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Long distance travel with two cats - France to UK - advice please

(9 Posts)
pastaofplenty Tue 14-Jul-15 09:28:15

In September we shall be moving from our home in France to the North West of UK. Everything (e.g.: furniture etc... is going separately) and we shall be travelling with just the two cats (one aged 9 and the other 8). One cat has a mild heart murmur so sedation not possible, the other is pretty chilled usually though she does get set off by the other one.

I am starting to have real worries about the journey as on their short visits to the vets (less than two miles) they get very vocal and upset.

We have two separate plastic cat travelling boxes which we use and think should be suitable.

I have also read previous postings suggesting not letting them out in car, not feeding prior to the journey, taking plenty of towels, bags, Feliway, covering boxes with loose blanket so they feel secure.

However I am concerned about the length of the journey and the best route to take.

In short we could either:

Drive 4 to 5 hours to nearest port and get on ferry for a 3 hour journey (cats would have to stay in car without us) then face a 5 plus drive to North West.

Alternatively we could do a longer drive 8 plus hours to Calais and then stay in a cat-friendly hotel the night before and then get Eurotunnel (means we can stay in car with them) and then face a 7 plus hour drive to North West.

The second seems to break the journey - but ultimately makes the "experience" longer. The first seems a trek but we would get to destination quicker.

Anyone done anything similar please? Any advice on travel arrangements or other tips for the journey. We can't afford to fly them and we will not consider leaving them in France.


Ruhrpott Tue 14-Jul-15 11:36:51

We did this and moved from Germany to the UK. First thing is make sure you have your pet passport ready. It took about 8 months in total for us to get everything ready to be able to move them. First we had to have one chipped and vaccinated against rabies, then a blood test, then 6 months in Germany, then flee and tick treatment 24 hours before you travel.
We did the ferry route which took about 13 hours in total. We bought two slightly bigger travelling boxes that they could stand up in, lie down in and turn around easily. We had one cat in each box on top of each other on the back seat between my daughters (who were 17 at the time). We had food in with them but neither ate anything and we gave them water when we stopped but again they didn't drink anything. I was going to sedate them but forgot to get the tablets from the vets in all the moving stress.
Both cats were fine, whinged every now and then, didn't wee or poo the whole journey. We had towels in the base of the travel box and spare ones with us.
One cat who loves cars was let out for an hour or so after the ferry crossing and sat on my knee and looked out the window. The other cat who is more nervous wasn't let out at all.
I think getting it over with ASAP is the best way rather than trying to find a cat friendly hotel.

cozietoesie Tue 14-Jul-15 11:52:35

I've taken cats on 9/10 hour journeys - and also taken one of my Siamese boys on a UK touring holday (which is different with Siamese as they seem to have a 'Where my Mum is, that's my home' attitude) - but the thought of what might be a 13-15 hour trip in boxes for the direct option (plus any add-ons for delays) makes me feel edgy indeed.

I'd really be looking to fly them if I could - but if that's impossible then my instinct says to go for the broken journey with an overnight stay for them to stretch, eat and drink, and use their trays. (None of which they like to do in boxes - and it won't be high summer at that point but it might still be fairly hot and humid.)

Are those absolutely your only non-flying options? Even the 'broken' journey would still involve a lengthy stay in boxes and I was wondering if there wasn't a 'pet-friendly' hotel or BnB type place near the nearest port - or on the other side and before the remaining trip to the NW?

Some investigation of the 'other side's' provision might be helpful to you. Many hotels are 'pet-friendly' as opposed to just being 'cat-friendly' and while they're really thinking dogs, they'll almost always be happy enough with cats.

Are they inside cats at the moment?

Crosbybeach Tue 14-Jul-15 12:00:34

I ended up having to take my cat on a 3.5 hour ferry where I couldn't stay with them. It was really rough, and he threw up lots in his (large) carrying case. I was also really worried about him getting hurt as the boat was moving a lot and despite putting a seatbelt round the carry case it still moved. So maybe think about something to strap the carry cases down if it is rough.

You'll probably be on a bigger ferry with less movement, but do think about that.

Lonecatwithkitten Tue 14-Jul-15 12:05:17

You need to make sure you have passports up to date.
Even though they are your pets travelling in your car you need to comply with the EU transport of Animals Act. You need a journey plan, the car should stop every 2 hours and the cats should come out of the vehicle and their carriers every 8 hours. The only exception is if you are with in 45 mins of either a layover (cats out of carriers) or final destination. You may not be stopped, but if you are and do not have a journey plan showing all of this the fine is huge and per animal.
For the cats stress using Feliway in the car and carriers 15 mins before the cats get in helps, combining this with zylkene started 7 days before the journey can be really beneficial. French small animal vets are very up on this combination.

Costacoffeeplease Tue 14-Jul-15 12:07:18

I would break the journey, and also consider getting a larger cage instead of normal carrying boxes.

My husband often transports animals to and from the UK (we live in Portugal) and the cats go in a small dog crate type thing, with space for bed, food, litter tray etc. They go in pet friendly hotels with him, but usually have to stay in the vehicle for up to 24 hours (across biscay) and they have all been absolutely fine (he's on his way back from taking a cat just last week)

The passport is much easier now, they can travel just 21 days after having the rabies jab

cozietoesie Tue 14-Jul-15 12:49:48

That's useful, Lone, so thanks. I have to say the 8-9 hours, assuming a layover/reaching destination, sounds about right to me in that that is the general maximum length of the journeys my boys have had to go with. (I assume that that figure was informed by veterinarian input during consultation on the legislation?)

The Lodger, that most equable of cats, had a 9 hour journey by ferry and road and he was pretty well busting to get out of his box by the end of it. I wouldn't have fancied keeping him in for much longer at all and his welfare was the first thing attended to on reaching the destination.

Ruhrpott Tue 14-Jul-15 14:05:39

We did stop every two hours and give them water and let them out of the carrier into the car. We had a cat litter set up in the boot of the estate car but they didn't use it. We didn't let them out of the car as there was no way we could have held onto one of them if they decided to dash off in the middle of Europe in panic and they flip out if you try and put them on a lead. We also never left them alone apart from on the ferry where we had to leave them in the car. I didn't know they had to leave the vehicle after 8 hours, the german vet never mentioned it and I didn't read anything about it when I was reading up on moving them and the pet passport. This was in 2010.
When we arrived at our new house we set up the spare room as a cat room and kept them in there while all the furniture and boxes where being brought in to the house.

pastaofplenty Tue 14-Jul-15 19:48:21

Thanks everyone - I think we have decided on a "compromise". DH will drive the shortest route and I'll meet him the UK end (I have work commitments). That way he'll do the bit I'm dreading (3 hours on ferry) but I'll pick up the UK end for fresh driver. We'll offer water on route and feed, stretch legs (in car), litter (in car if they want) and then do extra drive. Whichever way we look at it it's daunting but I think they'll be better this way.

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