For non-EU citizens, bringing your pet with you to Italy is a bit of an undertaking. The most stressful part of actually flying to Italy to move here was having to bring our kitties with us on the plane. There is so much to take into consideration when taking an animal halfway across the world. I’m going to take you through how we successfully brought two adult cats with us from California to Italy.

What you will learn about bringing your pet to Italy:

  • How to enter the EU with non-EU pets
  • How to identify your pet
  • What vaccines or shots are needed
  • What paperwork is needed
  • What will happen when you and your pet arrive in Bologna
  • Best Practices for taking your pet on an airplane
  • Recommended pet carriers to help with the journey

Entering the EU with non-EU pets

First, you’ll need to make sure that you can even bring your pet with you. Some countries and airlines will not allow certain pets to enter. Short-nosed breeds, for example, are not allowed by many airlines as it’s a huge health risk. Puppies, kitten, and ferrets under the age of 15 weeks cannot be brought into Italy.

You can learn more on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website for people traveling from the US. APHIS is the office you’ll have to work with if you’re coming from the US. Find a similar organization in your home country to learn what documents you’ll need to file before you leave; the documentation on the EU side should be similar or the same to enter the EU.

Identifying your Pet

Shepherd dog

If your pet is already microchipped make sure that it is ISO compliant otherwise you will need to get a new one. You can find more information about microchips and how to become compliant with EU regulations on the APHIS website. It’s easy to do, but it does cost money.

You’re required to get a pet passport if you’re staying within the EU for longer than four months and plan on traveling outside of Italy. A pet passport can only be obtained within Italy. If you are originating outside the EU and do not have a pet passport, a health certificate and microchip will suffice as identification. We did not have our cats microchipped before this move, so if you haven’t done that yet, you will need to before any vaccinations.

Vaccines and Shots

Be prepared to make multiple trips to the vet before your move. You have to make sure that your pet(s) are up to date on their rabies shots and other vaccines. The rabies shot has to be done after your pet has been microchipped and you must do it no less than 21 days before travel.

The EU requires a waiting time of 21 days to make sure that your pet has not a reaction to the rabies vaccine. Be sure to have an ISO-compliant chip before the shots.

Paperwork You Will Need

There is really only one document you need, a health certificate. But this health certificate needs to be endorsed and certified by The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) before you travel.

First, you need to get a health certificate from your veterinarian. This certificate is only good for 10 days after which it will expire. Find instructions for the health certificate for Italy here. The certificate will look like this. Our veterinarian used a computer program to create our health certificate and made sure that the document was in the language of the country of entry into the EU, for us that was French as we had a layover in Paris.

Not all veterinarians can and will do this certificate for you. You’ll need to find a veterinarian that is USDA certified. Or call your own veterinarian to see if they are certified to offer the service. Note: there is an extra charge for it.

Veterinarian doctor examining a Maltese puppy

Once you get this health certificate, you’ll need to get it endorsed by the APHIS office in your state. Because you have to get the health certificate endorsed and returned to you within 10 days (because it is only valid for 10 days), we decided to drive to the APHIS office and do it in person. This was a pretty quick and painless process, but note that they do not accept all forms of payment. If you mail in the form you will likely have to pay by check or cashier’s check and should include a prepaid overnight return envelope. Note: do not bring your pet to your APHIS appointment.

Keep the paperwork on hand during your journey as you may be required to show it on entry into the EU. Copies of the documents may also need to be inserted onto the carrier if your pet is traveling via cargo.

Arriving in Bologna

Some airports have a pee patch area for your dog. Unfortunately, Bologna BLQ Airport does not have one. The airport is small enough though that it won’t take long to get outside once you arrive.

For any pets left in cargo, you’ll be able to pick up your pet in baggage area. If you’ve had a layover within another EU country, you won’t need to present documents to anyone unless someone specifically asks.

Taking Your Pet on a Plane

Once you have all of your documentation done now all you have to worry about is getting your pets on a plane. I spent many hours wrestling with this problem. There is no set regulation on this issue. Each airline has different rules. I knew that I couldn’t fly into United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta or Sweden because they require additional guarantees, even just in transit which may include a quarantine.

I found a few airlines that I was interested in flying on based on research into their flight paths, timing, etc. There were a few things to take into consideration.

  • Do they allow pets in the cabin?
  • What is the weight restriction?
  • What size carrier do they allow?
  • If there’s a layover, will I pick up my pet or will they transfer?
  • What are the extra costs?
  • Do the extra costs include every leg of the trip? Or paid separately?

I found out that only a few airlines will allow pets in the cabin, and some have restrictions on how many pets are allowed in each cabin. For example, one airline said that we could have two cats in the cabin but we couldn’t sit together with them. I had to find this information by calling the airline directly.

Pet Carriers

Pet Carriers for Airplanes

The allowed dimensions were different for each airline, but you can usually find the information on their website. We found a great carrier on Amazon that worked perfectly for our cats in the cabin. But pets kept in the hold have different carrier restrictions.

  • The animal must be in a carrier large enough for its size and weight. They must be able to stand comfortably.
  • The carrier has to be made of hard plastic or fiberglass.
  • There must be food and water bowls inside the cage.
  • Live animal stickers must be present on the cage.
  • All carriers in cargo must meet IATA and USDA air travel requirements.

Every airline is different, so please make sure that you are compliant with your specific airline’s rules and restrictions. Here is an example of the restrictions for animals in the hold for Air France.

The weight restriction for most airlines is 8.1 kg / 18 lbs, including the carrier. This is smaller than what most airlines allow for domestic flights. You can find this information on most airline websites if you search for their pet policy but it may help to call the airline as well for further clarification.


We ended up flying with Air France and getting the seats with extra legroom to make sure that both the cats and we were comfortable. After I made reservations I called the airline right away to officially request to bring the cats in the cabin with us. I could only make my request over the phone after I had ticket reservations. They did not tell us if our request was accepted until 24 hours later. We had a great flying experience with Air France and I would fly with them again even without the cats.

All in all, this was one of the more stressful parts of our journey but because of all of the prep work that went into making sure that we were in compliance on all stages of our journey, it ended up not being a big deal and was seamless on the day of travel. Despite all of the work to get them here, we’re so glad to have our kitties with us. We could have never left without them.

Are you thinking about bringing your pets with you to Italy? Tell us below!

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2 thoughts on “How to Bring Your Pet to Italy”

  1. williamsmelissa1218

    This article was so helpful. I am traveling to Bologna late June and am buying 2 Italian bred pups to bring back to the USA. American Airlines requires a health certificate (they are flying as checked pets) but someone mentioned the Pet Passport – does that come from their veterinarian as well? We are flying out of Venice direct to Chicago. Any help would be appreciated!

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