Moving abroad is a real test of how much you love your pet. When a new country comes calling, you need to make a big decision about the animal that lives in your house. Is your pet just a fluffy companion that’s nice to stroke, or is there a deeper connection? The list of tasks involved in international pet relocation is fairly long and expensive, but if your pet means the world to you then it will all be worth it. Professional companies can help with every stage of the process, so it’s easier than it sounds.

However, you also need to think: does my pet want to come with me? If it’s a cat, probably not. Your smiley golden retriever, on the other hand, would most likely rather die than be left behind. It’s important to have this conversation with your pet before you progress any further. Once you’ve decided, here are all the key things you need to think about when it comes to the move. Remember: you can back out at any point (your pet won’t know if you’ve changed your mind).

How much will it cost?

Generalising about the cost of pet relocation is difficult, simply because it can vary so much. It depends on a lot of things, such as the type of animal, the breed, the size, the weight, the journey distance, the airline, the veterinary requirements and so on. For example, flying a Great Dane in business class halfway across the world is going to cost a lot more than sending a tabby cat from the UK to France.

We’re only joking, you can’t actually put a Great Dane in business class. But there’s obviously no one-size-fits-all cost for everyone. Speaking very generally, you’ll find that the typical cost of moving a cat abroad is usually between £500 and £1500, while dogs can cost anywhere between £1000 and £4000. Big dogs seem such like a good idea until you’re trying to get them on a plane.

We’ve collected a few price estimates into a lovely table. It focuses on typical costs from the UK, but it anyone can use it as an indicator. Over in America, companies such as Pet Relocation generally charge between $2500 – $3000 for moving one small pet internationally.

Pet relocation costs from the UK

Type of animalAustraliaUSASouth Africa
Small dog

1,900 ()

900 ()

1,400 ()

Large dog

3,000 ()

1,500 ()

2,500 ()

Cat

1,500 ()

755 ()

995 ()

Vaccinations and medical costs

Ah, the vet: your pet’s favourite place! To ensure that your pet is allowed to fly, you need to take it to the vet for a proper health assessment. Domestic animals are welcome in most countries but not if they’re bringing diseases with them. Once again, it’s difficult to generalise; the pet requirements are different for each country. However, we will carry on and generalise anyway. There are a couple of things that tend to crop up on every country’s list of pet requirements:

  • Microchip
  • Rabies vaccination

You probably got your dog or cat microchipped whenever you first bought (or rescued) it, so you can tick that one off the list. If it still needs to be done, don’t worry; it sounds like a pricey piece of tech but it’s actually really cheap (see prices in the table below). There are other more expensive things to worry about later on. Rabies vaccinations come in one-year or three-year doses, and they are required by almost every country in the world. People are serious about rabies.

After your pet has been injected, you normally need to wait at least 21 days and then get their blood tested to make sure the vaccination has worked. If the vaccination has failed then you don’t want to find out the hard way. Here are the typical costs of microchips and rabies vaccinations in the UK, USA and Australia. However, prices will vary hugely depending on the type of animal and the quality of the clinic. You should use this as a general indicator only.

Pet medical costs

RequirementUKUSAAustralia
Rabies vaccine (one year)

40 ()

18 ()

25 ()

Microchip

15 ()

14 ()

27 ()

Many countries also require further tests for specific diseases with very long names, but we’ll go into them in more detail later. It’s definitely worth choosing a trustworthy vet who is already familiar with the process of moving pets abroad. It can be a stressful time and there is literally nothing more reassuring than the calm voice of a wise old vet.

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Pet health certificates

Once your pet has passed a health assessment then it will get a certificate! It won’t really know or care about this, but you will. The piece of paper will officially declare your pet fit for travel, having had all the vaccinations and tests relevant to the country you’re moving to. As long as the certificate is dated within ten days of travel, it’ll get your pet to where it needs to be.

Most countries (not Australia) have now removed the long and slightly scary quarantine process for newly arrived animals, but your pet could still end up there if you don’t give it all the necessary vaccines and tests. They basically keep your pet away from you for several days or months and make you pay for it, so make sure you research the requirements before you fly. You might be surprised to hear that the cost of health certificates ranges widely depending on what needs to happen to your pet. For example, in the US, a health exam and certificate for your cat or dog normally costs somewhere between $50 and $250 (including vaccine fees).

EU pet passports

This is basically just a glorified health certificate, but it deserves all the glory it gets. Reserved exclusively for dogs, cats and ferrets, the pet passport is a shiny blue booklet and it looks way better than a flappy bit of white paper. It can be used if you’re travelling between any two countries in the EU (plus a number of other European states). As long as the rabies vaccinations are up to date, it will be valid for the pet’s whole lifetime. Your animal needs to be microchipped and vaccinated in that order. You don’t want to be mixing things up and vaccinating it twice. If your animal could thank you, it wouldn’t thank you for that.

You need to wait at least 21 days for the rabies vaccine to take effect before your pet has a blood test, so give yourself enough time for all of this before you travel. The typical cost of a pet passport in the UK is normally around the £120 mark, although dogs also require tapeworm treatment, which can add to the costs. If you’re a cat owner then you’re probably feeling pretty smug right now.

Brexit and pet passports

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the first question on everybody’s lips was ‘what about pet passports?’ Nobody really knows what is going to happen, but the UK’s regulations for European pet travel probably won’t change too much. Currently, countries outside the EU do face stricter requirements, but this is usually because the majority of non-EU nations have rabies problems. The UK’s animals, on the other hand, have been (almost) rabies-free for over one hundred years.

Flying with your pet

In most circumstances, ‘flying with your pet’ doesn’t mean sitting next to each other and enjoying the lovely views. Unless it’s an assistance dog, most pets have to go down in the hold while you stay seated in the cabin. It’s a painful separation that can be made easier by watching lots of animal films on the in-flight entertainment system.

Some airlines check in pets as ‘excess baggage’ while others classify them as cargo. Either way, your animal will go in the hold and be treated with the utmost care. Don’t worry, pets aren’t shoved in the same section as the suitcases. All airlines have livestock holds that are pressurised and heated to make the journey as easy as possible for the animals. Airline pet transport costs can range from £200 to over £1000, depending on two key determinants:

  • The total weight of your pet cargo
  • The total volume of your pet cargo

Obviously a small travel crate will help keep costs low, but there are limits to how small you can go (see section below). If you’ve got one of those small yappy dogs then a few airlines might let you bring it into the cabin at a lower cost, but it really does need to be very small.

Airline regulations for pets

Although the rules differ from airline to airline, there are a few regulations that apply to all of them.

Hot weather

In the world of pet relocation, hot sunny weather is bad news. If the forecasted temperature at the departure/layover/arrival airport is higher than 84°F (29°C) then your pet will not be allowed to travel. Hot tarmac on the runways can heat up the cargo hold rather quickly, and some airlines do not have air-conditioned holds. Certain animals have a particularly tough time in high temperatures, such as snub-nose dogs like boxers and pugs. If your destination country is always hot (congratulations) then you need to choose a flight that leaves after dark and arrives in the early hours. If this isn’t possible, the next solution would be to fly to a different airport that has cooler weather and then travel the extra distance by land.

Cold weather

If the temperature is forecasted to be below 45°F (7°C) then pets are unable to travel, although this restriction can be bypassed if your pet has an acclimation certificate. You can get this from your vet and it states that your pet is able to travel in cold temperatures. If you have a long-haired or thick-coated animal then this certificate should be fairly easy to get your paws on. However, once temperatures fall below 25°F (-3.8°C) not even a certificate will help. Your pet can be as thick-coated as it wants but it won’t be able to fly.

Sedatives

Finally, no airline will accept a pet that seems to have been sedated. Let’s hope your super lazy dog doesn’t have that ‘slightly sedated’ look. We know you’re worried about your animal getting stressed but drugging it up will just make things worse. Pressurised holds will already lower your pet’s blood pressure, so decreasing it even further can be pretty dangerous. You want your pet to be relaxed during the flight, not unconscious.

Choosing an airline

All the world’s airlines have been super helpful and decided that they should each have an entirely different set of rules for pet transport. Once you know where you’re going, you need to work out which airline offers the most flexible pet relocation service and then speak to them directly. Here are a few examples of how the regulations can differ:

Emirates

Pets can travel but they must go in the hold. They are classified as excess baggage and the price is determined by the weight and dimensions of your pet and travel crate. If the weight exceeds 32kg then it will cost you over £550. The only animals permitted in the cabin are assistance dogs and falcons going between Dubai and certain locations in Pakistan. How’s that for specific?

American Airlines

Providing the flight isn’t longer than 12 hours, pets are allowed to fly. The rates are pretty reasonable, at approximately £140 per animal in the hold and £90 for every small carry-on pet.

Lufthansa

This is probably one of the world’s most accommodating international airlines for pet travel. They permit animals in the cabin and in the hold, depending on their size and weight. If the combined weight of your pet and travel crate is less than 8kg then it can come in the cabin with you. Otherwise, animals go in the hold. Lufthansa have loads of different rates, depending on the size of the animal and whether the flight is European or intercontinental. A small animal travelling in the cabin within Europe will cost you £50, while a large animal travelling in the hold between continents will cost you nearly £300.  

EasyJet

No chance. Aside from assistance dogs on selected flights, pet travel isn’t really an EasyJet thing. As a general rule, most budget airlines do not offer pet transport. 

Travel crates

Each animal needs to go inside its own travel crate (no sharing). The bigger your animal, the more you’ve got to spend on a suitable box to put them in. Score for the cat owners again! What’s more, cats seem to love getting inside boxes, so that should make things fairly easy when it comes to the big day. Sitting in the cargo hold of a plane near a loud engine will be a rather troubling experience for your pet, so a small restrictive box will just make things a whole lot worse. However, the transport cost is directly based on the crate’s dimensions (along with the weight of the pet), meaning you need to think about money as well as your pet’s stress levels.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) have very kindly imposed some minimum requirements on all travel crates, so there are limits to how cheap you can be. At the very least, the crate must give the animal enough space to turn around while standing and to lie down in a ‘natural position’. The full list of requirements can be found on the IATA website. Airlines often allow you to rent an IATA-approved travel crate for the journey, which can save on costs a little. You can buy an extra small travel crate for about £15, but the very large crates can cost well over £100. If your animal’s a little on the heavy side, maybe it’s time to put them on a quick weight-loss programme.

Preparing your pet for the journey

If you were put in a small box for several hours, you’d probably hate it. No amount of turning around and lying down would help. You need to try to make this experience as easy as possible for your pet. Don’t rush things; start by familiarising them with the box a few months before the travel date. Place it somewhere they like to sleep and put a few toys or treats inside it. Once your pet is voluntarily going into the crate each day, practice closing the door behind them and locking it for a few minutes. You should try to build up to a point where your pet is sleeping in a locked crate overnight. Eventually, your pet will never want to leave the crate and it will live there forever – then the preparation is complete.

When it comes to the travel day, you should put something inside the crate to comfort the animal – either a favourite toy or a piece of clothing that carries your smell. If you’ve got an IATA-approved crate (which you should do) then there’ll be attached food and water troughs that you need to fill up. Leave some feeding instructions for the shipper so they know what to do.

Clearing customs

Everyone has to go through customs at the airport and animals are no exception. Along with a passport check, most countries give newly arrived pets a veterinary exam. They will ask you about your reasons for relocation (they don’t ask the animals) and you’ll have to present various documents before you can be reunited with your pet. Fees for customs clearance can range from a mere £30 to over £400, depending on import tariffs, veterinary inspection prices and other taxes. The costs are really starting to mount up now.

Pet regulations by country

You’ve probably noticed by now that pet relocation is pretty difficult to generalise about. Apart from the EU, no two countries have the same set of regulations, so we thought it would be helpful to be a bit more specific. We’ve focused on some of our most popular expat destinations and listed the key requirements for your pet.

Moving a pet to Australia

Aussie regulations are strict, to say the least. For a country that has been badly damaged by many invasive species from Europe and Asia, it’s no surprise they’re so careful today. You might remember the extremely hot water Johnny Depp found himself in after he illegally brought his dogs into Oz. Our key bit of advice when it comes to moving your pet to Australia is to give yourself time – a lot of it. We also want to say give yourself money but that’s easier said than done. Dogs and cats are currently the only species of animal allowed into Australia.

Vaccinations

It’s the rabies vaccine that really takes time. Dogs and cats must have a rabies vaccine at least seven months before they move to Australia, and they also need a Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre Test (RNATT) to check that it’s worked. But here’s the big one: your dog or cat will not be allowed to enter Australia until 180 days after the RNATT. So you’re looking at over one year of preparation before your pet can actually enter Australia.

Your pet also needs microchipping (before the rabies vaccine) and checking for ticks. The list gets even longer if you want to bring your dog; they need treating against Brucellosis, Leishmaniosis, Ehrlicia canis, Leptospirosis, nematodes and cestodes. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pronounce them – just treat your dog against them. Moving to Australia often causes dog owners to decide they want a cat instead.

Animal import permit

A disease-free animal still needs permission to enter the country. This is where the Australian import permit comes in. Get everything correct and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) should approve your request and issue your pet with a permit. This costs AUD$480 for one animal and a further AUD$240 per additional animal.

Quarantine

Finally, your pet needs to get through quarantine. This is compulsory and no amount of veterinary work will help your pet avoid it. However, you can make it as short as possible by making all the correct preparations. The minimum legal stay is 10 days but you can normally expect it to last at least 30 days.  Australia’s only quarantine service is in Mickleham, Melbourne so you must fly your pet into Melbourne Airport. There’s a long list of different fees for the quarantine:

  • AUD$33 entry (per animal)
  • A daily rate of AUD$29 (per animal)
  • AUD$30 document clearance (per animal)
  • AUD$30 per 15 minutes of veterinary examination (per animal)
  • AUD$1200 post-entry quarantine (PEQ) charge

The typical 30 days in Australian quarantine for one animal will probably cost you at least AUD$2200. Add this to the permit costs and you’re looking at nearly AUD$3000.

Moving a pet to New Zealand

Ironically, New Zealand has strict regulations for every country in the world except Australia. Other than cats and dogs, the only permitted species of animal are rabbits from Australia, guinea pigs from Australia and chinchillas from Great Britain. Yes, we think it’s weird too.

Vaccinations

After being microchipped, you need to vaccinate your pet against rabies. This must be done at least six months (and no longer than twelve months) before the travel date. Your pet must have a rabies blood test (RNATT) at least three months before it travels, and it also needs treating against internal parasites and ticks. Once again, there’s a pretty long list of diseases that your dog needs testing for, and it’s the same as Australia’s.

Animal import permit

Unless your pet is a cat or a dog, it will need an import permit to enter New Zealand. The permit costs NZD$220.74, irrespective of which country your pet is from.

Quarantine

Every new animal that arrives in New Zealand is inspected in order to determine whether it needs to be placed in quarantine. You have to pay for the inspection of your pet, with fees ranging from NZD$32.42 for animals from EU countries and NZD$214.25 for animals from non-EU countries. Even if your pet passes the inspection, it needs to go into quarantine for at least ten days, but if it fails then it could be taken away for much longer.

A failed inspection also means you’ll have to pay for your animal to be ‘monitored’, and hourly fees range from NZD$108.54 to NZD$214.25 depending on whether your animal is from the EU or not. There are quarantine facilities in Christchurch and Auckland, so you must fly your pet into one of these airports. You also need to ensure you have notified an official veterinarian in New Zealand about the arrival of your pet at least 72 hours beforehand.

Moving a pet to the USA

Compared to Australia and New Zealand, most pet regulations around the world are generally less strict (hooray). If you want to bring your pet to America, here’s what you need to know.

Vaccinations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) require that all animals be ‘healthy’ before they enter the US, which is fair enough. Most animals need vaccinating against rabies before they travel to America, but the CDC actually have some fairly relaxed rules when it comes to dogs. If your mutt is coming from a ‘rabies free’ country and it has lived there for at least six months, it doesn’t need a valid rabies vaccination certificate. You just need to get a certificate signed by a vet confirming that your pet’s home country has been rabies free for at least half a year prior to travel. The list of nations that the CDC considers to be ‘rabies-free’ is generously long, and you can read it on the CDC website. Microchips and rabies blood tests are also not required. Unsurprisingly, things are even easier for cats; it doesn’t matter where they’re from, they don’t need a valid rabies vaccine.

However, we should mention that all pets are subject to thorough inspections upon arrival in the States, and they might be turned away if they bear any evidence of disease. So, if you want to be super cautious then you should give your pet all the treatments before it travels.

Quarantine

Quarantine is generally avoided by most pets coming into the States – except birds. They need to spend a minimum of 30 days in quarantine after they have arrived. If you own a pet bird and want to bring it with you, save on transport costs by telling it to fly to your new country and you can meet it there.

Moving a pet to Canada

Canadians are more than happy to let domestic animals into their country. Just make sure you prepare your pet so it can meet the requirements at the border.

Vaccinations

Like the USA, Canada has its own list of countries it considers to be rabies free, and the same rules apply regarding rabies vaccinations (see above). The UK, Australia and most of Europe are considered rabies free by Canada. Microchips are not required but they are heartily recommended.

Quarantine

Canada doesn’t like to keep pets from their owners, so quarantine isn’t really a thing here. However, if your pet is showing obvious signs of illness or disease then it will be quarantined.

Moving a pet to the UK

The UK loves its animals. If the Queen kept five corgis (RIP) in Buckingham Palace then you should be allowed to bring your pets with you. Thankfully, there’s a proper system in place and there won’t be any problems if you do everything right.

Vaccinations

The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows animals (dogs, cats and rabbits) to enter the UK without needing to spend any time in quarantine, as long as your pet’s coming from a country that’s a member of the scheme. The listed countries include all EU nations and many states across the world, such as the United States, Australia and Japan. All pets need a rabies vaccination, a microchip, a rabies antibody blood test, tick treatment and tapeworm treatment. It’s a long and expensive list but you’ll face longer and more expensive things if you don’t follow it properly.

Remember: your pet needs microchipping before the rabies vaccine, and the vaccine needs to happen at least 21 days before you travel to the UK. The EU also has a ‘five day rule’, which means that you must travel to your new country within five days of your pet’s travel date. If you leave it any longer then your pet will be viewed as a commercial import and you’ll have to pay all sorts of import permit fees.

The maximum number of pets you can bring at any one time into the UK is five. If you want to bring more than five then you simply have too many pets.

Quarantine

If you’re coming from a country in the PETS and you’ve done everything right then your pet won’t be placed in quarantine. Pets that fail inspection will be placed in quarantine for 21 days, while pets that come from non-PETS nations will need to go into quarantine for four to six months. The costs will come out of your own pocket; it’s about £200 per month for cats and £300 per month for dogs.

Moving a pet to Germany

Germany, the land of the hundesteuer! This means ‘dog tax’, and you’ve got to pay it if you own a dog in Deutschland. Most countries in Europe actually got rid of this tax back in the 20th century, but Germany are late to catch on. You can avoid the tax if you have an assistance dog, a rescue dog (you are exempt for one year) or by simply owning a cat. Here’s what you need to know.

Vaccinations

Your pet needs a rabies vaccination to come to Germany. It must take place no less than 30 days (and no more than one year) before the travel date. A microchip is also mandatory and this has to happen before your pet gets vaccinated. There is a handful of diseases that all EU countries suggest you should vaccinate your dog or cat against, but you can do what you want with these suggestions. We think it’s pretty wise to follow them and your pet will probably agree. As with the UK, the five-day and five-pet rules also apply (see above).

Quarantine

The Germans are very reasonable over there; your pet does not need to be quarantined if it meets all the requirements and shows no signs of disease.

Moving a pet to France

If you want to bring your chien, chat or any other animal to France then the regulations are pretty easy to follow. They’re also extremely similar to the rules in Germany, as both countries are in the EU. If you’re coming from any other EU member state then you can use a pet passport, but if not then you’ll need a standard animal health certificate.

Vaccinations

It doesn’t matter what species of animal you’re bringing; it must be at least 12 weeks old before it can travel. All animals need a rabies vaccination and it has to be applied at least 21 days before the travel date. If your pet is coming from a country with a high incidence of rabies than you’ll need to plan things a bit more in advance, as it will need a Blood Titer Test one month after being vaccinated and then have to wait a further three months before it can fly. Once again, all pets need microchipping before the rabies vaccination takes place. Treating your animal against things like ticks, tapeworms and heartworm are recommended but not compulsory.

Quarantine

Just like in Germany, your pet will avoid quarantine if it meets all the requirements. Any signs of serious disease, though, and the animal will be whisked away until they’ve sorted it out (at your expense).

Banned breeds

Not all dogs are a man’s best friend. Some species are naturally more aggressive than others and there isn’t anything we can do about it. If you own a dangerous breed of dog, we congratulate you on your bravery, but we also commiserate you on your inability to travel with it. Every country has a list of animal species it doesn’t accept, and certain breeds of dog crop up fairly regularly. Here are a few examples of commonly banned dog breeds around the world:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Fila Brasileiro
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Rottweiler

If you aren’t sure about whether you can bring your pet into a specific country, it would be wise to do a bit of research. Your nearest embassy is also a good port of call if you want some old-fashioned, face-to-face advice.

Next steps

At MoveHub, we strongly recommend that you use a proper pet relocation company. They come at a price, of course, but they will make the whole process a lot easier. That long list of things you’ve got to deal with will suddenly become a whole lot shorter. They’ll tell you exactly what your pet needs and then help you get it. Remember: animals know when you’re stressed and then they get stressed. And you can’t get vaccinated against stress. Check out our breakdown of the top ten pet relocation companies.

If, after all this, you’ve decided you’re going to leave your pet behind, MoveHub will happily take it off your hands (fluffy mammals only).