How To Bring A Cat To USA From Thailand

Pet travel can be stressful for both you and your pet. Knowing what you need to do and being prepared is the key to making sure things go smooth. We took our cat to live with us in Thailand for a year and brought him back to the US when we returned. We are here to share our experience with those who wish to travel back to the US with their cat from Thailand. The required documents and steps to take are are listed below to ensure you will not miss anything. We provide you a timeline as well as a checklist so you can stay on top of what you need to do to get your pet to the US.

Our cat Milton is a big part of our family. Needless to say, when we move, he moves with us. We love having him around, and every time we travel without him, his absence is definitely felt. When we initially moved to Thailand, we were uncertain of the length of our stay, so Milton was left back home with our parents. Once we knew that we would be staying in Thailand for an extended period, we packed him up and flew him along with us. Yes, our cat moved to Thailand with us and stayed for a year!

bringing cat from Thailand to US

The steps required for taking a cat out of Thailand are much less complicated than bringing a pet into the country. There is no difference of requirements for a cat obtained in Thailand versus a cat that was brought there from another country. Our cat was originally from the U.S. but having to take him back still required two major documents. The Health Certificate and the Export Permit are the two things you must have. The health certificate indicates to the airline and to the Department of Livestock Development (DLD Thailand) that your cat is healthy enough to handle travel. The Export Permit basically states that you've paid the fee and received permission from the authorities to take an animal out of the country.

Pet Export From Thailand To USA - Checklist

  1. Determine the exact destination restrictions and regulations.
  2. Find airline and understand their rules and regulations for pet transport.
  3. Purchase airline ticket and add pet to reservations.
  4. Rabies vaccination appointment 30 days (min) before departure.
  5. Purchase travel gear.
  6. Acclimate pet to carrier and crate.
  7. Go to DLD Thailand and obtain Export Permit and Health Certificate.
  8. Bringing Your Cat Into The U.S.

Destination restrictions and regulations: For USA the regulations are fairly simple. Your pet should be microchipped and have an updated Rabies vaccination (see links: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/animals/animal_import/animal_imports_pets.shtml http://www.cdc.gov/animalimportation/dogs.html). Microchipping & Rabies vaccination must be done at least 30 days prior to leaving the country. A Registered vet should do these and prepare a vaccination booklet for your pet. The vaccination booklet should also have all other required vaccines for your pet and have stamps in place along with your vet's signatures. (Tip: look over your pet's booklet to ensure all dates and vaccine batch numbers are indicated and are correct)

Note: Not all states have the same requirements. Be sure to check the APHIS website for the particular state that you will be taking your cat. Here is where you can find the information for California.

flying with a cat from Thailand to US

Getting The Flight With A Pet-Friendly Airline

The airline that you choose for your flight must allow pets if you are considering having your pet in the cabin with you. Most airlines may allow the pet in cargo, but only a few let you bring them onboard with you. Call the airline prior to purchasing your ticket to make sure that they allow the pet with you in the cabin (under the seat in front of you).

In Thailand, flying domestically with your pet is not possible in the cabin. Thai Airways currently allows pets in the cargo hold on some flights. We booked our Chiang Mai to Bangkok flight separately in order to get him to Bangkok a few days prior to our international flight so that we would have enough time to obtain the required paperwork for the flight. Our cat flew in a hard crate in the cargo hold on the hour-long flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. (Note: ensure that the captain and crew members are aware that you have a live animal in cargo so that the temperature there is controlled. They should be aware, but it helps to give them a heads up once you are boarding the plane).

Note: You will check in at the regular passenger ticketing counter and pay 60 Thai baht per kilo (cat and carrier weighed together). Once you arrive at BKK, you will proceed to pick up your pet at oversized luggage.

After three days in Bangkok, we flew on Korean Air to get to California, with a layover in Seol. The tricky part here is that the booking is made under Delta's reservations system even though your carrier is Korean Air (There is a fee for your pet.Check with airline on their pricing). Delta doesn't have a very good system in communicating the pet information to Korean Air. I was forced to call Delta several times to confirm my cat on the flight. Each time I did this, I would have to wait a couple of days and call Korean Air to see if the information was relayed to their system. After about six calls to each airline, I was able to get the correct details of my cat and carrier (weight and dimensions) to match in their system and for him to be confirmed on the flight with me.

bringing cat from Thailand to USA

Information needed when contacting the airline to add a pet to reservations: weight of the pet, the weight of the carrier, dimensions of carrier (must fit under the seat in front of you. Check with airline what the measurements are), and breed of your pet (some breeds are restricted on flights). Here is the page where you can find Korean Air's guidelines for pets on board.

Flight Preparation For Exporting Your Cat

Just like you, your pet will need some items to make their long flight more comfortable. You'll also be glad for the extra preparation effort as flying long distances is tough, even without a pet.

Buy the right items for pet travel: crate/carrier, water dispenser, harness (if needed), soft carrier, wipes, pads, snacks, tags, stickers.

  • Pet Carrier
  • Crate & Water Dispenser 
  • Stress Reducing Spray
  • Pads for carrier/crate
  • Stickers and Tags For Carrier
  • Pet wipes
  • Snack

Pro-Tip: purchase a syringe to help keep your pet hydrated on the flight

Prior To Leaving Thailand

The first thing to have in place (if you don't have it already) is to get your dog or cat microchipped. The microchip will have all of your pet's data uploaded online, including to whom they belong. This is great to have in general, in case your pet goes missing and is found by someone. They will be able to take your pet to a vet that has a chip reader and from that get in touch with you to get you reunited. Your pet should also have a collar with a tag. This makes it easy to see who the owner is and their contact information. Tags and collars could come off, so a microchip is a safe bet (also required for the exportation of your pet).

Thirty days before your flight departure:

Make sure Rabies vaccine is updated. You will need the vaccination record with the date, sticker of the type of vaccine, batch number, full name and license number of vet along with their signature and address of the clinic where vaccinated.

Have the vet inspect your pet to ensure they are free from any sign of infectious and contagious disease, including external parasites. The vet will let you know if your pet is fit for travel.

One week before departure:

E-mail a photo of your pet, vaccination record (showing rabies vaccine), your passport photo page, details of your pet, your address in Thailand and your address in USA, and full flight details to the DLD Thailand (qsap_bkk@dld.go.th, Their phone number is 021340731).

Sample email letter:

Dear Sir/ Madam,

            Thank you for your assistance with the export of my cat from Thailand to the USA. Please see below for details of my cat for export.

1. A copy of passport

            - please see attached

2. Address in your country and address in Thailand​

  • USA  Address: 143 Main St., Walnut Creek, CA 94530
  • Thailand address:  9 Chomdoi Condotel Canal Road. Room 1110, Suthep, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200

 3. Detail of your animal (such as type of breed, sex, age, microchip, etc.)

   Information about my cat:

  • One male, gray Tabby with black stripes.
  • The cat is eight years old and is neutered.
  • His name is Milton and has microchip #981457001985020.

4. History of vaccination (A copy of Vaccination record

            - Please see attached

5. Picture of your animal

            - please see attached

 6. Approximate date, flight and time of departing from Thailand

cat from Thailand to US

Minimum 3 working days and maximum seven days before the flight

Apply for Export Permit (Thailand) from your local Thai Department of Livestock Development (Link http://www.dld.go.th/webenglish/move1.html). They will also certify the health/veterinary certificates required for traveling and entering the destination country.

Booking.com

Getting The Pet Export Permit In Bangkok

We arrived in Bangkok 3 days prior to our San Francisco flight. After picking Milton up from oversized luggage, we proceeded to level 1 at BKK and exited gate 3. From there we took the airport bus "L" to Airport Free Zone - Customs Export Clearance Building (CE-1) 1st-floor door #20. It was easy to find the bus and the ride was short. Once we arrived at the building, we asked someone there to point out the exact location we were supposed to go.

taking cat from Thailand to US

The office was a bit busy with about four people in front of us. It's a small office, so one of us stayed outside with Milton in the crate. It was also full of dogs, so we wanted to make sure Milton was not getting any more stressed out. We were given a form to complete, and our photo was taken with Milton. The vet there also took his temperature and inspected him. We had already received a health certificate in Chiang Mai, but I guess the vet here also has to do their own inspection. After Milton was done, we waited about half an hour for our Export Permit. The cost for issuing the export license was 260 Thai Baht.

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Taiss Nowrouzi

About the Author

Taiss Nowrouzi

Hi! I’m just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that “The world is but one country and mankind its citizen.” I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them.

My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind.

My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can’t wait to see where life takes us next!

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