Moving With Pets

5 Ways to Minimize Their Stress When Moving With Pets

When your pets sees their family throwing things into moving boxes, they will start to wonder what is happening to their world. They not only see physical disruption, but also, sense your excitement, anxiety or stress. You may not have given them the regular attention they crave due to your extra busy schedule. And, it’s about to get worse.

On moving day there will be noise, commotion, strangers, doors or gates left open and all kinds of stress. The risk is high for your pet to become ill, start acting out, panic, run away or get lost.

A friend told me a story about a pet cat who loved to hide in the bottom of a box spring. In preparation for the move, the box spring was picked up by a charity. It was an anxious few days with repeated calls to the charity before the volunteerslooked more closely for the missing feline. Sure enough, he was eventually found, hiding inside his favorite box spring at the charity’s warehouse. This story had a happy ending but it is a reminder of the potential for disaster at moving time.

Here are some tips to help keep your move as stress free as possible for both you and your beloved pet.

Will You Need a New Veterinarian?

If you are moving out of your current vet’s service area, consult them at the very beginning or your moving plans. They can help you make sure your pet is fit for travel. If you are travelling out of Province, State or Country you will need health certificates and vaccination records. In some cases the required shots must be administered six months in advance so plan early.  The topics of International Travel and Air Travel with Pets are beyond the scope of this article.  However, even for a shorter move you may need copies of the pet’s records and a recommendation for a new vet.

How Will You Get to Your New Home?

Household movers are not allowed to take live animals in the moving van.

Buses and trains often prohibit animals other than service animals. Here is a site with more information about pets on public transportation in various jurisdictions.

Air travel restrictions are complex. Consult your preferred transportation providers as early as possible for details. If you will need your pet to be shipped consult the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) at to find a member pet shipper.

The simplest way for you to move your pets to a new home is to travel with them by automobile.

How Can You Minimize Their Stress?

  1. Prioritize pet care. Do not neglect it or disrupt their exercise and feeding routine during this time. It might make them sick or cause them to ‘act out’.
  2. Packing – Leave a couple of empty packing boxes out on the floor so you dog or cat can become familiar with the strange objects which are soon going to be a prominent feature in the house. Start your packing early so you can do it a bit at a time and leave moving day relatively stress free.
  3. Designate a Pet Room. At some time during the selling, packing and moving process, the physical disruption, excitement of new visitors and the unusual activities can become overwhelming for a pet. Setting aside a small room as a pet room can help. Move everything not pet related out of the room. Put the pets with their open kennels, their food, water and toys all in the room. Shut the door and label it “Pet Room – Do Not Disturb”. The idea is not to create solitary confinement; it is to keep the excitement manageable and to keep things feeling secure and normal for them. On moving day, they can be kept undisturbed and safe in their pet room with the door shut.
  4. Consider boarding the pet with friends, family or a good kennel or pet day-care. This is the preferred option when the home is being shown for sale and is worth continuing during the hectic packing stage.
  5. Get your pet used to anything new. If you don’t have a carrier cage, get a properly sized one now and get your pet accustomed to it. Carrier cages should be large enough to hold food and water bowls plus a small litter box for cats. Unrestrained animals in a vehicle are not safe. A Doggie Seat Belt or Canine Auto Safety Harness is an alternative to a kennel for traveling dogs. If the pet is not accustomed to traveling in a vehicle, take short rides to gradually get them used to it. If you don’t have a leash for your cat, get one now and get them accustomed to using it. You will need to have them on leash for exercise during the trip and until they settle into their new outdoor surroundings.If your animal is not used to wearing a collar, they may need to get used to wearing one with identification and license tags in case they become lost during the trip. Do not use choker collars. Breakaway collars are recommended for cats.

Prepare for travel.

    • Allow extra travel time so you will be able to stop every two hours and allow your pet to have a little exercise, some water, and perhaps a bit of food.
    • Arrange for pet friendly accommodation if your trip requires overnight stops. To find pet friendly hotels, search your location on this site:
    • If the pet has long claws that can be trimmed it is good to do so in order to avoid claws being stuck on their crate and hurting the pet.
    • To minimize odors, have the pet bathed and groomed before the trip.
    • Prepare travel tags. These should contain information to reach you if you become separated from your pet – your cell phone number, address and phone numbers where you will be staying while away from home.
    • Prepare your vehicle. Be sure cages will be restrained securely in case of sudden stops.Are heater and/or air conditioner working properly? Pets, especially small ones, are sensitive to temperature extremes.
    • Assemble travel supplies and records. Below is a checklist of things to bring.

Pet Travel Checklist:

Include enough supplies for travel days and at least the first day at the new home.

  • collar with identification tags (Pet should wear this at all times.)
  • a recent photograph of your pet
  • identification tattoo numbers, microchip numbers, license numbers, spay-neuter certificate
  • vet records, health and vaccination certificates
  • current vet’s phone number
  • emergency pet hospital numbers in areas where you will be traveling
  • rags, paper towels for spills
  • plenty of water from home
  • their usual food
  • familiar water and food dishes
  • toys, treats, an object with familiar smells
  • leashes
  • grooming supplies
  • poop scoop and plastic bags
  • cages, kennels, restraint harnesses
  • beds, crate liners, litter or shavings
  • medications
  • pet first aid kit
    (Here is an example pet first aid kit with a list of what to include: )

Travelling With Pets:

Restrict food for a few hours before the trip, and restrict or feed lightly on stops during the trip. Don’t feed them in a moving vehicle and reserve their main meal til end of the travel day.
Exercise a dog well before the trip.
It is not safe to let dogs hang their heads out the window (it subjects them to flying objects, inner ear damage and lung infections) or to ride in the open box of a truck.
If you have to leave pets alone in the motel room keep them in their kennels or cages. Put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. Don’t leave them alone for any longer than you have to.
Birds, reptiles and rodents – cover their cages during travel to help calm them and protect from drafts. Take out the water between stops to avoid spills. Be sure that they can still get air and don’t get overheated.
Fish – longs trips are impractical. For short trips they can be moved in a plastic bag filled with their water.

This site has numerous articles about travel with pets:
Here is an excellent site on driving with pets:

Settling In At the New Home:

Set up a new Pet Room so they can feel secure while the movers are coming, furniture being moved, etc.
Keep to the exercise and feeding schedule.
Don’t let them run free until you have carefully checked the yard.
Is it fully fenced and are you sure there no spots where they can escape?

  • Is there adequate shade?
  • Are there any hazards such as sharp objects?
  • Are there any poisons or poisonous plants in the yard?
  • Do the neighbors have pets and how will they react to yours?

Supervise them closely until they are used to the new place.
Keep your cat indoors the first few days. Introduce them to one room at a time.
Be careful not to open windows on upper floors unless they are securely screened and the cat cannot fall out, or birds fly out.
If your pet has a microchip register a “change of address’ for the contact information.
Find a new veterinarian and transfer your pet’s records.