Norwich, UK – Collecting a Kitten

It’s very pink, no?
As our new friend is now 14 weeks old, she’s old enough to come home with us.

We’ve been preparing all week. There was an Ikea trip to manage clutter, a pet store trip for a cozy bed, scratching post, and litter tray, a sturdy cat carrier ordered on line, and even a baby gate purchased for our juliet windows.

As I’ve not bothered to get my Driving License yet, I took the train up to Norwich to pick her up today with my seemingly gigantic pink and gray cat carrier.

Yes, you read that right, pink. When I picked it online, the options were orange/gray or pink/gray. Weakly, I somehow clung to the notion that our kitten is female are surely would prefer a pink carrier. I did not consider how I might feel carrying it.

Carrying a big, empty pink and gray pet carrier is exactly as much fun as it sounds. It’s like carrying a really ugly purse, only a high percentage of people who see it think there’s going to be something really cute inside of it, but there isn’t. It retrospect, I should have put a photo of a piranha in there.

So, my Barbie-worthy cat carrier purse and I took the 11:00 from Liverpool Street to Norwich, arriving 12:52. I resisted the urge to carry on a conversation with the carrier on the train. I made my way to the taxi rank and headed out to our breeder‘s home, approximately 15 minutes outside of the city.

Having a full, pink cat carrier seemed better…
For starters, what I saw of Norwich was quite pretty. It seemed definitely worth another visit sometime.  My driver was super nice, and before I knew it, I had arrived in Little Plumstead.

Our breeder, Esté, proved a lovely person with a home full of charming pets. She gave me a thorough crash course in our new kitten, covering her vaccinations, micro-chipping, worming, maintenance, registration paperwork, etc. All of the kittens were wonderful, and I was excited to be welcoming one home.

We packed up our girl, and headed out to Esté‘s car. That’s when the mewing started. 

I previously had been too noting of the silliness of carrying an empty cat carrier, and in doing so, I failed to consider the silliness of carrying an occupied one.

All that mewing made her very sleepy
by the time we got back to London.

She mewed and mewed, all the wait to the train station. 

We waved goodbye, mewing away.

I bought a sandwich in a sea of mews. 

We waited for our train, finally boarded at 14:50 without a lapse in the mewing. We took our seats, still mewing. 

I wasn’t sure if I should just announce my situation to the train car or pretend like this was normal. I opted for the latter, and finally, it stopped. 

I peeked in the container, and she started again. I did not peek again. I didn’t move again for 90 minutes. 

We arrived back at Liverpool Street and mew-mew-mewed our way to a taxi. 

After a few hours, she’s still mew-mew-mewing unless we’re holding her or actively playing with her. Fortunately, we like holding her and playing with her. She’s awfully cute when she’s napping.  

Moving Pets to the UK

Cramming a pet in here is not fun.

A friend contacted me this morning to ask me about the many to-do’s that come with importing a domestic pet into the UK. It’s a spiel I run through for people a few times a year, and inevitably, I always delete all of those emails noting the gory details. So, for future reference, here goes!

**Rules change, I did this in 2007/08, and this seems current as of the time of this post. Always confirm w/ the UK DEFRA site (Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs). Specifically, look at the PETS Scheme. I have included links into DEFRA’s site throughout this posting. Also, my notes specifically relate to flying your pets from JFK to Heathrow. (many US airports require the involvement of a Pet Travel Agent – JFK does not) Also, if you have a correction to share, please mail me.

So you want to move your pet to the UK and not put your pet in quarantine..

The most important thing: It will take you a minimum of seven months to complete this process. There are no exceptions.

Step I: Go to your veterinarian and kick off the process.
Tell the vet your plans, ensure they know the procedures. If you say, “pet passport”, they’ll likely know what you mean. A pet passport is an EU thing, but the requirements are the same as for what you’ll need, a 3rd Party Veterinary Certificate.
The vet will do two things:
  • Microchip your pet:
    This is so the vet can be certain that they’re always dealing with the same animal over the course of prep and for customs/agriculture to be sure that they’ve received the same animal that they have documentation for. If your pet already has a microchip, a second one may not be necessary, but you’ll want ot be sure that your pet has one of the approved microchips for this process, because if they can’t read your pet’s chip on arrival, your pet won’t clear customs/agriculture. Some people provide a microchip scanner when they transport their pet, but that seems a little excessive.
  • Inoculate your pet against rabies:
    The UK eradicated rabies, so your pet will receive a rabies inoculation. This is not, as I understand it, necessarily the same vaccination as they have previously received over the course of their lifetime in the States or elsewhere.
Step II: Vet Visit Number II (this occurs approximately 30 days after Step I) – The Blood Test
During vet visit 2, your animal’s blood will be drawn and sent for testing at the only EU-approved laboratory in Leavenworth, KS (if you’re coming from the states). The testing is to ensure there is enough of the titer in your pet’s blood.
**Your pet may travel six months from the date of a passing blood test
So, inevitably, one has to ask- what if my pet doesn’t pass? How can I prevent this in the first place?
  • If your pet doesn’t pass:
    you’ll return to Step I, and your pet will receive a second vaccination and be retested in thirty days.
  • As for preventing the odds of not passing first go: most animals do pass, but younger animals are more likely to require a second inoculation. This is because an older animal will have been vaccinated more historically. My vet in the States said that they would double inoculate on the first go in the case of a young animal where circumstance would not allow for a bit of extra time to complete the process.
Step III: Paperwork time
Your Vet will fill out a Third Country Official Veterinary Certificate. You will need to send this to the local USDA office for signoff as well. The USDA APHIS website has some useful pet travel reference as well, but the key thing will be where to send your paperwork. There seems to be an office in each state, and you can find yours and more details here. I sent mine with a return FedEx airbill, and the turnaround was very quick.
The certificate is valid for four months from the time at which it is signed off, so you should delay getting this until a month or two before you plan to move.

Step IV: Get an IATA Approved Carrier
Your friend will need an approved carrier, and that carrier must be the correct size for your pet based on these rules. I bought mine at the aptly named Make sure you get a pad for the carrier, as it’s required.

Step V: Book transport via an authorized route
  • Planes:
    I flew my moggie on British Airways, and their Pets Desk is very helpful. You can’t make an animal cargo booking until 13 days before takeoff. I had been worried that there wouldn’t be enough room, but when I rang, I was assured that there’s plenty of room. If memory serves, they said a 747 can take 9 domestic pets, there are numerous JFK-LHR flights, and they only fly a few pets per day total. The cost of shipping my old friend was around $850.00, with a cargo fee of $800.00 and a weight surcharge for the rest.
    You have to check your pet in early, I believe we dropped him off at the Air Cargo terminal five hours before takeoff. Your animal cannot fly in the cabin with you, no matter how much you love him/her. You do not need to be on the same flight as your pet, either.
  • Boats:
    Some dogs aren’t allowed in cargo – it seems to apply to those with smushy faces, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, or perhaps you don’t want to part with your pet for a flight. If so, there’s a boat ride for you. Cunard is the token approved sea carrier for pets in the UK, and the QM2 will transport you and your pets in 6-8 days.  They offer a 24 hour supervised kennel, and you can visit anytime you like.
Step VI: Pre-takeoff Vet Stuff
Your pet must (Not less than 24 hours and not more than 48 hours before you check-in) be treated for:
  • Ticks
  • Tapeworms
    *My vet said I could do this myself, if memory serves, but we brought my cat in anyway.

…and it’s Bon Voyage!

So what happens on the other side…

Assuming you fly, your pet is well taken care of by Air Cargo. Upon arrival in London, your pet is taken to a special terminal at Heathrow, specifically for animals. This terminal is not near the passenger terminals and there is no easy pedestrian way to get there.

Your pets documentation will be reviewed, your pet will be checked by a veterinarian, and your pet will need to urinate before it is released. This takes a while.  Bring a book or a very large jigsaw puzzle. You may also want to bring snacks.

Before you know it, it will all be done! I thought our cat would be traumatized by the experience, but he was his usual self from the minute we opened the carrier.

New Kitten! (soon)

This is a picture from her breeder…
Yes, her ears are supposed to be that big.

Things have been seemingly quiet here since the volcanic disruption, but really, we’ve just been having a bit of downtime in preparation for a busy summer.

It will busy summer that will include a kitten!

We chose her last weekend, and in the picture to the right, she is seven weeks old. We will travel to Norwich to meet her later in the month, and she will come home with us around the 12th of June.

New kitty (we’re not committing to a name until we’ve really met her) is a Cornish Rex, which is a breed with very short fur and generously sized ears. The breed is popular with allergy sufferers because the short hair makes for easier maintenance.

Expect a lot of kitten pictures in the near future. I may not be able to resist turning this into a website of full of them, but I’ll do my best. After all, we’ve got trips to take, roasts to eat, and much to snicker at.


My old, sweet kitty

I had to put my cat of 13 years, Oscar, to sleep nearly two weeks ago.

I’ve never felt so deeply saddened by a decision I executed without a shred of regret.

I found my old friend at the ASPCA, where he cowered in the back in a cage labeled, “George”. According to this cage, George was a loving, two year old cat whose previous owners had to part with him because they had concerns about having a baby and a cat.

All lies, I tell you. Lies!

What actually hid inside that cage was a huge, unneutered, 8 month old cat who was easily overstimulated and was a bit of a biter. He didn’t bite hard enough to cause injury, but it was enough to be very unpleasant. He had little thumbs which clicked when he walked, which at least allowed one an opportunity to take cover before he lunged.

I named him Oscar. He sucked, but he was mine. I loved him from the minute I held him.

He would run back and forth across my apartment, headbutting mugs off the arm rests of the futons. He burnt part of his whiskers off on a lit candle. He got stuck in a basket. He chewed on cables. He went too far onto the ledge when the cable guy left the window open and may have only survived due to rapid foodbag shaking. He was prone to lunging at the faces of people with sinus congestion.

He developed chronic urinary tract problems, which were only sorted after endless veterinary bills and the procedural equivalent of a gender change.

He ate half a stick of butter, and only stopped eating when I took it away. He rode the train to Albany in a cardboard box labelled, “glasses” and kept me company while I recovered from surgery. He played fetch with me while I did my calculus homework. He let burglars empty my apartment. He threw up on my loft bed while I was out. He started to purr for us.

He terrorized my mother’s little dog, only to be terrorized himself by the cats he shared his home with. He howled through the night. He loved sleeping with us. He was such a nag I got him an automatic feeder. He was aggressive towards rollerblades.

He made my home a home. He became a lap kitty. He rested his head on my wrist for hours while I typed, working from home with a broken foot. He stopped fighting at bathtime. He managed to wake up my deeply sleeping housemate while I was in South America by slamming into his door.

He mellowed. He flew on planes and was pet by children. He was too tall for the cat-sized cargo carrier. He held it for over 30 hours when transported from my brother’s in Florida to London. He developed a fear of suitcases but overcame his fear of the vaccuum.

He developed diabetes. It aged him rapidly. We gave him insulin. He stopped being able to jump onto the bed. We bought him a ridiculous set of stairs. He grew thin. He still wasn’t much for having his picture taken.

He began breathing very quickly. Possibly a chest infection, maybe tumors, the tests were inconclusive. There were antibiotics, a nebulizer, and the aerokat. They alleviated his symptoms, but it didn’t cure him. He grew thinner and weaker each month. The nebulizer made him fear us, the stress exacerbated his diabetes. Still, he tried to eat my ice cream. He remained social and seemed happy to be with us.

When the antibiotics ran out after four months of subcutaneous injections, we stopped the medication. In the week that followed, he grew more weak. I didn’t want him to suffer.

His favorite people came to visit. We had a bit of a party.

Saturday came, and I took him to the Vet for the last time. He was peaceful.

Photo du Jour : Strawberries

I worked from home today in order to take the cat to the vet.

The perks of working at home for the day may include a fridge full of berries, and fortunately, such held true for today.

In taking this picture, I decided to take advantage of the natural light pouring in from the living room windows. (Yes, more evidence of London sunshine!) I took the colander full of berries and put it on a plate on the rug, right in the sunshine.

All was going to plan until the cat walked over and proceeded to take a seat at the berries.

He wouldn’t budge.

Being able to crop a photo is key, I just never thought I’d need to do it to remove cat legs from a picture of fruit.

Photo du Jour: Meow!

Our cat, Oscar, has diabetes.

Much like a diabetic person, a diabetic cat will consume lots of water. After waking to find him drinking from our water glasses at night several times, we upgraded him to this dog-sized water bowl.

I expected that he’d be a willing subject, given a fresh bowl of water, but much to my surprise, he just sat there looking surly.

I’m not as happy with this picture as I’d like, but I can try again tomorrow, as Monday won’t be a bring the camera out day.

(We’ve also put a lot of pictures of cats that resemble him around his water bowl, but perhaps that’s a tale for another day. It’s only one picture and one big magnet, in our defense.)