Sunday, April 5, 2015

Taking a Cat From Canada to Guatemala

I was going to call this post, "How to spend $100 for a piece of paper that a lady looked at for two seconds," but I figured that wouldn't do well on the search engines. And it's important that people can find this blog post because this information is vital for Canadians traveling with a pet to Guatemala.
My kitty in her airline approved carrier.

First of all, a disclaimer: this is my experience. Yours may differ. Rules can change. Fees can, and will, change. Please use this post as a guide for what to expect but do your own research as well.

Okay. So here's how it goes.
1. Check the Embassy of Guatemala to Canada website for updated info and fees and write down their mailing address in Ottawa.
2. Get the Canadian International Animal Health Certificate (Trilingual version!) from the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website, or visit a CFIA branch to pick one up. Print it on legal size paper if you can. (They will accept letter size paper but they get a bit uppity about it.)
3. Fill out the personal information part of the form in BLUE INK. Yeah, really. Mine was filled out in black ink and the government guy got his panties in a bunch. I used my powers of assertive charm and flawless logic to convince him to accept it anyway. But to avoid problems, just fill it out in blue ink to start with. The gov guy said it was so they could tell it wasn't a photocopy.
4. Make an appointment with your vet no more than 30 days prior to departure. Tell them you need your cat to get updated rabies vaccines and be declared fit to travel.
5. Take your cat to the vet and laugh awkwardly when she tries to shred everyone with her dagger-claws. Assure the vet that she really is the sweetest kitty, honest!
6. Get the vet to fill out the International Animal Health Certificate in BLUE INK. Sign and date. My vet took the sticker off the rabies vaccine bottle and stuck it to the paper for good measure.
7. Call the Canadian Food Inspection Office (where you got the form) and set up an appointment to see the vet to sign the paper no more than 15 days prior to departure.
8. Go to the government office with your most patient smile. Tell them your plans. Pay them $20 to put a lot of stamps on the form. Ask them to make two photocopies for you. Sign a waiver if they ask you to. (Yeah, seriously. I had to sign one to say that if my cat was refused entry to Guatemala, that I wouldn't hold the Canadian Government responsible for any quarantine charges.)
9. Go to the post office.
     (a) Buy a $10 U.S. money order payable to the Embassy of Guatemala. (I paid $7 for this. *rolls eyes*) Yes, this is a U.S. money order. Don't make the mistake I did, thinking that in Canada we use Canadian money and therefore the fee would be in Canadian funds *rolls eyes again*
     (b) Buy two Express Post envelopes, or bring your own C5 size envelopes.
     (c) Fill out the return envelope with your own address and pay for the Express Post 1 - 3 day service from the Embassy BACK to your home. Put that envelope inside the other envelope.
     (d) Fill out the other envelope and pay for the second Express Post service from the post office TO the Embassy. Inside this envelope put the ORIGINAL Animal Certificate, and a letter stating your flight number, airline, arrival date and time, name and address. Seal it up and mail it off.
10. From your post office receipt, use the tracking number to find out when your envelope has arrived at the Embassy in Ottawa. Call them a day or two after to ensure they received your form and that everything is okay. The friendly guy I spoke to answered the phone in Spanish but quickly switched to English when I stuttered, "H-hello." He knew exactly who I was and helped me resolve some problems to get my forms back on time.
11. Hopefully, if all goes well, your forms come back all stamped and stickered and stapled and ready to go.
Willow under the seat on the plane. 
12. Go to the airport on your departure date with your kitty and your papers. The only person who asked to see my paper was the Delta check-in lady. I made a mistake on my customs claim form and the Customs Officer was a bit annoyed with me, but did not ask to see my paper.
13. I flew with Delta and paid $200 to bring Willow into the cabin with me. I had to put her carrier underneath the seat in front of me, which was fine by her. She was comfy down there, and only meowed a bit during take-off and landing. Note that your cat carrier might count as your carry-on luggage, so you may have to check all your bags.
14. In the Guatemala airport, be prepared to be confused. The man who stamped our passports did not ask about the cat, even though the form that I filled out on the plane clearly stated that I had a live animal to claim. When we reached the customs area, there appeared to be two lines: one for "items to declare" and another for "nothing to declare". We were confused, the guards were distracted talking to friends, we passed our yellow paper to a woman and just walked through. No search, no questions, no showing the paper.

So those are the nitty gritty details of getting your precious pet from Canada to Guatemala. Other than the irritation and lengthy preparation beforehand, the process was quite easy. I hope yours goes as well!

Here are some websites that helped me to prepare:
Jaunted - The Fur is Flying
Gadling - Taking your cat on a plane.
How to take your cat on a plane.

Willow chilling in the hotel the night before we left for Guatemala.


  1. Thank you for the instructions explaining how to export a cat to Guatemala. I'm planning to do the same in April for our kitty from Dubai to Guatemala via Los Angeles However, there's no Guatemalan embassy here so I've no idea how to do steps 9a,b,c and d. I can get an export certificate from the UAE ministry which gets me into the US but I'm a bit stuck on what the full entry requirements are for cats coming in to Guatemala from the US/UAE. Any help or advice you can give will be gratefully received. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think the International Health Certificate is good for all countries, although it may have to be verified by a Guatemalan Embassy prior to departure. If you are leaving the airport in L.A. and officially entering the U.S. for a day or more, then you may need another form certified by a U.S. veterinarian.
      Perhaps you can contact the Guatemalan Embassy in the United States to get more information. it appears Guatemala prefers the form to be legalized by a consulate before getting on the flight, which means you may have to send the forms to Guatemala and wait for their reply and official stamps.
      You must love your kitty very much to want to take her with you! Good luck!

  2. Many thanks Cee for the reply. The process sounds a nightmare. It's a 16 hrs flight to L.A from Dubai, a 5 hr wait at LA airport, then a 4 hr 40 min flight to Guatemala. Kitty is a very nervous traveler and easily scared (any advice?) which doesn't help. I'll contact the Guatemala Embassy in the US and see what they say. Thanks again.

  3. Love your post. Thanks for being helpful.