Transporting a Cat by Air/Land via Europe to the UK
Preparing to Fly via a European Airport
If you are intending to travel to the UK with a cat by air/land via Europe here is the procedure but we do recommend you read and take note of some of the tips given below which are from volunteers and friends of AAWF who have done this.
Also read our page about Passports, as you have to wait 21 days after the cat has been vaccinated for Rabies before the cat can enter the UK, so you may have to return to the UK yourself before this time is up, if so, you will need a fosterer to take care of the cat until you can return to Corfu to collect it, in some cases they may need to take the cat to the vet for you to arrange the passport.
When the cat is ready to travel, you will need to return to Corfu on a one-way ticket, the cheapest way would be with a low cost airline and of course tickets will be cheaper early and late in the season. This will not apply if you are already in Corfu and staying until the cat is ready to travel with you.
Booking your European Flight
You now need to book a one-way flight from Corfu to a European airport with an airline that takes animals and we would advise you to fly to one as near to the UK ports as possible. Certain European airlines permit you to travel with an animal in the cabin and the extra cost is quite low. The cat has to be booked on the flight as well as yourself. A recommended airline is Transavia, www.transavia.com who we have been told are very helpful when booking a flight with an animal, or Aegean https://en.aegeanair.com/. Transavia only permit one cat per person in the cabin but sometimes two bonded sibling kittens can travel together. Do check with the airlines as they all have their own rules.
Transport from the arrival Airport
When you arrive at the chosen European Airport, someone will then have to collect you from the airport with a vehicle and drive to one of the French ports to enter the UK by ferry or via the tunnel. An alternative would be to take a train from the airport to one of the ports and meet your colleague there. (An option if your colleague does not want to drive in Europe, but would add costs and time to the journey.)
Ferry to UK
Most people choose the Calais or Dunkirk option from France with P&O www.poferries.com or DFDS www.dfds.com ferries or the tunnel www.eurotunnel.com but there is another option from the port of Rotterdam with P&O. If you are travelling to the North of England there is a ferry from Rotterdam to Hull which is an overnight ferry, the facilities for animals are in kennels/cages. They do not permit the animals in the cabins on UK ferries, so this must be arranged when booking and if you choose this route the nearest airport to fly to would be Rotterdam. However, whilst this may prove more convenient it adds to the cost considerably as it is an overnight ferry.
When you arrive at the port of your choice or the tunnel, you will need to check in with the pet. If travelling via the tunnel, you will visit the Pet Reception area first where the pet’s microchip is scanned and Passport checked you will then go to the check-in. For the ferries, after check-in you will then be directed to the French Border Control and then onto the UK Border Force who operate in France not the UK. Here you will need to hand over your passports including the Pet Passport. You could be asked for a Custom Declaration Form which you can find on the UK Government website about bringing pets into the UK (link below). The form is a declaration that your cat is yours and not part of a pet trafficking scheme or to be sold. You can print this form out and take it with you but I have been informed that this was not asked for when going through customs and I personally have never been asked for one either. Only the passports were asked for. During the short crossing to Dover the cat has to remain in your vehicle.
The declaration form can be found here:
As we do not have any information from anyone using the Rotterdam route we cannot give further details about check-in but we think it would be very similar to the French ports.
One of our volunteers who collected her cat from Corfu has put together a video of her journey with Olive and a second video gives the costings. Click here to take you to the page with the videos.
You need to look at Olive’s Journey to the UK and Costing for Adoption.
Some further tips for the journey
Preparing for the Journey
Plan your journey carefully and leave plenty of time for connections especially if you are planning to do this in one day. Allow for flights being delayed, one delay can throw all your connections out. It may be better if you can stay overnight and return the following day in case of delays.
Make sure you have a reliable phone and charger and a SIM card that works in case you need to inform people meeting you of any changes to your travel plans.
You will need a carrier for the cat to travel in and the airlines state it must be a soft one to take on the aircraft. Do make sure it is the correct size for the cat and it can move and turn around in it.
(Available from Amazon - Morpilot Pet Carrier Bag - £30) or you can purchase in Corfu but make sure it is a strong one. If you taking it out with you make sure it goes flat to get it into your bag or case.
In addition to the carrier we recommend you use a Harness and Lead, ensure it fits, get an adjustable one and a strong one. Make sure the cat cannot escape from it as many harnesses are not secure and they can escape from them. When you pass through the airport you will have to take the cat out of the carrier and pass through the metal scanner holding the cat whilst they scan the carry bag separately. The airport staff may ask if you wish to leave the cat in the bag and go through the bag scanner. I have been told this does not harm the cat and know of cats that have been scanned but the choice is yours. If the cat is a difficult cat and nervous and you feel it cannot be held it may be your only option.
We would advise taking puppy pads for the carrier, nappy bags, antibacterial wipes and kitchen roll. Try not to feed the cat the day before you travel or only a little food and try to keep it cool in the airport and never leave it unattended. The cat will attract a lot of attention in the airport. If the cat does need cleaning then use a disabled toilet facility where you should have enough space to remove the cat and clean his box. Take some water and a container to offer the cat a drink.
Avoid using Corfu airport on a Friday, it is known for being very busy and a bad day to fly. That could probably be better in the low seasons.
Some passengers have cat allergies, so you may be asked to move on the plane if anyone objects about being near a cat. If asked to put your bag in the overhead locker refuse, tell them there is a cat in it! It should be placed at your feet, not leaving you much room, so you may wish to book a better seat with extra leg room but not one at the exit doors as they are not permitted to have luggage on the floor. It may be advisable to ask for a window seat as having a cat at your feet in the cabin with traffic going up and down the isle, could upset the cat. Some airlines naturally give you a window seat but DO CHECK and MAKE SURE!
Arrival at the Destination Airport
When you arrive at your chosen European airport, use the disabled facilities to clean the cat or the carrier and offer the cat a drink before meeting your colleague for the next part of your journey to the port. You may have to ask permission but European airports are used to people travelling with animals so should be willing to assist.
Arriving at the French Border
As you are passing through Border Control you may be asked questions about the cat so do familiarise yourself with the cat, it must be yours and if you have adopted from Corfu make sure you know its name, birthdate and things about it in order to appear that you know the cat well and that it is going to your home with you. All they want to know is that the cat is yours to keep and will stay with you (It’s not for sale or transfer of ownership) & the passport details are complete & accurate. So be prepared and get to know the cat before you set off.
The France-UK Crossing
As the cat is not permitted on the passenger decks they have to remain in your vehicle on the car deck. As they are alone in the vehicle make sure it is secure for when you return and open the door. If it is a cat it should be contained in its carrier or cage and cover it with a blanket to reduce the stress. Do not leave it loose in the car as they can become very distressed and hide under the seats and try to escape. Often car alarms go off on the crossing and this can cause distress so do make sure the animal is safe and secure.