The following suggestions will help you plan your pet’s Aliyah in a way that is maximally comfortable for both you and your pet. Please note that in addition to these suggestions, you must arrange for the proper vaccinations & certificates required by the Israeli authorities – as well as by the airline your pet will be flying. See Making Aliyah with Pets for detailed instructions.
Visiting your Veterinarian prior to Aliyah
A few months before your pet’s planned date of Aliyah, inform the veterinarian that you are going to be importing your pet to Israel. Your veterinarian may need extra time to gather the necessary paperwork for your pet and to fulfill the requirements such as implanting the microchip, administering a rabies vaccine & obtaining the results of the Rabies Serological Titer test. Please make sure your veterinarian obtains the correct paperwork and that the vet checks how long it will take to get the results of the serological test in advance. It can take a few months to get the results. An acceptable level of the rabies antibodies must be present to pass the Serological test. Passing the Serological test is a mandatory requirement to bring your pet to Israel. There are no exceptions.
Make an appointment in advance for the veterinarian to complete the health certificate in the 10 days (for cats & dogs) or 7 days (for other pets) prior to your pet’s flight to Israel. In addition, make sure to leave enough time to get the health certificate endorsed by the USDA or CFIA after it is completed by your veterinarian. Please note, the health certificate required by Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture is different from the standard International health certificate.
If your current residence is in an area that is prone to certain diseases like Lyme’s, have your pet tested. Lyme’s disease is not in Israel. Israel is not equipped to test or treat animals with Lyme’s disease, therefore catching it in advance of your Aliyah is imperative.
If your pet needs specific medications, insulin and disposable needles for instance, have your vet write out an official form that you can show your local pharmacist when it is time to have the prescription refilled in Israel.
Use of tranquilizers during your pet’s flight is usually discouraged. Some airlines absolutely prohibit the use of tranquilizers on their flights. If you are considering the use of tranquilizers, discuss with your vet whether the use of tranquilizers is right for your pet. If you decide to use them, make sure you discuss all the possible side effects with your vet, and test it out a few weeks before the trip to make sure you get the dosage correct and can watch for any side effects.
Preparing Your Pet for the Journey
If you are planning to make Aliyah with your pets, start preparations at least 3 months in advance.
Long before the trip, begin crate-training your pet. Put something soft in the bottom of the crate and perhaps some favorite toys to make your pet comfortable. Leave it out and open for your pet to explore. And never use the crate as a form of punishment. Contact your vet or a local trainer for other ideas.
If your pet will be in a hard-sided crate or carrier, there are water bottles available in both cat/small dog size and large dog size. I successfully trained my cats to use the bottle by placing water from canned tuna inside. The dogs were trained by filling the bottles with water and placing peanut butter on the tip of the bottle.
If your pet is wearing a collar in the crate, consider getting a breakaway collar. This enables the collar to fall off rather than choke the animal should the collar or tags get caught in the crate’s door or window. I was able to find these collars online.
Note: Pets in cargo are not checked on – at all – during the flight. It is imperative that you install a water bottle or a tray of frozen ice inside the kennel.
Make 3 copies of all pertinent paperwork, including the pet’s health certificate, shot records, computer chip information, and even pet pictures (if you have them). Have one set to give the people at the El Al counter when you check in, one set to keep with the animal (perhaps attached to the carrier), and the last copy (and originals) with you in your carry-on luggage.
Mark your carrier—with special stickers available at the airport, or using your own — with your pet’s name, your name, your flight number, the date, your destination, and when your pet last received food and water.
Consider placing something you have worn recently, like a t-shirt, in your pet’s carrier so that it has something with your scent to cuddle up with.
If possible, have someone who can see you off at the airport stay with your pet until the pet is loaded, and have money available for a tip. The pets may be loaded too late for you to stay with them and still make it through security in time for your flight.
In your carry-on, just in case your luggage gets lost, make sure to bring some food, perhaps a favorite toy, a leash, and other things that will make the transition as smooth as possible. If you have a cat, bring some litter and perhaps a collapsible litter pan so that it can be immediately set up in your new home. In your check-in bags, bring enough of a food supply for your pet, to be able to provide a more gradual transition to new, locally-available foods.
Note: Several brands like Science Diet and Purina are available in Israel, but the varieties and flavors are much more limited. Also expect Israeli prices for pet food to run two to four times the price you would expect to pay, as compared to prices in the United States. If your pet is on prescription food, like Science Diet W/D or the like, it is probably worthwhile to buy a large quantity of food and pay for the extra luggage. It can be found in Israel at your vet’s office, in many cases, but it is about four times the price you would pay in the United States.
Consider bringing a Brita filter or something similar for your pet’s water, thus decreasing the risk of stomach upset from the local water.
Prepare in Advance for Your Pet’s Life in Israel
Make sure to research local veterinarians in the area of your new home in Israel in advance of your Aliyah. Have contact information on hand in the event you need immediate assistance or care for your pet, soon after arrival. Find out what types of local parasites exist and what the preventatives are. Keep in mind that certain parasites that are found in one city, may not be found in other areas of the country.
If your animals are already micro-chipped, bring all relevant documentation with you. Different municipalities use different types of chips, so the paperwork is important.
Find living accommodations that allow you to have pets. It is best to get permission in writing, ahead of time. Also, if possible, check out the local area and see if it is a pet-friendly type of place.
If your cats are not 100% indoor cats, check with your vet and/or a local trainer. Your cat will need time for adjustment before you let it out of the house – otherwise, it will run away and try to find its old home. It may take as little as a few days or up to several weeks, depending on the cat. Also, it is very important to ask locals who live in the area you are considering, about stray cat population sizes and problems. In the past, and possibly still today, some municipalities actively controlled the stray cat population using poison. Check to see what type of stray cat population control, if any, your municipality employs. Also check with other pet owners in your new neighborhood to see if poison is used by local residents in the area, with or without the municipality’s permission.
Israel requires annual Rabies Vaccinations. Please budget accordingly.
Upon Arrival in Your New Home
When you arrive in your new home, introduce yourself to the local vet, in the first week (if possible). Get your pets licensed (this is mandatory) as soon as possible. Also discuss any parasites in the local area that might need preventative measures like topical treatments or shots.
Ask your local vet if they make house calls — many do — and what the procedures are, if a pet gets sick or has an accident on Shabbat.
If you do not plan to buy a car in Israel, check with a local taxi driver and find someone who is willing to transport a pet to the vet or, in case of emergency, to the emergency animal hospital.
Be prepared for the possibility of emergencies. There is only one veterinarian school in Israel, and it runs a 24/7 emergency hospital located not far from Ben Gurion Airport. Get the phone number and directions to the emergency hospital from your local vet, and keep the phone number handy. Be prepared for the trip, so that you can handle an accident or illness in the event that your local vet cannot handle it. The vets and vet students are professional, kind, speak English, and provide excellent care.
For other questions regarding pets on Aliyah, please email: email@example.com
Thank you to NBN Olah Dori Gould for preparing this article.