When I moved back from Portugal I had to take my cat by van, this was because I had a car and a van to return to England with so there wasn’t much point putting her on the plane.
Vaccinations and Treatments
Before I started (actually 6 months before) I had to make sure she had all her vaccinations up-to-date. Returning to the UK is far more restrictive than leaving it and my cat had to be rabies-free. Once she was all ready with that she also needed treating for tapeworm and ticks, not less than 24 hours and not more than 48 hours before checking onto the ferry for the UK. This is one of the most restrictive parts of it and the vets in the French ports make a lot of money out of people returning to the UK. My advice is to use your usual vet or if this is too far away, find another one in advance that won’t rip you off. Timing your arrival in port is very important because if the treatment is not made within the window given your pet will no be allowed reentry.
Travelling by Car
Surprisingly the travelling wasn’t too bad. Despite my safety concerns I decided not to keep my cat in her container. This is because we had lots of room in the van and I thought she’d be happier outside. If you have a dog you can get harnesses for the seats which is probably recommended.
This all worked well (except one time when my other half opened my van door without thinking and my cat escaped!) and she soon settled down and slept for most of the journey. We made sure she had food and water readily available and at every stop provided her toilet for her to use.
It seems that travelling with your cat is quite normal for other Europeans, in Spain we saw someone carry their cat into the human toilet and in France at the rest stop, there was a cat on a lead. Needless to say, my cat stayed in the van!
One of my main concerns was finding a hotel that accepted cats. I needn’t have worried, we weren’t turned away! Dogs are much more common in hotels but it seems that cats aren’t too much of a concern on the continent either.
The ferry was my biggest concern, for reasons mentioned before, I like to be with my cat to reassure her and on the ferry this isn’t possible. Once the car is on the ferry the cat must stay inside and you can’t visit them. So, aside from making sure she had everything she needed there was nothing I could do until the other side. Dogs often have their own area which can be visited, again check with the operator in advance. Not all ferries take animals and many charge for them, make sure you check all this in advance. You will also need all your animal’s passport and paperwork to go on and off the ship.
Overall, it was a good experience. My cat wasn’t too bothered by the journey, she didn’t like the ferry much but I expected this. We got to the other side with no problems and I am more than happy to travel this way in future.