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Guide to Moving With Pets (2024)

Default Author Icon Written by Shane Sentelle Updated 04/09/2024

Pet owners face several challenges when relocating, from finding pet-friendly accommodations to ensuring their pets’ safety during travel. Even the thought of uprooting pets and introducing them to a new environment can be overwhelming. That’s why we put together this comprehensive guide to moving with pets, including how to handle moving day and which professional moving services can take care of the logistics so you can focus on your pet.

Planning Ahead for Moving With Pets

Careful preparation will make the moving process much less stressful for you and your furry family member. Follow these steps as you calculate your moving costs and plan the logistics of your move.

Research Local Laws

First, consult the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website to determine what, if any, animal health requirements your pets must meet in your new location. Select your destination from the drop-down menu, and you will be redirected to the appropriate state-specific web page. Also, research the pet licensing laws or restrictions set by your new state, county, or municipal government.

Visit Your Veterinarian

Make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your upcoming move. Only your vet can provide specific recommendations for your pet. Ask about steps to ease the transition, travel tips, and whether your pet will need medication for motion sickness or anxiety. Get copies of your pet’s health records, too. You may need to present proof of vaccination when booking travel or accommodations.

Find Pet-Friendly Housing

Keep your pet in mind as you shop for a new house or apartment. Some landlords and homeowners associations (HOAs) set restrictions regarding the type, size, or number of pets you can have. Consider where you will walk your dog or where the cat’s litter box will go. Look for potential pet dangers in your new neighborhood, such as unattended dogs, feral cats, or poisonous plants.

Update Pet ID Information

If your pet is microchipped, update the registry with your new address. If not, consider microchipping your pet before your move. Also, ensure that your pet has a collar with up-to-date ID tags. Make sure your name and phone number are easy to read.

Make Travel Arrangements

Decide whether you will fly or drive to your destination and consider how your pet fits into those plans. Review the ASPCA’s travel safety tips for information about air travel and road trips with your furry friends. If you drive, look for pet-friendly hotels and read tips from licensed vets or seasoned travelers online.

When it comes to flying, it’s important to make early arrangements. Small pets, like cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, and even small breed dogs, may be able to ride under your seat in the plane cabin, but it’s crucial to confirm these arrangements with the airline in advance. Larger pets can typically ride in the cargo hold in a USDA-approved shipping crate. Regardless of your pet’s size, it’s essential to carefully review the airline’s policies and, if possible, book a direct flight to minimize stress and potential risks.

Alternatively, research pet shipping companies and full-service movers that offer pet relocation services. Ask your vet for their thoughts. If you have room in your moving budget, let professionals safely and conveniently transport your pet.

Avoid Last-Minute Packing

We recommend packing gradually unless you hire a long-distance moving company or professional packers to help with your move. Cats, in particular, may not handle sudden change well—and turning your home into a pile of boxes a few days before you move definitely would definitely count as a sudden change.

Instead, bring the moving boxes into your home early and pack gradually. If your pet tends to eat or destroy packing materials like plastic wrap, packing peanuts, or cardboard, keep them off the floor. Keep your pets’ things in a familiar room and pack them last so it has a safe retreat and plenty of time to adjust to the changes.

Acclimate Pets to a Crate

In most cases, your pet must be confined to a crate for their safety during the move. Purchase an appropriately sized USDA-approved crate a few weeks before moving day and get your pet acclimated.

Start by placing its food inside the open crate, then transition your pet to eating inside the crate with the door closed. Carry your pet inside the crate around the house or go on a few practice drives so it gets used to the motion. After each training session, provide a treat or playtime so your pet develops a positive association with its crate.

Amidst the chaos of moving day, it’s important to keep your pet’s safety and comfort top of mind. Follow these tips to make the moving experience as stress-free as possible.

Keep pets in a safe, quiet room away from the hustle and bustle of your final preparations. This is especially important if you hire local or interstate movers, as the unfamiliar faces and flurry of activity will likely increase your pet’s anxiety. Confining your pet to its crate or a closed room will prevent it from darting out an open door as you or the movers carry boxes outside. 

Alternatively, you can board your pets at a familiar kennel, hire a pet sitter, drop them off at a pet daycare, or take them to a friend’s house for the day. As you think through your options, remember that the goal is to keep your pets safe and reduce their anxiety.

On your moving day and the days immediately before and after, stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Pack your pet’s essentials, such as its bed and water bowl. Keep favorite toys handy, and make time for regular walks or playtime. Take frequent breaks during the drive and feed it on schedule. The fewer changes in your pet’s day-to-day life, the smoother the transition.

Just as you would pack a bag of essentials for yourself, prepare a travel kit for your pet. Include food, bottled water, a bowl, a leash, basic grooming supplies, health records, treats, and any medication or supplements your vet prescribes. You should also pack a comfort item, such as a familiar blanket or a favorite toy.

If your pet travels with you by car to your new home, ensure it is properly restrained during the drive. Keep your pet in a crate or use a harness that attaches to the seatbelt. Keep the windows rolled up, and avoid leaving your pet in the car unattended. Never transport a pet in an open truck bed or moving van.

Settling In With Pets

After move-in day, focus on helping your pets settle into their new surroundings. Here are a few tasks that should be on your post-move to-do list.

Choose a Home Base

Rather than letting your pets loose to explore the entire house immediately, designate one room as a home base. Keep your pet and everything it needs here while you pet-proof the rest of the house. Once your pet seems comfortable in this new space, gradually introduce it to other rooms in the house.

Pet-Proof Your New Home

As you unpack, take a little extra time to pet-proof your home. Make sure electrical cords are tucked away. Check that window screens are secure and install childproof latches to keep pets out of cabinets. Remove any plants and pest-control traps that are poisonous or otherwise dangerous to pets.

Find a New Veterinarian

If you haven’t already, find a vet in your new city and transfer your pet’s health records. Schedule a routine checkup with your new vet and ensure your pet’s vaccines are current. It’s important to do this as soon as possible. Scheduling an appointment during an emergency will be much easier if your pet is already an established patient.

Comply With Local Laws

Comply with local pet laws, which may involve scheduling or providing proof of rabies vaccinations and paying a license fee. Check with your city or county government for more information.

Our Conclusion

Planning ahead and prioritizing your pet’s comfort can make your upcoming move a more pleasant experience for the entire family. Research local laws, talk to your vet, and update your pet’s microchip or ID tags before the move. Stick to your normal routine as much as possible and arrange pet transportation well in advance. Keep pets properly restrained on moving day, and allow them to adjust to their new surroundings gradually.

FAQ About Moving With Pets

How do I move out of state with animals?

Follow these steps for an interstate move with animals:

  1. Research state regulations for bringing pets across the border.
  2. Visit the vet for any necessary vaccines and health certificates.
  3. Make pet-friendly travel arrangements.
  4. Microchip your pets and update identification tags.
  5. Keep pet essentials and comfort items nearby.
  6. Introduce pets to their new environment gradually.
  7. Find a new veterinarian and comply with local pet laws.

What are the best ways to transport pets when moving?

The best way to transport pets when driving is in a crate or your car’s seatbelt harness. Research the airline’s crate requirements for air travel and book a nonstop flight if possible. Most moving companies will not move pets, but you can hire a pet relocation company if your pet cannot travel with you.

How long does it take for a dog to adjust to a move?

It depends. Some dogs adjust to a move within a few days, while others may take weeks to settle in fully. You can help by sticking to your pup’s normal routine and making extra time for play.

What is the “Rule of Three” for pets?

The “Rule of Three” for pets refers to how long it takes for your dog or cat to adjust to a new environment. The first three days will be the hardest for your pet, so focus on helping it feel safe and comfortable. It will adapt to its new routine and surroundings during the next three weeks. Your pet will be fully settled in after three months.

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