Cat Passport: Everything You Need to Know

If your feline friend is due to come on holiday with you or be part of your relocation plans, there are a few things that you need to do to help get your cat overseas with you. Whilst in the past, you could obtain an EU pet passport, things have changed a little since Brexit. Nowadays you must obtain an Animal Health Certificate for your cat to be able to join you abroad. More or less the same as a passport in that it helps facilitate entry to a country, the Animal Health Certificate is what people now use when referencing a cat passport.

Once in possession of an Animal Health Certificate (also known as an AHC), you are in a position where you can bring your cat abroad with you. They are easy to obtain and mean that should you be looking to enjoy destinations across the EU with your cat, you can move across the continent without having to obtain additional documentation.

What is a Cat Passport?

A cat passport, now known as an Animal Health Certificate, replaces the former Pets Travel Scheme that was previously in place when the UK was part of the European Union. It allows for entry to countries within the EU and a return to the UK and proves that your cat has received the correct vaccinations and treatments that allow it to travel.

Should you be looking to go further afield than the EU nations, you will be required to obtain an Export Health Certificate for your cat which acts as the more global form of passport for your cat to enter other countries.

If you still hold a pet passport that was granted before this recent change, you will not be able to use it anymore. However, should it have been issued in Northern Ireland or any other EU country, it will remain valid.

With this form of cat passport in your hands or the cat’s paws(!) you will now be able to travel with your cat much more freely without fear of quarantine. Although it is worth noting, some nations will still require periods of quarantine and if you are travelling far, especially outside of the EU, you should consult your vet to see what the latest news for pet entry is in the country you are heading to.

Do Cats Need Passports?

Without an Animal Health Certificate or as we will now refer to it, a cat passport, your feline will not be granted entry to the country you are heading to. In many cases, you will find your cat refused the opportunity to board the plane or boat being used for travel, but should they somehow make it on board and reach the destination, there is every chance of problems arising. This could include a period of quarantine for the duration of your stay abroad, an immediate return to the country they arrived from or in worst cases, the pet being euthanised. It is worth noting that the last option is very rare but has been known to happen. Should any of these situations arise, you will be responsible for any costs associated with them.

The cat passport (Animal Health Certificate), as we mentioned, works for entry into EU countries but you should remain aware that holding one does not always guarantee entry to a country.

Some nations have specific rules over certain animals and have restrictions on where and how they can be kept. If venturing outside of the EU and you have an Export Health Certificate (EHC), a similar issue can pop up. Whilst it still acts as a passport and grants entry to your cat, you should investigate whether your cat appears on any banned list. If a vet made a mistake and granted an EHC or AHC but your cat is not allowed in the country you are visiting, you will be responsible for rectifying the issue.

How to Get a Cat Passport

The process of obtaining a cat passport (animal health certificate) is relatively straightforward and can be done quite quickly if you have everything in order. An important thing to remember though is that not every cat will be eligible to travel. This is due to the vaccinations and the age at which they become able to have them.

As a result, cats must be at least 12 weeks old before they can travel abroad.

So, assuming they are old enough to have their rabies vaccination you can start the process of enabling the possibility of cat travel to become a reality.

There are three key steps you need to follow to get your pet passport (Animal Health Certificate) issued.

  • Get your cat microchipped: This is your first step and one you cannot miss out on. The small chip takes only a few minutes to administer and contains relevant information about you and your cat. Many countries require specific microchips. However, should the ones issued in the UK not match these, you may be allowed to use your own scanner when arriving in the country. ISO11784/11785 are the microchips you will most likely need for your cat.
  • Get your cat vaccinated against rabies: This is a step that is essential to the granting of travel documents for your cat. A licensed vet must give the vaccination, and for the relevant cat passport to be issued, your cat must have been vaccinated within the past year and at least 21 days before travel. You will also need to ensure yearly boosters are given even after a cat passport is issued. Failure to do this will invalidate any cat travel documents. Should you be travelling outside of the EU, there may be different timelines to work to. Furthermore, a rabies titer test may be required which can significantly add to the time for the process to be completed.
  • Visit the Official Vet (OV): An OV is a specialist vet that issues Animal Health Certificates. You must visit them no more than 10 days before you are due to travel. This should be at least 21 days after the vaccination was administered. At this visit, the vet will assess your cat and carry out a series of examinations to ensure it is not only safe to travel but not a carrier of anything that could infect other animals abroad. This visit may also include any additional vaccinations should any be required.

How much does a cat passport cost?

The cat passport or animal health certificate can cost amounts ranging from just over £100 up to more than £300 but much depends on where you are travelling to, where you are based and whether any additional vaccinations are needed. There are commonly four main things to consider when trying to obtain an animal health certificate for your cat. In the next section, we cover any other costs that can be associated with it.

  • The cost of microchipping a cat: A microchip is necessary and there is a strong chance you will have already completed this when you acquired the cat. If not, you must ensure this is the first thing you do. It is a quick process and can be carried out by your local vet for a fee typically less than £30.
  • The cost of rabies vaccination for a cat: Whether entering or leaving the country, your cat must have a rabies vaccination. You can expect a cost of around £50 for this to be administered.
  • The costs of additional vaccinations: Certain countries will have additional vaccination requirements that your cat will need to have before any form of travel document is issued. Your vet will be able to clarify what you need and the times when they should be administered. You can expect the cost of this to be around £50 but it can be much cheaper.
  • The costs of a cat health certificate: The step is acquiring the document itself. This certificate is issued by the vet confirming that all the above has happened and that they have assessed the cat and passed it as fit for travel and entry to the country it is going to. The costs associated with this can be wide-ranging. Expect to pay no more than £150.

On average you can expect to spend anything from £150 to well over £300 to get a cat passport (animal health certificate) issued. Costs vary based on not just the types of vaccinations required but also where you take your cat for them. We looked at a 2022 insight into costs and the change in prices from the lowest to the highest for cat vaccinations was significant. In some examples, differences were exceeding a 100% increase between the lowest and highest prices. Our advice is to secure some quotes well in advance of travel to get an idea of what you may be paying. In some cases, animal charities can help by offering certain procedures either free or heavily discounted.

Additional costs associated with a cat passport

Aside from the costs associated with the vaccinations and the cat passport or animal health certificate itself, there are other fees you should take into consideration before deciding if you wish to obtain the right to travel for your cat.

The rabies titer test, for example, required if you are heading to specific countries, may also need to be accompanied by parasite controls. This means you could need to add an extra £200 to your total budget. Again, costs vary per region and whether you are required to have both extra treatments.

Import permits are often needed too and these can be extremely cheap but also very expensive. It all depends on the requirement of the country you are visiting. PBS Pet Travel can advise you on the costs related to the country you are visiting but you can also check the government website of that country too. As a guide, be prepared to pay anything from £5 up to £300!

Add to this your cat transport costs via plane or boat and you can see quite substantial additional costings. The charges for having your cat transported from the UK to a destination abroad will vary on many factors. Not only should you consider the length of the journey but also whether your cat will be in the cabin with you, whether it travels in the cargo hold and whether the airline charges additional fees for pet travel. At an estimate, you could be spending just over £100 for your cat to travel but you could also see costs reach over £1,000.

Luckily, PBS Pet Travel takes the confusion and uncertainty out of booking the travel for your cat. With a team of pet travel experts on hand, we can offer a comprehensive service that guarantees the safe movement of your cat from one country to the other. The way we operate is unique, rather than quote a standard fee, we create a unique, bespoke pet shipping quote just for you. We assess whether you need a specific travel crate for cats, the destination you are heading to, and what paperwork you may need to complete. Then we can give you fully accurate costs for your cat to travel.

How long does it take to get a cat passport?

The timescale for you to get your cat passport from your vet is relatively fast. In many cases, it can be done in as little as 24 hours but can take up to 1 or even 2 weeks. This doesn’t mean you should start making your first investigations into your cat passport just a week before departure though!

With the specific timings required for vaccinations, you should allow between 1-6 months for the entire process to be completed. The reason for this rather varied timeframe is that much depends on where you are going and whether you are returning to the UK.

Typically, countries within the EU all work to the same rules so you can expect the full process from microchipping to the granting of the cat passport to take approximately one month. Countries outside the EU and those with more specific requirements will see the process take much longer so bare this in mind when planning your trip and booking your cat travel. The reason for this slower process is that many countries outside the EU require your cat to have a rabies titer test and these can take up to four months for the results to return.

Returning to the UK with your cat

Should your trip be over and you return to the UK, you will need to make sure that all of your documentation remains up to date. As you arrive, they will be checked and stamped. If your cat was to be refused entry, it would be put into quarantine until the treatment has been completed. You also run the risk of having your cat sent back to the country you have arrived from. Depending on where you are returning from, your cat may require a rabies blood test before being able to enter the UK again. Results for this can take four weeks to return and even then, you would need to wait three months from when the blood was taken before being granted access to the UK. As mentioned, these rulings vary per country so consult experts like PBS Pet Travel or government websites first.

Cat Passport Rules and Regulations

Once you have obtained the cat passport or Animal Health Certificate it is valid for just ten days. This then means that you have ten days to enter the EU from the UK. Once you have arrived in the EU destination, you have up to four months of onward travel throughout the EU and four months re-entry to the UK. As soon as you have returned home, the cat passport expires, and you will need to apply for a new one for future trips.

Should you be travelling further afield than the EU and require the Export Health Certificate, you should check the rules for the specific country you are visiting. Timescales of validity vary so you should check in advance of any travel to find out how long your cat is allowed to stay there for.

So be prepared to spend up to £300, perhaps more to obtain a passport for your cat, just remember, on top of these costs will be the ones for the transportation of you cat, its import permit and any travel crates or additional fees that may be attributed to pet travel.

At PBS Pet Travel, we love cats and want to help you enjoy your time with them. Just follow the steps above to obtain your cat a passport and let us do the rest. With a team that can facilitate the seamless, stress-free transport of your cat to anywhere on the planet, we make pet travel easy. Simply obtain your Animal Health Certificate or Export Health Certificate and then get in touch with us to get your cat booked on a flight!