Tips for Moving With Pets

person and dog sitting together and smiling

One of the most common reasons that people give up a pet is because they are moving and decide they cannot take the animal. They might think that moving with pets is too much of a hassle — or that their pet will find the move too traumatic and therefore be best left behind. People who are renters might be discouraged when trying to find a pet-friendly rental

Although moving can be an adjustment for pets, what they really want most is to be with you, wherever you are. There are challenges to moving with pets. But with a little planning and creative thinking, the move can be accomplished without too much stress for you and your pet. Here are some tips for moving with pets.

Will my pet be OK with moving?

If you're thinking about bringing your pet to an animal shelter versus bringing them with you when you move, consider this: Last year, around 400,000 dogs and cats were killed in U.S. animal shelters just because they didn't have a safe place to call home. Many of them were cute, lovable, young, healthy, and/or special in some way — just like your pet. 

Even if your pet does get adopted out to a new home, being in a shelter for a period of time and then adjusting to a new home can potentially involve a great deal more stress for the animal than simply moving. You know your pet best, and keeping their routine as stable as possible can go a long way to helping them be OK with moving.

How can I make moving less stressful for my pet?

If you’re moving to another part of the country, the trip itself can seem daunting. But with some planning, you can make moving less stressful for your pet.

For pets who aren't accustomed to riding in the car, get them used to it gradually. Start by sitting in the car (without going anywhere) with your pet for short periods of time. To make it a more positive experience, you can give them a treat or play with them. Then, progress to taking your pet for short jaunts in the car. By the time your move rolls around, traveling in the car should be much less stressful for your pet. 

Consult your veterinarian about calming medications and natural remedies if your pet continues to be anxious. Again, try this with plenty of time prior to your move to see how your pet reacts. Also, playing the radio or an audiobook can help some pets relax in the car.

Will an overnight stop be part of your trip? Plan ahead by locating pet-friendly accommodations along your route. Many motel and hotel chains take pets. Pets Welcome is a helpful website that lists pet-friendly places to stay and also contains tips for traveling with pets.

If you're moving with a dog, give them a long walk before you start out and make frequent stops so that they can stretch their legs. Keep your dog on a leash at all times when they're outside the car or hotel room. Even if your dog normally responds to voice commands, they might spook easily in new environments. 

If you're moving with a cat, keep your kitty in a carrier or crate while you’re driving. At rest stops, you can let them out (in the car, of course) to use the litter box. Or use a crate large enough to hold a small litter box, as well as bedding and small food and water dishes.

Make sure you take a supply of your pet’s regular food and some treats — now is not the time to change your pet’s diet. Also, you might want to bring along your pet’s favorite toy or bed to provide comfort and familiarity during your stay in foreign accommodations.

How do I introduce my pet to a new home?

When you arrive at your new home, be extra careful to keep your pet safe and secure. Establish a feeding and play/exercise routine as soon as possible to reassure your pet that life goes on as usual. And try to spend extra time with them, so they’ll feel comfortable and safe in their new surroundings.

If your new home has a fenced yard for your dog, make sure the fencing is sturdy and has no escape routes. For at least a few days, monitor your pup at all times in the yard to make sure it's safe. Likewise, even if you have an indoor/outdoor cat, don’t allow your cat outdoors for at least a month. Cats are very place-oriented and have been known to attempt to return to their former home. 

How do I find a pet-friendly rental?

If you need to find a pet-friendly rental, allow plenty of time for your search. If you are moving to an area where there’s a lot of competition for rental housing, start by gathering proof that you are a responsible person. A letter of recommendation from any or all of the following people can help a lot: your current landlord, your veterinarian, your trainer, your groomer, a neighbor or two, a pet sitter, or a dog walker. All of these people can contribute to the image of your pet as a valued, well-behaved family member.

Next, start checking local listings and ask local real estate agents about pet-friendly housing. You could also try calling the local humane society in the area where you’ll be moving. It might have a listing of pet-friendly rentals.