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Moving with Pets

Moving Guide and Tips

On average Americans move every 7 years and the lifespan of a pet may be 10- 20 years. It is highly likely that during your pet’s lifetime you will move or relocate. If you have a pet or pets as part of your family you will need to remember that they are just like people in that they get as stressed out as we do when moving. In fact in many instances they may be more stressed as the home is generally their habitat both day and night and pets are very sensitive to a change in their habitat. Pets can also become very frightened when faced with unfamiliar situations. With careful organization and planning the move process can be made easier and less stressful for both you and your pet.

General Guidelines 
Pets are generally creatures of habit so keep your pets’ routines as regular as possible in the days coming up to your move date. Continue to carry out normal activities and try not to break your pets routine too much, for example if you walk your dog each morning continue to do so.

It is a good idea to ask a family member to assume responsibility for your pet during the days of the move. If this is not possible you might consider hiring a professional pet service for the day or couple of days you will be packing and moving. These pet services have cropped up all over US and are available in many cities and towns. Some of these companies even offer door to door service. Your pet can be picked up at your home and will be delivered to your new home on a predetermined date. Many pets become very scared and may bolt and run away during all of this irregular activity. Be careful with leaving doors open as it only takes one door to be left open to the outside unintentionally and your pet could be gone forever. If your pet bolts on moving day, you may not be able to give the necessary attention and time to the search as you should and you may have travel plans which limits the time you can search. Another option that may be helpful is to organize for your pet to be boarded until you have moved in to your new home and arranged things.

Pet travel warning 
Never move a sick pet, the move may aggravate the symptoms and this may be dangerous to your pet’s health.

Puppies and kittens less than eight weeks old whether accompanied or unaccompanied cannot be transported by air as per the Animal Welfare Act.

Pets cannot be moved on a moving van with your household belongings.

Pets are generally not allowed on trains or buses except seeing-eye dogs accompanying blind persons.

Book a direct flight if you are traveling by plane. If your pet is traveling in freight he may be sitting outside with the freight for a long period of time between flights and as the freight is being moved from plane to plane. If the weather is either too hot or too cold your pet may suffer. An insulated crate will certainly help this situation if it cannot be avoided.

In short you may not have too many options available to you to transport your pet other than by air and motor vehicle.

Air Transport 
You may transport your pet by air either accompanying you or as air freight. Some airlines provide counter-to-counter service so your pet will be carried on and off the plane by an airline employee. Remember not all airlines accept pets for transportation so be sure to inquire when you are making your travel arrangements. Also be sure to check about charges and insurance charges for transporting your pet.

It is of the utmost importance that you book your air travel as early as possible. Airlines that accept pets for transportation will have specific regulations and guidelines you will need to follow irrespective of whether the pets are accompanied or unaccompanied. For example you may be required to be at the airport a couple of hours in advance of the flight to check your pet in and your pet may need a special crate. The airline may be able to provide to you a crate for your use or you may have to purchase one from the airline.

Generally the airline will have guidelines on the crate types allowed and your local pet supply company will be able to sell you the required crate. You pet should be able to stand, turn around with ease and there should be adequate ventilation. The bottom of the crate should be padded with newspaper or other absorbent material. Add a favorite toy on move day to give a sense of security. Try to slowly get your pet accustomed to the crate at home before the big day.

On move day, feed and water your pet at least 5 hrs before the flight departure time and water again at least 2 hours before departure. Remember to administer any medication and if your vet has recommended a tranquilizer before departure be sure not to forget. When you arrive at the airport exercise your pet and check you have all the necessary information provided to the airline staff regarding your name, correct new address and alternate name in case of emergency.

Some airlines allow pets to be accompanied by their owners in the cabin with the passengers if they fall within a specific size range. These pets will need to be kept in a carrier for the duration of the flight.

By road In a motor vehicle
Unless you are planning a very short road trip do not feed or water your pet for a couple of hours prior to leaving. You may decide to put your pet in a cage during the road trip however be sure your pet is able to stand and turn around with ease and there should be adequate ventilation. The bottom of the crate should be padded with newspaper or other absorbent material. Add a favorite toy on move day to give a sense of security. Exercise your pet regularly during the road trip and feed only once per day. Whilst exercising always use a leash. Remember this is strange territory to your furry friend and it can easily become lost if it wanders off.

Do not let your pet hang its head out the window while the vehicle is in motion. He may get sore eyes, ears or a sore throat and never let the windows down so much so your pet can jump out.

Warning: Never leave a pet in a hot car during the summer time or in a cold car in the winter. If you absolutely have to and the day is hot, park in the shade, lock the car doors and crack the windows open for cross-ventilation. If the day is very hot, it is best not to leave pet in the car at all. Check on your pet regularly if you must leave it alone for very long.

Pets travel bag 
When doing all that packing do not forget to pack your pets travel bag. The following is a list of things to include.

  • Pet’s regular food and can opener
  • Pet’s food and water dishes
  • Treats
  • Favorite toys
  • Leash
  • Grooming brush
  • Bags to ‘curb you pet’
  • Newspapers
  • Cleaner and paper towel in case your little friend has a little accident in the car
  • Any medication you pets needs

Whatever mode of transport you decide on for your pet you will need to ensure you have looked in to the following prior to departure.

  • Pet’s ID tags
  • Pet’s health records
  • Sate and Local regulation of Destination city

Pets ID tags 
The state you are moving to may have different laws regarding animals and indeed may have special regulations around the entry of pets to the state. It is important that you understand the requirements so that you can comply with them. It is recommended you contact the state veterinarian of your new home state to find out what the laws and regulations are in that state. It is not uncommon for pets to need an entry permit in order to enter the state. Remember, in many towns and cities the number of pets per household may be limited. You may also be limited by the amount of time you have in order to obtain a local license.

You will most likely have to have a health cert for your pet available for inspection. This health cert needs to come from a licensed veterinarian. The Department of Agriculture is the body who may conduct any inspections and may be at airports or even on highways although this is not as common.

You may need to obtain a health cert for your pet and this can be used in the event it is required for entry to your new home state. The Department of Agriculture may request to see the health cert at your destination airport or may even be patrolling the highways if you are driving. A health cert is generally valid for 10 days so be sure to have the inspection scheduled for just before you move. A complete physical examination is conducted on your pet and the vet check that all inoculations have been administered especially the rabies vaccination.

Whether traveling by air or car moving can be even more stressful for a dog than a human. Some dogs however take it more in their stride than others. Leave packing his/her toys, bedding and other equipment to the last moment so that he/she is comforted by the presence of familiar things. If traveling a long way prevent travel sickness by not feeding them for 12 hours before the journey. If you know your pet suffers from travel sickness, ask your veterinary surgeon about anti-sickness pills.

If you plan on flying to your new home, try and book a direct flight. If your dog has to be transported by freight and the flight is not direct he may have to sit out in the hot or cold weather as the freight is boarded to the new flight. Check with the airlines for details. If your dog is small enough he may be able to travel in the passenger cabin with you. He will need a special carrier which you can purchase at a local pet sore. The airlines will be able to provide you with details of the cage specification that you will need.

If you are traveling by car remember to have your dogs nails cut prior to the road trip otherwise the upholstery may be damaged by scraping and scratching. Carry an adequate supply of plastic bags and use these to clean up after your pet at any rest stops you use. Never let your dog hang its head out the widow of a car as he may get sore eyes, ears or a sore throat.

Never leave your pet alone in a car especially in hot weather as the temperature can quickly rise to an unbearable level.

When you arrive at your destination be sure to get your dog back in to his routine of eating and exercise. If you have moved to an apartment building and your pet dog was used to having a yard to play in and relieve in, you need to be extra considerate. Bring you dog out more at least until he gets used to his new living situation. Make allowances for ‘accidents’ on the carpet if they should happen. Don’t make a fuss or punish your pooch as this may make the problem worse. Pick up the mess and clean the area properly to remove the soil and smell. Once your dog has settled in they should stop. Always praise him when he goes to toilet in the correct place so that he knows where to go.

Make sure you make up a comfortable sleeping are area your pet pooch so he settle in quicker. If you have a new home with a yard make sure you check your boundary fencing to make sure that it is secure, of sufficient height and ‘hole-free’ before letting your dog run free in the garden. If your dog is able to escape then take him out on a lead until you are able to do the necessary improvements.

Cats are well known for being mischievous and can be even more troublesome during moving. Cats like routine and their environment to remain the same and they also like to be in control. When their routine or their environment changes they can feel very out of control and become very upset. In the days coming up to your move try to keep their routine as normal as possible. It may be of help to ask a friend or family member to keep an eye on your cat or to be solely responsible for your cat during these disruptive times. This can ensure your cats routine can be kept relatively normal. When you move to your new location do not allow your cat out immediately as the environment is new. Some supervised outings are advised at first until such time as he gets used to the new surroundings. You can also use a long leash on your cat and connect it to a stake in the ground and allow your cat to wander the length of the leash for the first few days. Allow your cat to explore the rooms of the house and be sure to check that outside doors and windows are closed before you begin.

If you are traveling by air you may need to purchase an airline approved carrier for you cat. You airline should be able to provide you with all the details. If you are traveling by car you may also want to use a carrier so as your cat cannot roam about the car.

Birds and small pets 
Birds are probably the most sensitive to changes in temperature of all pets. Your pet bird can be moved in the cage in which it lives in. When you are moving with your pet bird a cover for the cage is recommended. This can keep the bird calm and can help keep drafts out however be sure to place the cage in a location in the car that has adequate ventilation. Be sure to remove any containers of food and water before moving the cage so as to avoid any spills en route. Do feed and water your bird at it regular times as all small animals can birds can get dehydrated very quickly in warm weather.

Some states require a health cert for birds entering the state. The USDA may inspect this cert either at the airport or during routine roadway inspections. Have your pet bird inspected by your veterinarian prior to traveling. Some health certificates are valid for a period of time only, 10 days is common and you must travel with you pet within this period of time.

There are several ways to transport horses. Your horse can be transported by air freight, by towing or by a specialized horse transporting company. The horse transport company can use either air or road to transport horses.

By Air 
Many airlines accept horses as air freight. Generally they will only transport horses on direct flights only however check with the airline. You will be required to have a stall constructed to the airline specification requirements. You will need to ensure your horse has the necessary health checks completed prior to moving to your new home state. Remember states differ in requirements and the airlines will request to see the health certificates. The USDA may also be at the destination airport conducting inspections and may request to see the health certificates.

By Road 
Depending on the distance you need to travel, towing your horse in a trailer behind your motor vehicle may be an option. If you do not have a trailer you can consider renting one. You can also pack up tack and feed in the trailer. If you are not experienced in driving with a trailer this may not be advisable. If your trip requires you to have overnight stays you will need to book stables for your horse. These stables will require a health certificates appropriate to horses only and if they do not it is suggested you do not board your horse there. Your veterinarian may know the applicable laws of the different states and will be able to provide you with the necessary health certificates. Contact information regarding states entry requirements is at eh end of this guide. If you are unable to find a stable or lodgings for your horse in close proximity to your hotel, the hotel may allow you to keep the trailer in the parking lot overnight. In inclement weather this is not advisable. Feed and water your horse per the normal routine and clean out the stall when you have an overnight stop.

If you decide to use a horse transporting company be sure they are registered with the Interstate Commerce. You should also take out extra insurance as insurance is generally covered only to a minimum. This can be a very stress free way of moving your horse from state to state however it comes at a price.

There are strict government regulations regarding the entry of reptiles in to most states. See the states regulatory contact list at the end of this guide to find out what you need to do before moving your reptile from state to state.

As a general rule of thumb the carrier that a reptile is transported in needs to be kept moist. Place the reptile in a cloth bag and tie the top of the bag giving the reptile enough room to move about, place the bag in the shipping container. Use foam peanuts as cushioning and support and dampen some paper and place in the shipper to keep environment moist. Make sure there are air holes in the shipper for ventilation. If you are traveling overnight with your reptile you may need to place him in the tub of your hotel room at night for a nice long soak. Check if the hotel allows pets first.

Do not ship reptiles in hot or cold weather as they may be left outside for periods of time in the shipping container in the inclement weather.

Snakes must be handled with extra care especially if they are venomous. It is required by most airlines to have the snakes double crated. This means putting the snake in a crate and then placing this crate in another larger crate. Be sure there is adequate ventilation. The airline may provide you with stickers to put on all sides of the crate and you will need to write the type of snake on this label. You should also write on the sticker whether the snake is venomous or not on this.


Remember to keep the surroundings of all reptiles moist but not wet. Use a damp cloth and place inside the container is one of the best ways to do this.

Fish are notoriously difficult to move form one location to another however it can be done effectively and efficiently with some planning. It is advisable to sell as many of the fish as you can before you move to help ease the burden however if this is not an option this guide will help you understand what you need to do.

Depending on the size of your aquarium and the number and type of fish you have it may be easier to break them down to a couple of tanks. If the aquarium is 5 gallons or less it may be just as easy to move the entire aquarium. Place some cellophane over the top of the aquarium and remove and heaters and aerators. Place this container in a cooler box or Styrofoam container to regulate the temperature. This should keep the temperature constant for up to 48 hours. Ensure every 4- 5 hours to open up the cellophane to change the air. This option may be the best for tropical fish that may not do well in smaller containers with overcrowding or indeed sudden changes in water and temperature. Never leave this container in the car overnight as the temperature changes may be too drastic for the fish. If you plan to be traveling to your destination for a couple of days with your fish it is advisable to purchase a portable aerator to keep the water well oxygenated. Always pack your aquarium last in the moving truck so you can set it up quickly when you arrive at your destination.

Depending on the size or your aquarium you may need to break down the dish in to a number of smaller containers or fish bags. If you can you should use the water from the aquarium if you choose this method. In the event you do not have enough water for all the smaller use fresh or saltwater depending to the type of fish you have. It is advisable to fill the container with appropriate water and allow the water to settle for a few hours and empty and refill. Do this a couple of times and to leach any impurities out of the container material. If you have only a small number of fish and are moving only a short driving distance, you can move the fish to their new location by using plastic bags half filled with water and the other half with air. As a general guideline each fish should have at least 1-2 gallons of water. To maintain the temperature place the bags in an insulated container or Styrofoam container.

Most fish can go without food for a couple of days with no bad reaction. It is important to put healing agents in to the water

As the fish may become bruised en route .This is not uncommon and you can purchase healing agents at your local pet supply store.

When you arrive at your destination set up the aquarium as quickly as possible. You may need to add water neutralizers to the water to neutralize any chemicals. Your local pet store can advise you of any treatments the water may need.

Turn the aerator on for a while before adding the fish one at a time. Slowly and gently add the fish to the filled tank. Wait until the water settles and feed as usual.

Small Creatures 
Most small animals and mammals can be moved in their cages. These include guinea pigs, gerbils and mice. Do not place in a draughty location in the car however as adequate ventilation is necessary. Remove any water bottles so they do not spill and line the bottom of the age with newspapers. At rest stops you may can feed and water your pet as usual. Do not park in direct sunlight and do not let the car become too hot or cold .Generally small critters like the same temperatures as humans so what is hot or cold for you is hot or cold for your pet.

New community
PLEASE, PLEASE be responsible when you move and check beforehand with your new community to find out if pets are allowed. Some apartment and condominium complexes may not allow pets and if they do not then do not move there.

Some of the most common reasons people leave their pets with shelters are ‘we are moving’ and ‘my landlord will not allow pets’. Your pet is part of your family and they can become very anxious and stressed if they are being left behind in a shelter. Pets do not know why their owners are leaving them behind so do your homework beforehand to save all that heartbreak.

State and local regulations
You need to ensure your pet has some sort of easily read ID attached to its body. For dogs and cats this can be a collar and for birds a tags around the leg is appropriate. At the very least the ID tags should have your pet’s name, destination address, your name and telephone number. It is also a good idea to have an alternates name and number on the tags in the event somebody finds your lost pet and is unable to get in contact with you. You should also have rabies tags for your pet and depending on the state you live in this will most likely be a requirement. For travel your pet may be required to wear special travel which the airline will provide.