A Practical Guide for Moving with Pets
Taking Pets with You When You Move
With nearly 85 million families owning a pet in the U.S., it’s no surprise that many moves include at least one animal. But if you've never moved with a pet before, you likely have a few questions. How will you keep them contained in the vehicle? How often will you need to stop? Is it better to use a pet transporting company? We've got the information you need to help everything go smoothly!
How to Move with Pets
This resource will walk you through all the steps of moving a pet — from getting records from your vet to learning how to prevent motion sickness in the car.
Looking for tips specific to your pet? Check out these posts:
Prepare for the Move by Talking with Your Vet
One of the first things you’ll want to do is talk with your veterinarian about the upcoming move. Most vets already have (or can quickly find) information about your new state’s vaccination requirements. And they can help make sure everything is up-to-date before the big day.
If your pet is taking medication, ask for enough meds for the journey and the first few weeks in the new home. The vet can help you find a new care provider at your destination, but it’s better to make sure you won’t run out of essential medicine before you can make an appointment. Ask for copies of healthcare paperwork for the trip and the new state. They may even be able to fax your animal’s records to a vet in your new hometown!
To Sedate or Not to Sedate?
Some people choose to sedate their pets during the move to keep them calm. Your vet will be able to tell you if your animal is healthy enough for sedation. If so, an oral tranquilizer may be prescribed for your pet to be taken every few hours during the trip.
Make sure to follow the vet’s instructions because weight, age and breed will determine the frequency and dosage of the tranquilizer. If you aren't comfortable using sedatives, or your pet isn't healthy enough for them, the vet may be able to recommend some natural alternatives.
What about Microchipping?
Consider having pets microchipped before moving just in case they escape during travel (shelters and vet offices will be able to scan the chip and contact you). Microchipping animals is very common and fairly inexpensive (in most cases it costs around $50), and your vet can insert it in just a few seconds. The vet will keep a copy of the microchip number and give you a copy as well, so you can register it and alert your new vet upon arrival. Talk to them about the options!
Important note: microchipping is just one pet identification method. It’s still highly recommended that you have updated ID tags on your pet (if possible) and keep a photo of them with you to show people what the lost animal looks like.
Items to Pack
Having the right supplies on hand will make the trip easier on you and your pet. Along with food, water and leashes/carriers, don’t forget these essential items:
- Favorite toys
- Blankets or other bedding
- Cleaning supplies (in case of accidents)
- Waste pick up and disposal items
Tips for Traveling with Pets in the Car
Since you can’t just put pets in the moving equipment with the rest of your stuff, you’ll need to make a plan to keep them safe and happy during the trip. Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind:
Keep Them Secure
Since moving can be a stressful event (and may present multiple opportunities for escape), it’s smart to keep animals in a carrier or use another restraint. Plus, it’s safer in the event of an accident!
If you already have a kennel or carrier your pet feels comfortable in, that’s probably the perfect option. If not, purchase one as far in advance as possible and let them become accustomed to it slowly. If it’s new, try putting one of their favorite pillows, blankets or toys inside the carrier so it has a familiar scent. Make sure to get a carrier that is large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around in.
During the drive, place the carrier on the floor of the vehicle where nothing will fall on top of it, or secure it on the seat so it won't slide onto the floor. You could also use a harness and special seatbelt attachment to secure an animal you don’t want to keep in a crate.
Offer Food and Water Consistently
Keep your pet comfortable by sticking as close as possible to their feeding schedule. Bringing food and water from your current home is also a good idea — it will save them from upset stomachs. Keep in mind that their eating habits may change during traveling and for the first few days in the new home. And be sure to offer more water if it’s hot outside!
Plan for Stops
This one is pretty obvious, but don’t forget to let your pets relieve themselves and stretch their legs. And remember to plan for your own stopping needs. If you’re traveling alone, plan to stop at places where you won’t have to leave the pet in the car (it’s not only unsafe, but it’s also illegal in some states). This may mean going to drive-through restaurants or taking your animal inside a pet store and asking a worker to watch your pet for a few minutes. Check out this list of dog-friendly stores for ideas.
Book Hotels Ahead of Time
If the trip will take several days, it’s a good idea to schedule your stays so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute to find a pet-friendly hotel. Keep in mind that “pet-friendly” doesn’t always apply to all pets, so call ahead to check specific rules. Alternative lodging through a service like Airbnb may be a better solution if you’re having difficulty finding places that allow your animal. No matter where you’re staying, take care to not leave your pet alone. They may get anxious in the new space and destroy property, make excessive noise or try to escape.
Prevent Motion Sickness
The fastest way to make a long trip feel even longer is to add motion sickness to the mix. And if you’ve ever dealt with it before, you’re probably dreading multiple days of messes and a miserable pet. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent it. Here are some common methods that work for many animals:
- Get them used to the car. Motion sickness in pets is often caused by stress or anxiety. If you get them used to the car, they may not experience any symptoms.
- Have them travel on a mostly empty stomach. Limiting food can help reduce nausea, but don’t withhold water!
- Keep the temperature low. A cool temperature in the car will keep them more comfortable. You may even want to crack the windows to let in fresh air.
- Ask for medicine. If your pet suffers from severe motion sickness, they may need medicine to help. Talk with your vet about the best options.
If you aren’t sure if your pet will get car sick, be on the lookout for signs like excessive drooling, inactivity, and consistent meowing/barking/another noise. If you catch them before nausea becomes a bigger problem, you may be able to use some of the tips above to make them more comfortable.
Other Pet Transportation Options
It isn’t always possible to drive with pets during a move. If this is the case, here are some other transportation methods to consider:
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), “over two million pets and other live animals are transported by air every year in the United States.” So it’s a pretty common occurrence!
Each airline will have its own regulations that must be followed. Before booking a flight, call the airline, tell them what kind of pet you own, and then ask the following questions:
- Can my pet travel in the cabin? (If not, ask about cargo travel)
- What pet records/health certificates do I need to have with me?
- What type of carrier do I need to use?
- What rules do you have on medicine/sedation?
Tip: Book a direct flight if possible. Multiple trips on connecting flights can cause stress in pets and make them nervous.
If driving or flying won’t work, there are plenty of services that do pet shipping. Your vet may have a recommendation or you can read reviews and safety records to find the best option. No matter which service you use, here are some basic things to keep in mind:
- Pet shipping prices range from $100 to $600 or more. The cost will depend on factors like your animal’s size/breed and how far you’re shipping them.
- You’ll need to provide supplies. The shipper will need food, water, a crate, medications, etc. for the trip.
- They need to be in good health. Provide health records, including vaccinations, medications, etc. to prove your pet is healthy enough for travel.
Pets need time to adjust to a new environment. Here are a few things to do as you get settled:
- Check the house and yard. Before you let them loose to explore, check for any hazards. Look for dangerous items (broken fences, items left behind) or poisonous plants or products that could harm your pet. Make sure everything is secure and there are no easy areas for them to escape through.
- Let them explore. Once the home and yard are secured, let your pet get to know their new home. Set up their bed, food, water and toys so it feels familiar.
- Update ID and get licenses. Contact your new vet to update information on their microchip and get a new ID tag for their collar with your new address. Check with the city or local government to see if a license is required.
- Watch for stress. Pets may struggle to adapt to the new home, so watch for abnormal behavior. If you’re worried about anything you’re seeing, consider taking them to the vet or giving them extra attention.
Moving Pets to Hawaii or Canada
If you compare moving a pet within the 48 contiguous states to moving the same pet to Hawaii or Canada, there’s a bit more work involved. Be sure to check requirements for rabies vaccines, paperwork and more so you don't have any issues during the move.
Here are some helpful resources that outline what you need:
If you have any questions or concerns about moving with pets, leave us a comment below. We’re happy to help!