I am very allergic to cats. But, notwithstanding the sneezing, congestion and puffy eyes I knew I would experience, when I found myself living alone and desperately lonely, I took my friend (now wife) Jessica’s advice and got a cat. Jessica went with me to the animal shelter. On the way in, she asked me what I was planning to name my new roommate.
“I have to meet him first, but probably something literary,” I said.
We entered the shelter and looked at the kittens, one of which seemed intent on getting his paw through the mesh of the cage and touching me. “I’d like to see this one,” I said to the shelter attendant.
We went into the “playroom” and spent some time with the little gray fellow and, when the attendant returned to check on us, I told her that I would like to “adopt” him.
“That’s great,” she said. “Little Shakespeare is so cute.” The name stuck.
Ten years later, it was time to move Shakespeare from his Pittsburgh penthouse domain to an olive farm in Italy. I’m certain that, left to make the decision on his own, he would have waved good-bye to us and simply allowed the people who bought the penthouse to move in and live with him. He was, however, about to go from Penthouse Pussy to Country Cat.
The process of moving a cat from the US to Italy was not quite as simple as I had hoped. Granted, the visions of spending nine hours on a plane with the cat as carry-on baggage were terrifying, but at least they were uncomplicated. In fact, there was a great deal more to the process than that.
The plot of Act 1 involved making certain that Shakespeare’s health documents were up to date and in conformity with both US and Italian government requirements. I contacted the United States Department of Agriculture in Harrisburg and that office sent the required forms to Shakespeare’s vet. After receiving his rabies vaccination and a new identification chip (one that could be read by European equipment), the forms were filled out and signed by the vet. Throughout this process, Shakespeare’s attitude conveyed, quite clearly, “WTF!”
The forms provided by the vet then had to be returned to Harrisburg for final validation. I drove 3-1/2 hours to the USDA office, handed the forms to the receptionist at the window and, in three minutes was back in the car for the return trip, documents in hand. Paperwork completed, end of Act 1.
Act 2 shows how Shakespeare makes the journey from Pittsburgh to Italy. It starts with learning how a pet can and cannot be transported from the US into Italy. As I discovered, there are several rules that apply. First, many airlines will not transport pets internationally at all and, those that will, require that they go as cargo and not in the passenger compartment. Second, there are certain times of the year, due to hot and cold weather, when pets may not be transported. Finally, the airlines will not transport pets from one country to another where connecting flights are required. This last criteria posed a bit of a problem for us since there are no direct flights from Pittsburgh to Italy. In the end, I took the easy way out of the Act 2 drama by retaining the services of a pet relocation service. My responsibilities were hence limited to (1) getting the health paperwork done; (2) delivering Shakespeare to Dulles International Airport in time to catch his flight to Rome; and (3) paying the people who got him onto the plane in Washington, off the plane in Rome and onto another plane bound for Brindisi an outrageous amount of money for doing so.
I followed the guidance of the pet moving experts and purchased a large enough kennel so that Shakespeare had plenty of room to move about though he chose not to and, instead, spent the four-hour drive to Dulles glowering at me. The threats were obvious in his eyes: he wanted a piece of me. We met the guy from the Washington end of the pet relocation network in a hotel parking lot near the airport and he put the kennel containing very-angry Shakespeare into a van and drove off. In four short hours, he would be Rome-bound and, nine hours after that, if all went well, he would be in his new home country.
I confess to having trouble getting to sleep the night after Shakespeare departed, but I’m certain that he was awake as well. At 8:30am Rome time (2:30am Pittsburgh time), I received an email from Annamaria at Bliss Pet Services that simply said, “Shakespeare landed in Rome. He’s alive.” She added a picture that conveys exactly how Shakespeare felt about the whole affair.
Shakespeare was cleared through customs in Rome, received a thorough exam by a vet and was taken to the Alitalia cargo office for the flight from Rome to Brindisi where Jessica would meet him. Act 3 would be his homecoming.
He was still in a rather foul mood when he was reunited with Jessica. In fact, it’s been a few months now, and he’s still pretty miffed at no longer having a river view. At least, I think that’s what’s bugging him. The most interesting thing about his arrival here in Puglia was the reaction of our Italian friends. It’s no secret that Italy is absolutely lousy with cats. The things are everywhere and they are being born faster that the Italian drivers can mow them down. Given this, I guess it’s not hard to understand how the Italians find it difficult to comprehend someone spending a few thousand euros to actually bring a cat into the country. To them, it’s tantamount to us spending a fortune to bring an olive tree here. As a result, Shakespeare has become something of a local legend. People actually stop by our house to see “the 10 kilo cat.” The fact that he’s only 5 kilos tells you something about how his reputation precedes him.
So, with the celebrity status he feels he so deserves, Shakespeare has settled into his new life as an Italian cat and the curtain lowers on a much happier pussy.
Note: Our sincere thanks and appreciation to Bliss Pet Services and Annamaria for providing such wonderful support to us and, of course, to Shakespeare. They were consummate professionals and very sympathetic to what the “parents” of a pet go through when sending them on a trip.
Next: The Move – Part 4: Me