A Practical Guide for Moving with Pets

This article was reviewed by Nick Coston, D.V.M. of Cornerstone Veterinary Clinic in Greenwood, AR.

Preparing for a long-distance move with pets

If your pets have ever become excited, clingy or standoffish at the sight of a suitcase, you know how sensitive they can be about trips and change.  The same behaviors can happen before a move, which can be difficult to handle when you’re navigating so many changes yourself., And for moves across the country, the long trip can be an added challenge to figure out. We’ve compiled expert tips and advice to show you the best way to move with pets like dogs, cats, fish and more.

Girl sits on her bed with her dog before moving with her pet across country.


10 steps for moving across country with pets

Most animals thrive with routine and familiarity, and a move can bring lots of uncertainty. The good news is that they are usually quick to adapt. Use these steps to prepare for a long-distance move with pets.

1. Check laws and regulations

There could be rules and regulations related to pet ownership in your new state, city, homeowner’s association or apartment complex. Some requirements could impact your move details or timing, so check the policies well ahead of time. Some animals, like reptiles, exotic animals or domesticated livestock may have additional requirements, quarantine periods or paperwork. And in some cases, there could be breed restrictions that could prohibit you from bringing your pet.

Visit the state’s Department of Agriculture website (access all state resources here) to check state laws, and check with the city hall for any local laws. And don’t forget to ask your landlord or realtor about any rules/requirements specific to your new home (or any homes you’re considering).

It’s also important to note that moves out of the contiguous United States have a few more regulations. For more information, take a look at these guides on bringing pets to Hawaii and crossing into Canada with pets.

2. Choose a moving company with your pet in mind

When pets are involved, you may have to be selective about the moving service you use. Keep in mind that not all rental truck companies allow animals in the cab, and no moving company will permit them to travel with your belongings. While you can use a pet relocation service, it can be easier on your animal to travel with them. Moving with U-Pack® allows you to focus on your pets. We move your belongings so you can travel in your car and care for your pet during the drive.

3. Visit your vet

Before you leave, see the veterinarian for a general health checkup to get up to date on vaccinations and obtain any documentation you might need. Talk through any concerns you may have about keeping your pet safe and healthy during the drive, including motion sickness.

4. Do pet-specific prep

Every animal is different. Some are leash-trained and used to car rides, so they won’t need much prep. Others may need more practice before you hit the road. Use our guides for moving long-distance with a cat and moving with a dog for more specific planning tips based on your type of pet.

Moving with aquarium fish or exotic animals? We’ve got guides for them too!

5. Pack for the trip

Set aside anything you’ll need for travel and getting settled into your new home. Things you might need include food, water, bowls, medication, treats, a carrier/leash, bedding, and waste pickup.

6. Plan for stops

If you’re traveling overnight as a part of your move, schedule stops ahead of time. Find pet-friendly hotels, but keep in mind that “pet-friendly” may not apply to all animals, so double-check with the hotel before making a reservation.

When you stop for food and bathroom breaks, remember that leaving a pet alone in the car is unsafe (and in some states, illegal). Plan to drive-thru and eat in the car, or stop at parks or truck stops that allow animals. If you need to take your pet on a break with you, pet stores can be a great place to stop since most let leashed animals inside.

7. Keep your pet safe

Safety should be top of mind throughout the entire moving process. On moving day, there may be many open doors, extra people and general commotion that can cause stress, confusion or an easy breakaway. Consider keeping animals in an unoccupied room, a fenced yard or off-site with a friend, family member or boarding facility.

During the drive, make sure they’re wearing identification in case they get lost. And always keep them on a leash or in a carrier when the vehicle doors are open at stops.

Make plans to keep your pet contained while unloading at your destination. And don’t forget to scan the new house and backyard to look for any hazards or places where they could escape.

8. Keep them comfy on the drive

Secure pets in the back seat or rear cargo area (not the trunk) with a crate, harness, pet seat belt or other appropriate restraint. Make sure they have ample airflow — don’t pack items too tightly around them. Follow any plans set out by your vet to help combat motion sickness. And don’t be in a hurry —frequently stop to give them bathroom breaks, access to water and a chance to stretch their legs.

9. Settle into your new home and routine

It can take some time for your pet to adjust to the new environment. Once you’ve pet-proofed the house and yard, let them explore. Set up their bed, crate, food, water, litter box, etc., so they can start familiarizing themselves with their items in the new home.

Even though life may be a little hectic while you get settled, try and stick to regular feeding, walking, playtime and sleep routines.

If your pet was used to regular visits to the dog park, walking trail or pet store, locate those things in your new town and try to visit them as soon as possible. And make an appointment to establish care with a new vet. It’s also a good idea to find numbers for emergency care centers or boarding facilities in case you need them.

10. Update your pet’s info

Change your contact info on the pet ID tags, microchip registrations or any other identification methods. If they get lost, you want someone to be able to get in touch with you at your new address, so your pet can get back home safely.

The best tip for moving pets?

Animals take their emotional and social cues from their owners. If you control your stress and frustration, it can help your pet stay calm alongside you. After the move, give your animals a little extra attention to make them feel secure. And give them an extra treat from us, too!