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Moving Pets

Dog and Boxes

Making the right preparations before you move can minimize stress on your pets. This can be as important as the move itself — familiar settings are disrupted as furniture gets moved and belongings packed away. A cat or dog will wonder who all these strangers are (potential buyers, inspectors, movers) and what’s happening to the pet’s familiar “territory” (changed location of food, favorite sleeping places, litter boxes, etc.), which is how an animal sees your home.

For that reason, consider changing the landscape a little more — on the animal’s behalf. Designate a room to stay just for your pet while the move proceeds around them, with their familiar toys, food and water bowls, litter box (for cats), and so forth. This will give them a reassuring (if rearranged) space to stay during the moving process.


Pets, of course, cannot be shipped in moving vans, but your mover can give you advice on how to move your pet.

If the pet travels with you, it will retain a sense of identity. However, pets can become frightened and bolt away from you through open doors or windows. Keep your pet on a leash, or in a crate or carrier, when outside your car or hotel.

Whether your pet travels with you or by another means, it should wear a special identification tag. Write the pet’s name, your name and a destination address, or that of a friend or relative, in case you need to be reached.

Except for guide dogs, pets are not permitted on buses and trains. Notify the airline, bus or train company if a guide dog is accompanying you.

If you decide to ship your pet by air, make arrangements ahead of time regarding delivery and pickup from the airports. Boarding may be necessary. Check the airline’s requirements to see if your pet can travel in a carrier that can be kept under the seat in the cabin, or must travel as air freight. Consult with your veterinarian concerning mild sedation of your pet during the trip.

Consider sending smaller pets such as birds, hamsters, gerbils and tropical fish by air express. Airline freight departments, pet stores or department stores can supply shipping containers. Tropical fish should be packed by a local pet shop specializing in tropical fish.

State Entry Requirements

CatIf your move is across state lines, nearly every state has laws on the entry of animals, with the exception of tropical fish. Such information can be found online or by contacting the appropriate state agency.

Interstate health certificates must accompany at least dogs and horses entering nearly all states. About half have the same requirements for other pets. In some cases, this certificate must be in the hands of the state regulatory agency in advance of the entry.

Most states require an up-to-date rabies inoculation for dogs and may require it for cats. The rabies tag must be securely attached to the pet’s collar. Hawaii requires that cats and dogs be quarantined for 120 days.

Some pets must have an entry permit issued by the destination state’s regulatory agency. Receipt of the interstate health certificate may be required before the permit can be issued. Some states limit the time during which the entry permit is valid.

A few states have border inspection of all animals being transported; others have random inspection by state law enforcement officers. State agricultural representatives are usually present at airports to inspect pets arriving by air.

Local Laws

Local communities have pet control and licensing ordinances. In some cases, the number of dogs and cats per residence is limited. Large animals, such as ponies and horses, may be prohibited. Be sure to check with the city clerk or town hall for specific information.

Let’s assume that you have arrived at your new home with your pet. You may find that your pet has some of the same problems adjusting as the other members of your household. It must learn the layout of the new house and neighborhood. Pets that spend time outdoors must meet new human and animal neighbors.

It is a good idea to keep pets inside the home as much as possible until they realize that this is their new home and not a temporary residence. They have sometimes been known to try to return to their previous home. This is especially true for cats; they should be confined for several weeks (and will be safer indoors from the start regardless).

Make the animal feel at home by using familiar dishes, blanket, bed, toys and other items. Check with your neighbors to identify any special problems outside that your pet might encounter.

If you carefully plan your move with your pet, the transition from your old to your new home will go smoothly.


Travel by Air

  • Make reservations well in advance. Follow airline instructions.
  • Obtain a shipping container a week or two in advance. Familiarize your pet with it by placing the pet in it for a few minutes each day. Gradually lengthen the time until the pet seems at ease with it.
  • Carefully schedule boarding and shipping arrangements for your pet so that the pet is well cared for until you are able to receive it at your new home.
  • Feed the pet no less than fix to six hours before flight time. Give the pet a drink of water no less than two hours before flight.
  • If the pet is accompanying you, allow extra time at the airport. If shipping the pet, get to the freight terminal two hours in advance of your flight.
  • Be certain that names, addresses and telephone numbers of persons responsible for the pet at origin and destination are clearly marked on the container and on the pet’s identification tag.

Travel by Car

  • If your dog or cat is not used to traveling by car, make short trips with the pet beginning a week or two before the trip to accustom it to motion and to teach it how to behave.
  • Dogs should be taught to lie quietly, keep their heads inside and not annoy the driver or passengers. Don’t let your dog stick his head in the wind; it can irritate eyes and cause problems.
  • Cats are often frightened by car travel, but most adjust quickly. Although some owners allow the cat to find its own place in the car, others feel it is best to confine a cat to its own carrier.
  • Accustom your pet to being on a leash if not part of its normal routine, and always use a leash when traveling. Pets can bolt into traffic or become lost in a strange place if not properly restrained.
  • If you must stop overnight, check in advance to find lodging that will allow your pet to spend the night.
  • Be sure your pet is properly tagged and its rabies tag firmly attached.
  • Your pet travel kit should include: food and water dishes; can opener if needed; a few treats; a favorite toy; a blanket; and comb or brush.
  • Also, to be on the safe side: a sedative (if prescribed by your veterinarian), paper towels, and a scooper and plastic bags to clean up after your pet.