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A Practical Guide for Moving with Pets

December 19th, 2018 - 9:40 AM

Taking a pet with you when you move

With nearly 85 million families owning a pet in the U.S., it makes sense that they're a big part of many moves. 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 tips and information you need to help everything go smoothly! 

Looking for tips specific to your pet? Check out these posts:

couple and son sitting in floor surrounded by moving boxes playing with dog

Moving with pets

Talk with your vet

One of the first things you’ll want to do is talk with your veterinarian about where you’re moving. Most vets already have (or can quickly find) information about your new state’s vaccination requirements.

If your pet is taking medication, your vet can help you make sure you have enough meds for the journey and the first few weeks in your new home. They can also assist in finding a new vet at your destination, and give you copies of your pet’s healthcare paperwork  for the trip and the new state. Some vets will even fax your animal’s records to a vet in your new hometown before you arrive!

To sedate or not to sedate?

Many animal owners choose to sedate their pets during the move. 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 drive or flight.

Make sure to follow the vet’s instructions because your animal’s 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? 

It’s an excellent idea to have your pet microchipped before moving just in case it escapes during travel. Microchipping animals is so common now that it’s fairly inexpensive (in most cases it costs between $40 and $70). It’s also a safe procedure, which your vet can perform during a brief appointment. Your vet will keep a copy of the microchip number and give you a copy as well, so you can register it or alert your new vet upon arrival. Talk to them about your options!

Find the best carrier

If you already have a kennel or carrier that your pet feels comfortable in, that’s probably the perfect option for travel. If not, purchase one as far in advance as possible. Since moving can be stressful on animals, it’s important for them to have a carrier that they feel at home in. If you're kenneling during a 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. Make sure to get a carrier that is large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around in, especially if you’re planning a long drive. 

Traveling with pets

Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind if you’re driving to your destination:

  • Stop frequently to let your pets relieve themselves and/or stretch their legs. 
  • Keep plenty of water available and have the food they’re accustomed to ready for them when they get hungry. Keep in mind that their eating habits may change somewhat while traveling and in the first few days in their new home.
  • If your trip will take several days, book pet-friendly hotels ahead of time so they can be safe and comfortable with you overnight.

Other pet transportation options

It isn’t always possible to drive with pets during a move. If this is the case for you, here are some other transportation methods to choose from:


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.” And, if you’re moving with pets to a location that can’t be reached by car (like Hawaii or Puerto Rico), they’ll have to fly. Keep in mind that 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?
  • Do I need to provide feeding/medicating instructions if they’re traveling in the cargo hold?

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. Talk to your vet about recommendations. 

After the Move

Pets need time to become comfortable with 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.
  • Give them space and time. Once the home and yard are secured, let your pets freely explore their new home. Set up their bed, food, water and toys so it feels like home. 
  • 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. 

Moving to Hawaii or Canada with Pets

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!