You are normally not confronted by the question of your pet’s value until it reaches an age it would probably never achieve if it didn’t have things pretty cushy. The prospect of a move to Australia forced us to consider some big questions: what stays and what goes? Appliances of 110 voltage didn’t make the cut. The television stayed. It simply wouldn’t function down under. Our pets, on the other hand….

There seem to be two issues that make bringing pets into Australia both difficult and expensive. One is the simple fact that this is an island. Its distance from other land masses has helped protect it over the years from nasty things like rabies. The other issue seems to be that despite this huge moat around the island, Australians have been known to make some rather large mistakes importing flora and fauna over the years. They make Floridians look like pikers.

Jared Diamond was unkind enough to point out in “Collapse” that rabbits were imported three times! The first two species, introduced from the home country for a “spot of hunting” were not adaptable enough to survive the harsh new continent. A breed of rabbit was finally discovered in South America that was highly adaptable and incredibly destructive. This led to things like the infamous rabbit-proof fence. Of course, foxes were necessary to chase the rabbits. Despite their adaptability, it took sixteen years to get them permanently established. Now, there are permanent programs aimed at their eradication. The list goes on and on. Cane toads are the most egregious example this pattern.

When the opportunity to move to Australia came along, we were blessed with a dog and cat. Neither was distinguished by pedigree. The dog, in fact, had been my daughter’s rescue project at the Humane Society. He was a brindle mix, and he had some very attractive features, but he was an energy intense creature. Fortunately, through the auspices of a good friend in our neighborhood, he was offered a good home as a companion to another dog who got lonely during the day. That left our cat, Tibbey.

Tibbey came from a litter born at the Wolfville Animal Hospital in Nova Scotia. She is a Maine Coon mix of some sort. We may have paid as much as $35 dollars for her neutered self, with shots. Now you can add a couple of zeros to that figure. The problem with Maine Coon cats is that they are notoriously difficult to give away. My wife had another one in her life and tried to find her a home (for very good reasons) several times. The cat refused to accept its change of ownership.

To bring a cat to Australia, you need to start at least six months in advance. There is a seventeen page document that has all the instructions. The initial cost of the permit is $250. Then the real costs begin to mount. The pet will need a rabies vaccination and a rabies neutralising antibody titre test certified by the Department of Agriculture, a subcutaneous microchip, other shots, exams etc. You will need the expert services of an animal forwarding company, who will make the arrangements necessary to get the cat from Florida to Melbourne, Australia ALIVE. That is trickier than you might think.

Tibbey flew from Jacksonville to Houston, stayed overnight there, then flew on to Seattle, where she was picked up and brought to Vancouver. She was then returned to Seattle for her final flight to Melbourne, where she was transported to quarantine for thirty days. Fortunately, we were able to see her shortly after we arrived. Needless to say, she was not happy. The holding facility in the outskirsts of Melbourne was huge. We called to determine the visiting hours, then took a tram and train to Spotswood. Then we walked about a third of a mile. We made our way through security, and were shown the temporary quarters of our cat. It was not spacious, but it was clean and there was access to the outside.

Tibbey gave us a baleful look. She had retreated into the igloo, ignoring the cats on either side of her as best she could. We were finally able to coax her out, but it was obvious she was not pleased.  She had been in quarantine three weeks when we arrived for our visit. We could not bring her into our temporary accommodation at University College, so finding a new home became a very pressing matter. Moving her to another “cattery” was not a cheerful solution.

All’s well that ends well. Tibbey survived. She is only seven years old, although the trauma of this move may have cost her a life or two. Now she comes and goes as she pleases, walks all over me when I’m in bed, sneaks up on my pillow, curls into a ball and purrs. The purr is priceless.