Moving guide for pet owners: How to move with pets

Published on
Last updated on
15 min read
Moving guide for pet owners: How to move with pets - a couple sitting in a new home with their dog

Moving is stressful for pets and pet owners. There’s just so much to do and keep track of. If you are moving with pets, whether it's a dog, a cat, or even a guinea pig, read on to find answers to questions like:

  • How can I organize and plan my move with my pet?
  • How can I provide comfort to my pet during the move?
  • How can I help my pet adjust to our new home?
  • What steps should I take after we move?

Moving is already complicated, and taking the comfort and safety of your pets into account as part of the process can make the task even more daunting. The good news is with a little bit of proactive planning, you can ensure your pet stays as comfortable as possible every step of the way.

How should I plan a move with my pet?

There are many steps you can take to make moving easier for you and your pets. In the months, weeks, and days before travel, get your pet emotionally and physically ready to move to their new home. If you are moving to a different country, there are additional steps required to take your pet with you. Here are some moving tips to help ensure a smooth move.

Visit your veterinarian

Before moving, make sure you have all the necessary paperwork to move with your pet, including their current rabies vaccination certificate. Also, ensure your pet is up to date on all other vaccinations or tests, and check your supply of all medications and preventives. For pets with chronic illness, schedule an exam at your veterinary hospital a few weeks prior to the move to ensure they are in the best shape possible. Any regular exams, blood tests, or additional procedures can be completed at that time, even if it means making the appointment ahead of schedule. Explain to your vet that you are moving and would like to have multiple weeks’ worth of medications so you don’t run out during the hectic and unpredictable events of relocating.

“Planning ahead is important for healthy pets too,” explains Vetster veterinarian Dr. Jo Myers. “Check your calendar for upcoming vaccination boosters or annual checkups prior to your move. They can be easy to overlook during the chaos the first few weeks of moving brings.” You’ll need to find a new veterinarian after the move, and it can take a few weeks to book a new patient exam. Plan ahead so you don’t run out of medications, flea or tick prevention, or let vaccinations become overdue in the meantime.

Do your research

If you are driving or flying long-distance for your move, do some research in advance to save yourself from headaches later on. Make sure your airlines and hotels allow companion animals. Be sure to write down what each specific company requires to allow your pet to stay, such as updated vaccine records or a sturdy crate. Note that rules for pets may differ from the rules for service animals, and depending on the hotel or airline, some animal species may be allowed, while others aren’t. Regardless of any restrictions, all hotels have to allow service dogs to stay in their facilities.

If you’re moving across state lines or internationally, planning ahead is even more important because your pet will need a health certificate from a veterinarian accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). International health certificates can take more than six months to complete. Each country has different health requirements, but all will require a current rabies vaccination certificate. Look into what is required as early as possible and work with a veterinarian to ensure you have all of the necessary vaccinations, diagnoses, and treatments needed. In addition, some countries require all incoming pets to have a quarantine period upon arrival. It’s important to know what to expect and where to take your pet for their extended quarantine, if applicable, upon arriving at your final destination.

Book travel early to ensure your pet has a safe place to stay with you while you are on the go. Airlines that do not allow companion animals may be legally required to allow service dogs. Reach out to the airline’s customer support to gather what you will need for your dog to fly with you and learn how to book your flight with your service animal. When looking into the requirements for moving across state or national borders with your pet, stick with official government websites and talk to a trusted veterinarian to learn how the process works for your unique situation. Keep in mind that you need to have a thorough understanding of any requirements for a rabies vaccination certificate, Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI), or quarantine period to properly budget for your pet’s care during your move.

Keep information up to date

Finally, it’s important that your pet’s information and records are up to date and organized for the move. In the days before travel, check your pet’s tag and microchip information. Your pet’s collar should fit well, be in good condition, and the tag with your information must be attached. Ensure your pet’s microchip is up to date with your personal information, including your phone number and new address in case you get separated. Keep your pet’s vaccination records and any necessary health certificates organized and a copy close by. It’s also a good idea to have your contact information somewhere on your pet’s crate or carrier as well.

How can I keep my pet calm and safe during our move?

Travel can be extremely stressful for dogs and cats. Provide comfort items, such as blankets, beds, toys, and treats while your pet travels. In your new home, keep your pet crated in a quiet room to help them feel as safe and comfortable as possible. It may be beneficial to have your pet stay with a friend or at a boarding facility for the most chaotic days of your move to prevent high stress or escape.

Keeping as close to your pet’s routine as possible will provide a sense of security and help them stay grounded during the move. Provide meals, walks, and playtime as close to your normal schedule as possible. Stop frequently for potty breaks while traveling and you’ll both feel better. If your pet appears overly stressed or fearful, give them a break by going on a walk, offering play or snuggle time, or simply spending some time with them in a quiet area away from the movers.

Get your pet adjusted to their crate or carrier

Creating a safe and comfortable space for your pet during a stressful move will help them escape and hide in an area away from potential hazards. By getting your pet comfortable with their carrier or crate in advance, you can offer them a safe sanctuary in the home as you move in. You can create a positive association between your pet and their carrier with fun games and training. Use treats and toys to help them associate their crate with a rewarding and secure place just for them.

Getting your dog or cat adjusted to their carrier is important for long-distance travel as well. With air travel or driving for multiple hours, they have to spend a lot of time in their crate or carrier. If your pet is flying for the first time, the American Kennel Club suggests taking them through an automated car wash a few times before you leave. The noise and motion simulate an airplane flight.

When should I move my pet into my new home?

It’s best to move your pet last. Keeping doors open to move in large boxes and furniture provides opportunities for pets to escape or injure themselves. In addition, there can be many hazards around your new home that should be removed before your pet is brought inside. Poisons like rat bait, mothballs, and antifreeze may have been left out to your move-in day. Box cutters, electrical cords, and garbage can be additional hazards your pets should avoid. The home should be a safe space for your pet to explore before you let them loose in their new space.

How should I introduce my pet to my new home?

After moving in, your pet may be nervous or fearful of their new environment and may require an adjustment period. Allow pets ample time to explore at their own pace to become more comfortable without interference. Cats are highly territorial and may have a longer adjustment period than dogs. Cat owners should be aware that cats may benefit from being confined to one room, preferably a bedroom, and slowly given access to other areas of the house over a number of weeks. This will give them time to acclimate slowly and avoid unneeded stress. Extreme stress in cats can trigger some medical conditions, such as lower urinary tract disease which can in turn cause house soiling.

Dogs and cats are largely creatures of habit, so keeping the same routine you had at your previous home will help them adjust. Allow your dog extra time to sniff while on walks around the neighborhood and put your cat’s litter boxes and toys in a low-traffic area of the house. Keep a close eye on your pets for signs of stress, and watch out for changes in their eating, drinking, and bathroom habits. It’s normal if your cat wants to hide for a few days, but contact a veterinarian if they are showing signs of illness in addition to hiding. Don’t force them to socialize and allow them to adjust at their own pace.

What should I do after moving in with my pet?

After moving into your new home, it’s time to find new providers for the care your pet needs. Contact a veterinary hospital as soon as you can in your new area as it can take a few weeks before they have room for a new patient exam. Look into boarding facilities, daycares, and groomers that your pet will need in the coming weeks or months. Don’t forget to update your pet’s tags and microchip with your new address. Finally, take the time to establish a new normal for your animals to help them adjust and be happy in their new home. If you have questions about helping your pet move or if your pet seems unwell after your move, you can book an online virtual care appointment to speak to a veterinarian.

FAQ - Moving guide for pet owners: How to move with pets

How long does it take for a pet to get used to a new home?

Every pet is different and so it is hard to say exactly how much time is needed for one to adjust to a new environment. Some pets seem to adapt right away while others take several months to really get comfortable. Cats may take longer to adjust than dogs and may benefit from staying in one room until they have calmed down before exploring the rest of the home. Allow your pets time to explore and sniff their new surroundings without interruption and offer extra comfort items and support.

Is moving traumatic for pets?

Moving can cause acute stress in pets, but this can be minimized with proper planning and research. Provide comfort items and a quiet place to relax during the move. If possible, your pet may benefit from staying with a trusted friend, daycare, or kennel for the most chaotic part of the move. It may take some time for them to get used to their new home. However, if your pet begins to show signs of illness or prolonged stress, you should contact a veterinarian.

How do you move with multiple pets?

The process for moving with multiple pets is largely the same as with a single pet, though it may require more research and planning ahead of time. Make sure you know which hotels and airlines allow multiple pets and ensure your pets have enough space in your vehicle while crated. Remember that keeping multiple pets near each other in transit may provide comfort, even if they are not crated together.

How can I move with my service animal?

Service dogs are essential in the lives of the people they help. Service dogs are highly trained and specialized, so you likely won’t have to worry about an escape through an open door or stress affecting them as much as a pet. Airlines and hotels are legally required to allow service dogs in the U.S. and Canada, although you may need to reach out in advance. Emotional support animals and service animals other than dogs do not have the same legal protections. Always contact airlines and hotels about their animal policies before making a reservation.

I’m moving abroad and the country has a mandatory quarantine period for my pet. What do I do?

Talk to a USDA-accredited veterinarian or international equivalent to make sure you have everything in order to meet the requirements for an international move for your pet. Some countries have health requirements and quarantine periods for incoming pets to prevent communicable diseases from entering or spreading in the country, especially rabies. A rabies extended quarantine is common, though some countries allow pets to quarantine in their new home instead of in an animal shelter. Research the health requirements and prepare enough food and comfort items for your pet if an extended quarantine is required.