How to travel with your cat to Korea

Bluke the cat

Most people don’t travel internationally with their cat, but we recently brought Bluke from Calgary, Alberta to Seoul, South Korea. Our daughter Carlee recently returned to teach in Seoul, and after she found a cat-friendly apartment, we came for a visit and brought Bluke with us.

We probably wouldn’t travel with a cat the way we did with our dog. But if you are planning to stay in one place long-term, the rules for traveling with a cat are basically the same as traveling with a dog.

Bluke the traveling cat

Bluke is actually a rescued Korean street cat, which Carlee found in Seoul when she was still a kitten. So Bluke had already made an overseas trip to Canada once. From street cat to international jet-setter!

Bluke the street kitten from Seoul. How could you resist those pleading eyes?

Bluke trying to hide on the rug.

Importing and exporting your pet

Well in advance of any pet travel, check the pet import rules of the destination country, as well as your own country, to ensure there won’t be any problems bringing your pet home. Traveling to Korea was fairly straightforward, as was taking our dog to Europe a couple years ago. But other countries like New Zealand have very strict regulations, and bringing your pet there is almost impossible and very expensive.

The import rules will include forms that have to be filled out by you, your vet, and probably a government authority. It’s not too complicated, but the timing is specific with vaccinations, microchips, and health approval forms, so plan ahead.

Bluke looking guilty…

Bluke misses Carlee, so is checking flight times to Korea.

Check your airline’s rules for pet travel

Next, and before you book your flight, check the regulations of the airline you’ll be traveling on. Call the airline to make sure there is room on your flight for your pet, and to confirm their pet size restrictions. If your pet is too big and needs to fly in the baggage hold, there may also be restrictions on time of year you can travel, especially during summer months when it can get too hot and be unsafe for your pet.

Making the flight easier on your cat

One problem with long flights and connections is giving your pet a chance to relieve itself. A dog perhaps you can take for a quick walk at your connection, but what about a cat? So in my carryon backpack I brought a flat cardboard box, like you would use to gift wrap a sweater, and a couple ziplock bags full of cat litter. Both at our connection in Vancouver and at our destination at Incheon, I took Bluke inside a private family bathroom and using the box dumped in some cat litter for her to use. And she did use it, which I think must have made the long trip a bit easier for her. Then I sealed the used litter in a ziplock and discarded it.

Another thing we did was try and get her more comfortable with the pet bag she would be traveling in. Bluke didn’t really like being inside it, but she got more accepting of it, and we got more used to putting her inside. The vet also gave us some Pheromone spray, that we used on her bed where she slept, and also in her travel bag – again to make her less anxious.

Bluke didn’t look very happy during the flight, but she made it fine.

travel with cat

So Bluke arrived safe and sound back in her hometown…

…and until she returns to Canada we’ll have to be content seeing her as one of the “cats of Instagram”.

This was our experience bringing a cat from Canada to South Korea. Check the Government of Canada website for more information. The procedure for pet travel from the United States is almost the same. Contact the USDA for more information and forms. Check with your veterinarian, preferred airline, and destination authority for travel and pet import requirements specific to your situation. The information is essentially the same for dogs.

Pet travel at a glance – our experience

  • Our cost: about $300 including airline fees (one way), certification fee, and veterinarian fees.
  • Airline requirements: A pet reservation must be made in advance, and a limited number of pets are allowed in the cabin. Some airlines or specific flights don’t allow pets. Check airline pet policies before booking your flight.
  • Visit veterinarian at least one month prior to travel to check pet’s health, earlier if your pet needs its rabies vaccine and microchip. Second visit to veterinarian 7 to 10 days before travel to complete Veterinary Certificate.
  • Cross-border requirements: Completed Veterinary Certificate, endorsed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  • There is no quarantine period for pets entering Korea from Canada (unless they are missing proper paperwork or vaccines).
  • See our post about pet travel to Europe for more pet travel information.

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11 replies
  1. Khalid Farhan
    Khalid Farhan says:

    The good news is that things are getting easier Carole. The part where i live in, airlines are now offering free pet carrying services given that you have those special carriers. 🙂 Thanks for this awesome article. Loved it.

    Reply
  2. Saera Jean
    Saera Jean says:

    Hi Shelly!

    I am planning to move to Korea with my cat from Canada and I was wondering if I could get in contact with you to ask a few questions regarding your process. Please get back to me when you have the chance! Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    • Shelley
      Shelley says:

      Yes, Bluke could be one of the #catsofinstagram! 🙂 Bluke just made the trip back to Calgary again with our daughter — from Korean street cat to a world traveller!

      Reply
  3. Lyn (aka) The Travelling Lindfields
    Lyn (aka) The Travelling Lindfields says:

    I couldn’t imagine travelling with a cat, much as I love them. I admire you for even thinking of the idea. We may be moving house soon and we’re not sure whether we should take our cat with us across a few kilometres. Technically he belongs to our neighbour but he seems to have abandoned them for us – it is a real dilemma.
    Lyn (aka) The Travelling Lindfields recently posted…The Six Essential Rules of Holiday Cycling.My Profile

    Reply
  4. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru says:

    This is going to be so helpful for people who are wondering how in the world they will ever accomplish an international pet move. I was curious about the potty issue, too. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Donna Janke
    Donna Janke says:

    The only travel I’ve done with pets is taking our dogs with us when we wintered in the southern U.S. Driving them across the Canada/U.S. border is relatively easy, as long as you have their immunization records in order and don’t bring contraband dog food with you. (The U.S. has some very strict rules about what type of pet food can cross its borders.) I imagine the trip to Korea was as stressful for you as the cat, worrying about the cat, I’m glad she arrived safe and sound.

    Reply

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