As a pet parent, you can understand how anxious it can be when I had to relocate my 10-month-old kitten (Kitty) from Mumbai to Guwahati. I had heard earlier that a few airlines allow pets and that there are also pet relocation services. But when you go through the websites of airlines, you'll realize that only one airline - Air India allows pets in domestic flights. SpiceJet used to earlier but not anymore. For a moment I was relieved that there is a way to transport my kitten. But that momentary joy turned to dismay on knowing that Air India allows pets only in cargo unless it is a therapy pet, in which cases it can be taken in the cabin. I hope you can imagine the risks involved for pets while travelling in cargo. Although it mentions that the chamber is pressurized but it doesn't bear responsibility for any casualty. And there have been multiple cases where the pet doesn't make it to its destination alive. All these facts quite terrified me.
Next, I turned to pet relocation services. I checked up online but there wasn't any such service in Mumbai except for Furry Flyers, which caters to international travel. There were a few services in Delhi but they too will transport Kitty via a flight with all its involved risks.
At this point, I was quite devastated until I came across a website which mentioned that there is a provision for pets on board in trains. And one of my friends mentioned that her associate had once travelled with her cat in a train. Then began my extensive research on IRCTC. It is possible to travel with pets in 1AC or 2AC only. Pets are strictly prohibited in 3AC and sleeper class. If found violating, you will be levied heavily. There is also the provision of keeping your pet in the Luggage compartment for pets which are available in a select few trains. Moreover, there is the break van, which I have heard is hygienic compared to the previous option.
Now for travelling with your pet in 1AC, you can book either a coupe or a cabin, such that you don't need to share your space with fellow passengers. In 2AC you will have to book 4 seats. I went for the first one, so I will explain it in detail here.
There was only one train from Mumbai to Guwahati having 1AC - 12519 (LTT KYQ AC SF EXP). I went to the LTT station and booked two tickets from the counter. Make sure that you don't book tickets online. Next, I inquired at the counter about the procedure involved for taking pets along with me. I was informed that I have to give an application requesting for a coupe at the station a day before the date of journey. I was instructed to go to the Luggage and Cloak Room for further formalities. There they told me to come two hours prior to my journey time and collect a receipt amounting 400-500 rupees for my cat.
Then came the D-1 day. I had prepared my application request. I went to my boarding station LTT and asked at the ticket counter where to give my application. To my horror, the receptionist told me to the CCM office at CST to make my request. It was around 12 pm. I hadn't had any breakfast nor lunch. On top of that, there was no talk time balance in my phone nor internet connection. I bought a bisleri at the station canteen and calmed my nerves. I used the railway WiFi to make a recharge my phone. Then I headed towards CST station.
At CST, I asked at the enquiry where the CCM office was. The receptionist asked me my purpose. I told I need to place a coupe request. She told me for that I needn't go to CCM and directed me to some other counter. But her colleague intervened and asked if I would be accompanied by a pet. To which I replied the affirmative. He corrected her and showed the way towards the CCM office. It was at the end of platform 1. But when I reached there, there was no sign of CCM. Instead there stood the ticket counter for local trains, where I asked for further direction. The guy told to go outside towards the main road, behind the counter there will be a building and head to its second floor. I finally reached the office of the Chief Commercial Manager. But lo, it was locked. There were a few vacant cabins outside. I stood there flabbergasted.
Two men were walking down the stairs. I asked them if it was lunchtime. They informed that being Saturday, most of the offices were closed. I waited some time until I asked another person. He pointed me towards a letterbox attached to a door, "Deposit it there". I didn't. Who knows when will the letterbox be opened.
I waited a couple more minutes. A man suspiciously appeared and asked my business. I explained him my case. He told me to push open the door containing the letterbox. I did as he told me. There were many officers sitting inside, busy in their work. I addressed to the person in front who seemed to be the boss of all. He looked at my application, made a few enquiries on the internet and over the landline. Finally, he told me that my request will be entertained provided there is no VIP/VVIP aboard the train. Oh God! Again this veil of uncertainty. He told me to look out for the charting status.
I did all I could that was in my hands. Now all I could do is wait. And so I did. What seemed like an endless gap when at around 8 pm, I received a message from IRCTC stating that I have been allotted coupe E. Oh what a sigh of relief!
Next day, I booked kitty at the Luggage Room, collected her receipt, paid 210 rupees for it and boarded the train. Now she is sitting happily beside the window enjoying the view.