The Great Cat Reunion and Christmas in Georgia

View from plane window.
The view from the plane window en route from New York City’s LGA to Atlanta’s Hartford Airport.

For the week of Christmas, my wife and I flew down to Georgia to visit relatives. It was the first time I’d been there in about two years. It was really nice to get out of the city, see my family and relax. Going around town, looking at the places I went to school, the places I used to hang out, and sharing those memories with my wife was a good experience for both of us. She left feeling like she knew me better and I came away from the trip feeling a bit more grounded. Going to college and taking heavy course-loads with only short breaks between (I’ve been cramming in Summer and Winter classes as well) had me feeling like I was mentally flying off the rails for a while there. I’m also not taking a class this Winter. That’s mostly because I have Grand Jury Duty but I don’t think I would have taken a course anyway. I just need time to let everything I’ve learned sink in, and time to just unwind.

Highway signs in Alabama. Some of my family lives over there too, right on the border with Georgia.
Highway signs in Alabama. Some of my family lives over there too, right on the border with Georgia.
The National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning Georgia.
The National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning Georgia.

While we were in Georgia, my wife and I visited Sand Hill on Fort Benning, where I did my basic combat training back in 1998. We also went to the National Infantry museum. I’ll be posting about those experiences over the next couple of days. I can’t believe how much Sand Hill has changed, or how nice the Infantry Museum turned out to be. I was expecting something, but not something that well put together. It’s the Army, after all!

Carting our cats over to my mom's apartment.
Carting our cats over to my mom’s apartment.

Anyway, before we left for Georgia, we had one small issue we had to take care of: the cats. Dapper and Thumper probably wouldn’t have wanted to fly with us to Georgia, even if it had been affordable, not to mention the fact that I don’t think my family would want cats running around their houses anyway. So, they had to stay at my mom’s place with their long-lost sister, Marble. They hadn’t seen each other in about six months and Thumper hasn’t gotten along with Marble since I left the Philippines with Marble instead of her back in 2010 and she had to sit there for a year waiting on me to bring her to NYC. I think she got jealous!

Marble, pissed off about unwanted house guests.
Marble, pissed off about unwanted house guests.
Dapper, taking up a position on the high ground.
Dapper, taking up a position on the high ground.
Thumper, in solitary confinement because she likes to fight.
Thumper, in solitary confinement because she likes to fight.

So, throwing them all back together for a week was probably not the best idea, but cat-sitting is so expensive these days, and I trust family more than I trust a pet-sitting service anyway. I figured they’d be ok. Everything seemed to have gone ok, anyway. Bringing them back was entertaining. We had to wrap the carrier up in blankets because it was about 24 degrees outside that night with a brisk wind. When we exited my mom’s building, one of our cats gave this horrified meow when she felt the breeze. Then she buried herself in blankets!

I hope everyone had as good a time over the holidays as we did, and that everyone’s year is off to a good start!

Marble’s Memorial Day Adventure

Marble on the couch.

Being a Singaporean cat, Marble hasn’t had the opportunity to celebrate any American holidays until she immigrated to the US this year.

Marble doesn't look satisfied yet.

It was with great excitement that she oversaw the grilling operations at my mom’s place.

Shrimp kabobs.

Yup!  This is what she was waiting for!  Shrimp and chicken. =)

Marble's bowl.

She had her own bowl.  That’s one of the shrimp that was set aside for her.  She really does enjoy shrimp and chicken.  She’s not too big on pork though.

Since moving to the US, this cat has really been spoiled.  She eats plenty of scraps from the table.  She’s come a long way from living in a potted plant on the side of the road in Singapore.

Getting an Export Permit from the Philippines BAI for Marble

Getting Marble’s export permit was a bit difficult, but not because of the process itself.  It was getting there that was annoying.  Before we headed down to the BAI, we had to stop by the vet to pick up her health certificate.  The vet didn’t have a printer in the office so we couldn’t get it on the spot.  The problem with that is that the vet is sort of out of the way when it comes to getting transportation to Manila from Antipolo.  It is on the road that leads out of town though, so instead of backtracking to the center of town to get an air conditioned FX (a passenger SUV that’s been converted for public transportation) we walked out to the curb and flagged down a Jeepney instead.  Thankfully, it was overcast and kinda cool with the breeze since the windows stay open in the passenger area except when it’s raining.  Unfortunately, that also meant we got dusty and had black boogers later.

After a tricycle to the vet, a jeepney to Manila, the train to Quezon Ave and then 2 more Jeepney’s to Visaya Avenue by the Quezon Memorial, we finally arrived at our destination.

The Bureau of Animal Industry, National Veterinary Quarantine Services building.
The Bureau of Animal Industry, National Veterinary Quarantine Services building.

After seeing the AVA’s offices in the Ministry of National Development building in Singapore, I was a bit underwhelmed by the appearance of the building, but I suppose it’s no worse than some of the building’s I’ve seen used as government offices in the US.

Despite the appearance of this place, the people inside were very efficient and very friendly.  The e-mail I’d received from one of the people that works there said the wait time for the export permit was about an hour, but I had everything I needed and was out the door in about 20 minutes.  I did have to go around the back of the building to get a dry notary seal stamped into the form, but that only added another 10 minutes, most of which was walking.

Vet health certificate, BAI health certificate and export permit, plus shot records.
Vet health certificate, BAI health certificate and export permit, plus shot records.

The best part of it was that I got the export permit and they converted the veterinary health certificate to a government health certificate (which I didn’t expect), all for the low, low price of free.  That’s surprising.  The import permit was 650 PHP (about 15 USD).  The export permit fee and the fee for the government health certificate in Singapore were 50 SGD (about 38 USD) apiece.  I guess that’s how they paid for that big fancy building.

With this out of the way, the only thing left to do with Marble is to stick her in a carrier and show up at the airport with her.  I do have to find a hotel that will let me stay there with her in Manila for the night before the flight though.  It’s at 7:30 in the morning and it’s impossible to make the commute to Manila at 3:30 AM (it’s 2 hours one way, roughly).

UPDATE (2016): BAI Philippines has a Facebook page with updated contact information available. Click here.

Update (2017): This is a Flickr slideshow of pictures of the cat carrier my wife used in 2011 to bring two cats from the Philippines to New York City. Please note the bolts that were added to the carrier after-market. Make sure you do that. Also, zip-ties were added at the built-in latch points to further secure the carrier. I would bring zip-ties to the airport so that you can secure the door after the airport personnel are satisfied that they don’t have to open the door. Include a bowl for water and food. Ask that your pet be provided with water. Put blankets in the carrier so your pet(s) can stay warm.

Most importantly, keep this as your second or last option. Check with your airline to see if you can bring your pet in the cabin with you in a smaller pet carrier. Check with your airline for permission and/or requirements and fees.

Pet Taxi Cat Carrier for an International Flight//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Cat Export Preparations Update #5

It’s almost time to go and rather than winding down, things are winding up, especially our stress level.  There are only a few things left to do, in regards to the cats, but it’s still troublesome.

On the 28th, the carriers showed up as scheduled, which was a relief.  It’d be time consuming to try to get a refund and then go elsewhere.  The cats don’t seem to mind them.  In fact, as soon as I put them in the room, they wanted to investigate.  I read that it’s best to let your cats get comfortable with the carriers so they’re more at ease during the trip.

So, what’s left?  Tomorrow I have to take the cats to get their rabies shots and health certificates.  Immediately afterwards I need to file those health certificates along with an application to have them converted to AVA health certificates.  Those should be ready to pick up on Monday.  Immediately after picking them up I have to go to the Philippines Airlines office and present the documentation to them.  They won’t let the cats on the plane without me performing that step first.  They want to verify the documents and make sure everything’s legal.

My stack of paperwork involving the flight and these cats is growing…

Stay tuned for more updates tomorrow!

Cat Export Preparations Update #4

Another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place.  I was having an issue getting the export permit from Singapore because I couldn’t get the AVA’s site to work.  It was a mix of problems that started with the site being horrible in terms of navigation and ease of use.  It was harder than it should’ve been to find the information I needed and then to find the form.

The form itself was the next problem.  The AVA has sacrificed ease of use for practicality and merged the export and import permit for both personal and business use into one form.  To further complicate matters, many items that don’t pertain to people looking to export personal pets are marked with a red asterisk, inviting you to try to fill in the box with some sort of data since you assume it’s required.  Then, when the data is erroneous, you’re not allowed to proceed.  It took me a few phone calls and some waiting to get past that hang-up.

Once I knew what was going on it was no problem to get the form filled out and submitted.  That was Friday.  Today I checked the form status and saw that it was approved so I was then able to make payment through the AVA’s site.  Once I did that the download link was unlocked for me.  I downloaded the export permit in pdf form and then printed it out.

So now we have the import permit, export permit, tickets for Philippine Airlines, and the cats have had their first round of vaccinations.  Next up is a return to the vet sometime between the 29th and the 3rd for rabies vaccinations and the health certificate.  I may get them the 1 month boosters while we’re there as well to save hassle later.  I don’t know if that’s possible though because I’m not sure if there might be a reaction between all the vaccines.  Guess I’ll ask the expert when I get there.

I’ll also have to give them all a dip in flea & tick treatment shampoo and get my wife to cram a dewormer pill down their throats.  She’s much better at it than I am.  They always spit it out when I try to do it, but they don’t give her any trouble.

We’re still waiting on the replacement cages to show up on the 28th as well.

Relocating pets is a serious pain in the butt and requires a lot of double-checking to make sure things are done, but it’ll be worth it when they’re all sitting at the window staring out at the Philippine and enjoying the space and privileges they’ll have in their new home.

Total cost for export license

: 50 SGD! Yay!

Total damages so far: 820 SGD

Total to go: approximately 500 SGD (I realize that’s higher than before, but I must have miscounted somewhere. 300ish for rabies & health certificates and about 200 for airline shipping, rough guesses.)

Cat Export Preparations Update #3

Well, we’ve encountered two hang-ups.  One isn’t so bad and one is making me want to claw my face off from frustration.

I received the airline certified cat carriers this afternoon but there was a problem.  They were smaller than what I’d thought when I originally bought them.  They looked roomy and more than adequate when I was in the store, but when I put one down and stuck Dapper in it, it was obvious that it was not going to be appropriate, or even acceptable by the airline.  Dapper could barely fit inside, couldn’t turn around and couldn’t even stand up.  Maybe it’s because she’s so fat, but regardless, I had to jump in the shower and take them back to the store for an exchange to the next bigger size.

When I went up there I was a little worried about how the whole thing would go.  I’d never tried to exchange anything in Singapore before and while it would be an easy swap process in the US, you never know when it comes to Singapore retailers.  Thankfully, this standard of exchange is in use here in Singapore as well.  I just had to show that the carriers were still in new condition, with the packaging on them, and present the receipt and it was a quick process to request a “top-up” to the next size.

So, I was able to bring home one carrier in the next higher size and I’ll have to wait until next week to get the other two.  I imagine it’ll take 7 days again, which means I’ll get them on the 28th, just in time to take them to the vet on the 29th for their rabies shots and health certificates.  I’m glad I bought those other cages when I did, leaving myself room for fixing this sort of mistake.  I’m also glad that the people at PetLover’s were pleasant and quick to help me out with the exchange!

That was the easy fix problem.  The next problem is the one that has me banging my head against my desk.  Well, not literally, but I want to.

Part of the process of getting my cats out of Singapore is requesting an export permit from the AVA.  Getting an import permit from the Philippines BAI was as simple as sending an e-mail with the details of the cats, the shipping method and date of arrival.  There was a slight hang-up due to technical issues but once we contacted them we had it back on the same day by e-mail.  The AVA is proving to be much, much more difficult.

When you go to their site there are clear links for export permits for personal pets, and it indicates that you can fill out a form online for two day processing of your request.  The problem here is that all of the links point to an online form that seems to be geared towards businesses.  There is no personal form that I can find.  The form we keep getting directed to requests some business identification number and another number I don’t recall right now, but either way, you can’t progress past the first page of the request form without filling those in.  We obviously don’t have them, and the average person wouldn’t have them either.  I keep getting the feeling that I’m looking at the wrong form, but no matter how many links I click I always wind up on that one.  My wife tried with the same results.

So, tomorrow I’m going to have to call up the AVA and figure out what the deal is.  I hope they don’t tell me something that’s going to make me throw my phone through the wall.  This process has already been stressful enough, both on my wife and I, and on my wallet.

This whole process has been a real lesson in how difficult an international move really is.  Before this, any time I’d ever moved I’d had it all arranged by the military.  Well, except for my coming to Singapore in the first place, but when I did that I gave away my furniture, electronics, and anything I couldn’t immediately use to my family, packed a few suitcases and hopped on a plane.  I suppose this wouldn’t be too much different, except for there being two of us now, if not for our cats, but we aren’t about to abandon them either.

Anyhow, the “top-up” on the carriers wasn’t free, so here’s the update:

Total damages so far: 770 SGD (approximately)

Total to go: 380 SGD (approximately)

Cat Export Preparations Update #2

We are well under way!

Last week I went to the pet store in White Sands and found IATA certified Ferstar travel carriers that will meet our needs.  They were a bit pricey at 75 bucks apiece, but since they’re airline certified I know we’ll be able to use them multiple times in the future, since the Philippines isn’t a destination so much as another stopping point to learn and enjoy life.  I opted for home delivery both because it was free and because they didn’t have 3 carriers on hand.  They had to order them from their warehouse.  A few days later I got a call saying that the carriers would take a bit longer to come in because they had to be ordered from overseas.  That’s a little troubling, since I don’t have a lot of time to play around with anymore.  They’re supposed to arrive tomorrow, so here’s hoping it pans out alright.  When we get them in, I’ll be sure to throw up some photos of the carriers and point out some of the details.

Beyond that, I called up Philippine Airlines to discuss having the cats transported along with us.  The procedures are fairly simple.  You book your tickets and then within two days prior to the flight you have to go down to their office to provide them with a copy of the export permit, import permit and health certificate.

If you’re wondering, cats (and other pets) can’t ride on the budget carriers.  You have to take one of the full fledged airlines and the only two offering the service between the Singapore and the Philippines are Singapore Airlines and Philippine Airlines.  The difference in ticket prices between SIA and PAL was about 400 SGD, so we went with the cheaper option.

Total cost of the carriers: 213 SGD (after PetLovers members discount of 5%)

Total difference in cost between premium airline tickets and budget tickets: roughly 400 SGD

Total ‘Damages’ So Far: 713 SGD (approximately)

Total to go: 380 SGD (approximately)

Stay tuned for more updates!  Also, I’ll later be compiling all of the details into a more refined post for a good walk through on how to bring cats from Singapore to the Philippines.

Cat Export Preparations Update #1

So, last month I mentioned the astronomical costs associated with taking our cats with us to the Philippines and detailed exactly what some of those costs are.  Today, we had the opportunity to take that list down a notch by getting our cats their first round of vaccinations.

We had to do some searching around for good pricing.  I was really surprised by how much prices on the same set of shots varies from vet to vet here in Singapore.  The low end was 21 SGD and the high end was 54 SGD.  We did the sensible thing and went to Clinic For Pets in Geylang, which was charging the lower amount.  It’s farther away, but since we were doing multiple cats at once it balanced out the extra taxi fare in the end.

The cats received a 3-in-1 shot that included Feline Rhinotracheitis, Calici-Panleukopenia, and Chlamydia Psitacci Vaccine.  Did you know cats can get Chlamydia?  I didn’t.  I recently found out that cats can carry a feline version of HIV too.  We were also given deworming tabs and a medical strength shampoo to apply to their coats to make sure any fleas, lice, etc are completely eradicated.  Those are supposed to be applied within 7 days of their departure, to be noted on the Health Certificate we have to get from the vet, which in turn has to be certified by the AVA.

There’s still a lot more to go in this process, but the fact that we’ve taken the first step is a relief.  Honestly, if not for these cats I could just buy a ticket and board a plane, but I’m not the kind of cruel bastard that just dumps my cats when it becomes inconvenient.

Total ‘damages’ so far: 108 SGD (shots, tablets, shampoo, taxi fare)
Total to go: Roughly 780 SGD

As for the cats themselves, they seem to be taking it pretty well.  They didn’t much like the ride to the vet, but they were quiet while there and on the way back home, even when we got caught in a deluge of rain while trying to hail a cab.  Dapper still seems a little shook up and is seeking refuge in the dirty laundry basket along with my smelly socks and used underwear.  I don’t know why but she really likes it in there.  I think the noise and all the stuff going on around her while she was in the carrier rattled her nerves.  She’s sensitive.  She grew up in an apartment on the 13th floor, so she’s used to things being quiet, peaceful and relatively unchanging.  Even now we’re on the 3rd floor so she looks out the window and watches things below her from a ‘safe’ perch.  She must have been really unhappy to actually be in the middle of everything with buses, trucks, and cars zooming by on the road and the train shooting past us overhead.  Poor thing.  I’m sure she’ll be fine in the morning!

I’ll keep a running log of updates on their status here on my blog, of course, and when it’s all done with I plan on writing up a detailed post about taking cats from Singapore to the Philippines, that way someone else can easily follow the steps without having to comb through so many different government web sites for information.  I’ll probably set that up as the first post on my Philippines blog, after I stop publishing to my Singapore blog.

Update: I rolled all of my blogs into just this one, so the last sentence above can be disregarded. For a detailed look at the export process from Singapore and the import process to the Philippines for dogs and cats, please see the following link:

http://www.bradleyfarless.com/importing-your-cats-to-the-philippines-from-singapore/

The above-linked page includes detailed information and examples of the web pages and forms used in the process.

Kuala Lumpur Cats

These are just some of the cats we saw while we were in Kuala Lumpur.

 

This is Mr. Jinja.  He’s a cat at Hostel Cosmopolitan.

 

 

This is Whinny, Mr. Jinja’s friend.  She also lives in Hostel Cosmopolitan.

 

 

This cat was hanging out in an eating area in Kampung Baru, begging for scraps.  I gave it some chicken.

 

 

This girl was working at a satay stall we stopped at for a late meal.  In fact, we got there just before they were closing.  As they started packing up, cats started showing up.  I was wondering what was going on until the girl working at the stall pulled out a bag of cat food to feed them.  She seemed really excited to see the cats, and she had a good laugh when my wife ran over to watch them and had her photo taken with them.

Cats Are Good For Singapore

I’ve heard a lot of complaining about cats in Singapore, both first hand and second hand through friends. People seem to think they’re a nuisance and that they should all be gotten rid of.

Well, it’s true that cats can be noisy sometimes at night. They’re territorial and they like to fight. Sometimes they’re horny and they want to get laid. How can you fault them for that? It’s in their nature to do those things. It’s also true that they sometimes utilize cars as cat beds. I know from personal experience that it can be annoying to come out of the house in the morning and find a fresh set of cat tracks on the hood of a car. It doesn’t make me want to get rid of them. It certainly doesn’t make me want to do something cruel and insane like mass poisoning.

Instead of focusing on the things cats do that may annoy you, you should focus on what they do that’s good for Singapore!

First and foremost, cats are good pets. If you see a stray cat, instead of kicking it, take it home. It’s a bit costly up front, but once you get your cat used to being in your home, and fatten him or her up a bit, they’ll become lifelong companions. There’s nothing quite like having a warm cat on your lap while you watch a movie. There’s nothing quite like having all your cats waiting at the door for you because they recognize the way you walk and want to welcome you home. There’s nothing like waking up with a cat warming your head, or sleeping curled up next to you.

Every cat has its own unique personality. I never knew that before I had cats of my own.

Tangible Benefits From Cats in Singapore

Besides being great, or at least interesting, companions there are other reasons to respect cats. If you’re thinking that indoor cats are fine, but it’s the outdoor ones that are a nuisance, ask yourself this: Would you rather see stray cats or see a massive increase in huge rats in your neighborhood? Which do you think carries more disease? Heck, which carries more of the ‘gross’ factor?

Cats are natural mousers. Having cats around keeps down the rodent population. If it weren’t for cats, the rodents might overrun the neighborhoods and that would be bad, because I’ve seen rats in Singapore that were as big as a six month old cat. Also keep in mind that rats aren’t as tame as cats. The chances of your child being bitten by a cat on the playground are slim. The cat would generally run away from a human being. A rat on the other hand might be more prone to attack.

To illustrate I have some photos of a cat doing his work. I was lucky enough to see this guy cleaning up the 24 hour hawker in Pasir Ris the other night. This is in the bushes just in front of the air conditioned area of the hawker center, near where people typically park motorbikes and bicycles at night.

 

 

As you can see, cats do a good job of keeping things tidy.

A Better Option

If, however, you simply cannot stand having a lot of cats around, or think there are too many, there’s another option. Volunteer your time and money to safely and humanely treat the problem. Work with the SPCA or the Cat Welfare Society. Or, do something above and beyond. Every month, catch a cat (lure with food into a carrier) and take the cat to a vet to have it neutered or spayed. Then, care for it indoors for a week and put it back out. That will effectively reduce the cat population by potential dozens for every ‘fixed’ cat.

Summary

[Update: Just to make it clear, the pictures below are not of the same cats. The ‘bad’ pictures were taken from online news articles in Singapore. Images of similar looking cats were used to emphasize the fact that cats are cute, and shouldn’t be hurt. Thanks!]

Do Not beat up, maim, harrass, torture, or kill cats. That goes for dogs too, though it’s not so much of a problem here. Besides the fact that it’s just sick and wrong, there are stiff penalties in Singapore for that. Are cats really so horrible that you want to risk a 10,000 SGD fine and/or up to 1 year in prison? Use your head! Think of alternatives!

This:

(Source – Edit: 2016, source no longer exists)

 

 

Or this (my cute kitties):

 

 

Which Do You Want To Have On Your Conscience?