Pets are family and we think it's so important to keep them together. Kendall, cat mom to beautiful Finley, couldn't agree more. But when it came time to pack up and move to Australia, they realized they could use some help. So, they reached out to PetRelocation and let us take the reigns when it came to all things, Finley. We enjoyed working with them so much that they are the move of the month! Here's their story.
Tell us about Finley. When did she join your family and what is her personality like?
My husband and I adopted Finley when she was a tiny kitten from our local rescue shelter in Seattle in the summer of 2014. Her litter had been found abandoned in a field in eastern Washington, brought to West Seattle, and Finley was one of the last kittens remaining who hadn’t found a home. My husband and I went to the shelter one weekend as we walked by it frequently, just to have a look. We already had one cat at home, and we thought, maybe we should find him a friend since my husband and I were both gone all day at work.
We saw Finley right away, but she was being held and passed around by a mother and her three daughters. After about fifteen minutes, the mother asked the manager of the rescue if they could hold Finley for them, as they had to leave for her daughter’s softball game. The manager apologized and said they couldn’t hold any cats—if you wanted her, you needed to take her now. The girls were bummed but left for their game and hoped Finley would be there when they got back later that afternoon.
She wasn’t, because we took her. And yes, we still sort of feel bad about that almost six years later. But from the second we saw her we knew she was ours. The manager did try to dissuade us a bit from adopting her, as she wasn’t eating and was generally just “failing to thrive”. And she was so, so tiny. I could hold her in just one hand. She weighed about a pound.
Finley is super attached to both my husband and I. Because we’ve had her since she was so tiny, she thinks I’m her mom and that my husband is her dad. She follows me everywhere. She loves to watch birds, play fetch with long grocery store receipts, eat tuna, and sleep either in our arms or draped across my neck or face every night. She is shy and suspicious of new people, but once she is comfortable around you she won’t leave you alone. She is kind and gentle, never bites or scratches, but loves to play. She’s a funny girl. She hisses all the time (at us, at new people in the house who try to pet her, etc.) but I tell everyone she has no follow-through. She’s just a sassy lady with a lot to say.
What brought about your move to Australia? Had you ever been before?
I am a dual citizen between the US and Australia, so I had been back and forth between Seattle and Sydney all my life. My husband and I visited together once in 2015. An opportunity basically came up for us to move and after many, many sleepless nights we decided if not now, when?
Had Finley ever done much traveling before?
No! Our vet in West Seattle was about a twenty-minute drive and she hated it. Hated. It. Hated being in the crate, hated being in the car, hated it all. Much screaming and sad meowing each time we had to take her to the vet (which wasn’t often, thankfully). So you can only imagine where this is going.
Cats, famously, do not like travel crates. Did you practice crate training and do you have any tips for other “pawrents” out there?
Look, each cat is different, right? I’ve seen news articles of cats who go hiking with their human parents and videos of cats sleeping peacefully in a hammock suction-cupped to a car window. Cats are weird. Our cat was no exception to the weirdness, but she hated the crate. When we got her big travel crate for the move, we had to send a photo of her inside of it to PetRelocation so they could make sure it was the correct size. Her face in the photo describes better than anything I could ever write about her feelings towards the crate.
I think because cats are all so different, different things will work for different cat parents facing a move. What worked for us might not be the right choice for you.
We did not crate train her. She hated the crate. We did leave the top off of it for a couple of months and set her blankets up in there and tried to get her to just lay in it while we were watching a movie at night. And she did, for a bit, until she didn’t anymore. She showed random, vague interest in it every now and then but ultimately did not lay in it nearly enough as we wanted her to.
We did send along a blanket in her crate for the long flight that smelled like us. I knew her and knew she’d want to burrow or bury herself in it. She’s like an ostrich sometimes – if she can’t see you, she thinks she’s safe and that you can’t see her. We received a few photos of her in transit where she had the blanket wrapped around her head. So, I think that was one of the best things we could have done for her – send along a blanket that smelled like us in her crate.
Did anything surprise you about the process?
Nothing surprised us about the process other than how insanely complex it is. In the beginning, we thought we’d be able to arrange everything for Finley’s move on our own to try and save money, but in the end, it was so clear that PetRelocation knew what they were doing exponentially better than we ever would have. There are so many loops and hoops to jump through, especially moving an animal to Australia, that we both slept better at night knowing that it was in the hands of the professionals.
What, would you say, was the most valuable part of having Katie and the PetRelocation team assist you?
Oh my gosh, Katie feels like part of our family now. My husband and I had to go ahead of Finley by three months so that we could secure a place to stay before she got there, so Finley stayed with my mom and her partner for three months after we left Seattle. I had looped my mom into all correspondence with Katie, as it was going to be her who ultimately got her out the door for us.
As her move approached, Katie kept us updated with her flight schedules, her vet visit requirements – everything. We always knew where we were at in the process.
A few weeks before her big move date, Katie sent us her flight itinerary via email. My mom, my husband, and I all read the email from different places and all texted each other immediately – was this right? Are we reading this right? The itinerary had Finley flying from Seattle to San Francisco, then San Francisco to Los Angeles (before going on to Melbourne, as planned).
The thought of Finley having to make two flights just to get to LA instead of one was panic-inducing for all three of us. Katie got back to us right away and said she would see what she can do, and not to worry.
Within hours, her schedule had been changed and she was flying nonstop to LA. This is just one example of many that showed how amazing Katie was at one – communicating with us quickly, and two – an advocate for Finley and a problem solver. We felt like (throughout the entire process, but especially during Finley’s actual move) that Katie actually cared. We felt like she was just as invested as we were.
The email thread during Finley’s Pacific Ocean traverse between my mom and Katie is actually funny to look back on and read now, because my mom was emailing Katie in a panic, and Katie was emailing my mom back calming her, telling her to breathe, assuring her it would all be okay.
We couldn’t have done it without Katie.
How did move day go? Any surprises?
Move day was stressful for all of us. I think my biggest initial worry was that first flight to LA. I knew she didn’t do well in the car. I could only imagine what a plane would be like. So, waiting to get that e-mail from Katie that she was successfully at the Kennel Club in LA was excruciating. It felt like I was holding my breath for hours.
My mom had texted me after Finley was picked up from their house in West Seattle and it was so heartbreaking. I could tell my mom felt awful about being “the bad guy” for putting her in the crate and getting her out the door. Much hissing.
Once we knew that Finley had safely made it to LA, I felt relief. I was still worried about the fifteen-hour flight ahead of her the following evening, but I thought, if she was able to do that first flight, she can do the long one. She can do it.
We received photos of Finley at Kennel Club LAX looking very disgruntled, but it was so nice to receive photos of her and know she was okay. And she nailed the long flight, and she did so well on her final flight from Melbourne to Sydney after her quarantine. We are so proud of her!
Many pet-parents are really nervous about quarantine. How would you say Finley did in the Australian quarantine facility?
She did great. My advice to other pet parents about quarantine would be don’t stress. We knew no news was good news, so each day that went by that we didn’t get a phone call or an email, we knew she was fine. The flights were way more stressful and nerve-inducing for us than the quarantine stay!
What advice would you give other pet parents who are just starting to plan their move?
My biggest piece of advice would be that you won’t regret hiring professionals to handle this for you. The logistics and paperwork are astounding. One missed form or missed vet visit and it could end your pet’s travel before it even begins. We joke now that we have the world’s most expensive cat, not just because of the cost of moving her to Australia, but also the fact that she needed laser eye surgery last summer before the move. But it’s worth it —worth everything to know that your furry family member is being taken care of while you plan all the logistics of the rest of your move.
Finley's first day home!
How is Finley settling into her new surroundings?
She is doing so well. The first night we brought her home, she was extremely stressed and was panting for about ninety minutes before she settled down. To be fair, she was in a brand-new house with new smells and new rooms and new places to hide in a new country. She was pretty overwhelmed.
She calmed very quickly though and before we knew it, it was like nothing had changed (other than we lived on the other side of the world). She loves watching the big white birdies (cockatoos) from our bedroom window, has been fascinated by Sydney’s weather systems (thunderstorms were really, really not a thing in Seattle), and is happy to report that the tuna in Australia is just as good as the tuna in Seattle.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We will always be so thankful to Katie for helping us through this lengthy process. The nerves and anxiety and anticipation are so real, and retrospectively, it couldn’t have gone any better than it did. We are so happy to have our cat here with us, healthy and happy.
Thanks, Kendall! We are so excited to see you and your whole family reunited in your new home. Thanks for sharing your story with us! If you have a story you'd like to share, let us know by submitting your story here. And if you're ready to start planning your own pet's move, let us help! Get started today!