Moving with Pets: What You Need to Know to Prepare for a Long Distance Move

Moving with pets is never easy, but it can be especially tough when you’re moving long distance. There are so many things to think about, from ensuring your pet is fit for travel, to packing all the essentials they’ll need to keep them calm and comfortable during the move.

But with a little bit of preparation (and some patience), you can make the process much smoother for both you and your pet. Keep on reading for some simple tips on what you need to know to prepare your pet for a long-distance move.

Preselect Your New Home

If possible, preselect your new home before making the move. This way, you can ensure that it’s pet-friendly and has everything your pet will need. If you’re moving into an apartment complex, for example, make sure that they allow pets, there are no breed or size restrictions, and there is plenty of open space for exercise. 

Alternatively, if you’re buying a house, consider things like the neighborhood, backyard size, and whether there’s a secure fence. You’ll also want to think about the surrounding area – is it safe for you and your pet to walk around? Are there any dog parks or green spaces nearby? 

Finally, consider the interior of your new home. It should be spacious enough for your pet to move around comfortably, and free from any hazards. Imagine where you would want them to eat, sleep, and play in the home.

If you have any concerns, make sure to ask your real estate agent before making an offer on the property.

Research Pet Import Requirements

If your pet will be crossing state lines or international borders, it’s important to review pet import requirements. If traveling domestically within the United States or Canada, you should have proof of current rabies vaccination and a health certificate issued by your veterinarian. 

If you are moving internationally, you’ll need to prepare in advance. The country you are moving to may require an import permit, blood tests, parasite treatments, proof of rabies vaccination, and a health certificate. It will take time to conform to these pet import requirements.

Your vet can help you obtain a health certificate also known as a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI). This document verifies that your pet is healthy and free of any contagious diseases. It’s vital to make an appointment well ahead of time, as various tests and vaccinations may be required to obtain a CVI. Your veterinarian should also issue you a rabies certificate.

Dog in Car for long distance move
Photo credit: Jimmy Conover Via Unsplash

Make Sure Your Pet Is Accustomed to Their Crate

Whether you’re driving or flying to your new home, your pet will need to be secured to travel safely. In a car, you can use a harness or a pet crate. When flying, they will need to be secured in a pet carrier or pet crate. If your pet isn’t accustomed to being in one, it can be a stressful experience – for them and for you. That’s why it’s important to get them comfortable with it well before the big day.

Related: Instructions to Acclimate Your Pet to a Carrier or Crate

Start by placing the crate in a room where they spend a lot of time. Keep the top half of the crate off and let them explore it at their own pace. It’s a good idea to put some of their favorite toys or treats inside to make the space more inviting.

After a few weeks, you can attach the top half and the door. Take your time and let your pet get used to being inside the crate with the door open at first. When they’re comfortable spending short periods of time in there, you can move on to closing the door and leaving them for short intervals. Make sure to give your pet plenty of praise and rewards so they associate the crate with positive experiences.

You’ll also want to make sure your pet is comfortable with being in their crate or carrier while in the car. Take them on short trips around the block at first, gradually increasing the distance as they get used to it. Remember, spending time getting your pet accustomed to traveling in their crate or carrier now will make the actual move much less stressful for everyone involved.

dog with veterinarian before long distance move
Photo credit: Karlo Tottoc Via Unsplash

Schedule a Check-Up With Your Veterinarian

Moving with pets to a new home is a big adjustment, and it’s important to make sure they’re as healthy as possible before making the trip. Schedule a check-up with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is in good health, is up-to-date on all their vaccinations, and is flea- and tick-free.   This is especially important when traveling long distance to a new area, as different countries have different vaccination and parasite requirements for diseases.

If your pet is prone to anxiety or motion sickness, your veterinarian can also recommend ways to help them cope with the stress of travel. This may include medications, pheromone diffusers, or other calming products. Again, it’s important to start preparing early so you have plenty of time to try these products at home and see what works best for your pet.

Note also that many airlines have restrictions on sedated pets. You should check with your airline regarding their requirements. 

Ensure Your Pet Has Proper Identification

During a long-distance move, it’s not uncommon for pets to panic, escape, and even get lost. To help ensure your pet is returned to you if they do get lost, make sure they have proper identification. At a minimum, your pet should wear a collar with up-to-date ID tags that contain your cell phone number and other contact information.

If your pet doesn’t already have a microchip, now is also a good time to consider getting one. Microchips are tiny devices that are implanted above the shoulder under your pet’s skin. Once scanned, the chip will transmit a unique number which is associated with your pet. The procedure is simple and can be performed during a routine vet visit. If you are moving internationally, this is very likely a requirement of the country you are entering.

When microchipping your pet for the first time, you’ll need to register their microchip with a national pet recovery database. This will ensure that your contact information is linked to the microchip. In the event that your pet does get lost during the move, having proper identification will dramatically increase the chances of them being returned to you.

In addition to proper identification, it’s also a good idea to have recent photographs of your pet on hand in case they do get lost. This will make it easier for you to share their picture with shelters or animal control officers who are helping you search for them.

Photo credit: Norma Gabriela Galván Via Pexels

Put Together a Travel Plan

Now that you’ve taken care of the basics, it’s time to start planning the actual move. If you’re traveling by road, start by mapping out your route and making a list of rest stops and pet-friendly hotels along the way. When choosing a hotel, be sure to call ahead and ask about their pet policies. Some hotels charge extra fees for pets, while others have weight or breed restrictions.

If you’ll be flying, begin by researching which airlines allow pets and what their policies are. Most airlines have strict rules about traveling with pets, so it’s important to choose an airline that will accommodate your pet’s needs. Once you’ve selected an airline, book your flight and make sure to get a confirmation of the airline’s pet policy in writing.

If possible, try to travel during off-peak hours when the airport will be less crowded. If your pet must fly in the cargo hold, Spring and Fall are the best times as extreme temperatures are not as much of an issue. This will make the experience less stressful for both you and your pet. You should also arrive at the airport extra early to allow plenty of time for check-in and security.

Pack the Essentials

A long-distance move is already a stressful experience, so the last thing you want to do is forget your pet’s essentials. To make packing easier, create a checklist of everything your pet will need during the move. Here are a few items to include on your list:

  • A travel crate. As mentioned earlier, it’s best to transport your pet in a crate while traveling to help keep them safe. If you’re traveling by plane, make sure the crate meets the airline’s size and weight requirements. You’ll need an International Air Transport Association (IATA) compliant crate if your pet will be flying in the cargo hold.
  • Leash and harness. Even if your pet will be in their crate for most of the trip, you’ll still need a leash and harness for walks and potty breaks.
  • Food and water bowls. Collapsible bowls are easy to pack and take up very little space.
  • A supply of your pet’s food and treats. Bring along enough food and treats to last the entire trip so you don’t have to worry about running out.
  • Plenty of water. Keeping your pet hydrated is essential, so be sure to bring along enough water for the entire trip.
  • Any medications or supplements your pet takes. If your pet takes medication or supplements on a regular basis, be sure to pack enough to last the entire trip.
  • Pet first-aid kit. Pack a small first-aid kit specifically for your pet in case of minor injuries. It should contain items like gauze, cotton balls, antibiotic ointment, and tweezers.
  • Toys and bedding. A few of your pet’s favorite toys and a cozy blanket or pillow will help make them feel at home in their new environment.
  • Cleaning supplies. Pack a small bag of pet-friendly cleaning supplies like paper towels, waste bags, and disinfectant wipes. These will come in handy for accidents or messes along the way. If you have a cat, don’t forget the litter box and litter.
  • Medical records and emergency numbers. Be sure to pack your pet’s medical records and the contact information for their veterinarian. If you’re traveling by road, you should also have a list of veterinarians and emergency animal hospitals along your route.

Moving with Pets to Your New Home: 6 Tips for A Successful Transition

After all the planning and preparation, it’s finally time to move into your new home. But the work isn’t quite over yet. Here are a few tips to make the transition to your new home as smooth as possible for you and your pet: 

1) Keep Pets Away From the Movers

On the big day itself, keep your pets away from the movers. This will help reduce their stress levels and prevent them from getting injured or escaping. If possible, confine them to one room or put them in their crate. This way, they can’t get underfoot and will be out of the way and removed from the commotion. 

2) Set Up Their Space First

After everything has been unloaded and the movers have left, set up your pet’s space first. This will help them feel more at home and less overwhelmed. Put their food and water bowls in place, unpack their bed, and leave out a few of their favorite toys. 

3) Gradually Let Your Pet Explore Their New Home

Once their space is set up, let your pet out to explore the rest of their new home. Start with one room at a time and gradually increase the amount of space available for them to explore. This will help them get used to their new surroundings without feeling overwhelmed. If your pet is a cat, be prepared for them to hide for a bit until the activity level calms down.

4) Keep Their Routine the Same

As much as possible, try to keep your pet’s routine the same. This means feeding them and walking them at the same times as before the move. Familiar routines will help reduce their stress levels and make them feel more at home. 

5) Give Them Plenty of Attention

Your pet may feel a bit uneasy in their new home at first, so try to keep them in your sights if possible. Offer them frequent assurance that everything is fine if they show signs of uneasiness. 

6) Provide Plenty of Exercise

Last but not least, make sure your pet is getting enough exercise. A tired pet is a happy pet, and plenty of exercise will help them burn off all that extra energy and stress. Take them for walks around the neighborhood or play with them in the backyard. They’ll be glad you did. 

Are You Ready for a Long Distance Move With Your Pet?  

Moving with pets long distance can be challenging, but with a little preparation, it can also be a fun and rewarding experience. By taking care of the logistics ahead of time and planning for a smooth moving day, you can make sure your pet has a comfortable and stress-free move. 

Richard Rowlands

Richard Rowlands is a copywriter and content creator who works with pet and veterinary businesses. When he’s not researching, writing, or creating content plans, he enjoys spending time with his rescue dog, Otto, and exploring new places. Check out his blog for savvy pet parents at richardrowlands.com.


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