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How to Move With Pets

Jon Fesmire | October 2, 2017 @ 9:00 AM

Moving is tough—not just on you, but on your pets. When preparing for a move, you’ve got so much on your mind that it’s natural to let a few things slide. One thing you’ve got to prioritize, however, is the wellbeing of your pets.

Yes, you will be stressed, and so will your animal companion or companions, but whereas you understand what’s happening, they will not. Follow this guide to keep them protected as well as calm during your upcoming move.

Get Paperwork in Order

When you move with a pet, especially to another state, it’s important to have their records with you. This includes paperwork for their vaccinations and inspections, any health certificates, and rabies tags. Talk to your pet’s veterinarian to get copies. If you have an exotic pet, such as an iguana, you will need a permit.

Check with the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the veterinary offices in your new state for the state’s pet laws, and find out what they require. If you’re renting, you will also have to learn what rules your landlord has regarding pets. Many don’t allow large dogs, for example. You will also need to look up local ordinances, as some neighborhoods may not allow certain pets. If you’re living in an area with a homeowners association, you’ll want to find out their rules as well. Rules may govern when an animal needs to be on a leash, what sort of licensing you need for your pet, and the number of pets you are allowed to have.


Sadly, pets can wander off and get lost, which is why identification is so important. Your cats and dogs should all have collars with ID tags. Other animals that can wear collars should also have an ID tag in the same location, while birds can have a small tag on a leg band. On the tag, include your pet’s name, your name, phone number, and new address. That way, if your pet gets lost during your move and someone finds it, they can contact you.

In addition, if possible, make sure your pet has a microchip ID. These go into a registered pet recovery system, which can greatly help to get your pet reunited with you. If you bought your pet from a pet store or a shelter, it should already have a microchip.

Also, have plenty of photographs of your pet that can help identify it. When out walking your pet during the move, keep it on a leash or a harness.

Safety and Comfort

Pet carriers, also known as travel kennels, are great for the safety and comfort of many pets. Keeping your pet in a confined space may seem unkind, but think of it this way: That space offers a sense of security. It can prevent your pet from jumping on your lap while you’re driving or otherwise distracting you. It can also keep your pet safe when you make stops. Let’s look at this in detail.

First, you will want to get your pet acclimated to its new carrier. Start by putting its food inside so that it has to go in to eat. For the first few days, leave the carrier door open while your pet eats. Then, start closing the door. After a few days, put a toy or two in the carrier for your pet to play with, and lock the door. Let your pet get used to it for a short time, and when you let it out, take it for a walk or give it a treat. Take your pet for short drives in the crate. This way, it will associate comfort with the carrier and not mind it so much when you travel.

You will use the carrier for airplane or car travel. If you’re taking multiple cars, keep your pet in the car it is most familiar with. At times you may want to cover the carrier with a blanket.

When you get out at rest stops, keep the windows ajar and leave the pet in the carrier. Keep in mind that the car can still get hot and your pet can overheat, so don’t spend too much time parked in a hot place.

Other Moving Options

Here are some things to keep in mind. Most busses and trains won’t allow pets unless they are service animals. Most moving companies, likewise, won’t move pets and are not licensed for it. An internet search for “pet moving companies” will help you find movers that do, if that’s the route you want to take.

Your Pet’s Needs

On the road, your pet will, of course, need food, water, and bathroom breaks. Bring healthy food, treats, and kitty litter for cats. This is important: at home, put water in bottles for your animal. It may be sensitive to the germs found in water at new locations and could get sick. Once at your new home, it will get used to the water there, but for the trip, give it water it’s familiar with. When taking your dog for a walk to relieve itself, keep it on a leash.

You, your partner, and your kids should all have overnight bags or backpacks in which you bring things to keep you occupied. Likewise, your pet should have an overnight bag. This will include food, water, grooming supplies, toys, and whatever else it needs.

Reducing Stress

During the moving process, do your best to keep your pet away from moving activities. It may become anxious, seeing you pack up your belongings. Put it in a room with things it enjoys. Once it’s used to its carrier, you can keep in a separate room in its carrier for a short time as well, or even put it in the garage so long as it’s safe and there’s good air circulation for its comfort.

During the trip, keep your pet in the car until you reach your destination. You do not want your pet running off, nor do you want it to get scared.

Once you reach your new home, make sure there is a room ready for it, with some of its toys, and food, water, and kitty litter put out. Keep the door closed as you move in but spend time now and then with your pet. Over the next few days, let your pet out to start exploring the house. In time, it will get used to your new home.

Fish and Birds

Moving can be especially stressful on fish, and is often fatal. If you’re moving with them a short distance, they will most likely be alright. Put them in bags of their current tank water and get them directly to your new place. If you’re moving very far, your fish will be better off if you give them to a local friend.

Birds also experience a lot of stress on moves, so keep them in their cages until you get to your new place. Even if they have always sat on your shoulder without flying off, that could change in a new environment. You don’t want your pet flying away.

With that information, you now have what you need to move with most pets. If you have an exotic pet or another animal not mentioned here, you may have to do a bit of research. Remember that your pet can experience stress, too. Ease it into the move, meets its needs, and do so with kindness.

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