Bringing 3 pets to Turkey

Bringing pets abroad was our most popular blog entry about Korea; we posted it in 2011 and it is still getting 6 views a day. We planned both moves with +6 months to prepare and figuring out everything we needed to do to bring the animals was the least clear. I can’t imagine how families do it on short notice.

Coming to Turkey was very similar to moving to Korea, but there is one very important feature about this move: it happened during the airline pet embargo which runs from May 15th to September 15th.  We traveled on August 15th with our 40 lb dog in cargo, something we had been told was impossible.

Here’s what we did, how much it cost, and how the animals are adjusting to life in Turkey. (By the time we moved to Turkey, traveling with pets was old hat for us, so we didn’t keep as much data.)

The Pets:
We have one 12 year old, deaf, 46 lb, English Springer Spaniel named Remi (friendly), a 10 lb black short haired cat named Clark (aloof), and a 11 lb black long haired cat named Ching (alluring).

Required Paperwork:
Vet visit for vaccines: 3 pets, including wellness check $238.11

Vet visit for USDA paperwork: (Professional Exam + International Health Certificate) x 3 pets $241.31. You should make an appointment for this. We didn’t and had to rely on our charm to get our certificates.

USDA Authentification of paperwork: 3 pets x $36 $108 (bring cash or check)

Travel Expenses:
Dog Water Bottle for Kennel in flight: $10

Fare to board with pets to Turkey (total):  $600

For a grand total of:  (drum roll please) $1,197.42

To get started, your pet’s  Rabies and Boretella vaccines must be up to date and their ID chip number must be on the form showing that they were chipped before they were vaccinated.   The vet will need to get some forms from the USDA for the final pre-flight visit, so make sure they know where you are taking your pet. The guy at the MN USDA is very thorough.  Make sure that the rabies document shows the ID chip number or your vet will have to fax over a new document before he will continue. The USDA only takes cash or checks, be prepared. You do not need to bring the pets, just the documents (we brought them both times to save time and they got free cuddles.)

We had been researching how to get Remi to Turkey because most of the carriers have a summer blackout on pet travel due to potentially excessive heat in the cargo holds of their jets.  By luck we discovered that Lufthansa does let pets travel in cargo during the summer. We booked our flights on Lufthansa, which meant renting a car and driving 8 hours to the hub nearest our home, Chicago.

Once you have your plane tickets, schedule a trip to the vet within 10 days of your flight.  This is because the USDA certificate is only good for ten days. Our vet insisted on 8 days to cover us in case the plane was rescheduled or our arrival was otherwise delayed, so we wouldn’t miss the window. She is a smarty pants.

About to drive to Chicago with 7 bags, 2 cats, & a dog.We also had to call the carrier that we were flying on and reserve “tickets” for our pets.  They needed each pet’s name, their weight in the carrier, and the height, width and depth of the carrier.  They said that the cats couldn’t weigh more than 10 lbs in the carrier to ride under the seat in front of us, but the cat’s weight was not checked at the airport. We flew on Lufthansa.  It took a few minutes to book the pet’s passage on Lufthansa.

At the airport and on the Plane:

The cat carriers had to be soft sided.  We brought along collapsible camping bowls for feeding in flight, and put absorbent puppy pads in their carrier.  They didn’t use it to go to the bathroom, as intended, but did make a little cave to chill in when we were between flights and people were looking at them.  The vet recommended we bring wet food to keep them hydrated.

All our luggage and pets as we check into LufthansaThey were in the carriers all through the airport, except for security. Remi went first.  TSA was friendly and thorough.  They removed Remi from the kennel and swabbed the entire thing. The people we worked with  were big pet fans and happy to help us. The kittens also had to go through security. We bought kitty collars with id tags and harnesses clipped to a leash to get through security.  Okay, so first you put all of your stuff in the security scanner.  Then take the cat/ small dog out of the carrier and pass the carrier through the x-ray scanner and walk with the cat through the metal detector.  The TSA at Chicago looked at it for several minutes, and Ching was not enjoying any of the beeping sounds. Akasha was happy Ching had a harness on so she couldn’t get away. Clark clawed through Mike’s favorite University of Minnesota (that’s right, he did the same thing in Korea) T-shirt in his excitement, but that was the worst of it.

The cats went in their carrier and were placed under the seats in front of us during take off, landing, and meals.  Otherwise they were on our laps, in their carriers, as we petted them.  We did not give any of the animals sedatives.  The flight was under booked and they gave Mike and me a row together.  If it had been a busy flight Mike and I would have been separated because Lufthansa will not let pets sit together. Sigh. The attendants  didn’t make us store the cats below the seats although they could have. This was a good thing, as Clark was a bit restless, and only calmed down on Mike’s lap.

The dog traveled under the plane.  His carrier had to be hard-sided, with a door that was secure, but could be opened and have a water bottle mounted in it.  We sent him with his dog bed, a puppy pad, his favorite stuffed duck, and a t-shirt that smelled like me.  We were not able to visit him between flights, but Lufthansa guest services called pet care and they informed us that Remi had been fed, walked, played, and was napping.  We took the cats to the spacious nursing rooms (there were a ton of them) and rested for a l o n g time. We had a 9 hour layover in Frankfurt.

In our carry-on we brought dry kibble for the dog, cat food, leashes for everyone, their travel documents, and  wipes in case we had we had to clean up after an “accident.”  They all chose to hold it for the entire trip. The cats were given boarding passes on their carriers.  Remi was given a luggage sticker.  It took 1 1/2 hours to check in to the flight.  So, get to the airport super early, hope for long layovers, and stay patient. Also, if your dog isn’t kennel trained, get him/her a kennel a few months before you fly and get them used to hanging out in there. It should be a happy hangout spot, not a punishment.

Everyone on the flights was wonderful to the animals.  After the flights, attendants ran to get Remi and bring him to us.  They helped us get through immigration quickly so he could go to the bathroom.  They asked if the cats were comfortable on the flight.  Really, people went out of their way to help us (again).

My employer had an agent meet us at the airport at 2:30 AM. After collecting our luggage and animals, loading the items into the van, and driving across Ankara, we got home and in bed at 4 AM.  Mid-flight we had realized that we had forgotten litter and the cats hadn’t gone in a long time.  In the morning I met a colleague who drove us to the pet shop to pick up pet supplies. The cats held it until they had a proper litter box.

If you learn anything from this entry it should be to bring some cat litter with you.  Your cats will thank you.

Today:

We have 3 balconies.  The cats are very happy in their huge new home.  They love the balconies. Remi absolutely loves all the hikes we get to take. He also loves that taxis flag us down and try to give him a ride home.  He has scratched his cornea on a hike and gotten an ear infection.  Mike has taken him to the vet and found that she speaks comprehensible English and has a good demeanor with him.  She has groomed him and he still likes her.  We are very content.  We will be going on a long winter vacation and Remi will be staying Ankara Canine College. He stayed there this week and  came back happy, tired, and content after 9 hours of running with rescue training dogs. Having good facilities for our pets makes international teaching easier.

If we did it differently we would have brought more pet stuff with us.  Pets are a luxury here and pet stuff is really really expensive.  Catnip is impossible to find and a simple scratching post costs about $100. P.S. The cats would like catnip toys for Hanukkah.

kittens on the patio