Moving with Pets

Moving homes is always stressful. You have to pack your things, arrange movers, unpack at the other end and get used to a new neighborhood, city or even country. Adding a furry friend to the mix just adds to the stress. It's not just stressful for you, though. Pets can sense that you're worried but don't understand what's changing or why there's suddenly boxes everywhere.

Key Point Module

  • 1 Begin your preparations as early as possible. Getting a pet acclimatized to a carrier or crate can take time. Airlines have regulations to follow, so if transporting animals by plane, find out what you’re required to do as soon as you know you’re moving.
  • 2 You may be planning to pack an easy access box for yourself with essentials like toilet paper and the coffee machine that you need straight away. Pack a box like this for your pets with their bowls, bed and a favorite toy to make them comfortable in their new home, and make sure it’s among the first things unpacked.
  • 3 Allow your pet to slowly get used to their new home. Try keeping them in one room with bed, bowls and other essentials for a little while before introducing them to the rest of the house. Don’t be surprised if it takes them some time to be comfortable in the new space.
  • 4 Make sure your details are up to date on their pet tags. It’s a good idea to get them microchipped and update details in the database as well so that they can find their way home if they do go exploring.

Every move and every pet is different, but there are tips that work in almost every situation. A proper plan can help you make sure your pet will be looked after while preparing the move and through moving day. Knowing what to expect in advance can also help you and your pets get settled into a new home.

Taking Care of Medicals

The first step to looking after your pet’s health through a move is talking to your vet. They should have some recommendations on how to prepare your pet for travel, whether that’s training them to get used to the car or using mild medications, so they’re not overly stressed while on the road. If your pet isn’t already microchipped, your vet can take care of this and make sure that their shots are up to date and that they have a current rabies tag.

If you’re moving out of the area, you can also take time to get ready for your new vet. Grab a copy of your pet’s medical records to take with you and ask if your current vet has any recommendations for a vet in your new neighborhood. Organize a new vet before you leave your old home so that you’re not caught out if your pet has a medical emergency. It’s also a good idea to make an appointment for a check-up with the new vet so you can be reassured of your pet’s health after the move.

Keep Your Routine

Make sure you stick to a routine both before and after your move. Your pets will find it reassuring if they’re getting fed and walked at their normal time as you pack and once you’re in a new space. Make sure you keep their bowls and bed in the same place right up to moving day. It’s also ideal to pack them in a separate box so they can be unpacked promptly, and your pet can start learning where their space will be in the new home.

You should also make sure that your routine doesn’t differ too much. Try to pack over a few days so you get enough sleep rather than staying up all night to get it done. This ensures your pet gets enough sleep as well and it will help them know that things aren’t changing too much.

Keep Them Separate on Moving Day

Moving day brings new people making a lot of noise, which can be stressful for pets. If possible, find somewhere else for your pet to be on that day. If you have an animal-loving friend offering to help you move, ask if they can look after your pet at their house while everything is moved into the truck. This not only stops your pet becoming distressed but also ensures that they can’t dart out between the feet of people maneuvering a bed out the front door. Doggy day care or a cat care facility are other moving day options.

If you must keep your pet at home, make sure they’re kept secure. A separate room that’s already been emptied is a good choice. Put their toys, bed and water bowl in the room with them, and keep the door closed. Add a big sign on the door saying, “Do Not Open, Pet Inside” and drop in to give them a cuddle when you get a chance.

Pets on the Journey

If it’s possible, keep your pets with you as you travel. This gives them familiarity and means you can keep an eye on their stress levels. If you have to transport them by plane, start planning early to make sure that they can be on the same plane as you. Get familiar with the airline’s regulations including any paperwork needed and crate or cage size, so that you don’t get to the airport and find you can’t transport your pet. If possible, travel during spring or fall, as many airlines won’t take pets if the temperature is too hot or cold. Don’t medicate any animal going into the cargo hold. Reactions to sedatives can be unpredictable, especially coupled with the stress of travel, and this can be risky for pets left unattended in the cargo hold.

In the New Home

Establish your pet’s new territory early by putting out their bowls, beds, crates and toys as soon as you arrive. Let them explore the new space slowly. Dogs should be kept on a lead so they feel safe at your side, while cats and other animals may be kept in a single room and slowly introduced to the rest of the house. Don’t be surprised if it takes some time for them to get used to their new abode. Even the best house-trained pet may have an accident if they can’t remember how to get to their litter tray or the doggy door.

If it’s possible, take a few extra days off after the move to spend with your animal so they feel reassured in their new home. This also gives you time to check with the Homeowner’s Association or local municipality to make sure your pet has all the right vaccinations, certificates and is properly licensed.

Moving Tips for Specific Types of Animals

Cats

If your cat isn’t used to a pet carrier, start getting them acclimated early. Put blankets and treats inside so they’re comfortable and once they’re used to the carrier, take them for quick 10-minute drives so they get used to the car. Once in their new home, cats may disappear for a few days and often look for small, dark corners. Keep to a routine and consider keeping them in one room for a while before letting them explore the rest of the house.

Dogs

If possible, take dogs for walks in the new neighborhood before you move so they get used to the sights and smells. Make sure you don’t isolate them while you’re packing, as this adds to their stress. Instead, let them investigate what you’re doing. Make sure you have room for the dog in your car, especially if they’re a large breed. If there’s a lot of travel, factor in toilet breaks or stops at pet-friendly motels. Even if your dog has good recall, keep them on-leash when walking in your new neighborhood until they get to know their way home.

Fish

Fish don’t respond well to stress and may not survive a long move. If you’re only moving a short distance, they can be transported in a bag filled with old tank water. Your local aquarium store can give you advice and the supplies you need. However, if you’re moving overseas or cross-country, you may wish to consider gifting your fish to a friend and buying a new one in your new home.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs don’t respond well to being jostled around. Transport them in a small, warm and comfortable carrier, and make sure it’s secure in the car so it doesn’t move too much during the journey.

Birds

Even well-trained birds can fly the coop in stressful situations, so make sure they’re caged on moving day and cover the cage when it’s in the car to help relieve stress. Give them time to get used to their new home before you let them out of the cage, and make sure they’re inside and all escape routes are blocked the first time you let them out.

Reptiles & Amphibians

The importation of reptiles and amphibians is restricted in some states, so make sure you know the rules of your new state and city. They need a health certificate signed by a vet no more than 10 days before traveling. Make sure their carrier doesn’t have anything that could fall and hurt them if jostled and add a heating or cooling pack, depending on the time of year, especially if transporting by plane.

Although pets add another layer of complexity to a move, some research and planning can help ensure that the journey goes smoothly. Taking the time to consider their needs can help alleviate everyone’s stress and make settling into a new home fun for you and the animal members of your family.