Pet Move of the Month: Muffin’s Life-Saving Journey to Australia and Back

moving overseas with pets Typically when we move pets internationally it's because their family is moving for work or personal reasons. In Muffin's case, the move to Australia and back to Japan was necessary to save her life. 

We are grateful we could be a part of Muffin's move and happy to report that she is fully cured! Thank you to the Fry family for sharing their brave story below. 


We adopted our girls Muffin and Pumpkin from a Texas shelter in 2011. They moved with us from Texas to Japan in 2013 – their move was done by PetRelocation – an excellent job! (Thanks again Maegan!).

The New Story

Muffin started losing weight earlier this year in 2017, which is unusual for a cat at her age of seven. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, which is quite rare at her age – it usually appears in cats over the age of 10. The treatment options were outlined by our Tokyo Vet:

  1. Medication at every meal for the rest of her life to control her thyroid – historically the survival duration is only a few (2-3) years, as this is not a cure.
  2. Surgery to remove the thyroid glands. Historically, this usually requires two surgeries, and the results are very mixed. And the average survival duration after surgery is just 2 years.
  3. Radio-iodine treatment. This is historically 95-97% effective and cures the hyperthyroidism. (we actually did this treatment in Houston with one of our previous cats – Buffy – who was fully cured and lived until the age of 20!). But the issue - this radiation treatment is not available in Japan! And having moved from the USA, we were also aware that ‘rabies-free’ Japan has a 6 month Quarantine period. 

So what option was best for Muffin? Options 1 and 2 were of course not at all appealing, and option 3 presented many logistical challenges, with the associated travel risks. So we reached out to PetRelocation to see if rabies free Australia might be a viable option for Muffin. Maegan did indeed confirm that we would not be subject to the 6 month Quarantine period for Muffin’s return to Japan, but also advised that Australia requires ALL animals entering the country to spend 10 days in Quarantine in Melbourne

We were also very fortunate to find a Vet just outside of Melbourne (in the suburb of Narre Warren) with a successful history of radio-iodine treatments in cats. The treatment plan outlined by the Vet for Muffin would be to select the day for the radio-iodine treatment, followed by one week at the Vet to reduce the radiation level to an acceptable level for release (Australia law), followed by another two week period with only very limited interaction (just Ron), before it would be safe for her to fly back to Japan. 

So the Fry Family decision - going to Australia had a 95% chance of curing Muffin’s hyperthyroidism, and allowing Muffin to live a normal life. So we asked PetRelocation to prepare the ‘Australia Plan’ for Muffin. The plan prepared was initially quite daunting, but very clearly outlined the step-by-step procedures that we would need to follow for her entire journey – starting in Tokyo before her flight (to allow her to travel and to enter Australia), and then in Australia - 10 days in Quarantine, then 1 week at the Vet following the radio-iodine treatment, followed by 2 weeks at an apartment with just Ron. Then the return flight back home to Tokyo. But -- we had a plan! And so many details to take care of to ensure Muffin had a safe journey. 

moving abroad with animals

What brought about your move to Australia?

Per above, curing Muffin’s hyperthyroidism required her to travel outside of Japan to a location where the radio-iodine treatment was available, and ideally, we would not be subject to the 6 month rabies Quarantine period for the return to Japan. (We did investigate Hawaii given it is also rabies free, but the radio-iodine treatment was not available there - closest US city would have been Los Angeles, but then 6 months of Quarantine before she could return to Japan).  

how to move with pets internationally

What surprised you about the pet travel process?

The sheer number of details that had to be managed! And the huge amount of paperwork to export Muffin from Japan, import her to Australia, export her, and then import her again to Japan. Plus all of the local transport and flight details! There was absolutely no way we could have pulled this off by ourselves! But PetRelocation handled this journey with ease, including excellent local staff in Japan and Australia, and spent so much time answering our almost daily questions! And on the travel days, we were provided hourly updates on Muffin’s Status, and whereabouts. Very calming and reassuring!

How did Muffin handle the move (to Australia and back) and how was her recovery?

Muffin was fine the entire journey! She was called a ‘cool cat’ by the Vet in Australia, and an ideal candidate for the treatment. And she seemed to really enjoy her time in the Melbourne apartment - sunbathing, and listening to the birds chirping! (See the pictures).

 relocating a cat overseas

Regarding the recovery, the hyperthyroidism was treated immediately by the radio-iodine treatment, and there were no side effects. We just had to wait to depart Australia until her radiation level was sufficiently low that it was safe to fly home. 

The “long wait” — once she returned to Tokyo, we had to wait for 6 weeks to allow her thyroid to stabilize (her “T4 level”), before we could do the blood test to see if the radio-iodine treatment was successful. And the day finally arrived - just a few days before Christmas we got the results - SUCCESS! Muffin was cured, and will now be able to live a normal life. The collective “We” (each and everyone involved had a vital role to play) have saved Muffin’s life! What a great Christmas present for the Fry family!

if it fits i sits

What advice do you have for other pet travelers?

Plan, plan, plan! And use PetRelocation for the move! The amount of work required to move was huge, and just one misstep with Muffin could have had compounding consequences. But every step of the way went exactly as planned! 

What led you to PetRelocation?

We used them for our previous move from Texas to Japan, with excellent results! And we will use them again if the need arises! 


Again, thank you to the Fry family for allowing us to be a part of Muffin's move! We love working with dedicated pet owners like you and hope Muffin and Pumpkin enjoy the many years ahead of them. 

Need assistance with moving your cat (or other pet) internationally? We're happy to help! Set up a consultation with us to learn more about your safe pet move options. 


PetRelocation Team


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