Our Jet Set Kitty: An International Pet Adoption
Since May 2017, we have a Siamese-mix cat whom we adopted from Spain. Here’s our personal story of our pet adoption/
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Why adopt? And why adopt from abroad?
Our planet has no shortage of cats. Due to the lax neutering attitude of many people, cats often multiply without control. Most animal protection organisations advocate neutering and run neutering programmes, but it is not always enforced. In our federal state, some towns and districts made it a law that if your cat goes outside, it has to be neutered. There is a petition that this law is extended to the entire state.
Other states and communes in Germany have similar laws. When I chatted to a vet recently, he told me the law has really helped to control the feral cat population and fewer cats end up in shelters in our state. But still, there are many cats who have no home and end up in the street, whether it be in Germany, or in Europe. If you like cats, do you really need a kitten? And do you really need it from a breeder, in order to have a beautiful companion? Yes, I like pedigree cats, and I think kittens are so cute. But given there are still too many cats in the streets, I would have felt troubled to get a cat from a breeder.
Although animal welfare is somewhat included in EU Law, enforcement varies widely. Due to the economical situation as well as a more lax attitude towards animal welfare in Southern Europe, animals are abandoned more frequently. Especially when they have grown up and are no longer cute kittens or puppies. Sometimes this happens quite violently. Throwing them out of a car or leaving them in bin bags or boxes is not a rarity.
Because I wanted a Siamese, and I was looking into adopting from abroad where the cat population is less controlled than in Germany, finding an adult Siamese-mix in Spain was a good compromise for me.
Our Adoption Story
I’ve always had rescue cats, and in the past five years a cat has been a constant companion. When my wonderful 19-year old tortie cat Leia (1.0) passed away in early 2017, I thought no cat would ever be able to replace her. She’d been with us for over 15 years. Though I still miss her so much and often cry when I pass the place we buried her, within a month I was “just looking” at shelter web sites.
Why we adopted from Spain
My web surfing brought me to Spain, where animal protection, although set in European Union Law, is not as widely practised as here in Northern Europe. Spay and Neuter is rarely practised, state-run animal shelters are overcrowded and destroy animals if they are not picked up within a relatively short window. Private no-kill shelters receive no government funding and rely on the enthusiasm of their volunteers and private donations.
I started sponsoring a sick Siamese Cat in Southern Spain and seriously began thinking about adopting a cat from Spain. As we now lived in Germany, we turned to German sites of international pet adoption. There are lots and lots of charities that rescue animals from all over Europe, but especially Spain, Greece, Russia and Bulgaria.
But where to start? We made quite a few false starts. Sometimes, we would not even get a response when we filled in an enquiry form. One rescue would not re-home if the cat were to be kept as an only cat. Another one insisted on indoor living with secure cat netting, another one on a cat flap. I tried not to be discouraged. We wanted an adult cat that would go outdoors, too. Somehow, after sponsoring Oneyl, I was drawn to Siamese cats with their elegant stature, chocolate faces and outgoing character.
After making an enquiry about a certain cat, I received a message that that particular cat had already found a new home, but would I be interested in Leia. A cat of the same name as my loyal Leia tortie?
I went to the website and saw a bossy-looking seal point Siamese Mix. She had once been a pet, but like so many, was not neutered. When she came home pregnant, she was tossed out by her owner and lived in the streets somewhere in Central Spain. She was picked up by a local lady, had three kittens and was taken in by a foster in Barcelona, where she raised her kittens. All kittens had found homes, but as so often, the mother was still waiting.
Paperwork before adoption
So, I made an application and waited for the home check. As we live in an area that is considered “remote”, the home check in person never happened. After many phone conversations with our contact, the sending of photos and videos of our apartment and garden, and intense questioning about how the cat would live with us (cat lives indoors, is allowed everywhere except food preparation areas, can go out into private garden in the day) we signed an adoption contract and paid the adoption fee, and a flight was booked for Leia.
She would travel in the cabin on a Germanwings flight with a flight guardian, a lady who had been holidaying in Barcelona, and we would pick her up from Hamburg Airport.
The Day Kitty finally arrived
Picking her up from the airport still counts as one of the best days of my life!
I managed to talk my boss into giving me half a day off for an important family matter. I don’t think he would have let me take half a day holiday to pick up my new cat.
I hurried home after work, picked up my boyfriend and got our large pet carrier, a couple of bowls, dry food and water, and we went on the long but very joyful drive to Hamburg Airport. We arrived a little early, and I excitedly paced around arrivals – we’d had contact with our flight guardian, and while we were driving, she kept me updated by text messaging. But I had never seen her before, but then, I thought there wouldn’t be too many people arriving with pet carriers.
Finally… a woman with a small pet carrier appeared. I waved, and one moment later, we had a very dopey cat and her passport. I just looked into the carrier – there was a sleepy Siamese in it, looking somewhat different than in the pictures, but I fully trusted this was our cat! When we were back in the car, we tried to transfer our new kitty from the tiny soft carrier to our larger cat carrier, but Leia showed no interest in anything.
Taking Kitty home
She had been sedated for the flight, and she was lying in her soft carrier like a sphinx, eyes closed, and showed no interest in water, or food. So we set back off on the five-hour drive home, me in the passenger set with the cat carrier on my knees. Leia slept throughout. My boyfriend later admitted he thought we’d caught a bit of a lemon cat, but I wasn’t really concerned at all. Something strange happened when we finally turned onto our street. Finally, there was life in the kitty carrier… she began to miaow and move around her small carrier quite a bit, and whether it was just a long time until the sedation had worn off, or whether kitty could sense she was coming home, we still have no idea!
Leias first night in her new home
We had prepared one room in our apartment with her basket, hiding places, food and her toilet, and when we arrived, we excitedly opened the carrier.
Where Leia 1.0 had sat in the carrier for about a day back in 2002, only to disappear behind the sofa, this one jumped out of the carrier, miaowed excitedly, then started pacing the room. She ate all the food we gave her, then kept pacing and scratching the door. We ended up letting her run all over the apartment that night. She was now really making up for her quietness earlier on, and continued to miaow all night. At some point, I got up, gave her more food, then put my earplugs in and slept peacefully until the next morning. By then, Leia was exploring her new home, ate, and behaved as if she had always lived with us. We could pick her up, and in the evening she would, of course, sit between us on the sofa and watch TV.
Letting a new cat outside
Around two weeks later, with the beautiful weather, we let her go into our fenced garden – she was quite timid and would only go out with us. Two months alter, she brought her first mouse, and now, nearly a year after adoption, she is really into climbing trees and spending a large chunk of the day outside – not without coming in from time to time to check up on us. We usually just leave the door to the garden open all day when the weather is good, so that she can go in and out as she pleases – it was hugely inconvenient in the winter, but now the warmer days come and kitty loves controlling her empire from the terrace and run around in the garden.
So, after the first adoption went well, we have decided to adopt a boyfriend or a sister for her! We will probably adopt from Spain again, having had such a good experience the first time around and seeing how dire the situation is in Spain – and for every cat that gets adopted, a new cat can be rescued from the street. I will keep you updated!
More facts about our adoption
Our cat was adopted from Adagats Animales.
The Adagats adoption went via a German lady who acts as a contact person between adopters and the charity. The cat was pretty much as described. She was clean and came with a pet passport, chip, and vaccinations. Because sometimes the cats live in crowded foster homes, we were advised to de-flea and de-worm after arrival, which we did. Leia had a slightly sticky eye. So we took her to the vet once she was settled, and she got treated for an infection, plus eye ointment for several weeks. We were warned not to expect a top-condition pet, so this was not a problem for us. Also, the stress of moving may bring out latent infections. Almost a year after adoption, the cat is absolutely fine. She has developed a love for the outdoors and tree-climbing, and has become rather muscular and fast. She just goes to the vet for checkups and vaccinations.
El Gato Andaluz
My sponsored cats live with El Gato Andaluz, and they regularly adopt cats to Europe. They are a really friendly small charity, English is spoken there, and they have a German contact. They know their animals well, and adoption appears rather uncomplicated. Prior to adoption, pets are microchipped and vaccinated. They require at least 21 days preparation before the pet can travel. They use mainly scheduled flights and flight guardians with whom the pets travel. Contact is very good, and they respond reliably to enquiries.
Nearby in Andalucia is Estepona Katzen, a private rescue run by a German lady (website in German only). In fact, we adopted our second cat from here, and I can fully recommend Estepona Katzen.
How to pick your adoption organisation
There are so many organisations who adopt within the EU, and most have a web presence or at least a social media account.
Take a look at as many as you can, feel free to contact them, and see how your communication goes! I found the regular contact important to get a good gut feeling about the adoption. I spent a lot of time on the phone with the lady who helped us adopt Leia. She was the main contact to Adagats. Whether the cat will be left outside or be an indoor cat, what their stance is on keeping only one cats – there is only one way to find out.
The rescues I have been in contact with will insist on a home visit or a reference, and an adoption contract. Most will also tell you what the cat comes with, such as rabies vaccine, microchip and EU passport (required before international travel), parasite treatment. They may have received some other vaccinations. All will be checked by a vet before they can travel. Also, bear in mind that an international adoption will cost more, as more vaccinations and a pet passport are required, and often the pet will travel by air.
There are regular warnings that there are “black sheep” who trade in animals and generate a profit. It would be wrong to see this as a blanket warning, because there are so many homeless animals out there. And there are far too few adopters, and these animal charities work hard to lessen the suffering of these strays who still end up sick, poisoned and dead well before their time.