Pets in South Africa

Hello everyone,

Many of us in South Africa have four-legged friends. What about you? Do you have one or more pets? Share your experience with us!

What are the formalities to import pets in South Africa? What about pet adoption procedures in the country? Did you bring your pet from your home country to your host country? If so, did everything turn out fine?

What do South Africans think about pets? Are they comfortable with dogs, cats or unusual pets?

Share your advice!


PETS!  How we love them!

My beloved cat has moved with me everywhere.  I had rescued his mum, NooNoo before him.  My biggest mistake is that I did not ask the vet why he had his own dogs at his site of work when I dropped NooNoo for spaying as a responsible pet owner, and how they let NooNoo out and how she was shredded to death by these dogs, as he was SPCA referred.
By the time I had tripped back from across border to claim the runt of the litter - I had to rescue him too from another cage as the relative I was staying with was nasty and dropped him off.  I was bilistic to find him, NooNoo's tiniest most ugly kitten nobody wanted, I had to get him back to ease the ache in my heart and find the justice in my head, a life for a life, I owed NooNoo.  NooNoo gave birth to her litter in the safety and confinement of my bedroom I rented in South Africa while I was in Malawi as I came up and down with work.  It took me a year of coaxing her to believe humans could be trusted and at last she had found a home and I would keep her and love her all the days of her life little knowing that when I said goodbye see you soon, it was my last.  I found her runt on a stormy afternoon in a flooded cage at an animal shelter and so my promise to NooNoo started to full.  The kitten, born black, short hair, no particular style like his siblings that were gorgeous in comparison with long fluffy hair in beautiful shades and lovely faces.  My cat was born with out a proper mouth closure, nor did he develop all his teeth and he had already developed arthritis as a kitten but he's my baby.  The problem was, I lived now between two countries and so we worked a system to move up and down between Malawi and South Africa with him and sorry guys, that is a well kept secret.  I did not bring the thirteen cats I had in Malawi down though for those who are curious lol.
I find not all countries helpful on pets.  How you get your pets in and out of countries can be a difficult thing to carry out and can cause you and your pets a lot of trauma if things do not go well. 
On one occassion with a special flight I sat with my cat in a noisy hanger while a plane had to be fixed, it was just bad luck.  Twelve hours later, we returned to the lodge, to go through that all over again the next day, but he was with me and that's why we hang on.  Even the best plans can stray so be well prepared for delays, diversions and stops with transporting your pets.
When moving pets, the first thing I learnt was to ask questions.  Lots of questions.  When you do not ask, certain "professional" pet handlers do not tell you for instance that you only have ten days to move the pet over.  This happened in South Africa.  By the time you find the corresponding agency in the next country those days have expired and you have to start all over again, plus pay all over again.
I have learnt a lot from this and got to know some wonderful pet handlers and then there are those I would gladly strangle.  At the end of the day, between the good and the bad, my cat and I were together.
I have mostly legally moved any pet of mine as much as possible, but sometimes, you have to use your gut and do things that bend the laws a bit.  I'm not saying I am a criminal, I am not saying break the law, I am just saying that sometimes, what you perceive to be a member of your family, "your baby", might be a meal to another culture, they do not necessarily understand the value of your pet to you, just as you may not understand their perception that it's just an animal to them.
Quarantines are widely used where you and your pets will be seperated and both of you will be distraught.  On this, we flew a dog many years ago within the country from one town to another in South Africa and the dog died, he smothered to death because a handler put a blanket in with the dog in mid summer.  I cannot begin to explain the things that goes through one's mind when you see the limp body of what was once a happy little pom with a fluffy tail and a little voice that would go wooooo woooo wooo as a bark that did not wooo on that day.  Worse than that, is the robot person that approaches you to pay the bill while you are quietly hysterically working out if you need a lawyer to sue them or to get you out of jail.
I have had the joy of having my cat with me all the time and I have also had the experience of adopting animals in other countries.
In Malawi, a beautiful place you will find very few vets and less pets, and less doctors for rabies bites from people trying to "coochie coo" wild cats and wild dogs, real wild dogs. The average person cannot afford to feed and keep an animal that does not earn its living.  So when "white" people come to Malawi, they are inindated with bags of kittens and puppies being dragged on make shift ropes.  It's not all like this all over, just in some parts.  What is worse than that, is the first idiot that actually bought one of these animals years and years ago, that started a trend with locals that stealing kittens and puppies from wild parents could earn a living.  The country is poor but do not trade skins.  I cannot tell you the horror I would sometimes wake up to on my verandah.  I adopted three kittens from other expats who then had their cat spayed.  I did this as we were supposed to be on permanent, for life kind of contract.  Before I knew it, I had adopted thirteen cats.  Some of which, I saved their lives twice, once by taking them and second when I found good homes for them when I left the country.  The rest of the kittens that suffocated to death or died of dehydration or other at my door was a sight no expat should tolerate, so please do not support buying animals from locals in a country, you are contributing to tragic deaths.  Rather use the countries animal sanctuaries or SPCA's than support animal cruelty.  By finding these and conversing with them, you will soon decide if you want to adopt a pet in that country, by the way you are treated, and the animals and people who work at these places are treated. 
As expats we must remember we are guests.  So yes, if the owner of a lodge allows you to love her dog, and feed her dog when she's away, and take it on as yours when her holiday turns into months from weeks into almost a year, you feel you have done right caring for that animal - but be warned; when that lady returned to Zambia, her dog of almost seventeen years old, had decided she had had enough of her most beloved master leaving her behind again, and not just behind, but with their new puppy which was a horse in comparison and hurt her, and nevermind the kittens adopted too; this dog decided I was her new madam.  The lady of the lodge burnt by her own neglect of her animal, rejected by her "baby", "her most precious thing in the world", came down to me and took all her anger and disappointed hopes of farming and family problems and money issues and all she could conjure up to throw up at me in her hysterical unacceptable behaviour and then had the audacity to tell me I had to take the dog or she would kill it.  Not knowing herself or caring to ask me anything like the thought that from such a young age, I had seen more than a soldier in combat will haunt me and come back in nightmares repeatedly especially when triggered by that woman at the lodge in Zambia, she even went on to ask me to beat her dog away so it would come back to her and that's when I really just snapped.  I told her in no certain terms, that I would not become cruel to animals so she could have her spoilt way.  I would beat her first and happily go to jail.  Little did she know what she put me through mentally in the last two weeks at her lodge.  I actually paid to be insulted and treated like dirt because she threw a tantrum after asking me to look after her animal.  So if the owner says you can love her animal like she does, you are part of the family, remember, one day you are leaving, and you cannot take them all with you.  Be very careful of your relationships with other people's pets.  To this day, she has never apologised to me, but I have heard, she blamed me for her dog's rejection.  I was the third person like this she caught in this emotional suicidal attack, the other two dogs and people she did this to, left with her dogs - I was stronger, I told her to take responsibility.  I was appalled to hear, she adopted even more kittens when her goats were starving and she was an educated well brought up woman with grown children, not an ignorant rural person.
Remember in some countries what we think are pets, are meals to hungry cultures.  I would not be taking my cat to any Eastern countries!
Pets in Zimbabwe, I do not know.  We had to shoot so many dogs and horses to prevent them being poisoned or tortured to death as a means to scare us out the country that I do not know the situation to day in Zim, but I would not take my cat with.  In honesty, I have in my travels avoided home at all costs and although many tell me to go back, the reality is, that it is not safe for a human, therefore I can conclude the pet would be the sacrafice of a bad decision.
Botswana has strict rules on animals.  You will find travelling through the country if there is an outbreak of a disease that you, your shoes, your car and everything you hold dear will come through their dip procedures and smell like dip for many weeks to come; but they do this not to annoy you or bribe you, it is to protect the local animals, of which, in their culture, is money, especially cows, goats, chickens.  So basically quarantine would apply and every now and then you will be dipped!
I think also something to remember is that you must look at your pet, your beloved animal and say, would I take my six month baby with?  Now some of us, like me, I'm a nut, but then I also have a lot of animal experience and travel experience so I know or should I say, I take calculated guesses with formal paperwork and I risk only what i need to because I'm not out to prove anything, I'm just trying to earn a wage and love my cat.
Always ask expats in the country you intend to go to, for referrals.  Having said that, this might not be the wisest decision either.  Try and get in touch with an embassy, a government animal facility, a customs expert, a vet in that country and talk to the people in your own.  Really talk because if you are on the fly and you make a hurried decision, at the end of the day, your pet might be your biggest regret and that's something you don't want to carry around with you from contract to contract.  They take up bigger spaces in our hearts and lives than we realise, and greiving a pet can be just as bad as grieving for a lost child, worse, if you pushed the button.
On a happy note, the couple who flew with me from Zambia to South Africa on to America have had a successful happy outcome and their four dogs all made it through quarantine and flights and countries and are happily running around on their new lawn in America.  Tinky - you stole my heart little girl, but you are safe now with your siblings and parents in your forever new home.
Strange pets.  Yes well, Snakes.  In Rwanda there was an expat there an old man, who kept snakes.  If you or I handled them we would be dead but he was called the obvious, snake charmer.  It was a sight to see, they would follow him around and at his hand signals return to their coils.  That was a long time ago.
My friend in Australia keeps rats, yes rats, things that most of us would call rodents to be exterminated.  Again, here's a good example, would she bring her rats to let's say Namibia or fly them to Canada on a work contract?  No she wouldn't!
As I sit and write this I must tell you that this last week while contemplating Ghana as a next work contract, I have by accident or purpose? adopted a stray cat in South Africa lol, she is black and has the most pretty purt face and surely must belong to someone but after weeks of investigation I was told she is considered a Feral Cat, not microchipped and with rough pads and other signs of a stray, I could take responsibility for her if she wanted to stay, if my cat would tolerate another and knock me over with a feather, they are lying on my bed together, this after three days, she is housebroken and knows food, toilets etc.  My cat not knowing what to do with her, not having had another cat he seems to be at a bit of a loss.  So now, I have to think about this very hard, as she is very loving, with long fluffy hair and big moon eyes, with vet care, feeding and love, surely, I could manage two of them or find her a forever home.  I am scared.  My gut is telling me to find her a mum and that her beauty passing our door is to allow us to appreciate those decisions we all face as humans, reason and thinking skills coming to life.  To take two cats on the road with me at the moment, I would not be able to handle.  The neighbours say she has been around a long time but no one tried to talk to her as she remained aloof on the roof tops.  The irony is that she is loving, playful, so vulnerable when she's not fixed on survival alone and is just a teddy bear, whenever I approach her she just roles over and says "more please".  I wonder when was the last time she felt the touch of the human hand, where she slept in the hail storms, and how on earth did she come to my door.  There is a man who feeds ferals here, he says I must love her and leave her, she survived before I came and she will go on long after I'm gone, he knows her, described her down to crooked back leg but in his years of feeding these ferals, has he ever got to touch her.  I have to go, another storm brews and my cat is terrified of storms while she lays stretched out, finally in the lap of comfort she deserves.  As a business woman, I will take everything into consideration.  I used to be part of a catch and release program, but that's just one chapter in my book of cat experience.  Time is not on my side or hers, may be this time all I'm meant to be is her story, a brief encounter in her life, as she has; chosen.

i do not have any pets

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