Moving with Pets

There is a lot to accomplish when moving with your cat or dog. Even if you are a seasoned mover, relocating with pets involves a different set of challenges. As you undertake the journey of packing up your home and moving to a new one, remember that animals pick up on your state of mind. So be as relaxed as possible throughout the process. Cats, specifically, don’t adapt well to change, they thrive on constancy. And you may observe your pup working through some stress reactions like tummy troubles, withdrawing to quiet places, and sleeping more. Moving with canine and feline friends is a process that requires research and planning. With some careful preparation and thoughtful execution of the move, both humans and critters alike will have a positive moving experience.

Research, planning, and paperwork

Check state rules, local ordinances, and any HOA policies that might contain breed restrictions or bans. The local animal control facility will be able to answer questions about required vaccinations, licensing, certificates, etc. Become familiar with any regulations or restrictions in your new area such as leash laws, licensing, and poop ordinances.

Visit your current veterinarian to update vaccinations and refill any regular prescriptions your furry friend needs. While you are there, obtain a copy of your pet’s medical records and request a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI)/health certificate. You might be asked for this while traveling, especially if you are stopped along the way.

Update your location and contact information in the microchip database. If your pets are not microchipped, consider having it done prior to the move. Buy ID tags with new contact information and take photographs to have on hand during the trip in case you are separated from your pet in the moving process.

Research new veterinarians or ask your current veterinarian for a recommendation in the new area. It is also a good idea find out where the nearest emergency clinic is located. During the weeks leading up to the move, socialize dogs more, and take practice overnight trips, if possible, to help your dog or cat experience hotel living prior to the actual move. Also, increase the number of walks or play sessions to ensure your pets use their energy in a productive manner during this potentially stressful time.

Packing up

Remember that animals feel your energy. Over activity on your part can be stressful for them (and you) so pack slowly, not overnight. This will help your animals casually adjust to the concept. Let animals smell the packing process and explore around the packing boxes and materials – just check inside before taping up a box! Stick to your pet’s routine of food, walks, etc. leading up to the move but consider keeping outdoor cats inside as they may become skittish once packing begins.

You should familiarize your animals with their travel kennel/carrier or seatbelt harness. Leave travel carriers/crates out and about moving from blankets, treats, and toys inside with the door open to serving meals inside the container with the door closed. Be sure to use sturdy, well-ventilated carriers and crates. Take short (and then longer) car trips to practice with carriers, crates, and seatbelt harnesses.

On moving day, remove your pets from your home, if possible. They would much prefer the experience of a pet day care or a friend’s house to the chaos of moving. If you can’t remove your pets, keep them crated in a quiet room with a “Do Not Enter” sign. Pack pet belongings last so Fido isn’t without his favorite bone and move the house before you move your pets. Fluffy and friends should be the LAST thing loaded into the vehicle.


Drive if you can. In 2017, 18 animals died on commercial flights and another 13 were injured. It is also recommended that you travel with your pet, if possible, instead of hiring an animal transport company. Your cat or dog will experience a less stressful move if they are not separated from their family in addition to the other anxieties of moving.

Have pets wear collars and/or harnesses during the move for easier emergency handling. Rabies tags and IDs should be attached to their collars. Consider adding a travel tag that indicates your pet is in the middle of a move and provide an alternate contact in case you cannot be reached or found. Be sure to carry rabies vaccination certificates and health certificates with you in the vehicle in case they are requested by a hotel or law enforcement officer.

Pack a separate bag for your pet and include all critter medications in your travel kit. Bring extra doses in case of unforeseen delays in receiving your household items. Pack your pet’s favorite food and treats, a no-spill water bowl, toys, a disposable litter box for cats, leashes for dogs, and any necessary grooming tools. Bring towels and paper towels for muddy paws, slobber, and other messes, and don’t forget the plastic waste bags for picking up after your pooches.

For dogs, take copious bathroom breaks – every 4-6 hours for stretching and potty is a good rule of thumb. Be cautious when you stop and open vehicle doors although, for everyone’s safety, it is best while traveling to keep your animals in a crate/carrier or seatbelt harness or gated in a small area of vehicle. Most animals will not eat or drink while in the car but be sure to offer water when you stop for breaks. Cover cat carriers to help reduce nausea and keep Fluffy from getting freaked out by the world moving by. Don’t wash animal blankets prior to the move – keep them smelling like Fido or Fluffy to bring your pet some comfort during the ride. Confirm pet-friendly accommodations if your move includes a multiple day drive and examine hotel rooms for hidden dangers prior to releasing your pet from a carrier or leash.

At the new home

Pets should be kept in a safe, quiet space while belongings are being moved into your new home. Do a full inspection of the new house before releasing your pets. Make sure there are no odd nooks, inside or out, that might pose a danger. Remove any mousetraps or poison and flush/clean all toilets in case the previous owners dumped something before they left that might be harmful to Fido or Fluffy. Look for and remove toxic plants, fill any holes in the yard, and block open window wells. Assess fences for weak boards, holes and escape points. Look for pets in neighboring houses and yards to anticipate any possible animal interactions. Check all doors and windows for sturdiness and their screens for holes.

Keep your pets in one room to begin with then slowly introduce them to the rest of the house. Critters need to familiarize themselves with the new home gradually. If the previous owners also had pets, you may want to hire a company to eliminate any lingering pet odors.

Unpack your pet’s belongings first. Put out bowls, toys, etc. in relatively similar places to where they were in the old home. Re-establish your pet’s regular schedule as soon as possible and account for a time change immediately. Walk dogs around the area so they learn scents and begin marking their territory and find dog friendly locations in the new area to begin socializing them. It is not unusual for animals to lose their appetites during and shortly after a move. Contact your vet if food avoidance continues for an extended period of time. Cats may disappear for a few days under a bed or into a closet and you may also observe unusual potty behavior for a bit. It might take longer than normal for Fido to pick a spot to do his business or Fluffy might leave some atypical gifts in the litter box.

Moving can be stressful for humans, let alone pets. Remember to maintain your calm throughout the process to keep your pet’s anxiety low and expect some challenges along the way. If you have any questions or concerns about moving with your pets, I would happy to share my experiences and expertise - contact me today!