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Tips for Moving a Cat Long Distance

June 15th, 2016 - 2:00 PM

Traveling with cats​

Cat lovers know that moving long distance is tough on their feline friends. Cats don’t like change and tend to become anxious when their daily routine is disrupted. However, the experience can be much less stressful for your pet (and easier for you!) if you prepare ahead of time. Follow the tips below when traveling with cats for a successful trip. 

cat transport

Moving cats across country

If you’re moving with a cat across the country, try U-Pack®. Many cat owners moving on a budget find that a “you pack, we drive” service like U-Pack is the ideal way to move — you save money by packing and loading your items and leave the hassle of driving a big truck to the professionals. This allows for the convenience of traveling however you want to with your furry friend!

Keep in mind that if traveling with your cat just isn’t an option, you can find pet shipping rates through uShip®.

What to do before moving cats

Learn how to travel with a cat by using these tips before you move:

  • Visit the vet. Take your cat for a check-up. Make sure all vaccinations are up to date and get a certificate of health. You might also consider asking your vet about microchipping—they’re easy to implant and can be used for identification if your cat goes missing during travel. Keep vet records and photos in a folder and have it with you while driving. According the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA) some states may require proof of immunization at specific interstate crossings.
  • Put together a cat travel bag. Bring bottled or tap water and have enough food to last the entire trip, plus a little extra in case of any delays. Introducing your cat to new tap water or new food may cause sickness, so try to stick with brands and flavors they’re used to. Also include a first-aid kit, medications, treats, favorite toys, disposable litter box, flushable litter, scooper, plastic bags, paper towels/wipes, portable scratcher, something that smells of home, kitty bed, comfort spray or wipes to control stress, pet stain remover and any other cat items used on a regular basis.
  • Locate an emergency vet clinic at destination. You’ll be grateful you did this in case your cat is under the weather upon arrival.
  • Obtain necessary licenses. Your new location may require a new or different pet license. Check with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) about vaccination and registration forms for your new location.
  • Research pet-friendly hotels. You may find petfriendlyhotels.net helpful.
  • Get a cat carrier. Get a carrier that has plenty of ventilation and is big enough for your cat to stand up, move, turn around and lay down comfortably. If you’re moving multiple cats, get a carrier for each one so they can be restrained by a seatbelt for safety purposes. Prior to the move, put the crate in a room where your cat spends a lot of time playing or snoozing. This way they can get used to it before it’s time to travel inside it!
  • Train your cat on a leash/harness. . If you plan on using a leash for your cat, now’s a great time to start training your cat to walk on a leash before moving day arrives. Cats that aren’t accustomed to having something around their neck or back may become stressed and frightened – a traumatic experience that can lead to temporary immobilization.
  • Prepare cat for moving. Put out boxes, padded paper and other moving supplies a few weeks in advance to let your cat adjust to the new surroundings and the changes about to take place. When the moving trailer is being loaded, place the cat in a calm area away from all the noise (place toys, bedding and food/water in this room).

Driving cross country with cats

Before moving cats to a new home, it’s a good idea to drive them around the block a few times each day to familiarize them with the car and its noises. Remember these tips while traveling with cats:

  • Remove all food and drink. About three hours before leaving, remove the cat’s food and drink to prevent motion sickness (avoid feeding until you’re done driving for the day).
  • Keep daily routine. During travel try and stick with your cat’s daily routine as much as possible. Play and give attention at the same time you normally do.
  • Maintain low music volume. Keep radio volume at a reasonable level in the vehicle — loud music causes stress for cats.
  • Avoid leaving the cat alone. When you stop for breaks, avoid leaving your cat alone in the car — especially in extreme hot or cold temperatures.
  • Clean your vehicle. Animals are known for tasting or chewing on anything around them. Clear your vehicle of any items that could be toxic to your cat if ingested (such as food waste or tiny items they could choke on).
  • Prepare hotel room. Make the hotel feel like home by placing the cat’s toys, litter box and food/water bowls around the room. Allow the cat time to explore its new environment and feel safe in the temporary space. Be sure to feed them at night or a few hours before getting back into the vehicle to avoid car sickness. It may be a good idea to mix water with the dry food for some extra hydration!

Flying cross country with cats

Just like some humans, flying can cause fear and anxiety in cats — if you can, try to avoid it. However, if it’s the only option, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Ask about plane regulations and requirements. Find out about the airline’s pet traveling policies because you may need additional paperwork.
  • Book a direct flight. Reserve a non-stop flight if possible to avoid any chance of your cat being left behind when switching planes.
  • Label the carrier. Write “live animal” on all sides and draw arrows indicating the upright position. Attach an envelope containing your name, cellphone number, destination, the cat’s name and pictures of the cat.
  • Prepare the carrier. Line the bottom of the carrier with paper towels to absorb accidents. Tape a plastic bag of dry food to the outside of the carrier in case you have long layovers and your cat gets hungry (airline employees can feed them).
  • Don’t lock crate. Make sure the crate is securely closed, but don’t lock it in case of an emergency. Airline personnel may need to evacuate the animal in certain situations.
  • Avoid sedation. Unless suggested by your vet, don’t sedate your cat for the plane ride as it may hinder their breathing in the cargo hold.

After moving a cat

Moving long distance is a life-changing event, so both you and your cat will need some time to adjust to the new surroundings. To make this time easier on your pet, we recommend these tips:

  • Get the new house ready. Make sure all windows and doors have screens on them. Check for hiding places cats could get stuck and also check for rodents.
  • Treat your home for fleas and ticks. If the previous occupants had pets, it’s a good idea to have your entire house treated for fleas and ticks before move-in day.
  • Designate a cat room. Choose the room where your cat will eat, drink, sleep and use the litter box. The faster you do this, the easier it will be for them to adjust.
  • Let your cat explore. It helps to put things with your cat’s scent around the house to let them know it’s okay to be there.
  • Create a daily routine. Have a similar schedule for your cat that you had in your former home.

What tips do you have about moving cats?

We want to hear about your experiences—share your tips on traveling long distance with cats in the comments below! If you’re still looking for a moving company, go U-Pack! Get a free online moving quote or call a moving specialist at 800-413-4799.

More pet moving resources

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ASPCA Car Travel Tips

ASPCA Air Travel Tips

ASPCA Cat Care Tips

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