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About importing a cat to

catgifFor many years it has been possible to import cats and dogs to UK, if the animals were put through 6 months quarantine. Not all quarantine stations are very good - several animals are known to have died in quarantine. Other places are excellent, but quarantine is always stressful for the animal, and a financial burden for the importer. Therefore the number of pedigree animals leaving UK for breeders in other European countries has always been very much greater than any entering.

In 1992 things changed - at least for commercially traded animals from EU countries - that is to say for animals going from a European breeder to their counterpart in UK. These "new" rules are known as 'The Balai Directive'. This was written 1992, and has been in effective use since 1994, but knowledge of it and its operation is still limited - even in UK.

I will try to describe what I did when my young male cat suddenly was destined for UK. I only mention cats and catteries, but almost the same rules go for dogs and kennels.

These are the Balai regulations, taken directly from a MAFF publication:

GCCF Ch. Primprau's Starcrossed Chance

Requirements for bringing a commercially traded dog or cat into the United Kingdom

Commercially traded dogs and cats may be imported from any other Member State of the European Union into the UK without quarantine, if they comply with all the strict criteria listed below. (Note - for imports from the Republic of Ireland, please see penultimate paragraph of this letter.)

Dogs and Cats:

  • must be the subject of a commercial transaction;
  • must come from a registered holding (the supplier must contact their own National Authority and seek registration under the above Directive);
  • must have an implanted microchip identifying the animal with a unique number which will also have to be shown on the accompanying certification (the importer will be required to supply a microchip reader with each and every import unless the reader comes in with the animal). The microchip reader must be of a type used in the Member State of dispatch and the type as notified to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the EC Commission;
  • must have been born and kept on the holding of origin since birth. Dogs and cats that have moved off the premises of birth (e.g. to attend an animal show or to go for a walk, etc.) cannot be imported under these arrangements. Traded animals are, however, permitted to visit a veterinary practice so long as they are kept under restraint at all times. Any contact with wildlife is totally forbidden
  • in the case of dogs, must have been vaccinated against distemper;
  • must have been vaccinated against rabies (with an inactivated vaccine of at least I international antigenic unit (WHO standard) measured in accordance with the activity test by the method described by the European Pharmacopoeia) when at least 3 months old and at least 6 months prior to export (with boosters if appropriate);
  • must have been blood tested not less than 30 days (and, in the case of the first vaccination, between 30 and 90 days) after vaccination to show that the vaccination has been effective (the serological test must show a protective antibody titre of at least 0.5 international units and must be carried out in accordance with WHO specifications);

NB! This means that no animal may be imported until six months after a vaccination which has been proved to be effective by a satisfactory blood test result.

  • must have vaccination and health certificates signed by an Official Veterinary Surgeon (both certificate
  • must be in English and the health certificate should be on the lines of the example at Annex A); and
  • must be transported in a means of transport recognised for these purposes by the competent authority of the Member State of dispatch.

These rules may seem complicated and troublesome at first, but they just mean organising some paperwork.One of the main problems is that not many in UK know The Balai Directive, or how to put it into operation so it can be difficult to know how things stand.


The decision about sending a cat to UK has been taken.

Now a series of practical steps must be taken:

  • First, both parties must register their catteries with their respective national authorities. In UK, the importer of the cat registers the importing cattery with MAFF. This is in effect done by sending a letter informing them about your name, your cattery name, your address and your telephone/fax.
  • The exporting cattery also has to register a controlling veterinarian with its local national authorities. This is in effect done by sending a letter with the name and address and telephone/fax of the vet the exporting uses. MAFF has employed veterinarians to help the importing cattery, so the importer does not need to register a veterinarian.
  • Then the cat must be microchipped and rabies vaccinated, if this hasn't already been done. One to three months after the cat has been rabiesvaccinated, a blood sample must be tested for rabies antibodies.
  • When the blood sample has been drawn and the exporter has the lab report, the exporter informs the importer of the lab result. The importer contacts MAFF with this information and is given a date of entry for the cat. This date is tat least 6 months after the date of the rabies vaccination.

In my case the cat was older and 90 days had already passed since the first rabies vaccination. He had to have a second rabies vaccination. The big question then was whether the six months would be counted from the date of the first vaccination or the second. All those in UK reading the document for the first time, the importer and even the duty vet in MAFF believed that the note in bold type made it clear that it would be from the vaccination for which the test was done (the second one). However, the MAFF Administration Officer responsible for this import had initially said it would be the first vaccination, and it was confirmed that it was her knowledge that was most up to date. Apparently, there had been a legal ruling on this very point in UK only a short time ago. The main part of the text is of more importance than the note, and the second vaccination is viewed in the same way as a booster. As long as least six months had elapsed since the primary vaccination and the titer test was satisfactory, he could leave for the UK as soon as the travel arrangements had been completed.

In the meantime, the cat may not leave the breeder's cattery unless to go to the vet for 6 months - this means it may not go to shows or run loose outside.

  • the cat does not need to be isolated from the other cats in the cattery - it may just not leave the cattery.
  • the cat may go out in an enclosed run, which is safeguarded against the cat getting out and rabies affected animals coming in.

The controlling vet guarantees that these conditions have been observed by a signature.

  • About one week before departure, the controlling vet must fill out a health certificate for the cat - "Model Health Certificate for placing on the market in the United Kingdom and Ireland of dogs and cats not originating in those countries". This health certificate must be faxed to MAFF, who faxes it on to all involved before the cat enters UK. This health certificate is valid for 10 days.

Now it is time to consider the travel arrangements for the cat.

(I can only talk about travelling from Denmark to UK, as that is what I have experienced.)

If you fly directly from Copenhagen to UK, you must use a shipping company. ( It was the MAFF Officer's opinion that if you fly from Copenhagen to UK via another airport in Europe, the cat can travel as baggage in the cargo area of the plane, because then the airport of origin is not Copenhagen (if the animal is accompanied there is a big price difference - 1000DKK approx.) We were told that only Denmark insists on using a shipping firm, supposedly because of past experience with very high fines for allowing export of animals for illegal entry into UK. (At least this was the explanation of the MAFF Officer we dealt with, whose opinion was that Denmark was interpreting UK rules too rigorously. However, the exporter always must follow the procedures of the exporting country, who may interpret guidelines to its own standards.)

In the following I will describe what we did when the cat travelled directly from Copenhagen to UK

When the cat's date of entry approaches, British Airways must be contacted. BA is the only airline with permission to transport animals into UK. The cat must travel as cargo, handled by a shipping firm, and in the cargo area of the plane - no matter if the breeder or the importer is on the same plane or not.

BA must approve the carrier (Kennel Cab is ok) and that there is space for the cat on the particular flight you request (they only allow one animal per flight). The shipping company must also approve the carrier - they have wooden carriers, which they recommend and offer for DKK800. If you can convince them that you have your own carrier which BA will approve, then Kennel Cab is ok - otherwise the shipping company has their wooden carriers ready for you to buy.

BA's preferred shipping company in Copenhagen is allegedly Airland International (++45 32 51 86 00), just behind the airport. Airland International charge DKK1292 for their services of sending a cat to UK. This amount must be paid cash when delivering the cat 3 hours before departure. At this time all the original vaccination papers and the health certificate must be shown.

Other shipping companies might also be used, but BA Cargo in Copenhagen refer directly to Airland International. In order to be able to send the cat, Airland International (and most probably also any other shipping firm) need the following information:

  • which plane is the cat going to travel with
  • sender's and recipient's names, addresses, telephones/faxes
  • the name of the cat, its microchip number and its age
  • which type of carrier the cat will be travelling in and the outer measurements of the carrier (if you choose not to use their wooden carrier for DKK800).
  • a copy of the valid health certificate for the cat

Then everything should be ready for travel.

Once the cat gets into UK to importer's cattery, the cat must be isolated for about 10 days.

A quote from Balai about this point:

The DVM will examine all animals within 48 hours of arrival at the premises of destination in order to check the certification and this will necessitate being able to read the implanted microchip. The importer must provide the relevant reader. In addition, currently a blood sample is taken to prove the rabies antibody level is adequate to confirm vaccination. Whilst the results of this blood test are awaited the animal(s) must be kept at the original premises of destination. The animal must not be moved from those premises for 10 days or until the DVM has given clearance in writing.

It is the importer's responsibility to provide a scanner that can read the chip implanted in the imported cat. Make sure to have the newest scanner available at hand - the cat has probably been microchipped with the newest kind of chip. We ran into this problem at the end - a local vet had just recently bought a new scanner that could read the chip, the two scanners borrowed from a friend were incompatible with the chip even though the company stated they could read the brand of chip (INDEXEL).

Exporter: Camilla Baird - Primprau's Korats, Denmark

Importer: Jen Lacey - Jenanca Korats, Great Britain

Camilla Baird Primprau's Korat Cattery © 2003







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