After living in Beijing for more than four years, Spaniard Carlos Casanova-Allende is planning to move to Hong Kong this summer.
But in preparing for the move, the 27-year-old energy and climate policy consultant has encountered a major problem - relocating his adopted cat Matilda.
"Taking animals from the Chinese mainland to rabies-free areas is particularly difficult," he said.
Confronted with China's lengthy and complicated entry and exit requirements for pets, he decided to use an agency to help him move Matilda.
The preparations include giving the cat a rabies vaccination, implanting identification microchips, and checking airline transportation requirements.
Casanova-Allende is just one of an increasing number of pet owners on the mainland who are using such agencies to help them move their pets.
In Beijing alone, it was difficult to find such agencies before 2010, but there are now more than 10 in the capital.
Depending on the destination country, relocating pets takes from three months to a year, with costs ranging from several hundred to thousands of yuan for a single animal. Casanova-Allende paid about 4,000 yuan (S$805) to move Matilda to Hong Kong.
According to the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, a ministerial-level department in charge of entry-exit animal quarantine procedures, the number of pets taken out of the mainland by their owners rose from 6,442 in 2012 to 6,907 last year.
Only cats and dogs can be taken out of the mainland, with one passenger allowed to take a single pet at a time.
Mary Peng, founder of the International Center for Veterinary Services, a pet care facility in Beijing, has also seen a growing number of expatriates leaving the mainland with their pets.
She hosts a monthly seminar to provide information for those who want to leave with their pets and says more than 100 people have attended each time. "Summer is the peak time for expats leaving China with their pets," she said.
Entry-exit requirements for pets vary from country to country, creating more problems for owners.
Peng said that many expats who own pets on the mainland are not aware of the different policies regarding animal transportation. Many find out at the airport that they cannot take their pets out of the country.
"Whether you have brought your pets with you to China or have adopted them locally, it is never too early to learn about exit requirements to ensure a smooth departure when preparing to take them with you when you leave," she said.
"Bear in mind that you will need to prepare for two processes when moving to another country with your pet - clearing the exit procedures and meeting the entry requirements."
Casanova-Allende had planned to take Matilda to Spain first, which could have saved the cat from four months of quarantine in Hong Kong if taken to the city directly from the mainland.
"However, I was told before boarding that the two airlines (China Southern Airlines and KLM) I took from Beijing to Spain have conflicting rules on transporting animals," he said.
"I have had to leave her with a friend and will take her to Hong Kong directly."