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I tried reserving a plane ticket with KLM yesterday, from Germany to the UK, and everything went great until I mentioned I'd be flying with a cat.

The KLM employee on the phone informed me the UK has a policy in place which prohibit taking pets into the UK, but not out of the UK.
Unfortunately, she couldn't provide me with more info.
I did my best to find more information online, but I was unable to find anything. The closest thing was a gov.UK page listing the things a pet will need to have to be allowed inside the UK.

Is this policy in place for air traffic only?

If yes, what's the best alternative way to travel with a cat from Germany to the UK.
If not, is the policy set hard in stone? Or are am I allowed to travel with a pet via plane if certain requirements are met?

EDIT:

I'm travelling on 1st of December.

From reading all the answers I think driving there might be the best solution. Thank you all for answering!

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    There is a web page about this: gov.uk/bring-pet-to-uk Does that answer your question? – DJClayworth Oct 7 at 15:03
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    You should be aware that the rules are very strict. The UK is rabies-free, and will spend a lot of effort to keep it that way. – DJClayworth Oct 7 at 15:12
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    Are you moving there, or just visiting and want to take your cat? You are likely to get more information about moving with your cat on Expatriates. expatriates.stackexchange.com – Kate Gregory Oct 7 at 15:26
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    The UK is very strict when it comes to travelling with pets, and many carriers apparently think it's not worth the hassle. Even British Airways won't accept any pets. Note that this is not specific to airlines, Eurostar won't accept pets either. I have to admit I have no idea what means of transport would enable you to bring your cat (ferries? Eurotunnel shuttle?). – jcaron Oct 7 at 15:29
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    Here's BAs take on it. Any pets they carry must go in the hold: britishairways.com/en-gb/information/travel-assistance/… – Marianne013 Oct 8 at 10:47
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For some reason, it's very difficult to bring a pet into the UK by air in the cabin. I have researched this, and it's unclear why this is the case. In theory, the law is harmonised across the EU, and allows pets up to 8kg including carrier to fly in the cabin. In practice, no scheduled flights into the UK seem to actually allow this.

The best option will be dependent on your specific circumstances. Although Eurostar does not allow pets, the Eurotunnel Shuttle service does allow them. But of course, you need to be travelling in a private vehicle to use the Shuttle. Similarly, many ferry operators do as well, but again only in private vehicles. If you have the ability to drive, the Shuttle or a ferry are the best option.

According to this well researched page from The Man in Seat 61 a few ferry operators do allow pets on specific routes for foot passengers however

In fact, there are only three ferry operators who let foot passengers take dogs, Stena Line Harwich to Hoek van Holland, P&O Hull-Rotterdam, DFDS Newhaven-Dieppe & Newcastle-Amsterdam.

The Man in Seat 61 gives an alternative train route, which is to take the train to Calais, taking a taxi through the Eurotunnel, and then a train onwards from Folkestone.

Note that the regulations for bringing pets across the UK border may be disrupted by Brexit, from the 1st January 2021. Additionally, it's possible that some services allowing pets might be disrupted by the pandemic.

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  • 5
    A taxi through the Eurotunnel? Has that been done? – DJClayworth Oct 7 at 17:30
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    @DJClayworth Yes, see the page I linked, and also here folkestonetaxi.com/Pet+travel+abroad.html – MJeffryes Oct 7 at 17:58
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    Last I checked DFDS allows cats+dogs on all channel routes. The animal must remain in the vehicle however – Esben Skov Pedersen Oct 8 at 6:30
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    @EsbenSkovPedersen Yes, as I said, all (?) ferry operators allow pets if you're travelling by car. There's only a few that will allow pets for pedestrians though, which is why I highlighted these. – MJeffryes Oct 8 at 11:22
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    How about flying to Ireland instead and then going to the UK via Northern Ireland? Perhaps that's easier? – JonathanReez Oct 8 at 18:26
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I brought a cat into England by car from France in 2016. The cat had an embedded microchip, and a European pet passport. I came by car ferry, and I had to report to the animal hut before boarding.

Having said that, it seems that these days you also need to have had your cat treated for tapeworm no more than five days before travel -- see this link.

As for flying, I would say forget it.

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    Tapeworm treatment is not actually required for cats (says UK govt page, to which original poster links), but rabies is! – domen Oct 9 at 14:46
  • @domen: My link (www.europarl.europa.eu) says unambiguously that all animals require tapeworm treatment; the OP's link (www.gov.uk) says unambiguously that only dogs need it. So I suppose you are right. – TonyK Oct 9 at 18:51
  • Sorry, I didn't make it clear. I have read that page before and it does say that. Someone should let them know to fix the info. – domen Oct 10 at 9:12
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    @domen: Now you're not making yourself clear again! By 'that page', do you mean the europa.eu one, or the gov.uk one? – TonyK Oct 10 at 9:48
  • Haha. Europa one (well both, in fact). Anyway, what I wanted to say was that it's nothing personal, just the europa.eu webpage with wrong info. Anecdotally we've also traveled with a cat a couple times, following gov.uk webpage guidance. – domen Oct 10 at 15:47
9

We have dogs. We considered taking them with us when we went on a trip to Luxembourg last year, but the trouble (and cost) of getting them back in the country meant it was much cheaper to put them in kennels for 2 weeks instead.

With Britain being an island, many of the diseases which are common in Europe are simply not present here (or at least not common), and there have been major efforts (especially with rabies) to make it that way and keep it that way. The EU "pet passport" scheme has made this a little easier, but some treatments still need to be given immediately before crossing. At the moment the EU "pet passport" scheme does not have an alternative for after Brexit either. On 1st December you should be OK, but you can expect there to be problems after 31st December.

Policies for animals are 100% set in stone though, and there is no possibility of negotiation. Airlines, ferries and Eurotunnel will refuse to carry you and your pet if you don't have the proof from a vet that your pet has had the necessary vaccinations/pills/whatever. Or worst-case, if you get stopped on the other side then you have a choice either of going straight home again or having your pet destroyed.

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    Even with all the paperwork etc, many airlines as well as Eurostar won't accept any pets, full stop. – jcaron Oct 8 at 12:22
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I've been there and you're right, it's really complicated. Here's what I've learned. First, you can fly a cat into the UK, but you must have it sent as cargo:

Pets usually travel as cargo, but there are different rules if you’re arriving by air or sea with an assistance dog.

This means that it will fly on the same flight you are on, but you need a separate ticket for the animal, one that is significantly more expensive than your own, and you need to fly into an airport that has freight handling. You also need to fly with an airline that handles freight, so low cost ones are out. Here is the gov.uk page listing the airlines that can do this and the airports they fly to that can handle cargo of this sort.

The cat will travel as luggage, as freight, and not be in the cabin with you. What's worse, although you might think it kind to drug the cat so it sleeps through its ordeal, we were advised not to do this because the people checking the cat on arrival won't run any proper blood tests, they just look at the state the animal is in. And if it looks like it's sick, for instance if it is waking up after a few hours on sleeping pills, they may quarantine it. Which will be no fun for anyone involved.

Your other option is to go by car or train. However, You can't just take it with you on the Eurostar. No, you need to take a special train that carries vehicles. Those are the only ones that carry "freight" and cats are apparently in this category. More detail on that in this gov.uk page about sea and rail routes.

In the end, we chose to pay the ~500€ ticket and fly the cat from Athens to London as cargo. We delivered it to the airport, it was taken away, and then on arrival we had to go pick it up from a special place in Heathrow. On the bright side, the cat was actually fine. It was obviously unhappy but not scarred for life or anything, and it was its normal haughty self a couple of days later. So it is probably less traumatic than it sounds.

My advice to you is to ask your airline. Tell them you need to send the cat as freight and ask them how much such a ticket would cost. And make sure you carefully read through every step of this step by step guide to bringing your pet to the UK: https://www.gov.uk/bring-pet-to-uk

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  • The key point here seems to be that the cat can't fly in the cabin on a commercial flight. Annoying and expensive and probably pointless, but that seems to be the rules. – Michael Hampton Oct 8 at 22:54
  • @MichaelHampton yep, exactly. You also need a very large carrier, for some reason I don't remember and I can't find a reference for now. But we had to buy a special one that would fit a medium dog! Granted, that may have been overkill, I don't remember the details on this. – terdon Oct 8 at 22:54
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    When flew our cats the other direction (from UK to US) we were advised against drugging them as there was no way to help them if they had an adverse reaction during the flight. – Laconic Droid Oct 9 at 1:09
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The best way is to drive with the cat in your own car, and use the Eurotunnel “Le Shuttle” service, which is pet-friendly. As an added bonus, I believe that under current UK COVID-19 rules, you won’t need to self-isolate upon arrival in the UK if you don’t get out of your car (and no one else gets in) while you’re in a country other than Germany or the UK. Of course, this doesn’t help much if you don’t have a car.

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  • We have done this multiple times and I agree this is probably the least stressful way for a cat. Regarding self-isolation, it might be tricky, as you need to get out of the car for pet check-in, and that's in France, even before border control. Maybe "drive through" pet reception is an option, for which you apparently need to pay extra. – domen Oct 9 at 14:52
  • Come on, who doesn't have a car? – Fattie Oct 9 at 20:59
  • @Fattie 34% of people in Germany: statista.com/forecasts/998697/car-ownership-in-germany. – Mike Scott Oct 10 at 5:30
  • @MikeScott - I was just teasing there :) – Fattie Oct 10 at 15:54

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