Moving pets to France is worth the cost and stress

An international move is stressful for humans but it can be traumatic for pets – although some take it in their stride

Three readers share their experiences and tips of moving pets to France: Amanda Soden moved horses, Mary Kennedy found moving cats expensive and Brenda-Lee Lovell says her Shih Tzu takes to travel well - plus we give practical tips for travelling

An ex-racehorse arrived in France looking ‘very sad’ after moving from the UK with a horse transportation company, its owner said.

French teacher Amanda Soden, 62, has moved to France with horses twice. The first time she drove them herself, but two-and-a-half years ago she used a moving company to take them from Suffolk to the farmhouse she shares with husband Colin, 80, in the village of Jegun, Gers, Occitanie.

Her pony, Emy, handled the trip well but ex-racehorse Strobilus suffered from the long trip, Mrs Soden said. “The company was very good but Strobilus is sensitive and the horses are packed into a huge horse-box like sardines. However, even if the horses were in a 10-star horse-box it would be traumatic, because it is just not a home environment.

“When they arrived Strobilus looked very sad. It is a long journey with at least three lots of unloading and stabling. Strobilus took a long time to unwind when he arrived, but that’s his nature. Emy is a tough old lady and she was fine.”

Mrs Soden paid the company around £1,500, but it is not for financial reasons that she recommends bringing horses over to France yourself. “It is better for the horse. You can choose how long you take to make the trip, how often you stop, and what the horse eats.”
She also moved over from the UK with ponies 26 years ago, but that time she brought them herself using a trailer she and her husband had bought. “We drove through the night, with pit stops to check the horses were OK and to give them water. It was exceedingly tiring, but the good thing is that we were with them all the time.

“When we arrived, they were fine and relaxed. So I would say it is best to move them yourself, but obviously that isn’t always possible.”

The Sodens have also bought another pony, Ludo, since moving to Jegun.

Cat move was 'jolly expensive'

Bringing cats to France with a pet-moving service cost Mary Kennedy £3,000. “It was jolly expensive!” she told Connexion. “But it was definitely worth it.”

Landscape architect Mrs Kennedy, 60, moved to Labastide-d’Anjou in Aude, Occitanie three years ago with her husband Michael, 70, a retired lawyer. They used the company PetAir to fly their cats Blanco, Tinto and Minnie from Heathrow to Toulouse.

“We thought they would be extremely upset and shaken,” she said. “Not a bit of it. When we took them out of their carriers at the house, they were gleaming and purring and eager to look around.”

The cats stayed in a cattery while the Kennedys cleared their house in the UK.

“We thought they would find the packing more distressing than moving to a different location, so we sent them to the cattery 10 days before the actual move.”

Mrs Kennedy organised the cats’ passports, and then when they moved, PetAir collected the cats from the cattery and took them to its own cattery near Heathrow. After a final check with a vet, they flew on British Airways.

When the cats arrived in France, the agent met the Kennedys ‘in the car park of the Holiday Inn’.

Sadly, Minnie was run over around a year ago. However, Blanco and Tinto are still very much enjoying the French countryside, and the Kennedys now also have a French kitten called Silver.

Shih Tzu in hat turns heads on métro

A Shih Tzu that spends half the year in Paris is so well-adjusted to French life it parades the streets of the capital in a stripy Breton hat.

“He loves France: he is always looking around him and taking everything in,” said his owner Brenda-Lee Lovell, 53, from Winnipeg in Canada.

She and her husband Raymond, 55, spend six months a year in France for his work as a professor of organisation and behaviour. Their dog Toby comes with them and explores the streets of Paris in a specially-made stroller.

As Toby has taken the plane to Paris three times, he has now become a seasoned traveller. “He rides in cargo in a carrier, he is used to it,” said Ms Lovell. “But when we get to Paris I have to carry him up to our apartment: we live on the fifth floor and the lift isn’t working.”

The Lovells had a special stroller made for Toby, since the dog is now 11 years old and can no longer walk very far.

“I was happy I could take him on public transport, as you can’t do that in Canada,” said Ms Lovell. “It is very pet-friendly here, although we do get some funny looks on the metro. You don’t see many dogs in strollers in Paris.”

She added: “We took him to Rouen, and also to Brittany where they oohed and aahed over him. We know the phrase ‘un chien à la poussette!’ very well now!”

Toby has now wintered in Paris twice, and also spent this summer in the capital.

Practical tips
for moving pets

Here’s what you need to know before you make the big move:

  • Cats and dogs travelling within the EU need a passport and an updated ISO 11784/11785 microchip. They must also have a rabies vaccination at least 21 days before they travel. A licensed vet needs to complete the Annex IV animal health form within 10 days of travel.
  • Unregistered horses, ponies, and donkeys travelling within the EU must have a horse passport containing a micro-chip number. You must also fill in a declaration on the passport stating whether the animal can be used for meat at the end of its life. Horses must also have a certificate of health from a vet, and be vaccinated and insured.
  • You cannot travel with more than five animals aged six months or over, unless you follow the commercial rules for importing animals that aren’t being used for training or sport.
  • Ferry companies allow animals on board (notify them in advance) but budget airlines do not. On other airlines, pets usually have to travel in cargo. No pets are allowed on the Eurostar, but Eurotunnel takes horses.
  • Cats may find house clearing very distressing, so it is a good idea to put them in a cattery while you do this.

We want to hear your stories of bringing pets to France. Get in touch by email: