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It’s 7 in the morning, I’ve got to Milan Linate airport two hours before my plane to Bari, and already things are going horribly wrong. The airline aren’t letting my cats fly with me. I’ve got documents to show they’re microchipped and all their vaccines are in order, but two uniformed men, straight out of Mussolini central casting, are telling me the carry-cage is all wrong.

Perhaps I should resent these animals and all the hassle they’ve brought me

‘It should have metal sides,’ they snap. ‘You cannot fly with this cage.’ I tell them honestly that I flew with it from Britain the day before – the very same airline to this very airport – that I always fly with it, but they’re having none of it. I’m thinking about what it will be like to miss this plane, to have to haul my cats and rucksack and suitcase onto a crowded Milanese tube to Central Station, and go overnight on the train. It doesn’t bear thinking about, and something in my expression clearly touches them. Soon the two men are on the phone and texting pictures of the cage to their supervisor.

‘OK,’ they say, softening. ‘You can travel. But you must double-secure the mesh front.’ For want of rope or fasteners, I rip a shoelace off my trainers and get out a pair of nail-scissors. Soon it’s done.

This is the just kind of thing you fear will happen when you travel overseas with pets. It’s a horrible process, fraught with calamity, and every time it goes right you can scarcely believe your luck. There are endless things to take care of before flying: visits to vets, vaccines, documents, the thorny business of getting the carrycase right (see above), and then simply dealing with the cats themselves.

The first time I flew with them was under the worst conditions.

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