Moving To Japan With Your Pet: What You Need To Know

[Guest Blog Post] Eli Wood is a freelance content writer from Massachusetts. Eli studied and tutored Japanese throughout college and now helps businesses grow by using the right words. You can connect with Eli on LinkedIn or visit their website.

You’ve been studying Japanese for years. Maybe you’ve done an internship with a Japanese company or worked as a translator. Maybe you just really want to experience Japanese culture through immersion. The bottom line is, you’ve decided you want to live in Japan. But there’s one thing – one really big, important thing – holding you back: your pet.

If you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t dream of leaving your pet for anything. My dog would be dressed up like in that Scooby-Doo movie when the gang has to fly somewhere and Scooby disguises himself in a dress and a sun hat to get on the plane. But let’s be real – traveling with pets, never mind getting them permanently settled in a new country, is a lot more involved than if you were going alone.

When you’re traveling to another country, there are laws and regulations you have to follow before your pet can be allowed to stay with you. Sometimes it gets complicated.

Japan’s Pet Laws

Pets are popular in Japan, and I’m not just talking about dogs and cats. Reptiles, birds, ferrets, and even pigs can be kept, as long as they have a suitable environment. When it comes to dog and cat breeds, Japan doesn’t restrict any of them the way some countries do (though this only applies to domesticated dogs and cats – you still can’t bring your tiger or wolf).

Some other things you’ll want to have in order to comply with Japanese pet laws are:

Microchip: This is useful to have for your dog or cat regardless, but it’s even more important when you’re traveling. If your pet gets lost, this is the easiest way to get them back to you quickly.

Import Permit: These papers are one of the most necessary parts of bringing your pet overseas. You have to notify the port of entry at least 40 days before you travel  in order to get all the paperwork together.

Health Certificate and Requirements: You’ll need a Japan Veterinary Certificate once your pet has arrived in Japan. Your pet will also need to be up to date on all vaccinations and test negative for parasites. Make sure you have a blood titer test for your pet, too, to have proof that they’re rabies-free.

One last thing: pets other than dogs, cats, and ferrets might be subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulations. This means they may not be allowed to travel with you to your new home.

What You Need To Know About Transport

When you travel with your pet, they’re not going to be the only thing on your mind. If you’re starting a new job, you’re thinking about that, along with settling into your new house or apartment, and meeting other people in the area. You want to be as prepared in advance as possible to avoid a travel nightmare.

First, before you do anything else, notify the port of entry that you’re coming with your pet. They’ll let you know what paperwork you need. This is a tedious part of the process, so the earlier you get it done, the better. You want to give at least 40 days notice, but we all know there are sometimes snags in the process. If you can do it earlier, I highly recommend it.

Expect that your pet will be quarantined once they arrive in Japan. This is normal, but it’s another instance where processing length varies. Like, a lot. Your pet can be quarantined anywhere from one day to 6 months.

Consider how transport will work on the plane, too. If you can bring your pet in the plane’s cabin, that’s way safer and more comfortable to your pet than being in the baggage compartment. This is another case of let the airline know as soon as possible. Airlines have a limit to how many pets they can allow in the cabin, so make sure they have space for yours.

Take safety into account when flying with your pet. It’s not just about where to put them, but how to minimize their travel trauma. Pets can get as anxious as we do (if not more so) when flying. Make sure your pet has adequate food and water, and take precautions so airline staff knows you’ve got an actual living animal in the carrier. Think about the best times for travel, and try to avoid busy seasons if you can.

Is This Move Good For Your Pet?

Before you even start making plans to move to Japan with your pet, consider whether it’s a good move for them. As much as you might want to take them, you still have to face the fact that despite your best laid plans, it may not be in their best interest. Make up a checklist of your pet’s needs vs. what your new home will offer them.

Some questions to consider:

  • Is your new home big enough for your pet to live comfortably?
  • Is it a suitable new environment for your pet? Will you live in the city? The country?
  • Is your pet’s temperament suited to this new life?
  • How does your pet do with traveling for long periods of time?
  • Will your pet have enough enrichment in their new life?
  • Will you be able to spend enough time with them?
  • What kind of care will your pet receive? What happens if they get sick?

It’s a lot to think about, and you may be able to think of more questions before you embark on your new journey.

Pets enrich our lives so much that it’s hard to think of leaving them behind. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but there are many situations where you can bring your animal companion with you when you move. Living your dream in Japan doesn’t have to mean leaving your best friend behind.

Do you have experience traveling abroad with a pet? Are you worried about moving to Japan with (or without) your pet? Talk to us and tell us your story!

Photo by Jf Brou on Unsplash

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