When we decided to move to the Netherlands, there wasn't much of a debate about what to do with Nougat. He would be coming with us. We knew it would probably be an inconvenience in many ways, but he is one of us and we just didn't believe that any other option would be acceptable - to him or to us. Still, it didn't dawn on us until we arrived just how unique Nougat's journey is.
The way we think of Nougat, as a friend, is I think how he thinks of us too. He's almost human, and although we don't speak the same language, I think we all enjoy chatting together about anything and everything. We're all a pretty easily contented sort; give us the good life and we'll not want for anything more.
Nougat's always been pretty well behaved, but with a sense of adventure he's never gotten to exercise living in an apartment building. He's been out on the balcony ledge and he's been out into the hallway on laundry runs. He's got his limits, and sometimes he gets scared, but that doesn't stop him from wanting to check out what's beyond the door, once in a while.
It was easier for us to get him here than we anticipated, given the difficulty of getting his travelling papers. For the Netherlands there is no quarantine for pets from Canada, but you need to get an English/Dutch form filled out by your veterinarian and have it certified by an official veterinarian at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (the animal health office) within ten days of your date of travel. Sounds simple so far, right? We were very organized, made our appointments in advance, and reviewed the form ourselves, but our veterinarian had trouble filling out most of the questions on the form. The federal office was not able to answer our questions either, until the official vet graciously called me in the late afternoon to walk me through the form and required information. We ended up going back to the vet four times, wasted an entire day, I cried, and we had to come back to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency the next week because by the time the form was complete, they had closed for the day. On Monday morning however, our documents were finally all stamped and ready to go.
As far as supplies go, we had to think a few things through prior to departure. First, we purchased a new, sturdy carrier that is neither too small or too big, and is able to accommodate a water/food dish that we filled with water and froze. We ordered a few bags of his food to bring with us and we are still hoping to find some place in the Netherlands that sells it, otherwise we will have to have a family member ship it to us from Edmonton. It was not advised to drug him for the flight, so we had no medications to bring. We bought a disposable litter box with a small bag of litter for the first couple of weeks, "puppy pads" for easy clean up of carrier and litter area, cat wipes (just in case), Feliway cat pheromone spray, and we packed a few toys and blankets from home to keep him comfortable. As you can imagine, the food and litter added significant weight to our luggage, but we were able to have all three checked and two carry-on bags exactly within their weight limits.
Back to Nougat. He was alternately annoyed and excited by all the goings on in the weeks prior to our departure, but the morning of, he was ready to get into the carrier for the adventure to come. During the car ride to the airport he was pretty chatty, and when we arrived he was pretty curious about what was going on. When we went to check him in, the security officer exclaimed, "Oh! It's a cat!" I suppose that should have been our first clue that cats are rare guests on board. We had a minor heart attack when she asked me to take him out of his carrier and hold him while she swabbed all of his belonging for security. Take a cat out of his carrier in the middle of the airport?? Never mind that we had been assured over the phone by Icelandair the night before that taking him out would not be necessary. But we accomplished this feat without incident, and Nougat was incredibly well behaved.
During the flight, Nougat was in a temperature controlled, lit area of the plane, but I can only imagine that it was a scary and exhausting experience. On the connection to Reykjavik, we asked the flight attendant to check if our cat was indeed on board, and we were surprised to hear her over the radio asking about "the" cat. This is when it really dawned on us that Nougat was an extra special passenger.
When we arrived in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, it was quite confusing to figure out where to retrieve him, but after several false leads we found the right office, Swiss Port (who would have guessed?) and someone brought him to us. After a half-hearted flip through Nougat's papers, they let us go without signing them, and we were free to leave the airport. To be honest, the flight was probably the worst thing Nougat had endured since dental surgery. He was exhausted and experiencing pressure issues which made him dizzy and confused. The cab ride to our place was uneventful, and all he did (and we did) for the next two days was sleep.
And then he was himself again! He explored the whole apartment, found new favourite places, developed new and old routines, gained confidence and I think he quite likes the change of location. Lots of windows provide him with plenty to see while we're out and about, and he's got his reflection in the mirror to keep him company too.
He is adjusting slowly to the new time zone, but I think it hardly matters when cats sleep most of the time anyway. Now that he's got this place figured out, he wants out into the stairwell and into the laundry closet where he discovered a hole in the wall, but I think I will keep him a bit close for now. Adventure is calling, but so is the safety and security of a place to call home.
~ Erica ~ nougat