Cat On An Overseas Trip – Part IV: Animal Quarantine In Malaysia

Saturday morning dawned early (March 1) for Schubert, a grey, shorthaired house cat. The alarm buzzed madly at 6 a.m., waking his human friend, who seemed to be in a great hurry to get up. Schubert ambled around her, gazing upwards intently until he was given a pat on the head. She even reached for the catnip flavoured treats this morning and he got three – they are never handed out so early! Then, as he was just done crunching up the last piece, his human friend walked him into a blue carrier bag, zipped it up, slung the bag (with Schubert in it) over her shoulder, and walked out the front door of the house in Rockville, Maryland, where a friend’s Hyundai stood parked waiting for them.

What Schubert didn’t know, was that he was about to fly for a total of 24 hours, on a journey of 17, 599 kilometers (10,936 miles) westward across the contigouos United States, and later, over the Pacific Ocean. A trip that most humans have never even embarked on, and those that have, dread it.

And he made it! But before he could join his human friend to start their new adventure in this strange and humid land known as Malaysia, Schubert had one final thing to sit through: seven days of quarantine.

**Before I go on, I should mention Hong Chow, a gentleman whose dog went through a similar journey as Schubert. When Hong Chow found a lack of concise and useful information on bringing one’s pet from abroad to Malaysia, he created a blog, ‘Import Pets to Malaysia’ and wrote a long post to address that gap. Thanks Hong! You’ve been able to help many confused pet owners like myself.**

Quarantine station details:
Address:
Jalan Pekeliling 4
6400 KLIA,
Sepang, Selangor
(Same route to go to the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT.) Jalan Pekeliling 4 is shortly past the F1 circuit and is a rather sudden left turn at a traffic light. Watch out.)

Phone Number: 03-8787-2379
Fax: 03-8787-2378

Opening hours:
Mon – Thurs
10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.; 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Friday
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.; 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Weekends & Holidays
10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

There are fees involved and I’ll cover that later.

Parking & Registering
At the end of Jalan Pekeliling 4, you’ll see the entrance to the quarantine station (see the first picture below.) You won’t be allowed to drive in, except to pick up your pet on the last day of quarantine.

You need to register for a pass at the MAQIS office before entering. Bring valid ID for this purpose. Towards the right of the picture below, there is a road that leads to a car park (parking lot) of a complex, and there are two offices related to quarantine. The one you want has a gold sign above the door. Hong Chow’s blog has a much better description (and pictures) of finding the right office.

When you have your pass, you can either leave your car in the car park, or drive it back out and park next to the guard house. The guard will let you in once you’re registered.

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KLIA quarantine station. Guard house is on the left. MAQIS headquarters is towards the right of this gate. Go there to register and get your pass. Then come back here and register with the guard before entering.

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This is the door of the office you get your pass from. Shoes have to be removed prior to entering, and remember to bring valid form of ID!

Entering the Quarantine Station
Normally, one shouldn’t have to explain how to enter any location, but there’s a bit of a back story here. I was told that awhile back, some “hooligan” pet owner whose pup had just four days to go in quarantine, decided he would grab his dog, stuff it into his nearby car and make a run for it. Quarantine officers tracked him down and had to threaten police action before he consented to bring the dog back.

Since then, pet owners have not been allowed to drive into the station compound. In order for us pet owners to get to our fur babies, we have to do this:

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Up the uneven incline till you get to the uncovered drains. Drains are shallow and narrow, but one side is steeper than the other. Try not to slip when you cross.

Yes. Panjat bukit (Climb the hill.) I’m not kidding.

At the top of the hill, you’ll see long, one storey buildings with curved light green roofs, and each one is named “rumah kucing 1,” or rumah anjing 2″ and so forth. Rumah = House. Kucing = Cat. Anjing = Dog. Every “rumah” is pretty far apart, separated by wide roads for vehicle access.

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The Visit
I booked Schubie a room with a/c, which are very limited in number and clustered together in “rumah kucing 3,” the first building I searched. I wasn’t expecting more than one cat building, hence didn’t think to ask for a specific building and room number. They didn’t venture to give me this information either. It was easy enough to find, but it’s best to ask when you get your pass.

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Entrance to the cat building is on the side.

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Gates and doors aren’t locked. You can let yourself in, but I suggest you latch the doors once inside.

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Corridors are secured with fencing. It’s clean and spacious.

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After poking my head into every a/c room along the corridor, I found Schubie in room 11, the second last room in the block. If you don’t want to sit on a cold hard floor, bring a stool.

Things to keep in mind: Litter and food can be provided at extra cost to pet owners. Litter boxes are provided free and cleaned daily. Food & water are also refilled daily by a caretaker. Bedding is not provided. Oh, and unless you don’t mind sitting on the floor, bring chairs.

Schubert was sitting with his chin on his paws when we found him. He was inside a steel cage that was inside a Very. Large. Room. I understand the desire for added security, but the place was definitely designed for one cat or one cat family per room, to allow them to roam about within the perimeters. Now that the pet is confined to the steel cage, (one cat per cage if it’s a family in one room) the space seems so wasted, and cats can only run about when owners visit and let them out. I don’t think it’s the same for dogs. Does anyone know?

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Why am I here? It’s so BORING…

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…but at least it’s clean, cool and private.

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Litter and food can be provided at extra cost to pet owners. Litter boxes are provided free and cleaned daily. Food & water are also refilled daily by a caretaker. Bedding is not provided.

After fussing with Schubie for a bit, he began getting curious about the outside. I didn’t see any harm in letting him out to explore the corridor, so we did just that.

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After all the excitement of jet setting halfway around the globe, Schubie’s lost some weight.

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Outside every room is a tap, presumably for baths or refilling water bowl.

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Little cat in a lonely concrete corridor world.

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Other cats were getting excited as Schubie made his way along the corridor. See the bengal in the middle cage? It was meowing, pacing and pawing at the bars.

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Schubie enjoyed his little stroll but flopped down when we arrived outside his room. Must have been feeling hot!

So for seven days, this is where your pet will be. You can visit as often as you want or can. A week passed relatively quickly, especially since I filled the days that I didn’t visit with other activities — it helped take my mind off Schubert in quarantine. (Or perhaps, unlike me, you’re cool as cucumber and aren’t worried at all. More power to ya. 🙂 )

Home Free!
Finally, seven days were up and Schubert was FREE! Although I arrived at 10:30 p.m. on Friday night, I was allowed to pick him up on the morning of the following Friday, which is excellent! After you settle the fees at the office, someone will accompany you to your pet’s room. At this point, you’re allowed to drive in. The accompanying officer will most likely be on a motorbike and he will meet you at the room itself.

Quarantine fees breakdown:
Customs Handling & Exam – 65.00
Animal Hotel – 55.00
Quarantine (7 days) – 79.00
Food – 21.00 Optional
Litter – 21.00 Optional
A/C Room – 50.00 Optional
Caretaker – 20.00

I can’t guarantee these numbers won’t be different if you hire an agent for the entire process. If it’s a huge concern, you should ask them exactly what you’re paying for.

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Enter on the left side, where the puddle of water is. I believe it’s some sort of sanitizing procedure. Guard will open and close these gates for you.

And that’s all she wrote! Schubert’s epic journey across the globe was done. He can now look forward to enjoying a new home, new family members, new friends, hugs, treats, kisses and nice warm nap weather all year around.

What a life.

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My attempts at a perfect celebration selfie. These will have to do.

Want to learn more about bringing your pet to Malaysia?

Check out previous posts in the Cat On An Overseas Trip series:
Part I: Travel Accessories
Part II: Essential Documents
Part III: The Journey

I wrote this from a USA perspective, and while requirements for another country might be a little different, you may find parts of my experience useful. If you’ve done this journey with your pet and want to share your experience, please do so in the comments section.

Cat On An Overseas Trip – Part III: The Journey

Welcome to Part Three of my series on transporting your pet from the USA, all the way to Malaysia. Part I was was about travel accessories, and Part II was about essential pet travel documents. In this post, Part III, I’ll describe my overall experience travelling with Schubert Cat, including flight check-in, going through security, claiming your pet on arrival and checking him in with the quarantine office (MAQIS.)

Domestic Leg & TSA Checkpoint

Per standard procedure, arrived about two hours early at IAD to check in. I flew with Virgin (don’t need to pre-book travel for your pet, just show up and pay the fees,) and while I was given a “priority” boarding pass, it didn’t make any difference when going through TSA. I still had to join the masses 🙂 queuing to put their carry-ons and miscellaneous items into bins for the x-ray scan. In fact, NO ONE would have noticed I had a cat with me if I hadn’t tapped a guy on the shoulder and asked him what I should do.

“You’re gonna take your cat out of his bag, and you’re gonna carry him through the metal detectors,” said the officer, as he pointed towards a gate beside the body scanner. “And the bag’s gotta go through the x-rays.”

Take Schubert out of his bag? The instructions were clear, but the officer resumed what he had been doing without alerting colleagues near the metal detector. I imagined horrible things happening after I took Schubert out of his carrier.

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You put me in this small and miserable space; and you’re expecting me to COOPERATE???

Fortunately, it wasn’t bad at all. Schubert refused to get out of the carrier from the side, so I opened it up from the top and grabbed him around the middle, lifting him up and out of the bag.

“Awww!!!” said a woman’s voice from the queue behind. Schubert just looked confused and had no desire to struggle out of my clutches. I looked around at the TSA officers again, and this time, the ones near the metal detectors indicated I should step over towards them. I can’t remember if they patted me down after walking through the detectors, but I’m gonna say they didn’t.

Overall, TSA checkpoint with Schubert was uneventful. My expectation was that the agents would be all over me because I was carrying a live animal — this wasn’t the case. There’s no telling if your experience will be the same, but it’s good to keep in mind that if nobody notices you’re traveling with a pet, take the initiative and alert them.

You might get some stares and some smiles as you make your way through the airport. “Oh, kitty kitty!” cried a few people. “Can I take a photo of him in his carrier?” asked a guy sitting beside me at my gate. A woman sitting nearby, brightened up and cast furtive smiles at Schubert’s carrier. My cat, who’s a bit of an attention whore, would have loved all this if he wasn’t so busy being confused by our trip.

On the plane, Schubert was very quiet the entire way. I only felt some frantic scrambling while waiting to enter the plane, and during takeoff. Vacuums are Schubert’s mortal enemy, and the plane’s engines must have sounded like the Grand Monster Vacuum to him. Once we were on the plane, I was supposed to tuck him under the seat front, but couldn’t. I wrote about this in Part I, and here’s what I said:

Despite the customer service rep’s advice, the soft case was still about two inches too tall to go under the seat. If you really need to have it fit under, you’ll have to find one that doesn’t have wiring to retain the bag’s shape. The flight attendant wasn’t overly picky about it, but she said to try and make him fit the best that I could. In the end, I just moved him over to the floor of the empty seat beside me.

Besides that, he was calm and ventured to lovingly rub his face on my hand whenever I poked into the carrier to check on him.

International Leg & Transiting

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What, now I am considered LUGGAGE?! This is outrageous, Human Lady. Simply unacceptable.

In Part I, I described the Petmate Sky Kennel that I used to transport Schubert all the way to Asia. This is an excellent and very sturdy, bolted kennel that comes in various sizes. I had considered sizing up just to give Schubert a bit more room to move, but the one I got was for pets up to 15 pounds and it was roomy enough.

At the Korean Airlines counter in San Francisco (SFO,) I checked him in together with my luggage. This is also the time when they’ll ask for documentation and the $200 pet travel fee, and you must pre-book your pet’s travel.

Before I could proceed through security to get to my gate, I was asked to wait by the check-in counter for a handler to escort me to the oversized baggage counter. Obviously Schubert isn’t oversized, just a more unique type of, uh, baggage.

Once again, I was asked to hold Schubert while they checked his carrier at the oversized baggage counter. This was a quick procedure, done in under a minute. When he was safely back inside, the handler took over transporting Schubert to the plane, as he couldn’t be sent down to the hangars via conveyor belt like the rest of the bags.

As the handler walked away with Schubert in tow, I suddenly felt a pang of fear that he’d be placed on the wrong flight, but quickly told myself I was being irrational. Yes, bags do get lost but more often they end up in the right place. (Or do they?)

The paranoia was probably due to the long layover I had in Korea. In Incheon (ICN,) he was automatically handed over to Korean quarantine for the night, and then transported back over to the plane heading for Malaysia the next day. I was just concerned that someone might get lax (it happens) and Schubert could be heading for Malawi instead.

If you have to transit like I did, you may not need anything. Hopefully, whichever route you take won’t require any additional papers for the transit country.

And after we parted ways in San Francisco, the next time I saw Schubert was in Kuala Lumpur (KUL.)

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur and MAQIS

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Animal Quarantine, known as MAQIS is located in the baggage claim hall on the far right corner, near Carousel J.

This is the most nail-biting part of the journey. At this point, you’re a bedraggled, jet-lagged traveller, arriving after a (very) long trip and you’re anxious to see that your pet got here safely, but you’re also itching to tear off your travel clothes, have a nice warm bath and fall asleep on a soft bed. Take a breath and brace yourself, because it’ll be awhile before you get there. You still have to queue for customs, take the sky train over to baggage claim, collect your luggage, find the Quarantine office to sign some papers, then wait for your pet to arrive at the baggage claim hall. All require some patience and wait time.

Fortunately for Malaysians, the customs part is fairly quick and painless — just swipe your passport at the turnstile, wait for it to read your thumbprint and you’re through. The main anxiety I had during this part of the journey was finding the Quarantine office, which is also known as MAQIS. I had a few false alarms before I finally found the right one. (By then, my luggage had arrived at the carousel and it didn’t take long to collect.)

Just before the immigration checkpoints, I spotted a large “Kuarantine” sign over a door on the left. Hopped in there and began asking the lady on how to sign off on my cat, when she interrupted:

Cik, ini bukan kuarantine haiwan, ini kuarantine manusia!” (Miss, this is isn’t animal quarantine, this is quarantine for humans!)

Oops. Hot-footed right out of there quicker than when I entered.

Went through customs and past a few duty free stores. Spotted another quarantine sign soon after but this one said fisheries. Not the right one either.

I didn’t see anything else that looked relevant, so I took the sky train over to the baggage claim hall. After fruitlessly following some signs that said “kuarantine haiwan,” I gave up and asked for directions.

(I think this slight confusion over the office location could have been cleared up if I’d been able to reach someone by phone or email for directions. I’d expected to receive specific instructions on what to do on arrival day from the agent my folks hired, but unfortunately, his communication really missed the mark there. He should have been there to check me in with MAQIS as part of his service, but I ended up doing that on my own.)

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What is the meaning of this abominable treatment?! I demand you let me out!

MAQIS is located at the far right corner of the baggage hall, in front of carousel J (approximately.) The staff there are super nice and friendly, which almost makes up for the lack of information on their confusing website. They checked my passport, documents and bag claim ticket before making a call to check on Schubert’s status — he was on the way. Hurrah!

While waiting, I signed off on MAQIS’ paperwork, then ran to collect my checked luggages. If you have food for your pet, this is the time to hand over to the MAQIS folk, or leave it on top of your pet’s carrier so they know which pet it’s for.

By the time I found the food in my luggage, Schubert had arrived, wheeled over on a luggage trolley and understandably cranky. The very nice MAS officer said he’d been yowling when he was handed over, and she tried to comfort him to no avail. Poor Schubert!

Nevertheless, it was definitely a relief to see Schubert had arrived in good shape (besides the temper tantrum,) and I noted that someone had taken further steps to prevent the carrier from bursting open by drawing a couple rounds of clear green tape. I’ll never know if it was the staff of SFO, ICN or Korean Air, but I’m grateful for the thoroughness.

Much as I didn’t want to leave Cat with the quarantine folk, I was reasonably assured that he was in good hands, and it was time for me to go meet my folks. Because I arrived late in the evening, I wouldn’t have been able to visit him immediately at the quarantine station if I wanted to. I went the very next day, armed with treats and a soft blanket to make up for all the discomfort.

Stay tuned for the final installment in this series on Schubert’s quarantine station experience.

Comments or questions? Post them below!

Next: Cat On An Overseas Trip – Part IV: Malaysian Quarantine

Previous: Cat On An Overseas Trip – Part II: Essential Travel Documents 

Cat On An Overseas Trip – Part II: Essential Documents

This post is Part II of my Cat On An Overseas Trip post series. While Part One discussed travel accessories, Part Two will be all about travel documents that you’ll need on both USA and Malaysia ends. In fact, before you make other arrangements, your pet’s documents should be the first step in the process that you should handle, as some may require action before you can get the permits and certificates. Due to the slightly complicated procedures on the Malaysian side, I decided to wait till I had all the necessary paperwork before writing about this part of the process.

We’ll cover three main aspects of documentation, and their required fees.

1) USA documents.

2) Malaysia documents.

3) Private, for-hire agents to process Malaysia documents.

USA documents

You need:

1) Rabies certificate, which, as you know, comes free with rabies vaccination updates. Every vet or hospital has their own certificate template. Mine looks like this:

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2) Microchip, about $50. Somewhere along the confusing barrage of information from various websites on importing pets to Malaysia, I was told that I need an ISO compliant microchip. I also read somewhere that a microchip is optional for cats, but required for dogs. Two agents I called  did not confirm this when asked. One merely said that if the microchip ID number is under 15 digits, I wouldn’t have to redo my cat’s chip; the other said if we hired him, he had an “inside” connection that would forgo this requirement. He must have thought I am that dumb to believe his horseshit.

My cat’s chip had under 15 digits, and (when we arrived,) I wasn’t questioned. Excellent, one less thing to worry about.

3) International health certificate from USDA accredited vet, approximately $100. Vets will only issue you the certificate 10 days before your date of travel, and after they determine that your pet is healthy and all shots are updated. There is a domestic and international health certificate — remember to ask for the international one! It should be in a standard format that looks like this:

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4) Once you have the international certificate in hand, you need one additional step – a $38 notary stamp from the USDA. You CANNOT go to the random nearest local USDA office, it MUST be one that has an Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) department. You can either: a) Fedex your international certificate to be notarized, or b) drive to their office and get it done, but CALL FIRST and let them know you’re coming. In the Washington D.C. area, USDA APHIS Richmond was a drivable two hours from where I lived, and since I waited till my last few days to get the health certificate, personally going to the office was the quicker option.

Malaysia documents

You need:

1) Import permit, which I believe is a different colour in its original format. Mine was emailed to me by the private agent. It looks like this:

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To obtain this permit, you have retain a private agent to get it processed for you. The permit itself is $40 and the private agent will quote you his fee for getting the permit for you. We’ll discuss private agents in more detail shortly.

2) Quarantine booking form, can be found on the Department of Veterinary Services website:

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It’s free to reserve but there is a daily charge for room space. A limited number of air-conditioned rooms are available for extra, but we’ll get to that in a separate post. Do not send your quarantine space booking form to the email above. I believe it may be out of date, or I just had zero luck reaching anyone via that email. Use the fax number provided (03-8787 2378) BUT call them to double confirm (03-8787 2377/2379.)

When you’ll need to present your pet papers: I didn’t get asked for any documents when I flew the USA leg (D.C. to San Francisco) of the trip, but your airline might. The carrier that takes you from the USA to Malaysia will definitely want USA health and rabies certificates, as well as the Malaysian import permit. Upon arrival, Malaysian quarantine aka MAQIS will ask for the original USA international health certificate, USA rabies papers and Malaysian import permit.

Private, for-hire agents

It used to be that you could handle the entire process on your own if you so chose, but in the past couple of years, they’ve been referring individuals to use the services of “agents” to not only apply for the permit on your behalf, but to also get you through the entire import process. These agents will usually quote you for a “package” deal of services that includes import permit application, quarantine space booking, customs clearance, release of pet after the seven days period and even delivery of pet to your home. Save for the former and the latter, the rest are simply making sure you get hold of the right people to fill and sign forms. My personal opinion based on experience with hiring an agent is that those of you who are committed to seeing the process through by yourself (except the import permit application,) can do this without an agent’s help.

Thus, hiring an agent seems like it should be a choice, but isn’t.

How agents are required in this process:

1) For getting the Malaysia pet import permit. Charges vary between $50 – $100 depending on the agent you hire.

When you might want to hire them for services beyond import permit:

1) If you are newly arrived in a location that’s beyond driving distance range for you to visit your pet during the seven-day period, and to collect him/her once it’s done.

2) You don’t want to go through all this hassle of paperwork, phone calls and such. Remember that even if you hire an agent, they only do the Malaysian paperwork, and NOT the USA ones.

3) If you are not confident that you’ll be able to handle the process on your own. The only reason I can think for this “lack of confidence” is language barrier, or you’re moving to Malaysia on your own and have zero logistical backup, or both. If it helps you to know, all the officials are friendly in person and speak English well. I’ll be posting parts 3 and 4 on the travel experience, and the quarantine process; from that, you can determine for yourself whether it’ll be too difficult to fly solo.

In case you do need one, there are a few professional Klang Valley-based pet moving companies listed with the International Pet And Animal Transportation Association. MAQIS also has a number of individuals that they might recommend to you. I cannot vouch for either type of agents, but based on what I know, large company movers are efficient but more expensive, whilst individual agents are charge less but professionalism may not be quite on the ball. My price range estimate for agent fees is anywhere between MYR 500 – MYR1300 for their “packages.” I only agreed to have an agent hired because of relatives at home that were freaking out over the process. If I could do over, I would not hire an agent beyond the import permit application.

Whichever way you chose to handle your paperwork on the Malaysian side, I’m sure you’ll choose based on your personal needs. Whatever gives you peace of mind in ensuring your pet gets to join you in Malaysia without a glitch, is the best way to go. If you know of a good agent with reasonable charges, please share his or her contact details in the comments.

That’s it for Part II. We’ve got out documents and our travel accessories, now we’re ready to fly. Stay tuned for my next post on jet setting across the globe with Schubert cat.

Comments or questions? Post them below!

Next: Read Cat On An Overseas Trip – Part III: The Journey. 

Previous: Read Cat On An Overseas Trip – Part I: Travel Accessories.