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The expat dilemma and the power of pets

I think it’s time we get personal now. I grew up on a farm back in Sweden and have had all sorts of animals (big and small) around me most of my life. But when I decided to start travelling and moving to new places I had to put all that on hold for a few years. Which was harder than I could have ever imagined.

The thing I started to notice was that it was much harder for me to truly feel at home without a pet in the house. During my university years I tried to function without pets for a while and my boyfriend at the time decided to get me a goldfish to cheer me up. Great idea, but as you might know, goldfish have a very limited cuddle factor. We upgraded to a proper aquarium, but that did not help much. Fish in general are great and quiet pets, but I wanted the personality and something you can actually pat.

During my years in the US and the UK I sometimes used to go to parks just to watch the dogs run around and steal a pat or two (and yes, I did ask the owners first!). Here in Australia it took me about 4 years before I realised that I could not function any longer without a furry little family member. So we got Rufus the house bunny (the choice of bunny was for two reasons – they are quiet and cuddly, but our landlord also did not allow us to get a dog) and I cannot believe how much more like a home it feels like having this little guy around.

Some things to think about when it comes to pets and expats:

  1. Pets remind us of home. If you had a dog/cat/lizard/bunny or whatever other animal when you grew up, it’s likely that seeing or metting another animal similar to them will trigger homesickness to some extent. This happens all the time to us expats, but don’t underestimate how powerful it can be.
  2. When you decide to get a new pet it’s a big commitment to the new place. It’s not forever, but some animals live for a very long time and you need to have a bit of a backup plan if you go back home (permanently or just on holidays) who is going to look after it or help you. Sometimes it might be worth buying/adopting an older animal as well.
  3. Make sure to get approval from the landlord! Depending on the country and city you live in, landlords can be very restrictive if you’re renting. Make sure before you go and buy or adopt a new little thing into your life that you actually can keep it where you live. You might also want to double check that anyone you share with is not allergic. 🙂
  4. There are specific international pet relocation/transport companies that can help you with the practical sides of transporting and vaccinating your pet if you want to bring them along for the move. Just remember it is very stressful for the pet and it can also leave it stuck in quarantine in the new country for a while before you’re reunited. Make sure it’s worth the money and potential suffering/stress for your pet before you decide.
  5. If you simply can’t have a pet where you now live, there are other ways to get your furry quality time. Look att volunteering at rescue centres (they always need help walking and looking after the animals) or look for opportunities to cat/dog/pet sit she friends are on holidays.

One of the biggest griefs for most expats is that they can’t have pets. I believe we still can, but it’s important to not be selfish here. A pet often loves you more than anything else and you’re responsible to make good decisions for both of you. Little Rufus has been in my life for 2 years now and I hope that extends to many more. Who knows, I might even do what this lady did and bring him with me if I go travelling.

How do you feel about pets? Do you have them and if so, did they come with you on your move?


PS: Remember to check out my brand new  Relocation Starter Kit online program if you haven’t had a look at it yet!