Here’s how to import your pet cat to Japan


TOKYO — So you’re about to move to Tokyo and you want to bring your cat. Where to start ?

Japan is a nation of cat lovers: cat cafes are everywhere; 3D cats live on billboards; lucky charm lucky cat wave in shop windows. This is the country that gave birth to Hello Kitty.

But bringing a cat here is tricky. Like most island nations, Japan is extremely cautious about the spread of rabies.

But don’t worry: it is possible, with enough planning and a well-stocked savings account.

The Washington Post compiled this guide after extensive field research. Our process took 13 months, but it can be done in eight months. Here are 28 easy steps to import your neko-chan from the United States to Japan.

1. Find an experienced US veterinarian to guide you. Preferably someone who gives you a mix of warning and optimism, like our vet, who said, “It’s going to be tough, but we can do it.” (If you are moving to Japan without your pet first, have a partner and/or friends who can take your pet to appointments for you. This step can take more than eight months.)

2. Fall down a subreddit rabbit hole seeking advice from others who have gone through the process.

3. Get overwhelmed, then get a quote from a pet moving service. Receive a $5,400 quote to move your two cats. Shake your fist against capitalism and instead decide to find out for yourself.

4. Schedule your cat for a rabies vaccine, a rabies booster and a rabies antibody titer, which measures whether your cat will produce an immune response against rabies. Check with your veterinarian to make sure their lab is on the Japanese government’s approved list. Your cat’s rabies antibody level must be equal to or greater than 0.5 IU/ml. Search “UI/ml” on Google.

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5. Ask your Tokyo real estate agent to help you find a pet-friendly apartment. This will severely limit your accommodation search as there are not many options for foreigners with pets.

6. If you have more than one cat, decide which one will travel first (airlines usually allow one cat per passenger). The choice becomes easier when it’s between Liddy, a super cool cat, and Penny, who suffers from severe anxiety and reacts to major life changes by peeing and pooping outside of her litter box, and doing repeatedly pooped in your husband’s bed after you moved to Tokyo without sound. (Note from Penny: I can not help myself.)

7. Pro tip: When your cat has an anxiety attack and soils your husband’s bed seven times in one weekend, order him a funny “World’s Best Cat Dad” article online. It’s not ha-ha funny, but it will add levity.

8. Make sure your cat has a registered ISO-compliant microchip.

9. Wait 180 days for your cat to be cleared to travel to avoid quarantine upon arrival.

10. Cope with your loneliness by adopting cats through organizations like Animal Refuge Kansai, which caters to foreigners who are expecting their pets or want to care for animals while working on a short-term basis. in Japan. (Meanwhile, adopt two kittens: Mimosa and Pina, from a litter named after liquor and rescued from Tokushima, southern Japan. Take Piña to the vet because she has an eye infection. Struggle to give him eye medicine, then find out that Mimosa caught him from Piña. Take both cats to the vet. Internalize the shame of the vet’s disappointed look. Help them overcome their eye infections and adopt them into a loving home. Then replace your curtains, which the kittens have climbed on and torn on the way down.)

I live in Tokyo. He lives in DC Omicron forced us to get married if we ever wanted to see each other.

11. Once your cat is cleared to travel, call your airline to find out their policy on international travel with pets.

12. After waiting 30 minutes with United Airlines on an international call, find out that you need to call ANA as it is an ANA operated United flight.

13. After another 30 minute wait with ANA, add your cat to your reservation and find out that pets traveling overseas must travel in the hold.

14. Google the safety risks of international freight travel for senior cats. Have a little panic attack when you find out that 12-year-old Penny has a non-zero chance of dying.

15. Frantically shop for items online to help your cat feel as comfortable as possible, including but not limited to: calming spray, calming collar, pee pad, water dispenser and an ANA-approved cage.

16. Japan requires notification to the Animal Quarantine Service at least 40 days prior to arrival, with documentation of the high-flying feline’s rabies antibodies. Load the online portal, but discover that it is not working. Take a look at the fax number on the website and consider it briefly. Instead, ask your Japanese-speaking colleague to call Narita International Airport to request an email address for their animal quarantine service. Email them.

17. Receive a response from the Animal Quarantine Service officer informing you that you made several errors on your form, including writing “cargo” to indicate that your cat will be in the cargo area. You were supposed to write “hand luggage”. Don’t ask why, just modify the form and send it back.

18. Take your cat to the vet for the international health certificate, which must be issued within 10 days of departure. Due to a delay at the United States Department of Agriculture, schedule your appointment as close to the 10 day mark as possible.

19. Buy an overnight UPS form to increase the chances of the USDA getting it to you on time.

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20. Take your cat to his pre-departure check for intestinal parasites within four days of departure. Ask the vet for anti-anxiety medication.

21. Test the anxiety medication before you travel to make sure she responds well.

22. It’s departure day. Arrive at the airport an extra hour earlier to check in your cat. Ignore the smell when you realize she peed in her crate because she’s anxious. (Note from Penny: Again, I can’t help it.)

23. Show your cat how to use the water dispenser inside his crate by putting his nose to the dispenser and saying, “Look, that’s how hamsters drink water.” If they can do it, you can do it too. It’s there if you’re thirsty.

24. Take your cat to Transportation Security Administration screening for cargo items. Feel helpless watching the officer tie green netting around the crate. I wish him the best on his first transpacific trip.

25. Pick up your cat at the Narita Airport pet collection counter at baggage claim. Keep it close during import inspection.

26. Take your cat home on its first Japanese taxi ride. Realize she pooped on your white carpet as soon as she left her crate because she’s anxious. (Note from Penny: I told you, I can’t help it.)

27. Clean her up and pet her. Finally: She’s home.

(28. If applicable: repeat this process for your second cat. Your turn, Liddy.)

Congratulations, you have survived your first encounter with Japanese bureaucracy, and it won’t be your last.

Remember to celebrate National Cat Day in Japan on February 22, known as Nyan Nyan Nyan Day (“nyan” means “meow” in Japanese), when the heartwarming show of love for the country’s cats will almost make you forget what it took. to bring your feline pal here.