How to relocate your cat from Mumbai, India to Singapore

After a 3 years’ stint in Mumbai, my husband and I are now back in Sunny Singapore. Relocation is always a little troublesome, but very manageable when there’s just the two of you. But when you throw 2 pet cats into the bag, then it becomes a whole new level of stress and anxiety.

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I had been stressing over the relocation of Dharma & Greg from Mumbai to Singapore for MONTHS. Some fur parents choose to engage an agent to plough through the paperwork and procedure; but I wanted to do it myself – partly to save money and also because I wanted to be with the cats at every step of the journey. And if I was going to be present all the time, I might as well do it myself. And so I read all the websites and guidelines I could find, dropped Singapore’s Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA), Singapore Customs and Singapore Airlines numerous emails, and created a folder and charts for all the necessary documents and procedures. I personally brought the cats for all their vaccinations, blood tests, health examinations and the final journey to the airport. It was quite hectic in the final week, but we made it! The bottom-line is – IT CAN BE DONE! =)

Information comes in piecemeal on the internet, often inaccurate, and it is with this in mind that I am creating this short guide to help any fur parents based in Mumbai or India at large who are thinking or preparing your fur babies for the BIG MOVE. Do note that this guide will be specific to cats and Singapore. 

A quick overview of the entire process:

  1. Singapore’s Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) requires all cats arriving from India to be quarantined for a minimum of 30 days
  2. Before you can book a quarantine space, you will need to fulfil the following:
    1. Microchip your cat
    2. Vaccinate against rabies
    3. Pass rabies antibody test
  3. Vaccinate cat for Cat Flu and Cat Enteritis
  4. Treat cat for external and internal parasites
  5. Check with your airline on transport requirements & procure the appropriate carrier
  6. Get your vet to complete a AVA Health Cert and issue his/her own health cert
  7. Bring your cat down to Navi Mumbai for a Government Official to issue a India Health Cert. There is the only documentation you will need from the Government of India. There is no need for an export license.
  8. Do note there is no need for a Singapore Customs Permit or Customs Declaration if your cat is arriving as a personal import and if the value is not more than $400. This point is not clear on the AVA website and caused me a lot of unnecessary pain and angst.

And now, for the detailed timeline and process:

AS SOON AS YOU CAN

  1. Micro-chip your cat at your regular vet
  • This is to create a unique ID for your cat and the microchip number must appear on all subsequent vaccination certifications and test reports
  1. Ensure that the microchip meets ISO Standard 11784 or Annex A to ISO Standard 11785
  • This will allow the relevant authorities in Mumbai and Singapore to scan the microchip implanted in your cat

6-8 MONTHS PRIOR TO EXPORT

  1. Rabies Vaccination and Rabies Antibody Test
  • Vaccinate your cat against rabies at least 6 months prior to export
  • Ensure that the Rabies Certification has the Microchip Number of your cat
  • Return to your vet at least one month after the rabies vaccination and within 6 months prior to export to have a blood sample taken
  • This blood sample will be spun for blood serum by your vet for the rabies antibody test
  • Once the blood serum is ready, either the vet or you will need to drop it off at the Bombay Veterinary College (Department of Microbiology) for rabies antibody testing. The college uses the ELISA test. Bring cash for payment (we paid Rs.4000 for each cat).
    • Bombay Veterinary College, Department of Microbiology
    • Parel, Mumbai – 400012, Maharashtra (India)
    • +91-22-2413 1180 / 2413 7030 / 2413 2792 (Extn. 140)
  • The report should be ready within 1-2 weeks
  • A ‘good’ report should show that the cat has a minimum level of 0.5 IU/ml of antibody in the serum. This means the cat is immunised against Rabies
  1. Cat Flu and Cat Enteritis Vaccinations
  • Vaccinate your cat against Cat Flu (Feline calicivirus and Feline viral rhinotracheitis) and Cat Enteritis (ie Feline Panleukopaenia/ Feline parvovirus) not less than 2 weeks prior to export

3-6 MONTHS PRIOR TO EXPORT

  1. Quarantine Space Reservation
  • Once you have the Rabies antibody report, reserve a quarantine space at https://qms.ava.gov.sg/Public/Login.aspx
  • Be prepared to upload a soft-copy of both the rabies cert and rabies antibody report (if you don’t have a scanner, you can take a photo and upload that)

1-2 MONTHS PRIOR TO EXPORT

  1. Carrier

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  • It is good to get your cat familiar with the carrier, so just leave it around the house once you’ve purchased it
  • Can two cats travel together in the same carrier? The short answer is yes. Whilst IATA advises against animals traveling in the same carrier for fear of them turning aggressive during a stressful situation, it is not a hard guideline. Singapore Airlines, after some discussion and checking, confirmed that we could fly Dharma & Greg in the same carrier, provided they each weigh less than 9kg, and that the carrier is big enough for them

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  1. AVA Import License
  1. Airline Arrangements
  • Book your air ticket and inform your airline that you will be traveling with your cat
  • Singapore Airlines does not allow pets to be hand-carried onto the flight. This means they will go into a special cargo area with temperature control

2-7 DAYS PRIOR TO EXPORT

Step 1: Visit your regular vet for:

  1. Health Certificate on the vet’s letterhead, certifying cat is fit for transport
  2. Completion of AVA vet cert (For Cat D countries). Print out the template from http://www.ava.gov.sg/docs/default-source/tools-and-resources/resources-for-businesses/vet-conditions-category-d and bring it
  3. Internal and external parasites treatment (required by AVA)

Step 2: Make appointment to obtain Animal Health Certificate issued by the Government of India in Navi Mumbai

  • Call the Animal Quarantine and Certification Service (+02227552021) at least one day in advance
  • Address: Kopar Khairance, Sector 11, Navi Mumbai 400709

Step 3: Prepare & bring both the original and 1 photocopy each of the following documents for the Navi Mumbai visit:

  • AVA Import License
  • AVA Vet Cert (see 1(b))
  • Vet Health Cert
  • Rabies Cert (most recent)
  • Rabies Antibody Report
  • Tricat Vaccination Cert (most recent)
  • Passport First Page
  • India Visa
  • Flight Itinerary / Ticket
  • TWO COPIES of cat photograph (4R or 4″x6″, with pet name, microchip # and owner name written at the back)

Step 4: Visit Navi Mumbai with your cat

  • If you arrive in your own car at Navi Mumbai, they will ask you to leave the cat in the car, whilst you submit all the documentation & complete a form in the office. A vet will then go to the car to scan for the cat’s mircochip number. Finally, they will prepare the Govt of India Animal Health Certificate & sign off on the AVA health cert (remember to bring the original copy!)
  • Make sure you leave with the following:
    • Govt of India Animal Health Certificate, signed stamped and sealed
    • Original copy of AVA Vet Cert, signed and stamped by the resident vet
    • One copy of your cat photo, signed and stamped on the back

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  • It is interesting that whilst other pet owners have advised giving a “tip” to the Navi Mumbai staff, I was not asked or did I feel pressured to tip them. So, I didn’t. I treated them with courtesy and respect, and they in turn were professional and helpful (albeit slow in getting the paperwork churned out).

5 DAYS PRIOR TO EXPORT

  1. Contact Changi Animal and Plant Quarantine station (CAPQ)
  • Call them at +65 6545 7253 to notify them of your confirmed flight itinerary and import license number
  1. Prepare your carrier
  • Stick a copy of your cat’s photo on the carrier, with its name written on it
  • Prepare a file with all the documentation (identical to the Navi Mumbai list) and tape it on to of the carrier

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  • Buy cable ties to secure the door of the carrier
  • Explore using Feliway, a product that will supposedly relax and calm your cat (didn’t work for Dharma & Greg…)
  1. Remind your Airline of the pet travel

ON THE DAY OF THE TRAVEL – AT MUMBAI AIRPORT

  1. Feed your cat 5-6 hours before travel.
  2. Try to let it go to the potty before putting it into the carrier.
  3. Line the carrier floor generously with used towels or used clothing. Your scent might calm the cat, and also help to absorb the cat’s pee, if any. Feel free to throw in any toys, boxes, cushions etc. to make your cat feel more comfortable. 
  4. Aim to arrive 1.5 hours before departure time or time your arrival to the plane’s arrival at the airport (check with airline on this)
  • You can choose to arrive early to avoid the crowd at the check-in counters, but be prepared to wait with your pet outside the departure gate until the aircraft has arrived. The airline will not accept your cat any earlier than the plane’s arrival, because the cargo area will be too warm for holding your pet.
  • Make sure the airline sticks a luggage tag number on the carrier and also indicates “PET” on the luggage tag you hold.
  1. Be prepared to take your cat out of the carrier at the Mumbai Airport
  • The carrier needs to be scanned with an X-ray machine. You will be required to take your cat out of the carrier. Hold it tight, or have a lease secured to it. The whole process can be traumatising to your cat, but it will be over in less than a minute.
  1. Once the scanning is completed, give your cat a cuddle and place it back into the carrier. Secure the carrier door with cable ties. Wave goodbye and remain cheerful (although I was a wreck).
  2. Before entering aircraft, check with ground crew to ensure that the cat has been loaded. 

ON THE DAY OF THE TRAVEL – AT SINGAPORE CHANGI AIRPORT  

  1. Upon landing, proceed immediately to Lost & Found
  • Inform the counter staff that you’re traveling with a pet and present the “PET” luggage tag
  • Upon completing a form at the Lost & Found, proceed to CAPQ
  1. Make your way to Changi Animal and Plant Quarantine (CAPQ)
  • CAPQ is a distance away from Changi Airport. It is best to have a car or taxi bring you there
  • Bring along an identity card to change pass to enter the CAPQ area
  1. Reunite with the cat at CAPQ
  • You will reunite with your cat at CAPQ :)
  • Submit the original AVA Health Certificate, India Health Certificate, AVA License and a photocopy of the Rabies Certificate and Rabies Antibody Report to AVA
  • CAPQ may keep your cat overnight in its cattery before sending it to the Sembawang Quarantine Station the next day
  • Get a directional map to Sembawang Quarantine Station from CAPQ. This map will provide the exact location and transport guide.

SEMBAWANG QUARANTINE STATION

  1. Visiting hours
  • Weekdays: 4-6pm; Saturday: 2-6pm; No visiting on Sundays and Public Holidays
  1. Quarantine Facilities

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  • Food: AVA will provide daily kibbles and fresh water. You can choose to bring your own food and provide feeding instructions
  • Litter: Litter box and litter will be provided. Cleaning will be done daily.
  • Shower: You can book a room to shower your cat. Note that there is no hot water
  • Toys: Bring some toys and scratching posts for your cat. This will help keep it sane for the 30 days quarantine :)

As I am writing this, Dharma & Greg have just 5 days left in quarantine. The whole process was traumatic at times, for both me and the cats, but we are fine. We survived. We cat people, and cats are resilient. Trust that all will be well.

If you have any questions or need any help, please contact me at wongcheehuey@gmail.com.

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