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How to Move Long-Distance With a Pet Dog or Cat – Transportation Tips


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Moving long-distance is hard. From finding a new home and booking movers to actually transporting your family and possessions to your new city or town, it can be overwhelming, exhausting, and expensive for most people.

Adding pets into the mix just complicates an already challenging situation. Of course, you want to bring your furry family members with you, but how can you get Bingo or Mittens to another city, state, or country comfortably and with the least amount of stress possible?

Although long-distance moves can be harder with cats and dogs, planning ahead and considering their needs can make a world of difference. Breaking your plan into three parts can help to make sure you’re prepared before you move, while you travel, and when you arrive at your new address.

Pet Planning Before You Move

As most pet owners know, pets can be extremely sensitive to new situations and experiences. Giving them time to adjust to new circumstances before a move can make a huge difference in their stress levels — and your own.

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Here are some tips for how to prepare to move long-distance with a pet before moving day.

Plan Your Pet’s Transportation

You have three options when it comes to moving with your pet, all varying in cost. You can drive with them in a vehicle, you can fly together, or you can hire a pet transportation service.

Driving is the least expensive option, with flying coming in second and using a pet transportation service third. However, the costs of each can change based on how long your trip is, the supplies you need to purchase, and whether you choose to pay for additional services, like having your pet fly in the cabin with you instead of in cargo.

Driving With Your Pet

If you’re going to drive with your pet, there are a number of different ways to prepare them for the journey.

If you plan to use a kennel or pet carrier, make sure that you give your cat or dog time to adjust to it before moving day. Leave the crate open and in an area of your home that your pet has access to. Make it inviting by putting a soft bed or blanket inside and feeding them treats and food in the carrier. If they have a favorite toy, encourage them to play with it in the crate.

If your cat or dog is small, try closing the kennel door once they’re comfortable and lifting the carrier up, and walking a short distance with it. Pets who are unfamiliar with being transported in a crate will need time to adjust to the feeling of being carried. Once your pet feels comfortable with the crate, try taking them for short trips around the block to see how to react to being in a vehicle.

If they seem to be anxious or afraid, cover the kennel with a light blanket or towel to help your pet feel more secure. Often, this is a great way to stop any whining or crying because it makes them feel safer and keeps them from seeing out the windows, which can be distressing.

Be sure to choose a carrier that is large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around in. Because you may need to provide a litter box or training pad and food and water bowls, it should be big enough to give your pet separate space to sleep and rest as well as relieve themselves and access food and water.

Make sure that the kennel fits in a part of your vehicle that you can access and monitor while on the road. Don’t put your pets in a trunk or trailer. Ideally, you’ll want them to be secured in the back seat of your vehicle so that you can check on them frequently and access them if there’s a problem.

Double-check that your vehicle’s climate controls — air conditioning and heat — are working, and never leave your pet in a hot or cold vehicle unattended while you eat, sleep, or take a driving break.

Cost Considerations

When driving to a new home with a pet, the biggest cost will be the pet fees you have to pay at hotels and Airbnbs, which are usually anywhere from $15 to $50 per day on top of the cost you pay for your room.

However, some hotels and accommodations don’t charge pet fees, so do your research beforehand to check the options available along your route.

Flying With Your Pet

Flying with your pet can be an attractive option for a lot of pet owners. It’s faster than driving and can be much easier to plan because you won’t have to worry about stopping to eat or rest.

However, flying is much more restrictive than driving because you have to comply with airline rules.

Airlines charge fees to transport your pet, and how much depends on the airline, your pet’s size, and whether they fly in the cabin or in the cargo hold.

Cats and dogs are required to stay in a crate while flying, regardless of whether they’re with you or in cargo, so it’s important to kennel train them before a flight to help them to become familiar with being contained. Include an ID tag and your contact information — phone number, address, and email — on your pet’s kennel in case you get separated.

Depending on whether your pet flies in cargo or with you, they’ll need to go through security and may briefly be required to be removed from their kennel so that airport staff can confirm they’re safe to fly. You may also need to provide documentation regarding vaccines and health certificates from a veterinarian, so check your airline’s requirements in advance to find out what you’ll need before your board.

Keep in mind that airlines can refuse to allow your pet to travel at any point leading up to your flight. If you’re flying with your cat or dog for the first time, make sure you have a backup plan. If your pet is in severe distress, acts aggressively, or disrupts other passengers leading up to takeoff, you may be asked to make alternative arrangements.

Whenever possible, book a direct flight to keep air travel times to a minimum. Although some pets fly very well, others are affected by the change in air pressure, noise, and confined space.

Cost Considerations

When flying with a pet, you need to calculate costs for things such as:

  • Vaccinations and an animal health certificate from your vet
  • An airline-approved travel carrier or kennel
  • Cabin or cargo fees, usually between $50 and $250 per flight

Pet Transportation Services

If you aren’t able to drive cross-country yourself, but you don’t want to put your pet through the stress of flying, pet couriers can be a perfect alternative.

Pet transportation services are companies that specialize in driving pets from point A to point B while their owners drive, fly, or leave early to prepare their new home. Many of these services have specialized vehicles with built-in kennels and make frequent stops for walks and bathroom breaks.

Aside from doing the actual driving, some pet couriers can help to arrange both vehicle and plane transportation for pets, including permits, documentation requirements, and overseas moves.

This can be especially helpful for people who are moving to another country or who want to arrive before their pets so that they can be there to meet a moving company or set up a new home.

Make sure to research pet transportation companies beforehand and look for positive reviews from the Better Business Bureau. Look for additional feedback on Google or Yelp to see what other customers thought about the service. You can also ask your vet, trainer, or other pet owners for recommendations. Because you’re entrusting them with your furry friend on a stressful journey, choose a company that you feel comfortable with and that can send you photo and video updates along the way.

Cost Considerations

Pet transportation service costs vary greatly depending on a variety of factors and can be anywhere from $100 to well over $1,000. Some of the factors that influence the cost of pet transportation services include:

  • The length of the trip
  • The departure and destination cities
  • How many pets you have
  • Whether your pet needs to travel overseas
  • If the transport involves flights

If you’re considering a pet transportation service, it’s best to shop around and get quotes for your specific situation. Since the cost is dependent on so many outside factors, there’s no one-size-fits-all price for customized pet travel.

Get a Vet Checkup

Regardless of which method of transportation you choose, it’s important to ensure that your pet is in good condition before you start your journey. Your vet should make sure your cat or dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and that they’re in good health and able to travel. Even if you’re flying or using a pet transportation service within the United States, you’ll still need to have your pet’s health records and vaccination certificates handy.

If your pet has a tendency to be anxious or distressed when traveling, your vet can offer options to help ease their stress. This may be in the form of a mild sedative or a pheromone spray. They can also offer advice specific to your pet’s medical history and any health issues or conditions they have.

It may be difficult to get your pet in for a vet visit in cities or towns you’re not familiar with. Consider asking your current vet if they know any good veterinary clinics in your new area, and confirm their contact information so that you can get your pet’s health records transferred to a new vet when you arrive.

Update Your Pet Insurance

If you have pet insurance, make sure you update your information and ask your insurer about travel coverage for your pet while you’re on the move. Confirm whether they offer insurance in your new city or state as well — some providers may only offer benefits in specific areas.

If your insurance provider doesn’t offer service in your new area, ask them if they have partners or sister companies where you’ll be moving. If not, start researching new insurance providers with solid travel coverage for your pet and set it up before you leave on moving day.

Stock Up on Pet Supplies

You’re going to need supplies for your trip, especially if you’re driving with your pet in tow. What you’ll need depends on whether you have a cat or a dog. Make sure to visit before you leave to prepare for your trip to stock up on your pet’s preferred items.

Cat Supplies

  • Enough cat litter for your trip
  • A small, easy-to-clean litter box
  • Wet and dry cat food
  • Food and water bowls — preferably that attach to a kennel
  • Extra blankets and bed
  • Cat scratcher
  • Toys
  • Treats
  • Collar, harness, and leash
  • Sturdy, generously sized kennel
  • Prescriptions
  • ID tags
  • Health and vaccination certificates
  • Unscented, sensitive baby wipes to clean messes

Dog Supplies

  • Training pads
  • Extra leash, harness, and collar
  • Food and treats
  • ID tags
  • Health and vaccination certificates
  • Medications or prescriptions
  • Chew and puzzle toys
  • Waste bags
  • Collapsible food and water bowls
  • Extra blankets and bed
  • Kennel
  • Unscented, sensitive baby wipes in case of accidents or messes

You can save on basic pet supplies by:

  • Looking for secondhand items in online marketplaces
  • Buying in bulk
  • Repurposing items like old blankets and towels
  • Using and packing items you already own
  • Asking your vet or pet store for coupons and free samples

Update Your Pet’s Microchip Information

If your pet has a microchip or tattoo, make sure that your contact information is correct. This includes your pet’s name and description as well as health issues, and your name, address, and phone number. You can also list an additional contact, like a family member or friend in your pet’s hometown in case they make their way back to your old house.

Update your pet’s information on the microchip company’s website and call your vet to ensure your information with them is up-to-date as well. Notify them of your new address and phone number so that they can get in touch with you if they’re contacted in the event your pet gets lost.

If your pet doesn’t have a microchip, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your vet to book an implant, which is a quick and simple procedure. It typically costs around $50.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that your pet’s ID tag is current and includes a working phone number for you or your veterinary office.

Planning for Travel With a Pet

Once you have prepared, you can start thinking about how you’ll handle traveling to your new state or city with your furry friend. Now’s the time to start thinking about where you’ll stay, when to stop, and how long your travel time will be.

Find Pet-Friendly Accommodations

If you’re driving, or if you’re flying and have long layovers or cancellations, you’re going to need a place for you and your pet to rest between legs of your journey.

Start by planning out your route. If you’re taking a road trip, pick which cities and towns you want to stop in along the way. Try to choose populated areas where you can find a vet, mechanic, or pet store if you need them.

Once you know where you want to stop, check out which hotels, motels, or Airbnb rentals in the area offer pet-friendly stays. Because pet-friendly accommodations can be harder to find, it’s essential that you don’t wait to book until the last minute. Confirm that your lodging allows the type of pet that you have — some only allow dogs, while others allow cats as well.

If you do choose a hotel or motel, you may end up having to pay an additional nonrefundable pet fee on top of your stay. It’s usually anywhere from $15 to $50 and covers the extra cleaning associated with a pet-friendly room. Airbnbs may or may not come with additional pet fees, depending on the host and house rules.

Plan Your Route, Breaks, and Overnight Stops

When you take a road trip on your own, you have the luxury of sightseeing and stopping to visit friends or family members along the way. When you’re traveling with a pet, you often want to get to your destination as quickly as possible.

Being in a vehicle for hours on end can be hard on cats and dogs, so you need to consider how long your travel time will be each day. You may have to stick to 6- to 8-hour daily drives for longer trips as opposed to 12- to 14-hour drives that you would be able to handle on your own.

You’ll also need to adjust your driving time to include walks, bathroom breaks, and food and water stops for your pet. Dogs may need to stop and stretch their legs more than you do, and cats can be finicky during travel and may reach their daily limit of driving before you’re ready to stop.

Remember that it can be hard to stick to a strict schedule with pets, so leave yourself a lot of wiggle room. Pets may become car sick, hyper, or distressed, and may need extra breaks before they’re ready to keep going.

Check on your pet frequently to ensure they’re comfortable and that their kennel or carrier is clean and secure. If possible, have someone drive with you so that, if your pet gets stuck or spills a water bowl, they can handle it without you having to pull over. If you don’t have that option, try to choose a pet carrier that can be secured with a seat belt to add stability and safety.

If you’re flying, make sure your kennel and food and water bowls meet your airline’s requirements. Remind flight staff that you’re traveling with a pet to ensure everyone is aware you have a furry friend on board. Be sure to adhere to cabin rules by keeping your pet’s carrier under your seat and closed. Air travel can be especially stressful for pets, so following the rules can help to keep you, your furry friend, and other passengers safe and comfortable during your flight.

If you’re traveling cross-country, you should be aware of different state laws, especially if you have an exotic pet or a controversial breed of dog. Not all states allow the same animals, or even certain dog breeds, to cross their borders, so plan ahead if you need to cross state lines.

Prepackage Food, Treats, and Litter

Instead of bringing an entire box of litter or food into a pet-friendly hotel room, keep the box in your vehicle filled with separate individually packaged bags that you can grab as you need them. Each night when you stop, grab one bag of litter and food and leave the rest in your vehicle. It will make packing and unpacking your car each day much easier and faster.

Keep items that you’ll need frequently in a separate bag, like waste bags, treats, medication, leashes, collars, and a full water bottle.

If your pet tends to eat and drink less while traveling, try bringing along some wet food to encourage them to take in some liquids and calories. But be wary of giving them anything that might cause an upset stomach. An accident in the car can be unpleasant for everyone. If your pet has a sensitive stomach, ask your vet for tips on how to best ensure they’re happy and full during your trip.

Planning for Your Pet’s Arrival in a New Home

Once you know how and when you plan to travel to your new home, you can start to think about making your pet’s transition to a new home easier. It can take pets longer to acclimate to new surroundings, but you can help to make them feel at ease by thinking ahead.

Keep Your Pet’s Possessions

A lot of pets like consistency. They like their own beds, toys, and litter boxes. Although you might be tempted to replace old belongings for your new space, your pets will appreciate consistency and familiarity. Bring their favorite scratch posts, beds, blankets, and pet furniture such as a cat tower to your new house, and wait to replace it until your pet has settled in.

Make Your New Home Pet-Friendly

If possible, make your new home pet-friendly before, or soon after, your pet arrives. For dogs, if you have a yard, ensure it’s fenced and clean so that they have room to play. You can also install a doggy door and have a dog house ready for them to use.

For cats, have a scratch post set up and give them lots of places to hide and rest. Cats can be a lot more apprehensive about new spaces than dogs, so consider putting them in a room with a bed, food, water, and litter box until the movers are gone and your house is organized. This gives them a chance to adjust to new smells and sounds and prevents them from bolting out the door while you’re unloading the moving truck.

Order or Buy Pet Supplies for Your New Home

Make sure you have your pet’s favorite food, litter, and treats on hand in your new home. New food can cause upset stomachs on its own, but it can be even worse for an animal adjusting to a different space.

Find a local pet store that sells your brand so that you know where to find your pet’s supplies when you start to run low. It’s useful to know whether you have a pet store close to you or if you have to drive across town when you need to restock. You can also shop online through Chewy.

Check Your New Location’s Pet Bylaws and Waste Guidelines

Different cities have different rules and bylaws about cats and dogs. Some will require you to register your pet with your city for a small fee as well as provide proof of spay/neuter and vaccinations. They also have different limits on the number of pets you are allowed to have and what kind.

Give your new city or town government a call before your pet arrives and ask about details like registration, fees, noise ordinances related to pets, or bylaws related to outdoor cats. Knowing what can get your pet into trouble helps to prevent issues in the future.

On top of bylaws, you should find out how you’re expected to dispose of your pet’s waste. Different cities handle pet waste differently, so find out what you’re supposed to do with it beforehand.

Find a New Vet

Even if your pet is doing well, you’ll still need to find a vet for annual checkups, vaccinations, and any prescription refills. If your previous vet wasn’t able to offer any recommendations, ask neighbors and coworkers who they use.

You can also use a televet like Pawp. You’ll have 24/7 access to a veterinarian with instant video chats. Being prepared will make things easier if there’s an emergency or your pet isn’t feeling well.

Final Word

Whether you’re relocating for work or personal reasons, moving long-distance with a pet doesn’t need to be overly complicated. By planning ahead and considering your pet’s needs before, during, and after a move, you can make their transition easier for everyone involved. Consider all the different costs involved and choose the option that works best with your budget and relocation plan.

Tailor the specifics to your pet and think about how they’ve handled traveling or moving in the past to get a feel for how well they’ll acclimate to their new surroundings. By managing potential issues beforehand, you can prepare yourself for any situation, reducing stress and worry on your part and your pet’s.

Brittany Foster is a professional writer and editor living in Nova Scotia, Canada. She helps readers learn about employment, freelancing, and law. When she's not at her desk you can find her in the woods, over a book, or behind a camera.