Moving Pets

Moving with pets presents a whole array of special requirements and challenges in addition to the need of packing, loading and transporting all of the household goods and family possessions to an entirely new location.


Pets require a great deal of consideration prior to a move; they must be prepared sometimes for a few weeks leading up to the actual day of the move or relocation. This is especially true if an animal is going to have to travel a great distance by car or air.


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Additionally, state and local regulations about pet licensing and vaccinations will apply, and it is a good idea to make sure that all house pets meet the legal requirements prior to the move. It is also a great idea to find a new vet and have all of the pet’s records transferred prior to moving as well.


The needs of the animal vary according to their species and their lifestyle, and a set of tips for relocating dogs, cats and fish are listed below.


Because dogs are more attached to their owners than their surroundings, they don’t present the same issues as cats. In order to adequately prepare a dog for a move or relocation it is a good idea to:

• Reassure them verbally. As funny as it sounds most veterinarians suggest speaking about the upcoming move in soothing tones to the dog (or cat), especially when introducing them to carrying containers or new leashes and leads.

• Bring along all of their old toys and accessories to help them make the transition into the new environment. Giving them something to do will also reduce the stress of a journey or moving day, and favorite toys are the best distraction

• Relocate the dog(s) on moving day, or isolate them in a safe and secure room. There are many sad stories of pets escaping outdoors and getting lost or injured during a moving process.

• Get tags made for their collar and leash with the new address and phone number attached in case of any mishaps or “escapes” when settling into the new neighborhood.

• Acclimate them to road travel if a long car ride is ahead, begin taking them on car trips or out when you run errands in the weeks leading up to the move. This can help them to get used to car travel, eliminating sickness and fear when they are on the way to the new family home.

• Get a comprehensive veterinarian examination in the weeks prior to the move, especially if the dog(s) will be traveling by air to their new destination. Air travel requires the animal to arrive at the airport approximately three hours prior to departure, and then to make the journey, after which they may have an additional lengthy car ride. This is a lot of stress for even the most relaxed dog or cat, and should be taken into serious consideration.

• Walk them often in the first few days of living in the new neighborhood. This will allow them to understand their new territory and reassure them about any new encounters such as traffic crossings or new scents at the “doggie park”.


Felines are very particular animals. They are notorious for their aloof independence and their seeming lack of interest in a great deal of the family life around them, but this is mostly “bluff”. Cats are very connected to their surroundings and the people that share their home, and relocation can take a toll on a cat’s usual calm. When preparing for a move or relocation it is a good idea to:

• Constantly reassure them. Usually as soon as boxes appear and possessions begin to disappear into them, cats will begin to get uneasy. Many people speak about new patterns of behavior – mostly bad behaviors – in reaction to the beginning stages of packing. For example, some cats begin to verbalize in unusual ways, others may mark with urine and some may become destructive to paper and cardboard in response to the “threat”. It is best to consider such behaviors as a poor reaction to stress rather than a sign of serious trouble. If such behaviors continue long after the move it may need professional, veterinarian assistance.

• Create a “safe haven” by keeping out all of their usual “stuff”. If a cat has a certain cushion, blanket or box it likes to sleep in, then it is best to leave it exactly where it is. Additionally, don’t eliminate any of the cat’s toys or other possessions, and pack them only on the day of the move in order to maintain a normal environment for the animal(s).

• Introduce them to their carrier very early. Around six to eight weeks before the move introduce the cat(s) to their carrier. Place a popular towel or blanket inside, and frequently get them to enter the crate by throwing a toy or plaything for them inside of it. This allows the carrier to become a comfortable and familiar location in which a lengthy journey can be made.

• Let them “bunk” with their owner. Even if it is strictly “taboo” to have the household pets in bed with their owners, in the days prior to the move and immediately afterwards a cat may need a great deal of reassurance from its owner. Because cats are more connected to their “turf” and not necessarily to the people within it, their owners may seem like the only remaining area of familiarity and it would do the cat(s) a great deal of good to bed down with their familiar friends.

• Reassure them verbally each time they explore their carrier or the moving boxes. Though the language is not comprehendible to the cat(s), the soothing tones will be.

• While dogs can be taken for car trips prior to moving day, cats might be a bit more difficult to pack up and drive around. The best bet is to mildly sedate them if the journey is going to be very complicated. A comprehensive checkup at the veterinarian in the weeks before the move is critical to cats traveling successfully either by air or land.


Moving with fish requires a bit of preparation, and should be planned a few days prior to the move in order allow adequate time to make all of the necessary arrangements. The best way to move fish is to consult with a local pet supplies store about the appropriate transportation method for the variety fish owned. For example, tropical fish may have needs a bit more specific than most fresh water fish. Some pet supplies stores sell transportation vessels for fish of all sizes, and many people construct their own using a variety of methods and supplies. If a journey is going to make it difficult to transport fish, it is best to find a new home for them in the months prior to the move, in this way an aquarium can be located during a time that is less chaotic.

See also:

Moving your Plants