Meet Marble. Marble was born in Singapore, has lived in the Philippines and is sleeping in an armchair in Manhattan, New York City, in the above picture. She’s an international cat and probably has more Sky Miles than most human beings. She’s also a lucky cat, having started out her life as a stray under a building near the train station in Pasir Ris, Singapore. Now she lives a life of relative luxury on the other side of the world with canned food every day, lots of attention and love and a safe environment.
So, how did she get here? Well, it’s a long story, but first we exported her from Singapore to the Philippines and then when it was time to move on, we exported her again from the Philippines to the US. (If you want to read about how to get your cats from Singapore the Philippines, click here.) Compared to the process of getting Marble from Singapore the Philippines, bringing her to the US was relatively painless.
Just to give you an idea, the requirements set forth by the CDC (Center for Disease Control, which regulates animal imports) for bringing your pet cat into the US are that the cat has to be in apparent good health and, depending on the state of entry, updated on rabies shots. That’s it. Here’s the exact quote from the CDC’s page on cat importation:
A general certificate of health is not required by CDC for entry of pet cats into the United States, although some airlines or states may require them. However, pet cats are subject to inspection at ports of entry and may be denied entry into the United States if they have evidence of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. If a cat appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense might be required at the port of entry.
Cats are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination for importation into the United States. However, some states require vaccination of cats for rabies, so it is a good idea to check with state and local health authorities at your final destination.
An additional requirement from Delta (the airline I used) was that she needed a government health certificate and to get her out of the country we had to get an export permit. In the Philippines, you’ll get your export permit and government health certificate at the same time. They’re the same form in fact.
So, here’s a step-by-step for what you’ll need to get your pet cat out of the Philippines:
- When you book your flight, do it with a live person and inform them that you’ll be taking a pet cat with you on the flight. This is necessary, because not all planes are equipped to carry live animals. The fee for carrying pet cats is 200 USD each, flat rate. You pay this later. I’m not aware of any limit to the number of cats you can bring at one time, but I’m sure there is one.
- Within 10 days of your flight, take your cat to a vet and have her updated on all shots. Depending on what state you go to, your cat may need a rabies shot. Also, regardless of US requirements, the BAI staff asked to see proof of rabies vaccination. Get your cat the other shots he or she should have anyway, because it’s just healthier that way and will help your cat avoid disease and live longer. Depending on what vet you use, costs may vary. Our cat had her rabies shot in Singapore in May, so it was still valid. Her feline leukopenia booster was 750 pesos.
- Request a Veterinary Health Certificate. You may need to explain what this is and what it’s for and what it needs to say. The vet we went to didn’t seem to know, which isn’t surprising. Cats aren’t popular pets in the Philippines and I imagine exporting them to other countries by owners is rare. We paid 500 pesos for our Health Certificate at Our Lady of Assumption Dog and Cat Clinic – Antipolo:
- Contact Person: Oscar Macenas
- Address: Joren Building, Circumferential Road, Marville Park Subdivision, Antipolo, Rizal
- Contact Numbers: (02) 697-1896, (02) 697-3378
- Accreditation: Philippine Animal Hospital Association (PAHA)
- Take your Veterinary Health Certificate (within 3 days of issue!!!) and your cat’s shot record, showing the valid rabies vaccination, to the BAI building on Visaya’s Avenue in Quezon City, Manila. Please note that BAI will only consider your veterinary health certificate valid for three days after issue. You must bring it to them within that timeframe. They’ll process your combo export permit/government health certificate in an hour or less. Take the form they give you and go around to the back of that building (to the left as you exit the door). Go into the building there on your left (there’s only one) and up to the 3rd floor to the records unit. They’ll put a ‘dry seal’ (raised notary seal) on your export permit. All of this is free. The forms you receive from the BAI will be valid for 10 days. (Confirmation that the veterinary health certificate is still only valid for 3 days after being issued and updated information on the length of time that the BAI documents are valid provided by commenter Lou Cep 1/26/2017).
- Contact Person: Virgie Tiong or Maynard Lagmy
- Address: National Veterinary Quarantine Services, Bureau of Animal Industry, Visayas Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, Manila
- Contact Numbers: Phone: (632) 920-0816; Fax: (632) 920-0815
- UPDATE (1/15/2017): BAI now has a Facebook page with up-to-date contact information in the About section. Click Here.
- When you get to the airport, check in as usual at Delta’s ticket counter. They’ll ask to see the documentation, make photocopies, and collect your pet there after you make your payment of 200 USD, which can be made in cash or by credit card. Delta doesn’t accept carry on pets on international flights.
- Collect your pet in the baggage claim area at your destination airport.
Timeline for Rabies Vaccination (Updated 4/20/2017):
An animal can be considered immunized within 28 days after initial vaccination, when a peak rabies virus antibody titer is reached. An animal is considered currently vaccinated and immunized if the initial vaccination was administered at least 28 days previously or booster vaccinations have been administered in accordance with recommendations. Because a rapid anamnestic response is expected, an animal is considered currently vaccinated immediately after a booster vaccination.
So, what does that mean? If your pet is receiving its initial rabies vaccination, the pet won’t be considered inoculated until 28 days have passed. If your pet is receiving a booster shot, the CDC says the inoculation is considered valid immediately.
When I went through the export process, I remember there being some confusion about how much time had to pass between the vaccination and the export permit being issued. My cats had all been previously vaccinated and the vaccination was still considered valid.
Some rabies vaccinations are valid for one year, while others are valid for three. It depends on the type of vaccine used. Please check with your veterinarian to determine whether or not your pet(s’) vaccination against rabies is still valid. Please get the vaccination at least 30 days before your trip.
During the Flight:
You won’t see your pet during the flight at all, even if you have a layover. What comfort you will have comes in the form of little cards:
These cards come off of a form that is stuck to the side of your pet cat’s carrier. You’ll be given one by a flight attendant prior to the plane leaving the gate area. If you have a layover, you’ll be given another one before the plane takes off again. My flight was from Manila to Tokyo to New York, so I received two of them. The fact that it comes from the sticker form stuck to the carrier at the check in counter is what gives you the assurance that your pet is in fact on the plane.
If you’re wondering how a cat holds up under a plane for 20 hours, I would tell you that it depends on your cat’s temperament. Each cat is different and some are more skittish than others, but Marble was just fine. She was a little nervous and hid under the blanket I put in there for her, but that was about it. Please do leave a blanket in the carrier. Despite being air conditioned, the plane gets cold. My advice to anyone, though, is to not drug your cat prior to the flight. Besides the fact that it’s not healthy for the cat, if he or she looks dopey or messed up on arrival you may wind up with your cat being quarantined to make sure it’s not sick with some disease.
On Arrival at JFK International in New York City:
If you’re flying this exact route, you can collect your cat in JFK’s baggage claim area. Just past the baggage carousels, there is a locked door with a keypad. Above it, there is a light with a yellow cover. When a pet shows up on a flight, it’s taken to this room and the warning light is turned on to alert the owner that the cat (or dog) is available for pick-up. When I picked up my cat I wasn’t required to show any documentation at all, because Delta had copies that were likely handed over when the cat was unloaded.
I hope this guide gives you some insight into the process of getting your cat from the Philippines to the US! Below is a map showing the location of the BAI office on Visaya’s Avenue. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask and I will answer to the best of my ability.