This is part of a series responding to Christine at Almost Fearless' series 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World.
This post was about deciding whether or not to bring your pets with you when you go abroad.
Many people think this is just plain crazy, but all it really takes is some extra planning. Of course, when you say that it's not a big deal to bring you pet abroad and all you have to do is plan ahead, you are assuming the type of pet owner you are addressing is a responsible one. Pet owners who think finding a new apartment in the same city that allows pets is too difficult, and then dump their pets, are probably not going to be the type of pet owners willing to put in the extra effort to bring their pet overseas.
I am clearly not a fair weather pet owner, since I plan on bringing two of my cats (and possibly my ferret) to Japan with me. Bringing all five cats would pretty much be impossible, so the three who are most likely to adapt well to a new living situation are going on vacation with my family members. One may stay permanently, I think she may be happier in a one cat household, and my brother loves her. Avalon is staying with my old trainer - he knows her and the horses there, and she loves him like he is hers.
I plan on spending a few weeks at my parents' house before we go, which will give the cats who are staying time to adjust. To be honest, one is a little bit touched, so she may not notice the people are different, but the other cat is pretty smart but shy so I want to give her some time to adjust. I also plan on leaving my horse in the same city, and giving away or selling my truck. Might as well do it all in the same place to make things less complicated. I know some of our furniture is going to have to be sold and some will go into storage, and I really want to keep my dining room table, so I don't know which city that stuff will be in. The house will be rented out, so it may make sense to just have a storage place here. I don't plan on living in South Carolina again, though. Maybe I should bring the stuff I don't get rid of down to my parents' city.
Since my boyfriend and I are both planning on going, we would simply have one cat in a carrier as part of our non-checked baggage. I would prefer to transport the cats in cabin because one of them is pretty insecure, and I simply don't trust not having them in sight for such a long haul flight. There would be at least one changeover for us, and I can't risk them getting lost or overheated/too cold. Too many animals die on airlines because the staff is so overburdened, I would rather have them in the cabin ad therefore my responsibility. There is usually a fee for this, and only some airlines allow it, but there are three airlines I know of that allow pets in the cabin and fly to Tokyo. Even better, most of these airlines allow them in business class, and I have enough frequent flyer miles to pay for those tickets.
Japan has a 12 hour or less quarantine period if you have all the correct paperwork and vaccinations done, and most of the people I have tracked down who have done this said they were allowed to leave with their pets after 2 or 3 hours. Narita airport is about 35 miles from Tokyo, and we plan on using public transportation. JR trains allow crated pets under 10kg as luggage, and since taxi drivers are so competitive in Tokyo, if we wanted to take a taxi it would probably not take more than a couple tries to find one who could take us. The train is very inexpensive, though.
Apartments in Japan that allow pets are rumored to be impossible to find - but I think the only people who think that are people who haven't looked for it. There are plenty of pet-friendly apartments in Japan, and they just require a pet deposit like apartments in the US. They don't appear to be priced any differently than non-pet friendly apartments, either.
However, there are almost no hotels that allow pets, so I may make a trip to Japan alone about a month before we move to find an apartment and set up the house. Since renting an apartment in Tokyo is a time consuming process in general (and there is almost always a wait for move in) this seems like something I would have done with or without the cats. It would be nice to have a place to go straight from the airport that already has a litter box and food (for cats and humans), as well as beds for the people. The flight takes a lot out of you, and I would rather have a permanent place to head to, instead of having to hustle and find a rental while jetlagged. Luckily, my frequent flyer balance makes this affordable for us.