Friday, February 20, 2015

PCSing OCONUS with cats

If you are not sure about the alphabet soup in this blog post title, it’s to help military families moving overseas. We have some advice based on our complicated experience. Stay tuned for more updates from the cats when we have our new house!
The three of us cats have had a heck of a ride since the ‘rents (parents) decided to move to a military installation in Germany. They actually had a choice, since it was a civilian job, but the regulations we encountered apply to everyone.
The oldest of us cats had to get a microchip, which was quick and relatively easy. The new microchip numbers are FIFTEEN (15) digits long. It turns out that the younger cats had already been microchipped a few years ago, but theirs had fewer digits (only 10). The veterinarian recommended against putting new microchips in us because we would have been required to have another rabies shot after the new microchip, even though we had already had 3 year rabies shots last year. For that reason, our new microchip cat had to have a new rabies shot even though the current American 3-year shot was still valid. The friendly military veterinarian offered to let us borrow a microchip reader gadget so we could get into Germany (not all airports have microchip scanners for the old chips).
Some guy “Uncle Sam” said we absolutely had to fly on American Airlines. This was plan B because the rotator out of Baltimore only allows 2 pets per family, with a third pet as “space-A”. Um, does that mean that one of us would be left behind if there was no space available? Ack! Baltimore is 6 hours away from our home, so who would come with us to hold on to no space-A cat #3? So we were booked on American Airlines, which allows pets to be shipped to Europe. Eagle-eyed Mom noticed on the reservation confirmation, that the flight would be operated by USAir, which DOES NOT ALLOW any pets at all on international flights. Hello? How is this better than the rotator, again? Yikes! A mighty battle took place by telephone and e-mail, because this Uncle Sam guy apparently does not really care about us wee cats at all. However, if you have a bunch of human kids, they can go along no problem- full priced in the airplane cabin. We are only 9 pounds and the ‘rents love us so much, we don’t even eat that much food or require cell phones like people kids.
Anyway, after much weeping and gnashing of teeth among the ‘rents, we were booked on a United flight, operated by Lufthansa. Plan C resulted in a small fee to the 'rents (price difference between the tickets for passengers on United/LH compared with USAir/United). The website says that 2 of us could go in the cabin, but once Uncle Sam’s people booked the tickets, all of a sudden we had to go in cargo. Miraculously, the cargo fee is a steep $200 per cat in our small-ish carriers; those parents of ours must be nuts to pay so much for us to come along.
Different airlines have different pet carrier rules for animals. There was a nifty carrier at the pet store with 2 doors- one in the front like normal, and another one on the lid of the carrier. Please check carefully if your airline requires pet carriers in the cargo section to have a SOLID top with no extra door/grate in the top. Good thing Moms kept the receipt for the top-door carrier, and returned it to the pet store. We each got a new $50 carrier from the pet store with solid tops, and nice supplies from (there are also videos about how to adapt carriers to airline requirements).
Our cat carry-on suitcase included disposable litter boxes, plastic zip-top bags of cat litter, zip lock bags of cat food, a small plastic collapsible bowl for water, and our favorite cat toys. Also, one special cat bed that we've had for a long time, so the first night in temporary lodging wouldn’t be too scary. Each of our carriers got a t-shirt in it that smelled like one of the ‘rents, along with puppy pee pads- good grief, can’t puppies learn to use the litter box like us? Just kidding.
We made it through the flight ok, and the ‘rents were waiting for us in Frankfurt at the “bulky baggage” pick up in the corner behind luggage carousel #1. We hollered when we saw them but then we settled down for the drive to Ramstein. We like it in our temporary quarters, and we’re eating, drinking water, and using the litter box ok.  

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