 alarm went off. Our appointment was at 9:45 and we planned to take a taxi. The morning traffic with all the construction going on is unpredictable. We called the cab at 9:15 and he arrived a couple of minutes later. Taxis in Italy are the most reliable thing in the country.
As soon as the driver saw the cats, he asked us if we had told them we were transporting cats, and we said no. He is allergic to cats. He said if we could put them in the back, it would be okay. The car was a type of station wagon, so we had no problem with that. We are off to a great start!
We arrived on time and entered the air-conditioned office. One other owner and her dog were there before us and the wait was very short. The doctor greeted us and told us to put the cat carriers on the table and sit down at his desk to review the documents. He scanned the cat’s necks to get the number of the microchip.
Both of the microchips were in order and we started with Felix James, our Italian cat. All of his documents were in order and he issued the passport. Yay! One down.
Now for Vincent, the American cat with paperwork in another owner’s name. I showed the doctor the letter from my son and he was convinced about the ownership. The documents for entering Italy seven years ago were all in order according to him, as well as the documents for rabies shot and veterinarian certificate.
The problem, he told us, is that we had not registered the cat in Italy. It is not obligatory as it is for dogs, but it is if you want to get a pet passport. In order to register the cat, which is already in the office for a passport, I must leave; make another appointment for the registration and for the passport. The problem with that is they are very booked up and something might not be available before we leave. In addition, we might need an International Health Certificate to arrive in Morocco.
He gave us all of the numbers to call for appointments and a list of things to do:
1. Find out if Morocco requires some form for entrance into Morocco (International Health Certificate) and what the validation time is.
2. Call and make another appointment for the registration and the passport within the time designated for the validation of the other form if needed.
3. If there are no appointments available, there is another service that does emergency work, but it costs more.
4. If all else fails, call him. He gave me his business card.
Once we were at home, Ben got on the phone and started calling the Moroccan Consulates in Italy. He called Bologna, Verona, Torino, Palermo, and Rome. Rome was the only one who answered. He spoke to them for a while in Arabic and when he got off the phone said that we only needed the pet passport and the current vaccination records, no International Health Certificate.
I called the number to make another appointment for the passport and registration. The first available appointment is October 4. Great! We leave on September 30th…not! The woman was very nice and recommended I make an appointment at the expensive emergency office and then check back occasionally to see if appointments become available.
I called the emergency office number. The first available appointment is September 20th. Okay, that works….as long as we are able to get the passport on that day. I made the appointment for both for 2:30 on September 20th. However, wait a minute. It is at the same office. I don’t get that! Now I have an appointment, but it costs more than twice as much. Even though I already paid for the appointment for today, I have to ask for reimbursement for that instead of applying it for a credit. What?
I promptly received an email confirming the appointment with two documents attached. I looked at both documents and found them to both say Passport. There was not one for the registration. I called them back. I requested they send me confirmation of the registration appointment, but they said it wasn’t necessary. Now I sitting here thinking about that, and I’m not satisfied. I called them again, and they closed at 2:30 and will open tomorrow at 9. Okay. Can you say stress? I searched the website where they said that you could pay. I located invoices for one passport and one registration. I copied down the barcode for the registration. I feel better now. Well, maybe a little bit.
Online, in Facebook and a variety of sites, I got all kinds of different information about what vaccinations, documents, and forms I needed. Of course, none where my exact situation taking cats from Italy to Europe. However, many of them did indicate that an International Health Certificate was needed. It made me crazy so I decided to go with what we had. Then after a couple of sleepless nights, I called back to add the appointments for the International Health Certificate. For another 220 euro, I bought back my ability to sleep at night.
The six weeks that passed until the appointment came where busy, but this was constantly on my mind. I even asked a friend if we were unable to obtain the documents in time for our departure, would she keep Vincent until I could arrange to come back to Italy and finalize everything. It was very stressful.
The Appointment Day Arrives
The appointment was in the afternoon so there was plenty of time throughout the day for the stress to build. We called a taxi, making sure to let them know that we were transporting cats. We arrived and were the first to be seen after the lunch break.
Everything went fine! Without a hitch! Of course, I paid 360 euro for these final documents. The total cost for the two cats with vaccines and everything ended up being about 600 euro. It would have been about 250 euro less if I had been able to accomplish everything at the first appointment. Ah, Italy!
What Happened When Traveling
We took food away from the cats three hours before we put them in the crate to travel. We traveled on the train from Florence to Genoa, and they were inside for four and a half hours. All went well. We stayed in a hotel overnight and they were calm. We repeated the process the next day before boarding the ship and they stayed in the case for 3 hours. Our cabin on the boat is not like a hotel room and we are in a corridor for animals so dogs barking and the small space makes them a little skittish but they are fine. Oh yeah. NO ONE ASKED FOR DOCUMENTS WHEN WE BOARDED! Many people wanted to see them and pet them, but no one gave a flip about the documents. There was a slight problem when we checked in as I had paid for the cats, but not realized that I had to book a room that was “pet-friendly”. They had to move us to another cabin as a result which took a few minutes but wasn’t a big problem.
The cats were a little traumatized from the day so hide behind a drawer most of the first day. Afterwards, they lounged on the beds and seemed very comfortable.
Arriving in Tangier
As the boat arrived, we were instructed to take our belongings down to the main deck. We packed up our things and the cats returned together into the carrying case. An immigration officer from Morocco had been on the boat with us and our documents had already been checked. They weren’t interested in the cat passports then and when we asked they said when we got off someone would be there to check them.
We disembarked with all of our things and were ushered to a bus which took us to the main terminal. Most of the passengers had driven cars onto the ferry, so they were driving them off. Only about 15 of us were on the shuttle bus to the terminal.
At the terminal, we exited the bus and started looking for the exit sign where the taxis boarded to take us into Tangier. As we exited the terminal, there was the first x-ray machine for our bags. There had been no bag check and no one to check the cats getting on the boat. We put our bags on the belt and my husband walked through with the carrying case of cats on his shoulder.
The officer there told him that the bag needed to go on the belt, but when he told her it was cats, she asked for the documents. I pulled out the two pet passports and handed them to her. Before she even got them into her hand, she said that’s fine and we were off again.
This is the second time I have transported animals to another country. I spent hours of time and lots of money determining which documents to get and what to do and then doing all of it, plus some precautionary things. In the end, no one really cared about the documents.
That being said, if I ever take animals to another country again, I will do it all again. Maybe I won’t worry so much the next time, but you know how it goes. The time you don’t follow the rules and go through the motions is the time you meet the person who wants all of the details!
My cats are now happily living in Tangier, Morocco.