The Great Cat Reunion and Christmas in Georgia

View from plane window.

The view from the plane window en route from New York City’s LGA to Atlanta’s Hartford Airport.

For the week of Christmas, my wife and I flew down to Georgia to visit relatives. It was the first time I’d been there in about two years. It was really nice to get out of the city, see my family and relax. Going around town, looking at the places I went to school, the places I used to hang out, and sharing those memories with my wife was a good experience for both of us. She left feeling like she knew me better and I came away from the trip feeling a bit more grounded. Going to college and taking heavy course-loads with only short breaks between (I’ve been cramming in Summer and Winter classes as well) had me feeling like I was mentally flying off the rails for a while there. I’m also not taking a class this Winter. That’s mostly because I have Grand Jury Duty but I don’t think I would have taken a course anyway. I just need time to let everything I’ve learned sink in, and time to just unwind.

Highway signs in Alabama. Some of my family lives over there too, right on the border with Georgia.

Highway signs in Alabama. Some of my family lives over there too, right on the border with Georgia.

The National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning Georgia.

The National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning Georgia.

While we were in Georgia, my wife and I visited Sand Hill on Fort Benning, where I did my basic combat training back in 1998. We also went to the National Infantry museum. I’ll be posting about those experiences over the next couple of days. I can’t believe how much Sand Hill has changed, or how nice the Infantry Museum turned out to be. I was expecting something, but not something that well put together. It’s the Army, after all!

Carting our cats over to my mom's apartment.

Carting our cats over to my mom’s apartment.

Anyway, before we left for Georgia, we had one small issue we had to take care of: the cats. Dapper and Thumper probably wouldn’t have wanted to fly with us to Georgia, even if it had been affordable, not to mention the fact that I don’t think my family would want cats running around their houses anyway. So, they had to stay at my mom’s place with their long-lost sister, Marble. They hadn’t seen each other in about six months and Thumper hasn’t gotten along with Marble since I left the Philippines with Marble instead of her back in 2010 and she had to sit there for a year waiting on me to bring her to NYC. I think she got jealous!

Marble, pissed off about unwanted house guests.

Marble, pissed off about unwanted house guests.

Dapper, taking up a position on the high ground.

Dapper, taking up a position on the high ground.

Thumper, in solitary confinement because she likes to fight.

Thumper, in solitary confinement because she likes to fight.

So, throwing them all back together for a week was probably not the best idea, but cat-sitting is so expensive these days, and I trust family more than I trust a pet-sitting service anyway. I figured they’d be ok. Everything seemed to have gone ok, anyway. Bringing them back was entertaining. We had to wrap the carrier up in blankets because it was about 24 degrees outside that night with a brisk wind. When we exited my mom’s building, one of our cats gave this horrified meow when she felt the breeze. Then she buried herself in blankets!

I hope everyone had as good a time over the holidays as we did, and that everyone’s year is off to a good start!

Marble’s Memorial Day Adventure

Marble on the couch.

Being a Singaporean cat, Marble hasn’t had the opportunity to celebrate any American holidays until she immigrated to the US this year.

Marble doesn't look satisfied yet.

It was with great excitement that she oversaw the grilling operations at my mom’s place.

Shrimp kabobs.

Yup!  This is what she was waiting for!  Shrimp and chicken. =)

Marble's bowl.

She had her own bowl.  That’s one of the shrimp that was set aside for her.  She really does enjoy shrimp and chicken.  She’s not too big on pork though.

Since moving to the US, this cat has really been spoiled.  She eats plenty of scraps from the table.  She’s come a long way from living in a potted plant on the side of the road in Singapore.

Getting an Export Permit from the Philippines BAI for Marble

Getting Marble’s export permit was a bit difficult, but not because of the process itself.  It was getting there that was annoying.  Before we headed down to the BAI, we had to stop by the vet to pick up her health certificate.  The vet didn’t have a printer in the office so we couldn’t get it on the spot.  The problem with that is that the vet is sort of out of the way when it comes to getting transportation to Manila from Antipolo.  It is on the road that leads out of town though, so instead of backtracking to the center of town to get an air conditioned FX (a passenger SUV that’s been converted for public transportation) we walked out to the curb and flagged down a Jeepney instead.  Thankfully, it was overcast and kinda cool with the breeze since the windows stay open in the passenger area except when it’s raining.  Unfortunately, that also meant we got dusty and had black boogers later.

After a tricycle to the vet, a jeepney to Manila, the train to Quezon Ave and then 2 more Jeepney’s to Visaya Avenue by the Quezon Memorial, we finally arrived at our destination.

The Bureau of Animal Industry, National Veterinary Quarantine Services building.

The Bureau of Animal Industry, National Veterinary Quarantine Services building.

After seeing the AVA’s offices in the Ministry of National Development building in Singapore, I was a bit underwhelmed by the appearance of the building, but I suppose it’s no worse than some of the building’s I’ve seen used as government offices in the US.

Despite the appearance of this place, the people inside were very efficient and very friendly.  The e-mail I’d received from one of the people that works there said the wait time for the export permit was about an hour, but I had everything I needed and was out the door in about 20 minutes.  I did have to go around the back of the building to get a dry notary seal stamped into the form, but that only added another 10 minutes, most of which was walking.

Vet health certificate, BAI health certificate and export permit, plus shot records.

Vet health certificate, BAI health certificate and export permit, plus shot records.

The best part of it was that I got the export permit and they converted the veterinary health certificate to a government health certificate (which I didn’t expect), all for the low, low price of free.  That’s surprising.  The import permit was 650 PHP (about 15 USD).  The export permit fee and the fee for the government health certificate in Singapore were 50 SGD (about 38 USD) apiece.  I guess that’s how they paid for that big fancy building.

With this out of the way, the only thing left to do with Marble is to stick her in a carrier and show up at the airport with her.  I do have to find a hotel that will let me stay there with her in Manila for the night before the flight though.  It’s at 7:30 in the morning and it’s impossible to make the commute to Manila at 3:30 AM (it’s 2 hours one way, roughly).

UPDATE (2016): BAI Philippines has a Facebook page with updated contact information available. Click here.

Update (2017): This is a Flickr slideshow of pictures of the cat carrier my wife used in 2011 to bring two cats from the Philippines to New York City. Please note the bolts that were added to the carrier after-market. Make sure you do that. Also, zip-ties were added at the built-in latch points to further secure the carrier. I would bring zip-ties to the airport so that you can secure the door after the airport personnel are satisfied that they don’t have to open the door. Include a bowl for water and food. Ask that your pet be provided with water. Put blankets in the carrier so your pet(s) can stay warm.

Most importantly, keep this as your second or last option. Check with your airline to see if you can bring your pet in the cabin with you in a smaller pet carrier. Check with your airline for permission and/or requirements and fees.

Pet Taxi Cat Carrier for an International Flight

Cat Export Preparations Update #5

It’s almost time to go and rather than winding down, things are winding up, especially our stress level.  There are only a few things left to do, in regards to the cats, but it’s still troublesome.

On the 28th, the carriers showed up as scheduled, which was a relief.  It’d be time consuming to try to get a refund and then go elsewhere.  The cats don’t seem to mind them.  In fact, as soon as I put them in the room, they wanted to investigate.  I read that it’s best to let your cats get comfortable with the carriers so they’re more at ease during the trip.

So, what’s left?  Tomorrow I have to take the cats to get their rabies shots and health certificates.  Immediately afterwards I need to file those health certificates along with an application to have them converted to AVA health certificates.  Those should be ready to pick up on Monday.  Immediately after picking them up I have to go to the Philippines Airlines office and present the documentation to them.  They won’t let the cats on the plane without me performing that step first.  They want to verify the documents and make sure everything’s legal.

My stack of paperwork involving the flight and these cats is growing…

Stay tuned for more updates tomorrow!

Cat Export Preparations Update #4

Another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place.  I was having an issue getting the export permit from Singapore because I couldn’t get the AVA’s site to work.  It was a mix of problems that started with the site being horrible in terms of navigation and ease of use.  It was harder than it should’ve been to find the information I needed and then to find the form.

The form itself was the next problem.  The AVA has sacrificed ease of use for practicality and merged the export and import permit for both personal and business use into one form.  To further complicate matters, many items that don’t pertain to people looking to export personal pets are marked with a red asterisk, inviting you to try to fill in the box with some sort of data since you assume it’s required.  Then, when the data is erroneous, you’re not allowed to proceed.  It took me a few phone calls and some waiting to get past that hang-up.

Once I knew what was going on it was no problem to get the form filled out and submitted.  That was Friday.  Today I checked the form status and saw that it was approved so I was then able to make payment through the AVA’s site.  Once I did that the download link was unlocked for me.  I downloaded the export permit in pdf form and then printed it out.

So now we have the import permit, export permit, tickets for Philippine Airlines, and the cats have had their first round of vaccinations.  Next up is a return to the vet sometime between the 29th and the 3rd for rabies vaccinations and the health certificate.  I may get them the 1 month boosters while we’re there as well to save hassle later.  I don’t know if that’s possible though because I’m not sure if there might be a reaction between all the vaccines.  Guess I’ll ask the expert when I get there.

I’ll also have to give them all a dip in flea & tick treatment shampoo and get my wife to cram a dewormer pill down their throats.  She’s much better at it than I am.  They always spit it out when I try to do it, but they don’t give her any trouble.

We’re still waiting on the replacement cages to show up on the 28th as well.

Relocating pets is a serious pain in the butt and requires a lot of double-checking to make sure things are done, but it’ll be worth it when they’re all sitting at the window staring out at the Philippine and enjoying the space and privileges they’ll have in their new home.

Total cost for export license

: 50 SGD! Yay!

Total damages so far: 820 SGD

Total to go: approximately 500 SGD (I realize that’s higher than before, but I must have miscounted somewhere. 300ish for rabies & health certificates and about 200 for airline shipping, rough guesses.)