Leaving Pets Behind to Move Abroad

There’s heaps of posts in the blogosphere about leaving pets behind to travel. Almost all of them focus on what’s best for the owner.

This pisses me off. Not because people are leaving their pets behind to travel – that’s just the unfortunate reality of loving animals and also loving travel.

They piss me off because the decision of whether to move your pets abroad shouldn’t be about you.

It should be about them.

Base your decision of whether to bring your pet on what’s best for them. Not for you.

Pillie and Kissie

It was January 2012, and I noticed Pillie on the Lost Dogs’ Home website. She was the only cat looking straight at the camera, and the only cat with her tail sticking straight up in the air. The photo said “Hi! It’s me! I’m ready to meet you now!” And that’s Pillie. To the point, a little annoying, and incredibly sweet.

Leaving pets behind to move abroad

Pillie, in all her glory

Kissie was an impulse purchase, about a year later. My former housemate and I went to the Lost Dogs’ Home to cheer him up after a bout of gastro. We emerged with a tiny little two month old kitten. A hissy, spitty, and wholly unfriendly black and white kitten. It only took Kissie 2.5 years to come out of her shell, but now she’s a sweet and loving soul, misunderstood and needy. She doesn’t trust anybody except for us and hates people in general. It took us years to get her to like us.

Leaving pets behind to move abroad

Kissie, who took two and a half years to go from not letting me touch her to begging for love at every opportunity.

No shame: we are crazy cat ladies

We are obsessed with Pillie and Kissie. We have about 100 pet names for each. Pillie, Trillie, Precious Pillie, Pillie von Trillie. Kissie, Pissie, Squissie, Baby Bean. You get the idea.

They sleep in our bed. We would literally would do anything for them. Last year, Kissie got constipated and we spent well over $1,000 to get her shitting again.. We are animal people. We can’t imagine our lives without our cats.

However, we are also travellers. My partner is from Canada, and has lived in England and Scotland, and now lives in Australia with me. I’m still in the city I was born in, but I travel as much as I possibly can and have racked up quite a few interesting passport stamps. Next month I’m off backpacking in South East Asia. My partner will be on cat duty at home.

Leaving pets behind to move abroad

Kissie before she went into surgery for her severe constipation last year.

We are crazy cat ladies who want to emigrate

In all the time we’ve had this wonderful little family with each other and the cats, it’s been our goal to eventually move abroad. I’m sick of Straya, and my partner will eventually be ready to move on too. It’s going to either be Canada or the UK (I’m a British Citizen), but we still have a fair bit to work out so it won’t be for another few years.

It’s easy to get really excited about emigrating, but every time we do, we are thumped back down to reality by the a cat lick, a cat kiss, or a cat jumping on our laps. By a little meow or purr.

My partner literally tears up every time the thought of leaving the cats crosses her mind.

Our deliberations – what is best for them?

We’ve literally debated for years about what is best for our girls, when the time does come to go.

Leaving them here with new owners

This option isn’t too bad if those new owners are parents or siblings. That way, we would know we could always get them back upon our return, and we are leaving them with someone we trust and are close to. We could Skype them, talk to them, and be kept regularly updated on their shenanigans. This is basically the ideal option, but sadly isn’t always possible.

Leaving the pets here with parents or friends is probably the least traumatic on the animal overall. They aren’t subjected to a long haul flight. However, they are subjected to being separated from you, and this can really impact them. This is especially true of dogs, who tend to form extremely deep bonds with their owners.

For us, the Kissie thing means this isn’t a great option. Kissie hates new people, and as mentioned took two years to warm to me. Even now, she is only really comfortable around us.

Leaving pets behind to move abroad

Pillie in the dirty washing

Taking them abroad

I’ve felt really torn about this option for a long time. On the one hand, heaps of people move their pets internationally. Peoples’ reasons for doing this vary. Some can’t bear the thought of being without their pets. Others can’t find suitable homes. Some people believe that adopting an animal is a lifelong commitment and that they are obliged to balls up and fork out to bring their pets.

My partner and I have decided this is most likely the route we will go down when we move abroad, but we are aware it won’t all be smooth sailing. It won’t be fun for the cats to go on a long haul flight. In fact, it’ll probably be a pretty shit 24 hours for them. However, my parents probably can’t take them, and I actually don’t really trust anyone else with them. They love us and they want to be with us, and I’ve read that cats get over international flights really quickly. Apparently, in a matter of days.

There’s agencies who can organise and facilitate the pet move for you. I think having professionals do it would reduce stress on us which would in turn reduce stress on the cats.

It’s a tricky toss up, and I invite criticism by saying this, but I do believe that for our cats, the long haul flight is a better option. The other option would be them going to live with randoms and being separated from us, which would be particularly traumatic for Kissie who takes literally years to trust anybody and has abandonment issues.

Giving them to a shelter

This is not an option for us. IMO, you’re a dick if you do it. FYI – if you drop your pet at a shelter, statistically it’s most likely that they will be put down, despite what they may tell you.

The love of a pet is second to none

Seriously, these little critters love us. We are literally all they’ve got. When faced with either us leaving, or a 24 hour flight, I do believe if they had the cognitive capacity, they’d want the latter. If it meant still being with us. If it meant still being loved by the same people. I could be wrong, and I could be being naive. But I know how much they love, and I know they can feel abandonment.

So, we’ve decided to take them.

Leaving pets behind to move abroad


Have you had an experience with leaving pets behind to move abroad? Have you taken them on a long haul flight? Which do you reckon is better for the animal? Comment and share!