A Cat’s Journey to Italy

Francesca, a California girl, made the long trip to Italy with flying colors.

Francesca, a California girl, made the long trip to Italy with flying colors, in spite of my anticipating otherwise.

One of the many considerations and practicalities you will need to tackle when planning the logistics of your to Italy is the relocation of your pets. If you’re really going to pull the trigger on either a long term stay in Italy, or a permanent relocation, you’ll have to do your due diligence in getting this figured out. Our cat’s journey to Italy was an adventure that began with extreme paranoia on my part….

Francesca is a feline beauty. Rescued from an animal shelter when she was 2 1/2 years old, Francesca came home to my apartment with “issues” – meaning she was 90% sweet, adorable, and loving. The other 10% was pure, wildcard craziness and unpredictability. I enjoyed my many nights of her cuddling up next to me. Such periods of togetherness kept luring me into a false security of a devoted “daughter” who would never hurt me. And, then she would “turn” at a moment’s notice, leaving me with deep bite marks or scratches…and usually a parting hiss, as if to underscore her sudden bad mood, and to remind me that I could never, ever, really let down my guard.

I share this so you can understand why I began losing sleep as the day approached that I would have to put her on a plane with me. Sure, there the were necessary examinations, approvals, and paperwork, but what I feared most was how I would get her through almost 24 hours of travel, from door-to-door, without needing plastic surgery to repair my shredded flesh. And, then there were the fears regarding my fellow passengers. My nerves are usually shot fairly quickly in the vicinity of a screaming baby on board. I could only imagine the impact on fellow travelers of a yowling cat.

Can you tell I was building a huge horror film in my head?

Let’s set all of that aside, for now, and talk about the logistics of taking a pet to Italy…

Yay! No quarantine!

Breathe a sigh of relief because there is no required quarantine for you pet (at least for cats and dogs) when you enter Italy, as long as you have all of your paperwork in order. And, said paperwork pertains to both the airline regulations for travel, and for customs when you enter Italy.

Check out this link for GoItaly.com for more information regarding the requirements, and so you can develop your checklist. You don’t want to arrive at the airport the day of travel missing a crucial, authorized document.

Vaccinations, an EU-compliant microchip, and flying with your pet.

You will be required, through documentation, to show that your pet has been vaccinated at least 30 days prior to your travel date. Rabies is the biggie, but other vaccinations may be required. Even with all of your research, it is BEST TO CONSULT WITH YOUR VET. Most vets are familiar with the whole process. In most, if not all states, once you have the signed paperwork from your vet, you have to go to the state veterinary office for their stamp/seal (which basically testifies that the vet who did the original paperwork is authorized).

If you focus only on what Italy requires for the documents and their timing, you could make a big mistake. You see, the airlines require that the paperwork is dated within 10 days of travel, and not sooner. I took Francesca for her final health assessment just 7 days before to give myself a little flexibility, just in case. For reference, you might want to check out this link to Delta.com for their specific restrictions.

One thing you will have to do with every cat or dog, is to make sure they have a microchip that is compliant and readable by the system here in Italy. Francesca already had a microchip, but it didn’t match the specs for Italy, so she now has two.

If you are flying with your pet, you’ll have to determine if he or she will travel with you in the cabin or in the cargo hold. If the airline approves travel in the cabin, your pet will need to be able to fit in a pet approved carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you. Sometimes there are weight restrictions. Francesca, who was characterized by the vet as a “big girl” was on a diet for two months prior to her trip, to slim her down to just under 12 lbs. Book your flight in plenty of time to ensure you can book space for your pet, if you want them in the cabin with you. Most airlines allow only two in-cabin pets per flight.

Then there is the question of the cargo hold. Again, plan your itinerary carefully, and speak with the airline. Delta, for example, flies many Boeing aircrafts, and at the time I booked our travel, their Boeing aircraft did not feature pressurized cargo holds. So, my only option was to go the in-cabin option, since my routing was through New York, and I couldn’t avoid Boeing equipment. If I had wanted to put her in the cargo hold, I would have had to find an airline and flights that could have housed her in the cargo hold. But, I’m a loyal Delta flyer, and fortunately, Francesca was of the approved size (though barely) to travel with me. I preferred that anyway, even though I live in fear of her moods at times.

Also, if you are thinking of traveling business or first class, many, if not all seats in these classes do not have a space under the seat in front of you. Another thing to check with your airline.

If you have a larger pet, and the cargo hold is your only option, then be sure to consult with the airline regulations about tranquilizing your pet, if that is something you plan on doing. They have restrictions and documentation requirements around this as well.

Now back to Francesca’s particular trip to Italy. Being anal retentive, I had everything meticulously planned. I even gave myself time to try out prescribed sedatives. I’m glad I gave it a couple of test runs, because the first sedative made her a little loopy, but it heightened her paranoia. I’ve always believed she is a mind-reader, and I didn’t need her to be on a drug that enhanced those abilities. So, we landed on a low-dose Valium, which seemed to take the edge off. But, I was afraid of the morning I would need to get up at 3 a.m., sedate her and get her into her travel carrier. I was petrified she’d get into one of her unreachable spots, normally under the bed – but at this point in the move I was already sleeping on an air mattress, having sold my bed, so her go-to hideaway wasn’t possible. I got up that morning, took a shower, moving slowly, so as not to alarm her. I coaxed her into the kitchen with the promise of a middle-of-the-night snack. Her Valium was quickly gobbled up in a pill pocket, and I scooped her up and put her in her carrier. Whew….so far, so good.

With two big bags, my computer backpack, and Francesca, I had a car service pick me up and drive me to the airport. At the airport, all the paperwork passed muster, and then I just had to get through security. My biggest fear was that I would have to take her out of the carrier and walk through the scanning device with her my arms. I could picture her going wild, clawing me and then escaping into a crowded airport, with little chance of catching her. At this point, I must point out that I also had taken a sedative my doctor had prescribed. Take no chances, I thought.

Much to my delight, I was given the option of taking Francesca in her carrier to a little security room, where I would take her out of her carrier, while they scanned and checked it. Francesca, amazingly was very compliant –  thanks to the Valium. Just minutes later she was in her little “travel home” and we headed to the gate.

I won’t draw out the remainder of this adventure because it went incredibly well. For the 5 1/2 hour flight to JFK, there was nary a peep from Francesca, and even while we were in the Delta Sky Club in JFK during out layover, she remained mute and still. Then there was the packed flight to Rome, fortunately in Delta’s Economy Comfort, since those extra few inches saved my long legs because I couldn’t stretch them out under the seat in front of me.

Again, not a peep the entire flight. When we were disembarking in Rome, the two guys sitting next to me were shocked when I pulled out Francesca’s carrier. They had no idea a cat was traveling next to them. Good girl Franci.

The home stretch, after retrieving my bags, was getting through customs. I sought out a customs agent, explaining that I had a cat. He didn’t want to be bothered, and he pointed me to another gentleman, who in turn just said “Va bene.” (It’s fine) and waved me through. I didn’t know whether to be upset that they hadn’t looked at all the paperwork I had worked so hard to get or to be relieved because this was the perfect ending to a surprisingly smooth experience.

I hope my experience will help you in some small way as you plan your own trip with your beloved animal partner/s. Remember, if air travel with your animal intimidates you, you can take a slow boat, as a woman who now lives in Umbria, did with her dog.

In closing, I feel it’s important to reiterate the incredible benefits that our animal partners bring to us, emotionally and mentally. I believe Francesca has added years to my life. I also believe she has an incredible knack for bringing me back to the present moment. I encourage you to read the wonderful article at positivehealthwellness.com

All You Need to Know About Pets Improving Your Health

Disclaimer: These are my opinions based on my experience of bringing our cat to Italy, and in no way should serve a a substitution for your own research into how properly to relocate your pet.


By |2017-10-14T14:59:42+02:00December 26th, 2014|Moving Your Pet to Italy, Pets in Italy|11 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. royane mosley December 6, 2018 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    I Jed, I haven’t commented much lately, but taking a minute to thank you for this cat posting. My husband and I travel to our little casa in So Italy twice a year, Because of the tiny space we have there we have decided we can’t possibly stand it for more than 3 months at a time and I am actually pushing for 2 months. We leave our cat Isobella with my daughter here in Florida. She is not happy with me for at least 3 days after our return. We have many feral cats in Pisticci and it saddens us as no one in the City likes them but a few people. We became attached to four little ones born for our usual feral we named Fiona . Two of them disappeared , our favorite two, but we had two left when we left a few weeks ago. I left money and bags of food for a neighbor to take care of them. We hope they are still alive when we return. Thanks for your posting, I forwarded it to myself so I can refer back. I wanted to attache a photo here but see there is no way. Ciao Ciao Royane Mosley

    • Jed December 6, 2018 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Royane! So nice to hear from you. I hear your dilemma when you travel and have to leave your beloved animal children behind. But, they’re still with loving family. When you speak about how some people treat and think of cats in some places in Italy, it really saddens me. Too many people consider them a nuisance and don’t really do anything to help the situation (like getting the females spayed) and often just let cars, inhospitable weather, and wild animals thin them out. We’re not in Umbria more than a week at a time and even that is infrequent. When we do show up, there seems to be a fresh litter of kittens and the cycle goes on. I’m hoping to help triage the situation next spring and talk with a local vet to see if the females can be rounded up and spayed. My next door neighbors seem to be on board to help make it happen! Let’s hope! Jed

  2. Deborah November 4, 2017 at 2:14 am - Reply

    Hi Jed!

    I’ve just started reading your blog and it’s amazing, thank you! My question is related to an issue I haven’t seen brought up anywhere when it comes to pet travel – we will be bringing two dogs, is there anywhere they can take bathroom breaks before or after the flight? It seems like such a long time to be cooped up in their cages.. Thanks for any advice!

    • Jed November 4, 2017 at 6:36 pm - Reply

      Hi Deborah, Thanks for following my blog! I wish I could say that I have a definitive answer for you regarding ensuring your dogs have bathroom breaks during the long travel overseas. You may have seen this article in Huffington Post https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-guide-to-in-terminal-airport-pet-relief-stations_us_5820be3be4b0334571e09fb7 that speaks to airports in North America. Apparently European hubs are behind the US in this regard (with the exception of Amsterdam’s Schiphol) https://www.luxurypettravel.com/blog/a-flying-welcome-top-class-dog-airports/. I have a good friend who opted, for the comfort of her dog, to take passage on the Queen Mary. When I brought my cat I was distraught there was no way to let her have a litter box break. I had to settle for a piddle bad, and she did use it once, much to her disgust, I’m sure! Let’s hope airports all over the world become more accommodating for traveling pets!

      • Deborah McCarthy November 4, 2017 at 11:03 pm - Reply

        Thank you, will definitely look into your suggestions! I also want to thank you for the excellent advice on buying a car – we hadn’t seen that anywhere else in our research! You may have saved us from an expensive mistake ????

  3. Marilyn April 20, 2017 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    I have been wondering whether I would find a new home for my cat, or attempt to take her with me (she sounds a lot like your cat, though the cuddle/hiss percentages are different with a higher percentage in the “wild” hiss side of things). Someone also mentioned going over via ship for being easier on bringing in a pet. So perhaps flight to East Coast, then a relocation ship journey?? Not sure what I will do…and I have time to get that piece together.

    • Jed April 20, 2017 at 8:52 pm - Reply

      Hi Marilyn, How does you cat do in a car and a carrier? If she is calm when she’s in a carrier on a journey, and she’s under 12 pounds, you could fly with her. Our other cat (we adopted him from a feral litter here in Ialy) Yowls when ever we travel. He’d never be a candidate for a trip in a plane, and I’d probably be killed by fellow passengers if I tried! Yes, a cruise might be a good idea. The two people I’ve heard about doing this really enjoyed taking the boat!
      My vet prescribed a couple of different light sedatives for my cat. The first didn’t work so much, the second helped take the edge off, and she was a champ the entire trip!

  4. Royane January 4, 2017 at 3:16 am - Reply

    This is my first glance at your blog and I can see that I will be reading this every evening and learning so much. The first thing I read was about bringing a cat to Italy. I have two. Frank-lee is almost 17 years, and Isabella is about 4.5 and very much the same temperament as your Francesca. Wish me luck! Your description of the flights with her make be brave!

    • Jed January 4, 2017 at 11:11 am - Reply

      Ciao Royane, I’m glad you’ve starting swimming around my blog. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about anything. If I don’t have the answer, I’ll do my best to find out. I’ll love figuring out stuff – and, in turn, it offers me the opportunity to share these pearls of knowledge with my followers. Hopefully Italy will have the same positive effect on your cats as it has on Francesca. She still plays the “crazy card” at times (probably to keep us on our toes), but she is sweeter and mellower than ever. Italy does that to me as well! Jed

  5. […] So, when it came time for me to plan the logistics of the move to Italy, the idea of transporting Francesca “that” distance struck my soul with much fear and trembling. I had visions of her shredding my flesh while getting her into her under-the-seat carrier, and getting her through security. Be sure to read about the ins and outs of transporting a pet to Italy in my post A Cat’s Journey to Italy. […]

  6. […] I pulled the trigger on my move. Francesca was 7 years old at that point. Be sure to read about her adventure of coming to Italy in my post about moving your pet to Italy. The expected “standoff” lasted a few weeks, and then they formed their unique […]

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