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We want to move our 12-year-old cat from Korea to Australia. A year and a half ago, our vet said our cat was healthy, and the person looking after her in Korea says our cat is still healthy. But my girlfriend is worried that the cat is too old for the stress of moving countries. Supposedly, they cat will need to be caged in Korea for a month, before flying to Melbourne (24 hours total) and being caged in Melbourne quarantine for at least a week. There, she'll get needles for vaccinations, which freaked her out last time she got them.

What is the chance her ears will be permanently damaged from the altitude of the flight? What is the likelihood of our cat dying? If she doesn't die, will her life be shortened by much from the stress?

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That's a tough dilemma - and not one that has an easy or straightforward answer. For most breeds 12 is relatively old but not decrepit, flying however is stressful and scary for them and for some breeds that have pug-style noses it can carry significant risk of them experiencing respiratory distress. A thorough check from a vet who knows of the intended plan is crucial and will give you the best information possible about the dangers and risks for your particular cat.

In more general terms..

The airline used can make a big difference - some will allow them to be carried in the main passenger cabin which I believe makes is much less stressful and safer for them as the temperature and pressure are much more stable compared with the hold. If you can find an airline that will carry her in the passenger cabin this is probably the single biggest thing you can do to make it easier on her.

If she doesn't die, will her life be shortened by much from the stress?

The stress of the whole experience would be my biggest concern. While unlikely to kill her outright (unless she has heart problems) prolonged periods of stress can cause knock-on health effects such as over-grooming or cystitis. Assuming she avoids all that then the stress shouldn't have any lasting impact on long term health.

What is the chance her ears will be permanently damaged from the altitude of the flight?

Pretty low, unless there are already issues in that area she's unlikely to receive any permanent damage to her ears from the pressure changes - it's entirely possible that they experience a similar "popping" sensation to humans but since they can't communicate that it's hard to know for sure.

What is the likelihood of our cat dying?

It's impossible to know for sure, however based on some figures I found for US air travel ~2 million animals fly on commercial flights each year and in 2012 a total of 29 pets died, 26 were injured and one was lost, so while the number that died isn't great when you put it into context of the total number that travel it's only 0.001% which is much more reassuring.

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    all animals is transported in a presurized cargo hold and this is heated,and the airline is resonsible for the safety of its cargo including people and animals.your cat will most likely be fine it can have many years left to live,if you want to move the cat please dont worry about the transport part of this. – trond hansen Oct 18 '17 at 14:15
  • I'd also be curious if the cat would have to be quarantined upon arrival by law? Example: my friends pets had to be quarantined for 90 days when she moved to Hawaii; all pets entering Hawaii from the main 48. I believe it's because it's a flea free state, but don't quote that. But if this is a factor in Australia, the stress it causes your cat to be away from YOU and with strangers for a quarantined period would also need to be considered. – Christy B. Oct 20 '17 at 7:32
  • Also consider the alternatives; if you move to Australia and re-home your cat, whom you've had for a long time, instead of bringing her with you, how would she handle the stress of a new home? – Christy B. Oct 20 '17 at 7:34
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    @ChristyB. Yep, Australia classes South Korea as a "Category 3" country for animal importation purposes and cats are required to spend a minimum of ten days in the Post Entry Quarantine Facility – motosubatsu Oct 20 '17 at 10:35
  • So, what that means is it'll be more than 24hrs in Melbourne :( – Christy B. Oct 20 '17 at 20:16

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