How to Move with Pets

Ah, pets: They’re cute, they’re cuddly, and they’re incredibly popular in the U.S. Over 90 million American households have at least one pet, from dogs and cats to hamsters, lizards, or even tarantulas! 

North American Van Lines knows that when you move homes, it’s essential to consider your pets’ needs. After all, they’re not just animals — they’re part of the family. To make things easier, we’ve put together a helpful checklist to help you ensure a smooth transition for yourself and your furry (or feathery, scaly, or creepy-crawly) friend. 

Here’s everything you need to know about moving with pets!

Checklist for Moving Your Pets

Moving across the country with pets (or even across town) can be stressful for humans and animals alike, but it doesn’t have to be. The key to any successful move is planning. Remember to incorporate your pet’s needs into your plan, and you’ll find the process surprisingly simple. Use this checklist to make sure your pet is prepped for moving day. 

Make a plan

Before you pack a single box (and long before you load your pets into the car), make a rough plan for your travels. If you plan to drive, plot out your route and find opportunities for bathroom and stretch breaks. Your pet will need them (and you can benefit, too). Remember to check your stopping points for pet-friendly hotels to save yourself the hassle of finding one on the day.

Get supplies

Once you have a route in mind, it’s time to pick up your moving supplies. In fact, it can be helpful to start collecting moving boxes and other items long before you actually plan to pack. Pets can sense when change is on the horizon, and having boxes around the house early in the moving process can help them acclimate and relax before the big day.

Of course, don’t forget to collect the essentials your pet will need while traveling. Potty pads, beds, cages or kennels, toys, and portable food and water dishes will make everyone’s life much easier. 

Visit your vet

It’s essential to keep your pets healthy during and after the move. Schedule an examination with your current veterinarian to obtain copies of your pet's health and vaccination records. This information will help your new vet create a suitable care plan for your animal. 

If you already know your new address, your vet can also update your pet’s identification tags at this time. In addition, if your pet is a nervous traveler, your veterinarian may suggest a mild sedative or another precautionary measure to help them relax while on the road. 

Tips for Moving with Pets Ahead of Time

As we mentioned, pets can sense when change is coming — and moving is a big change for everyone, no matter how far your new home may be! We recommend taking some time to prepare your pets for moving day beforehand. This will make the process easier and less stressful for them (and you). 

Here are our favorite tips for moving with pets:

Set aside their favorite toys

Packing is arguably the most significant part of the moving process, and professional movers are quick to offer packing tips to folks about to change homes. But when you have a pet in the family, the things you don’t pack can be even more important than the ones you do. 

As you pack up your home, make sure to leave out some of your pet’s favorite toys and other comfort items like a blanket or bed. These items will help your pet feel safe throughout the moving process and will help make the new space feel like home. If you’re not going to carry them with you, try to pack them last so they're easy to find when unpacking.

Practice the moving day routine

Whether you’re flying or driving to your new home, there’s a good chance your pet will spend some time in a crate or other small space. For many pets, this can be a stressful experience. You can ease some of your pet’s anxiety by “practicing” moving day well in advance.

In the days or weeks leading up to moving day, have your pet spend some time in their crate, cage, or the backseat of your car. Give them lots of love and reassurance as they get used to the space. If you keep it up, they’ll slowly understand that their crate isn’t scary after all.

Helping Pets Settle In

Moving day has finally arrived. You’ve packed your boxes, loaded the truck (with some moving help from a team of pros), and filled your new home with your belongings. It’s time to settle in — but your pet may need a little more help accepting the new space. Here’s how you can help your pets feel right at home.

Create a regular routine

Many pets (particularly dogs) are creatures of habit. They eat at regular times, sleep in certain spots on the floor, and expect a walk at the same time each day. The best way to help your pet settle into a new home is to stick to their routine as closely as you can. 

Have you always taken your dog for a walk every day before work? Keep it up! Do you feed your cat at noon every day? Set an alarm to make sure you don’t skip lunch! Even if their environment is new, your pet will find comfort in their old, dependable routine. 

Designate their space

Another way to make your pet feel comfortable in your new home is to set up a space just for them. Take out their favorite blankets, toys, and treats (hopefully you packed them where you can access them easily) and set up a corner of your family room, bedroom, or another space in your home as the pet’s area. This will give your pet a special spot that feels familiar, which will help them relax and get comfortable in your new home. 

How to Move Long Distance with Pets

Once you’re packed up, it’s time to get moving — literally. But when you have pets in your family, you’ll need to take extra steps before the rubber hits the road. 

If you plan to travel by air, contact the airline well in advance to check regulations and services and make reservations. Book a weekday flight when there tends to be more cargo room. Try to book a direct flight to reduce your pet's confinement time. Shop around for a good deal on a secure, airline-approved kennel that's large enough for your pet to stand and move around in. (Airlines may sell or rent these carriers, but don’t wait until the last minute to make sure.)Get your carrier as soon as possible so your pet can get accustomed to it in advance. Follow the airline’s instructions for transporting live animals, and be sure to affix a label that includes your pet's name, your new address and phone number, and special handling instructions.

If moving by car, acquaint your pet with car travel by taking it for short drives around the neighborhood. Don't: Feed your pet for several hours prior to your trip. Do: Pack a canteen of fresh, cool water and stop frequently for drinks and walks. If you stay overnight in a hotel, determine ahead of time if pets are welcome.

Birds and small pets such as hamsters can travel by car in their cages, provided the cage is stable, properly ventilated, and protected from drafts. Covering the cage may help keep your pet calm.

Get Supplies for the Road

Whether you travel by car or plane, you’ll need certain supplies handy to help your pet manage the experience. Make sure you have treats and toys nearby (in the front seat of your car or in your carry-on luggage). It’s also wise to have cleanup supplies at the ready. 

Not sure what you’ll need? Here are a few of our favorite moving supplies for pets:

  • A crate or leash: Pets can be very skittish, so they need something to keep them secure while on the move.
  • Toys and blankets: Keep your animals entertained and comfortable during your flight or car ride.
  • Ice cubes: It’s important to keep your pets hydrated, but drinking water in a car or plane can get messy. A small bowl of ice can help your pet cool off. 
  • Poop bags, potty pads, and other cleaning supplies: No one wants their pet to have an accident on the plane or in the car, but if they do, you need to be ready to clean it up.
  • A photo of your pet: Whether you’re walking through the airport or taking a stretch break at a rest stop, there’s always a chance your pet could get scared and run away. Have a clear photo of your animal handy so you can ask others for help finding them if needed. 

Finally — and this is important for all pets at all times — never leave an animal unattended in a car. Even in moderately warm weather, the temperature inside a car can reach 120 degrees in just a few minutes. Conversely, in winter, the temperature can drop well below freezing before you realize it.

Make Moving Easy with North American Van Lines

No matter where life takes you, your pets are your constant companions. So, make moving as stress-free as possible for yourself and your pets! Not only can North American Van Lines help you learn how to move with pets — we can help you move them!

Check out our moving advice for expert tips on packing, storage, and more. You can also check out our moving guides and checklists to help you prepare for the big day.

For more information about moving with pets, check out the helpful links below.

The above sites are not endorsed by or affiliated with North American Van Lines.