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Expatriating with Pets

By - April 30, 2010 (Updated: November 5, 2018)

Don't leave me behind

Don’t leave me behind

People are always surprised when we tell them our cats are Canadian.

“You brought three cats to Belgium, all the way from Canada,” they exclaim. Well, actually it was four cats and our Saint Bernard joined us three months later, but yes. Our pets are all from Canada.

It surprises me that they are surprised. We wouldn’t dream of moving without our pets. They are an important part of our family. When we adopted them it was for life.

I know that not all people have the same relationship with their pets as we do, but you would never ask someone why they expatriated with their children. That’s how we feel about our pets.

But flying with four cats wasn’t easy. And shipping a Saint Bernard overseas is extremely costly.

Packed and ready to fly.

Packed and ready to fly.

Moving isn't that stressful

Moving isn’t that stressful

We’ve also had to deal with finding a good veterinarian in Belgium, something that we luckily managed on our second attempt. Then there was the search for good food, medicines and other pet products.

We’ve had the sadness of losing our dog and one of our cats to illness while overseas. As well as the stress of moving to three different properties while in Europe.

But the joys have outweighed the difficulties.

Travelling with our Saint Bernard was a highlight. Being able to take him to restaurants and tourist sites in France was fantastic. We know his short time with us here was a lot of fun for him.

Not an appropriate cat carrier

Not an appropriate cat carrier

And although sometimes they drive us a little crazy sometimes, there is nothing better than spending a lazy Sunday morning in a bed covered in purring kitties.

I’ve heard far too many stories of people who have decided to move and simply give up their pets. I realize that in some extreme circumstances this is necessary and sometimes it’s the best decision for the animal. But more often than not, it is simply more convenient for the owner.

Most animals are extremely adaptable. My oldest cat has moved a total of 8 times. She’s a total pro and settles in to her new accommodation within hours. Even our most timid cat becomes settled in a new space within a couple of days. But at the end of the day, they are just happy to be with us, no matter where we are.

The thought of sending them to a shelter (or worse) just because I didn’t want the hassle of moving with them makes me sad and angry.

Getting a pet passport is not all that difficult. It just requires a few extra trips to the vet and lots of paperwork. These days there are even companies who you can hire that will do most of the work for you. I will definitely be looking into these services if we move in the future.

Is moving overseas with pets stressful? Absolutely, but probably no more so than moving with small children. Would I do it over again? Without question.

Even this scaredy-cat can fly.

Even this scaredy-cat can fly.

If you are considering moving to Belgium with your pet(s), there is a very informative article on AngloInfo about Moving to Belgium with Animals. You can also email me for details of our process (or at least what NOT to do!)

Have you travelled with your pets? Are they expats too? Leave your stories and thoughts in the comments.

Looking for more resources for living abroad? Check out our Expat Resources page.

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