Thursday, December 12, 2013


I had meant to post the details of my most recent experience moving internationally with a pet when I first arrived in Ireland, but the cat's subsequent disappearance meant I had other things on my mind at the time. The full tale of my bureaucratic misadventures is a bit long in the telling, so I'll keep it short. Here, in invoice form, are the components of a successful feline relocation:

Vet visit and rabies titer testing - 800,000 GNF ($114)
Titer test analysis - 85 EUR ($111)
Vet visit and Guinea/EU health certificates - 40,000 GNF ($6)
Flight Conakry to Paris (Delta/Air France) - $250
Pet fee at Novotel in Paris - 15 EUR ($20)
Flight Paris to Houston (Delta/Air France) - $290
Vet visit for comprehensive checkup with rabies revaccination and flea/tick meds - $208
International fax to send flight approval request (It's pretty hard to find a place that does international faxes these days.) - $10
Vet visit and health certificate (for domestic flight) - $58
Flight Houston to DC (United) - $274
Vet visit and health certificates (for international flight) - $200
Overnight mail to send health certificates to the USDA in Richmond for approval - $28
Emergency redo of vet visit after the first EU health certificate turned out to be on an outdated form - no charge
Saturday delivery overnight mail to the USDA for the correct form  - $38
USDA certification - $38
Return overnight mail (arrived the day before departure) - $28
Panicked international phone call the day before the flight to check on flight approval certificate (had been approved weeks ago but never sent to me) - $36
New pet carrier bought at the airport cargo terminal on departure because United wouldn't take the one I had because it opened on the top (though they had no problem with it on the previous flight) - $75
Flight DC to Dublin (United) - $589
Airport pickup and health inspection on arrival in Dublin - 230 EUR ($317)

Because I'm worth it
Total cat relocation expenses: TWO THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED NINETY AMERICAN DOLLARS plus untold hours spent researching regulations, waiting on hold, making appointments, schlepping him places, etc., and way more emotional distress than I had bargained for from multiple things going wrong under tight deadlines despite my very best efforts to prevent that from happening. And with the exception of a $500 stipend for general moving expenses (which you get whether you have pets or not) I paid for all of this and did all of the legwork myself. Can you tell I love my cat?

The crazy thing is that this is by no means an extreme or even unusual Foreign Service pet moving experience. A friend of mine moved her very large dog from Malawi to Guinea, with several adventures on the way including an overland stretch from Sierra Leone. Another colleague relocated a HORSE from Estonia to Ireland, and is sending it to New York next while she goes to Pakistan. I'm afraid to ask how much that's going to cost. And the FS blogosphere has countless other tales of international moves with cats, dogs, parrots, and so forth, each with their own unique complications. Moving internationally with pets is stressful and expensive but we do it anyway, because our pets are family. As awful as it is to bring them with us, it would be ten times worse to leave them behind. 


  1. Hello Meredith, This is a total shot in the dark but your post inspired me to
    make an inquiry ! We do have some things in common ... Texas, Siamese, Name and
    Guinea. My name is just 'Edith', but you own part of it too. I found your blog
    while searching for PCV bloggers in Guinea. My inquiry involves EXPENSES too. I'm a
    frequent traveller to Guinea and each year become more outraged at the price of
    hotels. I can more than likely stay in a very nice, comfortable hotel in any developed country ... where everything works, I might add .... for less than I can in Conakry ! That's
    pretty funny really, give the condition of the place. I'm looking to make a trip over soon and will be in country for a month or more. Part of my trip is in relation to The Africa Mercy
    mission in Conakry last year. I'm in search of decent, reasonable accommodation.
    If you can give me any direction I would be most grateful. My email: And I do enjoy your blog. You're an interesting

    1. Hi Edie! Glad to know you like the blog. The short answer is sorry, I can't help. It's been six months since I left Conakry, and since I had my own place I didn't spend much time in hotels there. The long answer is that - depending on your definitions of "decent" and "reasonable" - what you're looking for may not even exist. The supply and quality of hotel rooms decayed over decades of neglect, and with mining companies and others coming in, the least bad rooms command a ridiculous price. There are supposed to be some new hotels opening up in the coming years which might help a bit, but for now there's not much to do but grit your teeth and bear it.

  2. Thank you Meredith for taking the time to respond. I do appreciate it and I will indeed grit my teeth and bear it! Also a taxi trip to N'Zerekore !! I know, you're already envying me. LOL !