The Complete Guide to Moving your Pet

The Complete Guide to Moving your Pet

Moving your pet is a vitally important part of any relocation – your pets are part of your family and irreplaceable. has the pleasure of providing you with an in depth guide to a successful move of your pet.

Plan in Advance.
Your pet may find the moving experience traumatic, planning well in advance will help prepare your pet as well as possible and ensure everything goes smoothly when transitioning your pet to their new home. Depending on the distance you are moving, decide in advance whether you are going to have your pet ride in the car with you or, if you are having your car transported, use a pet transportation service.

Should your pet fly or travel by road? Are you moving internationally? Use a USDA certified international pet mover to handle the complex requirements for importing a pet into a new country.
Generally speaking you should take your pet to see their veterinarian as soon as you know you are moving. This check up and advice session can get your pet started on any additional vaccinations they may needs as well as starting to get the necessary documentation in order.
Get recommendations for a good local veterinarian near your new home, as well as emergency animal hospital facilities.

Ensure your pet carries adequate identification information. This should include a regular tag with the animals name and your phone number as well as any microchip information. RelocationWiki recommends that you attach a luggage type tag to your pets collar with important information like your new address, a number you can be reached at on the road, the pet transportation companies contact details and any vital medication your pet needs.


The documents pertaining to your pet’s health are important. You may be asked to show them at anytime, especially when traveling, so it is advisable to keep them handy. Any or all of the following may be required:

Health Certificate: Interstate health certificates must accompany dogs and horses entering nearly all states. About half have the same requirement for cats, birds and other pets. In some cases, advance receipt of the health certificate by the destination state’s regulatory agency is a prerequisite to entry of the pet.

The health certificate must include a complete description of the pet, list all inoculations it has had, and state that it is free from infectious diseases.

Permit: Some pets must have entry permits issued by the destination state’s regulatory agency. Either you or your veterinarian may apply for the permit, for which there may be a charge. Receipt of an interstate health certificate from the state of origin may be requisite to issuance of the permit.

NOTE: Validity of health certificates and permits is strictly limited in several states. If moving to one of these, be sure your pet arrives within the valid period.

Rabies Tag: All but four states require dogs to have rabies inoculation, and a number have the same regulation for cats. State and local laws usually stipulate that the rabies tag be securely attached to the pet’s collar.

Once you have decided on the method of transporting your pet it’s time to get organized.

Transporting your pet in your own car
This is probably the best mode of transport for your pet. They are, most likely, already familiar with the family car and see it as an extension of their territory.

Make sure you prepare and pack a well-stocked pet travel kit – things you should include are:

  • Supply of pet’s regular food
  • Pet’s food and water dishes
  • Any medication your pet takes regularly
  • Pet Harness and leash
  • Identification tags (with address of your new home and a cell phone number)
  • Supply of water from your old home
  • Portable pet carrier
  • Usual Blanket/bedding
  • Favorite toy or two
  • Pet Treats
  • A mop-up towel and paper towels for adverse weather conditions or any ‘accidents’
  • Plastic bags to clean up after your pet

If your journey will include overnight stays we recommend booking in advance and notifying the Hotel, Motel or Campsite that you are traveling with your pet. Expect to pay an additional fee for your pet and check out the rules; most places will not allow your pet to remain unattended in the room or lot.

On any road trip be sure to stop regularly, especially with dogs. Interstate rest areas always have a pet exercise area and are ideal for potty stops. Allow your dog time to sniff around and stretch their legs; the same applies to cats, which should be fitted with a cat harness and leash so they don’t run away. Always clean up after your pet. Don’t leave your pet unattended in a hot car, or leave windows open when you make a rest stop for food or gas as they may overheat or jump out of the car.

Towing a Horse Trailer
Towing your horse or pony in a trailer behind your motor vehicle is a handy way of transporting it to your new location. In addition to the animal, the trailer will hold a reasonable amount of feed and tack. Rental trailers are available.

Caution: Driving with a horse trailer takes skill. It is inadvisable to attempt it unless you are familiar with towing a large trailer, or have plenty of time for practice before departure date.
On trips that will take more than a day, it is best to plan overnight stops in advance. Be sure to inquire about local facilities for the care of horses when booking accommodations.

When trailering a horse, park occasionally at wayside rest areas to unload and exercise it. On an overnight trip, stop at a reasonable hour so there will be plenty of time for evening chores feeding, watering, and so forth. The horse may be kept in the trailer overnight without harm.

Using a Pet Ground Transportation Service
See our ‘Tips on choosing a Pet Moving Company’ to get started and plan accordingly. It would be best to have your pet picked up before the big moving day so that the environment is less stressful. Acclimatize your pet to the crate they will be traveling for a couple of weeks before so it is familiar and feels like a home away from home. Make sure your pet has had plenty of exercise before they are picked up as they will be calmer and sleep during the journey. Have your pets travel kit prepared in advance so that nothing is forgotten.

Make sure you are contactable throughout the entire trip. And if you are delayed inform the pet moving company a early as possible. If you can make alternative arrangements for someone to receive your pet communicate these changes, otherwise it is likely that your pet will be placed in a boarding facility which will incur additional charges.

Horse Moving Companies.
Companies engaged in the Interstate Transportation of horses are required to have ICC operating authority. Most Horse Moving Companies will have:

  • Drivers that are experienced in the care of horses.
  • A tack allowance that may be shipped with the horse at no additional cost.
  • Regular exercise intervals, or at the driver’s discretion.
  • Any overnight accommodation included in the transportation charge.

Transportation by Air

Airlines that accept pets for transportation have specific regulations covering their passage, whether they are accompanied or unaccompanied. When making inquiries, be sure to ask about transportation charges and pet insurance.

Sedation of your pet is not generally recommended for air travel. The pets safety is at risk. Please refer to a statement from the American Veterinary Medial Association (AVMA)
USDA standards for shipping dogs and cats by air can be found in of the Animal Welfare Regulations..

Airlines have various animal transport rules. If traveling by air, please check with the airline well in advance of travel. A few airline Transport websites are listed below:

YOU are responsible for:

  • Advance payment of shipping charges
  • Providing required health documents
  • Delivery of pet to the air freight terminal on time
  • Signing of the Air Waybill (shipping papers)
  • Pick up at destination
  • Notifying consignee as to airline and flight number the pet will be on, and place, date and time of arrival.
  • Providing the shipping container, legibly and durably marked with both you and the consignee’s (person to whom the pet is being shipped) name, address and phone number

  Tips on Selecting a Travel Container for your pet:

  • Look for one that is put together securely, e.g., locking bolts
  • Look for metal doors instead of plastic (pets may be able to chew through or bend/buckle plastic doors
  • Stronger doors have 4 metal rods that fasten the door to the container
  • Ensure door lock mechanism is strong and effective
  • No wheels — most – if not all – airlines will not accept a container with wheels
  • Airlines or Air transport organizations do not certify containers. Statements such as “airline accepted” or “IATA Approved” are misleading.

Tropical fish are best “packed” for shipment by pet suppliers specializing in tropical fish.

Pets are generally loaded on the plane last so they will be nearest the door and can be unloaded first. Regulations for shipping pets by air were formulated to assure that all pets arrive at destination safely. The weather is a major concern. It is better to ship pets only during moderate weather, and then either on early morning or late evening flights. They should be in appropriate carriers, and picked up without delay at destination.

Deliver pet to air terminal on time if traveling with you, 45 minutes before departure; if via air freight, two hours prior to flight time.

Feed pet no less than five or six hours before flight time; normally, no additional food is required for at least 12 hours. Give pet a drink of water about two hours before take-off.

Be certain that names, addresses and telephone contacts of persons responsible for pet at both destination and origin cities are legibly and durably marked on the container, and on pet’s travel identification tag.

Exercise pet on leash at airport and administer any necessary medication before confining it to shipping container. Attach pet’s leash firmly to outside of container.

Air Travel Checklist

  • Transportation charges paid?
  • All health and shipping documents in order?
  • Identification tag attached to pet’s collar?
  • Shipping container
    • Securely latched?
    • Legibly labeled
    • Leash attached?

Horses By Air
A cargo airline that accepts your horse or pony for transportation will accommodate it only on a non-stop flight between origin and destination cities. An attendant must accompany the animal. You will be required to provide a shipping stall constructed according to airline specifications, and if necessary, loading and unloading ramps. Any tack shipped must be labeled and weighed separately.

You will be responsible for prepayment of shipping charges and attendant’s fare, delivery of animal and tack to the air terminal on time, and pickup at destination.

Some horse transporting companies will, for a fee, make all the necessary arrangements for air shipment of your horse or pony.

Unusual Pets
Among the more unusual pets are Lizards, Monkeys, Snakes, Pot Bellied Pigs and Big Cats. These can be transported via air. However, many states have specific regulations covering the entry of “wild” animals. It is wise to get in touch with the regulatory agency of the destination state prior to moving to be sure yours will be admitted.

Settling your pet into your new home
Just as everything is new and disorienting for your family the four legged members feel the same! Try to ease the transition for your pets by keeping their routine the same as much as you can. When you move into a new home it is important that cats are confined to the house for at least a couple of weeks.

Restrict your cats to one or two rooms at first and put their familiar bedding, litter box and any toys as well as food and water in one of these rooms. Be sure to keep doors and windows closed and make sure there aren’t any crawl spaces or holes where they can escape to that you can’t access. Let them explore on their own. If they decide to hide under the bed, let them be. They’ll eventually come out when they feel safe.

Dogs adjust a little easier, forming stronger ties to people than places. When you take your dog for their first walk in the new neighborhood make sure they are kept on a leash at all times and their harness has identity tags attached. Take it slowly allowing them to sniff all the spots they want. Try to maintain their regular feeding regime and place their food, water bowls and bedding in as similar a position as in your old home as possible.

It is best to keep your bird where it will be undisturbed until it becomes used to its new surroundings. Other small pets usually have few or no adjustment problems other than becoming used to a change in the water supply. This is also true of tropical fish to avoid harming them, test the water for similarity to that in your old home and adjust it to the requirements of the fish.

Soon your pets will adjust and feel comfortable in their new home.

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