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Bringing A Cat To Hangzhou

By: Michael LaRocca - Copyright 2004

Like almost all my pet stories, this is an excerpt from:"
An American Redneck In Hong Kong
Published in 2001, which actually contains very little about Hong Kong. It's mostly cat and dog stories. The site contains three free chapters.

November 2004


Picasso catnapping.
In September 2000, I went to the Hong Kong SPCA to adopt a cat. And you've read a lot about her, right? Well, here's some more!

We moved to Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, mainland China in February 2002.

So, how hard is it to bring a cat into China?

Native Chinese aren't allowed to import pets at all. Foreigners can, but only with a Residency Permit. The only way to get a Residency Permit is to move to China. So that meant, unfortunately, our cat couldn't join us on our flight. But the fine folks at Export-A-Pet arranged for her to be boarded for roughly two weeks. They sent Picasso to us when the paperwork was in order. I especially want to thank Paul, Mark and Anne for their efforts.

Beyond that, it's just a matter of routine vaccinations and a health certificate, which aren't hard to get. Her vaccinations were always up-to-date anyway.

There is a 30-day quarantine period, but China has something called "home quarantine." This meant Picasso could come home from the airport, for a fee, so long as she didn't leave our flat for 30 days. In Hong Kong, she only left the flat to visit the vet, so staying inside didn't bother her.

Before we made the move, we visited some websites to learn about what is and isn't available in Hangzhou. We found no one who'd brought a pet here, but according to people in other parts of China, some things are impossible to obtain. Cat food, cat litter, scratching posts, scratching pads, litter boxes.

{This was before the SARS scare. Home quarantine rules may be different now!}

So now the folks at Customs probably think we're nuts. We shipped ourselves all these things, including about eight cases of her favorite foods. In our first week in Hangzhou, we learned this was all entirely unnecessary. I haven't seen a scratching post yet, but the locals I've spoken to know what it is. I brought along some flea repellent and some ear cleaner, so I haven't actually looked for those yet.

{I've moved to Shaoxing since writing this, and regularly travel to Hangzhou for all the aforementioned items, including scratching posts. Shaoxing cats live outdoors, eat from massive tins, claw trees, and wee in the woods the way Nature intended.}

I'm glad that Picasso spent the Lunar New Year in a Hong Kong cattery instead of here in Hangzhou. The fireworks went on for at least seven hours without a second's pause. She wouldn't have enjoyed that. We'll see what happens next year.

{It wasn't a problem.}

Picasso left Hong Kong at 9:30 am. She arrived in Shanghai at 11:50. Then she went to Customs, where everybody was taking a lunch break. Then they had to do lots of paperwork. At about 3:30, Picasso was put in the van that would bring her to Hangzhou. So when she finally arrived at 6:30, she'd had a long hard day.

Incidentally, we didn't expect Picasso until 7:30. The driver is obviously very good at his job. I'd love that job. Wouldn't you? Drop off animals to overjoyed parents all day.

Have you ever traveled by plane to another country? Picasso handled it much better than I do. It took her about a minute to come out of her crate, and another minute for her lovely tail to stand up straight and twitch with pleasure.


Picasso relaxing.
Then came claiming territory. Rubbing on everything, sniffing everything. Oh, and so many things. It's a much bigger flat than she's ever lived in before. Many cuddles, then sleeping on the pillow for a bit.

Maybe an hour before Picasso arrived, the fireworks started again. Last day of the Spring Festival. I worried that they would bother her. But nope. She just looked out the windows (many windows) at them from time to time. Much more interesting were the cars, bicycles and pedestrians.

The next morning, we left her alone to go teach. I came home around 1:30 and disturbed some looking out the window. About an hour later she realized that she'd missed lunch. Dinner was also quite late, because she forgot about it. Too busy cuddling.

Her second day in Hangzhou, she finally had a good long sleep. I am incredibly proud of her for handling so much stress so well. Better than we did. She's made of tough stuff.

My biggest challenge will probably be explaining to my favorite class that I can't bring Picasso to school. To quote one of them, they want to see her and to touch her because she is so beautiful. (I showed them photos.) Another student, not even in any of my classes, has offered to bring Picasso fresh fish. Maybe he can meet her. Nobody's ever offered her fresh fish before. Not even me.

So we're happy and Picasso is happy. If you're thinking of leaving Hong Kong, maybe you're thinking of leaving your pet behind. Maybe you're thinking it'd be cheaper to bring along a child than a pet, and you're probably right about that. But in my experience, it doesn't matter. Bring your pet. You'll be glad you did.

This is an excerpt from WHO MOVED MY RICE? which could also be called "Michael's Hangzhou book" or perhaps "Michael's Picasso book." It'll be published later this year.

Our move to Shaoxing in January 2004 was much easier. Just 90 minutes in a car with non-stop howling. Naturally, that was the subject of another article in my free weekly newsletter, Mad About Books.

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