Living Abroad in China
Moving to China with Pets
2006 © Stuart & Barbara Strother, from Moon Living Abroad in China, 1st Edition. Used by permission of Stuart & Barbara Strother, and Avalon Travel Publishing. All rights reserved.
If you are considering bringing Fluffy with you to the other side of the world, there are a few things you’ll need to know first. Only those with residency visas are allowed to bring a pet to China. When you and your pet arrive at the airport, customs officials will require a health certificate and vaccination certificate from your vet verifying that Fluffy is fit and his shots are current. Then you’ll have to pay 280 元 ($35) at the Quarantine Station, though the quarantine will actually take place at your own residence. Within a month or two an official will stop by your house to evaluate your pet’s health, including a stool check. If Fluffy passes, you can pick up your verification of vaccination, which you’ll need to get him registered. All dogs (whether coming from overseas or purchased in China) are supposed to be registered; some larger cities require multiple photos of your dog, permission from your neighbors, and a fee up to 2,000 元 ($250) to complete the registration process. When it’s time to move back home, you’ll need to bring your pet and the vaccination certificate back to the Vaccination Office, where you’ll get a Certificate of Health. The airport veterinarian will check this paper before letting your pet leave the country.
Each airline has different requirements and fees for transporting pets, so do your research first. You may pay more to fly your pet to China than you would a child. Book early because planes often have a limited number of spots for animals.
Life in China with a Pet
What will life in China be like for you and your pet? Some things will be easier, especially if you have household help that can clean the litter box and walk the dog while you’re traveling. On the other hand, only a minority
of foreigners in China can afford a villa with a private yard, so your pet may have to adjust to apartment-dwelling. Pet supplies are sold at the big supermarkets, though you won’t find variety. If your pooch insists on moist canned food or if your cat refuses to use a box without the right kind of litter, you’re going to have problems in China. As for veterinarians, local vets are cheap enough; those in big cities may even speak English and use U.S. medications. Some foreign veterinarian firms are moving into the market for those who prefer western veterinarian practice (with prices that match), though they may not be in your part of town. Keep a first-aid kit for your pet in case you can’t get to your vet quickly in an emergency.
Getting a Pet in China
If you decide to leave your pet behind, you can always get a new one in China, such as one of the beautiful birds kept in ornately carved cages, or go native and even get a grasshopper or two, kept for their song and the luck they bring. Finding a pet in China won’t be too hard—in fact, they’ll come to you. Entrances to subways or areas around parks are common places for people to sell caged mice, hamsters, and baby bunnies for just a few bucks. Flower and bird markets have all kinds of pets to choose from, much more than just birds (but if you’re in southern China, please make sure it’s a pet market and not a fresh-food market!). Unfortunately Chinese pets for sale are often unhealthy, diseased, or just too young to be away from their mothers. It can be difficult to keep these animals alive for long. We personally went through 13 pets (albeit half were caged grasshoppers) during a 16-month stay in China, and only the cat was still alive when we left.
Recent years have seen the growing popularity of expensive purebred dogs. It is not uncommon to see elegant Afghans, perky Pugs, and more exotic species being walked down China’s sidewalks. You’ll still want to check out the living conditions of the pet before you buy it, if possible. Even purebreds purchased in China tend to be sickly.