Moving With Pets: Taking Your Furred and Feathered Friends Along

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When politician Mitt Romney traveled long-distance with his dog, Seamus, in a roof-top pet carrier, he showed the world one way not to transport your pet – especially if you’re running for office. Let’s get this out of the way up front – don’t put pets in the trunk of your car or in the bed of a pick-up truck if you’re moving. In some states, it’s even against the law to transport a dog or cat without a seatbelt.

Before You Move

Research travel regulations for pets for all the states you’ll travel through. If your trip includes overnight stops, research pet-friendly hotels on your path.

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Dinner in the hotel.

Almost every U.S. state requires a valid interstate health certificate for dogs or horses, so make sure this paperwork is lined up in advance of your trip. During that pre-trip check-up, you may also want to ask your vet about sedatives or motion sickness medication if you foresee any problems with your pet during the drive. Find out what permits or licenses you may need for pets once they arrive at your new home. If you’re traveling with exotic animals, make sure they are legal to own in your new state.

The ASPCA recommends micro-chipping your pet and outfitting them with ID tags that include your cell phone number. Pets sometimes get lost or left behind at rest stops, and an ID tag and microchip improve the odds they will be returned to you.

Reduce Moving Stress for Your Pet

On moving day, keep your pet confined to one room of your home or to their crate until you’re ready to load them in your car. This reduces the possibility that your pet will run away if a door is left open and keeps them from getting underfoot when the moving crew is carrying heavy items. Because all the comings and goings of a move can agitate your pet, having a safe haven also reduces your pet’s moving day stress.

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Happy cat in a box.

Packing for Your Pet

Just as you pack a bag of essentials for human travelers, your four-legged friend requires certain items for the trip. Most of the items in your overnight bag are for comfort and hygiene (toothbrush, pajamas, pillow, reading material, etc.) Your pets aren’t that different, except you’ll find a large percentage of their travel needs involve disposing of waste.

Most animals won’t want to eat much on the road, but you should pack a bag of your pet’s favorite food, along with a spill-proof water dish and a gallon of bottled water. Make sure to offer food and water to your pet whenever you stop. And it doesn’t hurt to keep a baggie of their favorite treats nearby to reward good behavior.

Pack plastic gloves, plastic bags, and a pooper-scooper to clean up after your dog at rest stops. Cats can often go eight to 10 hours without using the litter box during a trip, but pack a portable litter box, litter, and a scoop for overnight stops in a hotel room.

To make the trip more comfortable, pack a few of your pet’s favorite toys and maybe a favorite blanket.

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Glad for a familiar blanket.

Traveling with small animals requires similar items: food, a water bottle, toys, newspaper to line the bottom of the carrier, plus extra newspaper, plastic bags, and a scoop to clean the carrier as needed.

Moving Your Pet

Transport your small dog, cat, other four-legged furry animal (rabbit, ferret, chinchilla, dwarf hamster), or bird in a hard-shelled pet carrier, secured in the back seat of your vehicle using the seatbelt. Leave enough room on all sides for ventilation and interaction.

Larger dogs have more options, as they can use a dog seatbelt in the backseat, or the same cage or crate they sleep in at home.

If your pet isn’t used to travel, acclimate them to the carrier in advance. First, leave the carrier open in your house with some treats inside. When your pet enters the carrier, praise them. After a week or so, when your pet is comfortable entering and exiting the carrier on their own, go on a few short trips with them in the carrier. By the time moving day arrives, your pet should be a travel pro.

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Getting used to a kitty carrier.

Most pets will be comfortable in the same climate as their human traveling companions. If you’re traveling with a reptile or tropical birds, make sure the car is warm enough for them. Never leave any pets alone in a locked car for any length of time.

Make frequent stops to give your canine companions time to drink water, relieve themselves, or just run around and play.

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Rest stop play time – chasing gophers.

Flying with Animals

With all the preparation, acclimation, packing, and poop-scooping driving with pets entails, it may seem easier to fly. However, the Humane Society of the U.S (HSUS) warns against transporting pets by plane “unless absolutely necessary.” The HSUS also warns against placing any animals in the cargo hold. If it is absolutely necessary, small animals, including small dogs, can fly in the cabin with human passengers, in a TSA-approved carrier. Book your flight well in advance, as airlines often limit the number of pets permitted on a flight, and make sure your specific airline allows your breed of pet and the carrier you plan to use.

The TSA website reminds passengers to bring a leash or harness to restrain your pet while the pet and carrier go through the security checkpoint separately. The TSA also advises checking with individual airlines about specific policies for flying with pets.

Shipping Your Pet

Companies like We Move Pets offer safe ground shipping of dogs, cats, birds, and reptiles. They will make sure all your animals’ paperwork and health certificates are in order and then safely and comfortably transport your pets.

Making the Right Choice

Your travel choice for your pets depends on the travel distance, your pet’s temperament, and your budget. Whatever mode of transportation you choose, follow all state regulations and common sense guidelines to ensure a safe journey for your pet.

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Exploring the new house.

About the author

Jess once moved from Tennessee to Utah and about a dozen places in between. She loves reading, researching, and being outdoors with her husband and two silly puppies.