export cat from thailand to us

How to Export a Cat From Thailand To The US

Want to Export a Cat From Thailand To The US?

This post is meant for those who want to learn about the process of adopting, vaccinating, and clearing a Thai cat for export for travel to the US.

I was traveling alone through southeast asia for 7 months, from 2022-2023, and I did NOT expect that shortly after arriving to Thailand after The Philippines, that I would ever adopt a cat in Thailand, much less export her to the US. I was always a dog person, but Luna came up to me one day and adopted me, and the rest is history.

I’m writing this to share the steps I went through to adopt a stray cat in Thailand to get her cleared for export to the US (California in my case). This was in early 2023, and the rules might have changed, so I encourage you to also do your own research. Also, the rules for dogs/other animals are different, so this only pertains to cats. I flew with Luna to the US after getting her cleared, and will make a separate post about the flight.

The process took almost 3 months.

Make sure they’re actually stray animals

I was staying in Chiang Dao, Thailand for the Shambala festival, when Luna came up to me out of nowhere. I was sippin’ coffee at my guesthouse (here’s the meet cute video I made about our story which is also linked at the bottom) and minding my own solo traveler business. I’d always wanted a pet, but I also loved the freedom of having been to 34 countries already by the time I’m 32. She was so affectionate and loving that I decided to look into adopting her.

Before getting too attached, though, I wanted to make sure she was a stray. I biked around the neighborhood, showing people her photo and asking them if thy knew her. The guesthouse owners had never seen her and encouraged me to just take her. I even biked with her in my backpack to the local vet shop to see if they recognized her. It was closed though! The nearest vet was all the way in Chiang Mai, about 90 minutes away.

There are A LOT of stray animals in Thailand. A lot of the Buddhist monks at the temples are kind enough to feed and care for stray animals. They’re just roaming around, living life. I wasn’t sure if Luna wanted to be with me or if she just came to say hi, so I spent 3 days with her at the guest hose with her off leash most times (other times I had her on leash to protect her from the other animals) to see if she really DID want to be around me, and she did.

exporting a cat from thailand to the us
Luna is my art inspiration!

Join Thailand pet lover facebook groups

Join these:

Bangkok Pet Lovers

Chiang Mai Animal Lovers

Chiang Mai Pets Community

These groups helped me SO much to prepare for all the steps. I asked questions and used the search filter for topics like “Animal Quarantine Services” and “cat rabies” to see what people were talking about.

Leash train them ASAP

Of course, only if this is possible. I got a leash right away for Luna because I knew we would be traveling a lot together. I think she was only about 1 year old because that grown kitten energy, but she knew exactly how to use a litterbox and loves cuddes. She loves humans, so I think she was abandonded. She seemed disoriented and hungry for attention when she found me, and little did I know how much I would enjoy having a new addition to my life.

I wanted her to be able to go outside daily even if we didn’t have a fenced in outdoor space. She and I are both outdoor beings. It was relatively easy to leash train her, especially when it involved wet food that I would ONLY bring out when the leash did, so she could associate it positively. Leash training came in handy when we had to go through airport security in Thailand and South Korea, too.

leash training cats is important for travel
At Animal Quarantine Services (AQS) in Bangkok to get Luna cleared. Leash training came in handy here and when we had to go through airport security.

Vaccinations to export a cat from Thailand

The entire export process from Thailand was MUCH more intense than it was to import her. The US at didn’t require her to be vaccinated at all, but Thailand did. I checked the CDC requirements. At the time of writing this, only Hawaii and Guam had quarantine rules. In order to clear her for export from Thailand, I immediately took her to the vet and gave her a rabies shot. I had to wait two weeks for the booster, and then I had to wait ANOTHER 30 DAYS in order to just leave Thailand with her. I definitely had to extend my visa at immigration and then do a border hop because this all took time.

The rabies vaccine is the only one required. Since healthcare for humans AND pets is much cheaper in Thailand than in the US, I also got her feline leukemia vaccine since she is an outdoor cat. I also got her dewormed, of course, and her anti flea and tick treatment.

Your vet will give you your pet passport with the vaccines in them. Mine is in Thai and English. Each time they vaccinate your cat, they should put down the name of the doctor (even if it’s the same one) again, as I learned the hard way at Animal Quarantine Services before leaving Thailand.

Spay and neuter them

I thought I’d be able to get all her vaccines done and spay her immediately, but the vet held off the spaying until weeks after. The vaccinations would lower her immune system. I’ve heard of some shelters doing spaying/neutering for free, but as a Mexican American traveler, I decided to pay for it instead of taking away resources from the locals.

I thought about not spaying her for a second because of how cute her babies would be. However, there are SO many animals in Thailand (and in the world) that are abandoned daily that are already looking for good homes. It’s sadly very common for tourists to adopt then abandon animals once they realize how much of a life change getting an animal is.

Getting a pet is an INVESTMENT. I am definitely selling stock in my brokerage account to pay for her expenses. I’m also getting so much companionship and love from her, so win win!

Get the cat microchipped and an ID tag

I paid about $20 USD to get her microchipped. This isn’t a requirement for importing to the US, but I believe it is for places like Europe. Some places require getting the microchip before or on the day of the rabies vaccine. Som places also require a rabies titer test which can take MONTHS because they have to send the lab results abroad. I almost freaked out when I realized it can take this long, but it was not a requirement for travel to the US.

Red Dogs Animal Supply in Chiang Mai is where I got her ID tag. I stayed in Chiang Mai during smoke season, which I would NOT recommend. From Feb-May, the rice fields are burning and the air becomes toxic. Anyway, I got an engraved ID Tag with Luna’s name and my whatsapp number. Funny enough, Luna escaped the house the HOUR my tag was getting delivered, which made me regret not getting her tag sooner, even though she is microchipped. She ended up showing back up, but lesson learned.

Take the cat to Animal Quarantine Services (AQS) in Bangkok

We took the overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, which I DO NOT recommend because they don’t allow animals in the air conditioned sleeper cars. The ride lasted 14 hours with the windows open and fans, but it was HOT. I recommend just flying (it’s A LOT cheaper than hiring a private taxi service). The train is not worth it without AC. I did it because I honestly didn’t think it would stay THAT HOT at night. I also wanted to prepare Luna for our 24+ hour flight to the US, but I will never do that again.

You’re supposed to take the cat to Animal Quarantine Services at the Cargo section outside of Suvarnabhumi Airport no more than 3 days before your flight. I’ve heard different things from different people, but this is what I did. Check out this list of requirements on the Thai customs site. It helped me a lot with preparing me to export my cat.

I showed up without an appointment and had no issue.

At AQS at the Bangkok Airport with Luna waiting for our turn.

I went 3 days before because I didn’t want to stress about the office being closed for a Thai holiday, and I heard they close on weekends, too. So, I took my passport and the pet passport, and paid 10 bhat for them to make copies. I went around 8:30 am with Luna, picked a number, I filled out a basic form with my info and hers, and I waited to be called.

Lots of people who don’t want to wait outside in the heat without air conditioning will hire agents to do all of this for them. I did this on my own, but an agent/facilitator some people in the facebook groups seem to recommend a lot is Christine’s Pet Travel. If I weren’t able to clear out my entire day, I would have hired an agent like her when exporting my cat from Thailand to the US.

If you go without an agent like I did, the cat must come with you at first. The vets will inspect them for clearance. They didn’t do anything too fancy. They just wanted to make sure she was in good health. This is where the leash training came in handy. I was ready to leave by 10:30, but they told me I needed to come back at 1 pm without Luna to pick up both the export permit and the health certificate. I did just that.

In total, I paid 270 bhat in cash to get her documents at AQS (about $8 USD).

I took Luna to my Airbnb, the Solunery Art House in Bangkok, which I chose because I loooove art houses and it’s close to the airport. It also had a pet friendly room and was about $22 USD a night including the pet fee. The family is nice and LGBTQIA+ friendly. It was a great place to get the AQS process done, but it was FAR from downtown Bangkok. It was about an hour away factoring in traffic.

As for pet friendly lodging, I’ve heard The Kaze is good, too. Be careful when reserving, because on booking.com or other sites, not all hotels are pet friendly, even if they say they are. Always call and check. On my last 2 days in Bangkok, I did the Hop on Hop Off red bus to see the sights since I was there a short time.

She really is my muse!

That’s my experience of how to export a cat from Thailand to the US!

My next post will talk all about the flight. Stay tuned and ask your questions in the comments. Enjoy my gotcha story of how Luna story stole my heart below. <3

4 Comments

    1. She went in the cabin with me under my seat. It cost $300 and would have cost $400 if I’d done cargo, and since it was our first flight, I wanted to be with her. I thought she would need bathroom breaks but omg cats can HOLD IT unlike dogs! She didn’t pee or poop until I set up her litterbox in LA about 36 hours later!

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