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A stray cat in the Italian town of Burano (Photograph by Jim Richardson)

Problem Solved: Adopting Pets Abroad

National Geographic Traveler editor at large Christopher Elliott is the magazine’s consumer advocate and ombudsman. Over the past 15 years he has helped countless readers fix their trips.

Here’s his latest advice:

Reader Question: I’ve fallen in love with a stray kitten. Can I take her home?

My Answer: Feral animals are a big problem around the world, with Mexico leading in complaints from international visitors.

Strays can be adorable, but also dangerous (avoid petting them). Animal bites are one of the chief causes of injuries to tourists and may necessitate a painful series of rabies shots.

If you want to bring Fluffy home, you’ll first need to take her to a local vet, who can give her all her shots.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires that dogs and cats be examined at the first port of entry for evidence of diseases that can be transmitted to humans. (By the way, dogs must have a valid rabies vaccination certificate, although the kitten you’re looking at does not.)

Before you adopt abroad, I’d listen to what Diana Webster has to say. She’s the president of Humane Advisor, an organization that helps animals through tourism.

“I have mixed feelings about adopting strays from other countries when [America’s] own shelters are overflowing and when the price of the transport could fund ten spay or neuter surgeries for animals left behind,” she says.

But if your heart’s set on adopting, she recommends working with a local rescue agency.

Christopher Elliott is Traveler magazine’s consumer advocate and pens the “Problem Solved” column for the magazine (this exchange appeared in the December 2014 issue). Follow Christopher’s story on Twitter @elliottdotorg.

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