Guide to Moving with Household Pets: Safely Relocating your Furry, Feathered, and Scaly Friends

You aren’t the only one freaking out about the big move. Among packing, planning, and coordinating with even the best movers, caring for your pet is an important step toward a stress-free move.

As everything familiar to them gets packed up and hauled off, household pets can often experience great distress during moves.

No matter how much this move will improve your life and that of your pets, our animal companions can’t understand why their life is being upended. For this reason, pet owners need to be especially sensitive to the needs of their pets during moves.

A bit of forethought and consideration can spare your animal friends a great deal of distress during relocation, helping everyone settle into their new digs more quickly.

At moveBuddha, we believe that relocation can be made easier for everybody. Pets included. That’s why we have compiled this comprehensive guide to moving with pets.

But relocating with animals in tow is a complicated topic, and pets are not a monolith: best practices for moving with a lap dog are different from best practices for moving with a six-foot boa constrictor. And even among animals of the same size and species, temperaments can vary.

Understanding this, we have broken up this guide into a few sections:

  1. Cats, dogs, and beyond: universal tips for moving with pets of any species
  2. Tips for moving with pet rodents or other small mammals
  3. Tips for moving with pet birds
  4. Tips for moving pet reptiles or amphibians

Cats, dogs, and beyond: Universal tips for moving with pets of any species

From packing up your home, to putting together a pet travel kit, to moving into your new digs, here are all the loose ends you should tie up to ensure you and your pet have a smooth moving experience.

The best transportation method for moving with pets

  • Whenever possible, take your pet in a car instead of flying

When it comes to ensuring you and your loved ones arrive safely in your new home, the best method of transportation will ultimately depend on distance.

But if possible, a road trip with your pet is almost always preferable to a commercial flight.

Car travel ensures that in the event of an emergency you will be able to take immediate action to address your pet’s needs.

However, if you must fly, it may be comforting to know that flying with pets has become much safer over the past few years.

*Source:Department of Transportation Air Travel Consumer Report

  • Never transport your pet in the back of a moving van.

Pets should always be transported in the passenger interior of a vehicle, and never placed in a truck bed or the cargo area of a moving van.

Riding in the cabin with you will protect your pet from air circulation issues, shifting objects, inhospitable temperatures, and loud noises. Furthermore, in the event of a crash, modern vehicles are designed such that the interior cabin absorbs the least amount of impact.

  • If you must fly, carry-on is preferable to cargo

Because being isolated in the cargo hold of a plane can be a tremendously stressful experience for animals, ASPCA recommends against air travel with pets that are too large or otherwise not permitted to ride in-cabin.

Furthermore, the process of checking your pet is complicated: limitations abound concerning everything from the number of layovers to the outside temperatures upon take-off and landing. Furthermore, organizational errors can and do occur. Take, for instance, the German Shepherd who was mistakenly shipped to Narita, Japa instead of Wichita, Kansas.

Do be aware that carrying on your small pet is also subject to many regulations which differ considerably by the airline. Many airlines limit carry-on species to cats and small dogs and have specific rules for approved carriers, among other things.

Whether you are checking or carrying your pet on for a flight, give yourself ample time to do considerable research into the specific policies of the airline with which you are flying.

  • Consider professional pet movers if the logistics are complicated

Relocating pets of certain sizes and species can get complicated, fast. For exotic pets, pets with special needs, and international moves, we especially recommend hiring a professional pet relocation service.

Just as you may need the help of professional movers like moveBuddha to manage relocating your things, pet relocation consultants can help spare you and your animal friends a great deal of stress.


Getting your pet’s paperwork in order

You probably have a lot of paperwork to do concerning your move – but don’t forget about your pet’s file! Here are the bureaucratic tasks you should be sure to check off on your pet’s behalf before the big move.

  • Update collar tag and microchip

Moves put your pet at a greater risk of getting lost. The stress of the move may trigger their flight response, and unfamiliar surroundings may disorient your pet and prevent them from finding their way back to you.

For this reason, ensure that your pet is outfitted with a microchip and/or collar tag with your new address and current contact information. Shelters report that nearly 60% of cases in which they are unable to return a microchipped pet to their humans result from an inability to contact them via the listed phone or home address.

  • Refill prescriptions

After moving, it may take a while before you find a new vet. Stock up on your pet’s prescriptions before moving so that you don’t need to rush to locate a vet shortly after your arrival in your new home.

  • Have vaccination and medical records in hand

Having all your pet’s medical records ready will provide your new vet with all the information they need to immediately provide your pet with the best possible care. Furthermore, updated medical records are always good to have handy should any unforeseen circumstances arise during the move.

  • Research local laws and regulation

State and local laws and even neighborhood association rules regarding pets may vary.

Take the time to look into requirements for immunization, leashing, and whether pets can be left in yards unattended. Exotic pet owners should also ensure that there are no limitations on carrying this species over state lines.


While you’re packing up

There is a lot you can do before moving day to help your pet prepare for the journey ahead. Here are some tips to ease your pet into the transition during the weeks leading up to moving day.

  • Introduce the crate or carrier ahead of time

If your pet doesn’t have much experience with crates or carriers, it is a good idea to get them comfortable with it before the day of the move. ASPCA recommends you initiate them over several weeks by first placing their food in an open crate, and later shutting the door of the crate during mealtime. Anything you can do to help your pet foster a positive association with the crate will save you both a great deal of stress come moving day.

  • Introduce your pet to the car

Some animals love car rides, others hardly notice them, and others panic. If moving with your pet will involve driving, it’s best to know how your pet is likely to react to the drive.

Even if you can’t get your pet to take the drive in stride, you can reduce the likelihood of extreme stress by acclimating them to the car over time. And if your pet gets car sick, it is best to find this out before moving day.

Start by spending some time with your pet in the car while it is parked (engine off) to help them get accustomed to the smells. You can slowly begin to introduce short rides around the block and then slightly longer trips. Always give your pet plenty of reassurance and treats upon returning home!

  • Keep your pet away from the packing chaos

As their home disappears into boxes, and strangers come in and out of the house and make unfamiliar noises, pets can get understandably nervous. Do your best to keep your animal companion away from the commotion by confining them to a single room while the bulk of the moving is taking place.

Especially because the door is likely to be open for much of the moving day, keeping your pet isolated from the chaos will help prevent them from escaping in panic.


Come moving day

The day of the big move is finally here. What can you do to keep yourself and your pet calm and ready to hit the road?

  • If driving, plan a pet-friendly route.

If you’ve spent a few weeks trying to get your pet acclimated to car rides, you probably now have a good idea of how your pet will handle the trip. Consider if there is a route you can take that will best fit your pet’s needs.

Got a long drive ahead of you? Some animals may grow more distressed the longer they need to be traveling, while others may be more relaxed if you can take frequent breaks.

If your pet is generally anxious about car travel, we recommend getting to your final destination as soon as possible, without taking long breaks to go for a walk or spend the night in a hotel. Even if your pet is okay with car travel, consider taking breaks to help ease the journey for both of you.

For a journey that will require at least one night in a hotel, be sure to book a hotel that allows pets ahead of time.

  • Have a kit ready for the duration of the trip

Prepare a travel kit for your pet with everything they might need during the journey. Necessary supplies will differ depending on the distance and the species, but every pet travel kit should include the following:

    • Water from your old home – If your pet is accustomed to the tap water at your old home, we recommend filling up a few jugs for the journey and for the move-in. When stressed, some pets may reject unfamiliar food and water. A combination of stress and new water composition may even throw off the skin’s pH balance in semi-aquatic animals like turtles. To avoid spills, don’t place a water dish in their carrier, but bring one with you to fill during breaks.
    • All medical and vaccine records – Have a folder with all of your pet’s paperwork handy.
    • Familiar toys and blankets – The more they smell like you, your pet, and your old home, the better.
    • Bathroom supplies – If you will be traveling for more than a couple hours, you need to consider how your pet will relieve itself. Do your best to replicate the same conditions you had at your old home by using the same litter and pan where possible. Portable litter box solutions are available for different species, but you should always get your pet familiar with this bathroom set-up before you take off.
    • Harness and leash – If your pet is to exit the vehicle during stops, have a sturdy harness and leash ready. Do not simply attach a leash to a normal neck collar, as a startled animal may wriggle free.
    • Meals and favorite snacks – Animals prone to car sickness may be better off traveling on an empty stomach. But if your pet handles the road well, reward them with treats intermittently.
    • Cleaning supplies – Accidents happen. Bring some puppy pads, towels, and car interior cleaner with you in the event that your pet accidentally makes a mess.


  • Avoid feeding your pet in the hours before departure.

Especially for animals that get anxious or carsick on the road, it is recommended that they undertake the journey on an empty stomach. This will prevent your pet from soiling itself during the journey, which would mean added stress for everyone in the car. If you can, make sure your pet is able to relieve itself directly before you leave.

  • Keep companions together where possible, but keep loners separated

Social critters should be transported together with their pals – this will help reduce their anxiety and boredom. If space limitations force you to separate them, do your best to ensure they can still see and smell each other during the journey.

However, we do not recommend putting two animals of different species together in one carrier for the journey, no matter how good of friends they may be. Any animals that are typically kept apart should not be confined in the same space together during the drive.

  • Outfit your pet with temporary travel tags

Temporary travel tags can be a tremendous help in the event that your pet bolts and gets lost somewhere between your old and new home. The tag should specify your moving dates, your final destination, and how to reach you.


Settling into your new home

So both you and your pet have survived the journey. What can you do to assure that your pet’s first few nights in the new home go smoothly?

  • Set up your pet’s area first

Once you and your pet have arrived safely at your new home, it’s time to help your animal companion settle in. Before you begin unpacking all your furniture, we recommend finding a small, quiet, and isolated space away from the commotion. Set up all of your pet’s belongings here first. Spend some time with your pet in this room, and let them get used to the new environment.

Wait until all the movers have left and all of your large furniture is in place before you begin to let your pet wander through the rest of the house.

  • Keep anxious pets confined to a smaller space when you leave the house

Even after all the moving is over, it can take some time before a pet feels safe in its new home. In the first few days or weeks, we recommend keeping your pet crated or confined to a single room whenever you need to leave the house. Left to wander unsupervised, your pet may be overwhelmed by all the new smells and grow anxious about your return.

  • Stick to your routine

The sooner you and your pet can resume a normal routine after a move, the sooner you will both feel settled into your new home. Upon arrival, immediately pick back up with their normal feeding, play, exercise, and sleep routine. Having a regular routine to rely upon can help an animal more quickly adjust to changes.

  • Give it time

Each animal is an individual, so don’t worry if your pet seems to be taking longer than you expected to completely relax in their new home. We recommend holding off on any other big changes – such as a new diet or behavior training – until your pet is feeling comfortable. Be patient and compassionate, and with time your pet will grow to love your new home as much as you do.


Above all…

  • Stay calm!

Pets are very attuned to their humans. If you are stressed and frustrated during the move, your pet will sense this — and it is likely to amplify their anxiety in turn. The best thing you can do for your pet during a move is ensuring that you are in the right headspace to care for them.

By giving yourself plenty of time to get everything in order and hiring competent moving assistants, you can prevent a great deal of last-minute chaos that would otherwise cause both you and your pets to experience more stress than you need to.

Guide to moving to a new home with pet rodents and other small mammals

Moving with rabbits, rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, ferrets, or chinchillas? Rodents and other small mammals have different needs than cats and dogs, and so best practices for moving with these pets can differ.

The following guide can help you and your small pet arrives safely and settle into your new home quickly:

Guide to moving to a new home with pet birds

Moving with cocktails, parakeets, parrots, finches, or doves? Household birds have needs that are quite different from cats and dogs. Follow these best practices for moving with pet birds to ensure that you and your feathered friends arrive safely and settle in quickly

Guide to moving to a new home with pet reptiles or amphibian

Moving with snakes, lizards, iguanas, tortoises, turtles, frogs, toads, or salamanders? Pet reptiles and amphibians have unique needs that make best practices quite different from moving with cats or dogs. Here is a guide to how to move to a new home with pet reptiles or amphibians:

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