Getting Jewel to England

Jewel has been part of my life ever since she showed up as a small kitten on my father’s lawn when I was staying with him after my college graduation. After diligently searching for her rightful owner and coming up empty handed, I decided she should be my kitty. Jewel has lived in a surprising number of places for a cat: Washington, Virginia, Texas (in 5 different apartments), Maryland, and now she can add England to her list. After missing her for the six months last year that we were in England, I knew we couldn’t come back unless she made the trip with us.

As our plans began to fall into place, Mark and I investigated the rules for bringing a pet into the UK. They were not as clear as we would have hoped. We spoke to people who had brought pets previously; several indicated they had run into problems along the way. The memory of our stressful travel day to England last year was vivid in my mind when I decided to call a pet shipping company to see if they could take care of it.

Blake, the pet shipping representative, spoke with me several times over the ensuing weeks. He assured me that everything would be fine, we would get everything taken care of and that it was perfectly reasonable I was stressed out about getting my cat overseas. I purchased the correct transport crate, made vet appointments, and gathered the required paperwork.

In time it became clear that Blake’s company was only familiar with getting pets to London. We ran through several different scenarios on how to get Jewel to Harrogate, about 3 hours away from London, but each seemed overly complicated or overly expensive, when using a pet shipper is already not cheap. My anxiety level was quickly rising! With ten days to go before our departure, Mark convinced me we could bring Jewel on our flight as an accompanied pet, and that the rules would allow her to go through customs at our arrival in Manchester, so that we could then take her with us directly to Harrogate.

I stressed through Jewel’s final vet visit (eight days before we left) and stressed waiting for the vet to fill out the several forms I needed. I worried about overnighting the paperwork to the USDA office for endorsement, thinking that maybe I should drive the four hours each way to the office to make sure everything was okay. I checked the UPS online tracker incessantly the day the paperwork was supposed to arrive back, but hardly relaxed when I had it all back in my hands. When we took Jewel to the airport cargo check-in point, it took two hours to get her set and I worried the whole time they would look at the paperwork and decide it wasn’t correct, or reject it for improper penmanship, or because it wasn’t dark enough on all six carbon copies (we had heard of all these things happening to others). But then they took her away and it was time for us to check in ourselves. It was very reassuring to find we were sitting over the cargo bay loading area on the plane. At first, it was just nice to see our bags being loaded, but then we saw Jewel’s carrier being escorted towards the hold by the same friendly pet handler that had taken her at check in. It was nice to know we were all on the same place! Twelve hours later, we saw Jewel emerge from the cargo bay in Manchester-she looked like she had a few things to say about being shut up on that airplane for so long!

Even though clearing customs took longer than we thought it would, we were finally able to get Jewel and all travel together to Harrogate for the start of our new UK adventure. We’re so glad to have our kitty here with us!

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