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A Practical Guide for Moving with Pets

December 19th, 2018 - 9:40 AM

Traveling with pets

Moving with children is one thing, but moving with pets is a whole different animal! The majority of Americans have at least one animal and when they move to a new home, their pet is part of the equation. Many people have questions about how to best handle the challenges of moving with their fur babies. The good news is, while the level of involvement varies depending on the type of pet, it’s really not all that hard.

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

Check out the basic guidelines below to help you successfully move any pet. Or for more specific tips, check out these resources:

Before the move

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 either 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. Your vet can also locate a highly recommended colleague at your new destination, and give you copies of your pet’s healthcare paperwork you’ll need 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.

Get your pet microchipped 

It’s an excellent idea to have your pet microchipped before moving because pets are more likely to run off or get lost during the hustle and bustle of a move.

Microchipping animals is so common now that it’s fairly inexpensive. It’s also a safe procedure, which your vet can perform during a brief appointment, and in most cases it costs between $40 and $70. Your vet will keep a copy of the microchip number and give you a copy as well, so you can alert your new vet in your soon-to-be hometown. 

Find the best kennel for your pet

If you already have a kennel or carrier that your pet feels comfortable in, that’s probably your perfect option for travel. If not, then purchase one as far in advance of your move as possible. Since moving can be stressful on animals, it’s important for them to have a carrier that they feel at home in.

  • Kenneling during a drive: Place the carrier on the floor of the vehicle where nothing will fall on top of it, or ensure that the carrier is that is securely on the seat and will not slide onto the floor.  
  • Kenneling on a flight: Make sure you get a kennel or carrier that is large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around in, especially if you’re planning a long drive or flight (if your pet is flying, check your airline’s animal carrier requirements).

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.  

  • A tip if you use tranquilizers: If you’re flying with your pet, call your airline at least 48 hours ahead of time to verify that you’ll have an animal with you and ask about sedation requirements. Many airlines require animals to be fully alert upon check-in, so you’ll have to arrive early enough to check in with your animal to verify with the airline that it’s healthy enough to fly before giving it a tranquilizer.  

If you don’t feel comfortable sedating your animal with a tranquilizer, there are some natural alternatives that you can check into:

  • NaturVet Quiet Moments has pills, shampoos, oils and other products that contain natural ingredients such as chamomile and melatonin, which help relax your pet without unnatural chemicals.
  • Products such as calming collars contain natural pheromones. These are a good option as well because the pheromones can last for up to several weeks, thus helping your pet stay calm not only during the drive or flight but also during the transition into their new home.  

On the road

Most of these guidelines are universal. They’re the best options for moving with a cat, dog, ferret, bird, horse — you name it!  But for the two most common travel companions — dogs and cats — there 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 stretch their legs. Keep them on a leash, though, so they don’t run off.
  • Keep plenty of water available and have the food they’re already 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 your friend 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:

Flying

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.

Shipping

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.

Moving to an apartment? Check out these tips to help get the space set up for your dog.

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 (if necessary)

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, Alaska or Canada

If you compare moving a pet within the 48 contiguous states to moving the same pet to Hawaii or Alaska, it’s basically the same as moving yourself or your family to those places: There’s a bit more work involved.

Here are several things to consider:

  • Documented rabies vaccines when traveling to Hawaii
  • Making sure your animals can handle the extreme cold in Alaska
  • Not only is there colder weather in Canada, but there’s more paperwork involved

Here are some helpful related resources for long-distance moves:

Questions?

If you have any questions or concerns about moving with pets, leave us a comment below. We’re happy to help!

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