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A Practical Guide for Moving with Pets

March 31st, 2017 - 10:35 AM

Traveling with pets  

If you’re a pet owner moving long distance, there’s no doubt you want to bring them with you. After all, things wouldn’t be the same in your new home without them! Before you hit the road, it’s important to plan ahead and prepare your animal for travel — this way you can both relax and enjoy the trip.  

Check state laws before transportating pets during a move.

Before the move

Moving day is typically full of activity, but worrying about animals can make it even more hectic. Make sure your pet is ready to go by completing these tasks ahead of time:

Check state laws.

Every state has rules about the animals that can live there and guidelines for what they need to be permitted. Research state laws before you move to ensure your pet meets regulations. For example, ferrets and gerbils aren’t allowed in California or Hawaii, and moving dogs and cats to Hawaii requires some quarantine time.   

Choose the right moving company.

It’s important to think about which moving company you’ll use when pets are involved. Keep in mind not all rental truck companies allow pets to ride in the cab and none permit animals to travel in the cargo hold. To ensure you and your pet ride together, consider an alternative moving service like U-Pack®. With U-Pack moves, you pack and load a moving trailer or container, and then a professional driver transports it to your new home. With prices comparable to truck rental, U-Pack offers both affordable rates and the convenience of traveling with pets in your own car.  

Find a pet friendly hotel.  

For moves that require overnight stays, you’ll want to look for pet friendly hotels and make reservations in advance.

Introduce them to their travel crate.

Some animals only experience a crate when they go to the vet, which means they may associate their carrier with an unpleasant destination. To make it easier on moving day, place the crate in an accessible area a few weeks in advance so they can explore it at their own pace. Put a favorite toy or treat in it to encourage them to get in. Never force them to enter or they may continue to view it as a negative object.

Take them for car rides.

Not all pets are accustomed to car rides. Consider driving your pet around the block and then to a few farther distances to help them feel more at ease with the car, the motion and the noises.

Visit the vet.

Two weeks before the move (or sooner if you're traveling to Hawaii), visit your vet to get any necessary vaccinations and an updated health certificate. If you’re worried about losing your pet during travel, ask the vet about implanting a microchip. And, don’t forget to inquire about anti-anxiety medication to give your pet if they’re a nervous traveler.  

Put together a travel kit.

Prepare a travel kit for the drive and include these items:

  • Favorite toys
  • Water, food and treats
  • Leash/harness
  • Paper towels/plastic baggies (or disposable litter box for cats/rabbits) for waste clean up
  • Certificate of health and shot records

Get them groomed.  

Shorter nails and hair helps prevent scratches to the car’s interior and reduces the amount of fur left on the seats and floorboards.

During the move

Traveling with pets in a car can be fun if they’re kept safe and cared for properly. Once the trip begins, remember to:  

  • Restrict pets to the backseat. Pets should be crated and kept in the backseat during travel so they can’t move around. Animals that roam around and climb into the front seat have a greater chance of being seriously injured or killed if an accident occurs and the airbag deploys. If you don’t want to keep them in a crate, consider buying a car harness to keep them safe.  
  • Stop frequently for breaks. Try and stop every 3-4 hours to let your companion have a bathroom break and stretch its legs. Make sure to keep them on a leash and away from heavy traffic. 
  • Keep them comfortable. Make sure your pets remain comfortable by paying attention to them, playing with them during breaks, feeding them treats, maintaining a low radio volume, and keeping the car’s air conditioning at a consistent temperature.

After the move

Just like people, pets need plenty of time to feel comfortable with change. Here are a few things you can do to help your pet adjust to their new environment.  

Designate space.

The first thing to do is designate a spot/room for your pet. Set up their bed, food, water bowl and toys so that it can start to feel more like home quickly. And while the moving equipment is being unloaded, contain them in their new space or behind a gate — this way they can’t accidentally get loose.  

Let them explore their new home.

Once the moving equipment is unloaded, let your animals freely explore their new home. Just be sure to keep a close eye on them (especially dogs) who may want to mark their territory in an unfamiliar place!  

Watch for unusual behavior.

Every pet has their own time period for adjusting to new surroundings, but some may have a harder time than others. Be sure to watch for abnormal behavior like not eating/drinking regularly. If any unusual behavior occurs for more than a couple days, make an appointment to see the vet or go to a pet emergency hospital.

Check the house/yard.

Sometimes previous occupants may leave behind objects or chemicals that can be hazardous to animals. Because of this, it’s important to check your new home and yard for any dangerous items or poisonous products your pet can easily encounter (this includes mushrooms or other harmful plants). Also check that there aren’t any places your pet can easily escape through.

Update license and ID.

Contact your vet on how to update your pet’s license and ID as soon as possible. On their ID tag, include their name, your phone number, address and the phone number to the vet’s office.  

Other pet transportation options

Driving with pets isn’t possible for every 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 a 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 these 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?

Pro 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 pet moving services available. U-Pack refers customers with pet shipping needs to uShip®. Get a free online quote to see the cost of shipping a pet with uShip.  


If you have any questions or concerns about moving with pets, comment below — we’re always happy to help!  

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