I'm a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali planning to move my eight-month-old cat to California in April. I had a complicated itinerary from BKO to SFO all planned out, in addition to my cat Oliver's in-cabin reservation with Royal Air Maroc and Air France/Delta. Then, Royal Air Maroc changed their scheduled flight times, and now we're stuck in the Casablanca airport for 25 hours. Has anyone dealt with a long layover at CMN with a pet before? I'd like to take him to a hotel, where we can both rest, but I'm uncertain of customs/immigration law. Will I be able to get Ollie in and out of the airport?
Also, I'm worried about the stress all this (four flights over two days!!!) will create for my cat. He'll be riding in a soft-sided Sherpa carry-on bag, with a harness and leash for stretching. I'm planning on giving him sedatives our U.S. vet sent out to me, as Ollie HATES being locked in that thing and cries nonstop. Any tips or cautionary tales you post are most welcome and appreciated!
Feb 27, 11, 1:42 pm
spend time every day getting Ollie used to the harness and leash, make sure he can't wiggle out of the harness
figure out some sort of disposable litter tray (filled maybe with shredded paper?) and teach Ollie to use that in unconventional settings (like the back corner of an airport bathroom) 'cause the poor guy is gonna need to go during the trip and some cats won't use anything unfamiliar
make sure you feed him small amounts during the trip, and only use a food his stomach is already used to
Also, have you considered rubbing the Sherpa bag with catnip? Or putting in a towel or t-shirt with your scent on it to comfort him?
Good luck on the journey, and welcome to FT!
Feb 28, 11, 1:09 am
When I was in the Casablanc airport, there were cats roaming around inside the airport.
I cannot imagine spending 25 hours on a layover in the Casablanca airport. Could you contact a travel agent or the airlines to find out if you could get a hotel nearby for you and Ollie? They would know about restrictions for travelling with a pet. There is no issue for you entering Morroco as a US citizens (no visa required). I would think that the same documentation that you would use to bring the cat into the US would be applicable and valid in Morocco. Extra copies would be helpful. But verify this with Royal Air Maroc or Air France and search online for Morocco pet importation regulations
I know that you mean well, but please try to avoid giving Ollie sedatives.
My cat doesn't like to travel either (we travel in Europe a lot), but I have found that if I pet her or just have my hand on her during the flight, it calms her tremendously. I have a Sherpa carrier that has an opening on one side that allows the cat to peek out or for me to get my hand in.
I have found that when making arrangements to travel with my Fishka, it can sometime be a hassle. But once I get to the airport and the people are dealing with an actual cute fluffy cat, they bend over backwards to assist you.
Best of luck to you and Ollie.
Best of luck to you and Ollie.
Feb 28, 11, 8:24 am
I'm especially happy to hear that airline personnel might actually be helpful! I've just been sure that he's going to irritate everyone else on the flights by crying incessantly, which will stress me out even more. Have you tried Happy Traveler? It's a very mild calming agent, all natural, that I've seen highly recommended as an alternative to the sedatives. I'd really like to avoid using them if possible!
I've sent an email to the Moroccan consulate asking about importation law so that we can stay at a pet friendly hotel during our layover. I hope to receive a reply soon. If I can't take him out of the airport, then he and I will just endure it in the airport together.
I love the catnip idea, my mom is sending me a Sherpa carrier right now, hopefully I'll have it soon, in time to get Oliver used to it! Thank you both for the great advice, I'm feeling a little more comfortable with the plan now. We'll make it.
Mar 1, 11, 3:40 am
I have not tried Happy Traveler. I tried spraying the carrier with Feliway (phemerones) but that did not have any affect.
Fishka cries the most during takeoff. I guess it is all the engine noise and the movement of the plane on the ground. Once we are in the air, she calms a bit. I keep the carrier under my seat during takeoff and landing but as soon as possible, I put the carrier on my lap so that I can pet her.
I've been told that if you cover the carrier so that the cat cannot see out, it will not cry so much. Not sure if that works, I have not tried it.
Mar 20, 11, 2:44 pm
You may have already made your travel arrangements, but in case you haven't, I'd like to add what I know.
My wife and I currently live in Morocco (out by the Sahara) because she's here on a Fulbright (tons of PCVs on this side of the mountains, by the way). I brought both of our cats here in the fall--one at a time. Both cats are very easy going, but they hated flying, which is understandable. The first cat did not get a sedative and I had no choice but to take her in the bathroom and cuddle/play with her for 4 hours of the 6-hour flight. Yes, seriously.
Upon arrival in CMN (with both cats), I had no issues. Customs did not give a hoot about its papers, but they were amused by the cat itself (it's a Cornish Rex, so rather unusual-looking). So you know, though, you should have a rabies certificate on hand. When I took the smaller flight to our home-city, I was asked by the local customs agent (which is odd because it's a domestic airport) about the cat's papers. Because the first cat didn't need papers (no one asked for them), I figured I could get away without having to go to the USDA to get the second cat's official papers. The way it works is that the vet gives you the rabies certificate and then you take that to get the official travel document for the cat. The customs agent at the small airpot almost didn't let me through. Please don't take that chance if it's not absolutely necessary.
My guess is that you may not be able to get the pet travel document from Mali, but at the very least please have a rabies certificate--just in case someone asks for it (either in Morocco or once you get home).
As far as the layover goes, I'd suggest the staying in the cruddy hotel rooms that are in terminal 2 of CMN. They are really, really small rooms and they aren't particularly clean, but I'm sure your cat won't mind. If you are interested in doing this, ***make sure you don't leave terminal 2*** You can only access the airport-hotel through T2 and once you leave the terminal, it's next to impossible to get back to it.
As far as on-plane advice goes: I'd suggest bringing a couple blankets and a couple towels. Place two or three towels inside of the carrier. There's a good chance that your cat will need to go to the bathroom and lining the carrier with a towel makes it easy to clean up the mess; just throw the top layer away. Another benefit to the towel is that it makes the carrier warmer and cuddlier. Also, to fend off too many messes, make sure your cat isn't eating or drinking all that much while she's traveling. I started reducing calories and liquids for my cats about 30-hours in advance. No reason to starve them, just don't give them access to the trough.
The blanket is really handy because it can be used to cover the carrier completely, which blocks out both light and, more importantly, sound. The second blanket is important because during takeoff you probably won't be able to put the carrier in an empty seat (if you're lucky enough to find one). The blanket should be placed under the carrier to reduce the vibration and noise that comes from the plane's floor. I found this to be *extremely* helpful in reducing the second cats' anxiety level.
Regarding sedatives: I didn't want to use it for my second cat, but he's a lot more vocal than the first one, so I had to give it a shot. I'm sure it was a combination of things, but the sedative and the blanket and my hand in the carrier for the entire trip allowed him to sleep pretty peacefully for the entire trip.
Regarding the airport cats that someone had mentioned--yes, there are quite a few. Some are really friendly. My wife and I had to spend the night in terminal 1 a couple months ago and one of the resident cats stopped by and let Tracy pick her up. The cat then slept in her arms for the duration of the night. It was really cute.
Mar 23, 11, 9:16 pm
If you can find them, buy some puppy pads (the housetraining pads for dogs). You can line the carrier with one so that when the cat pees you can keep the towels under it and the carrier dry and clean. They work fairly well but you must be diligent in changing them or you can soak the kitty's paws. For such a long trip I'd have at least 10 probably more if your cat is like one of ours and looks for the trap door in his carrier. The pads are just about as close to diapering a cat that you can get. Perhaps your mom can send you a few bags with the carrier she bought?
Mar 14, 13, 8:49 pm
There are some hotels close to the airport. I would suggest you go to one of them. 25 hours is waaaay too long to stay in the T2 hotel (barely no wi-fi and, frankly, disgusting).
If you're taking the cat to the US, I'd think you have all the proper paperwork Just have extra copies and you should have no problems getting in the country with the pet. Morrocan tend to like cats way more than they like dogs.