Moving Your Home with Dogs and Cats


You’re moving to another neighborhood or to another state. To your cat or dog, the only difference is the traveling time. Moving to a new home is a major uprooting for dogs and cats.

You can help the move go more smoothly for your pet as well as for yourself. If you start preparing well before the move, the adjustment will be easier for all of you.

Packing, paperwork, and routines

Start packing weeks in advance if possible so that you won’t feel rushed and stressed just before the move. If you’re stressed, your pets will be stressed. Keep up your pets’ exercise and feeding routines as much as possible until moving day.

If you’re moving to a new area, obtain a copy of your pets’ veterinary records to bring to a new veterinarian. Get vaccination and health certificates if you don’t already have them. If you’re moving to a new state, find out about and prepare to meet any requirements for pets in the new state:

  • Paperwork for animals coming into the state
  • Licensing requirements for animals living in the state

Pack enough pet food and litter for the first few days at your new home. You might not be able to find the same brands right away. Having familiar food and litter will mean one less thing for animals to feel stressed about. You may also want to bring some water from your current home with you.

Preparing for travel and the destination

Whether your cat will be traveling by car or by plane, she’ll need to be in a pet carrier. Dogs traveling by plane will also need to adjust to a pet carrier if they aren’t already accustomed to one. Help your pets become comfortable in their pet carriers in advance by allowing them to go in and out of them freely. Putting food and treats in the carriers will help your pets feel at ease in them.

You’ll want to have your pets on a leash if the traveling time will be long enough to need breaks. If your cat isn’t accustomed to one, help her get used to a harness and leash in the weeks before the move.

If animals live in what will be your new home before you live there, have the home thoroughly cleaned to remove the scent of the other animals. A lingering scent of other animals of the same species may cause your pets to want to mark their new territory.

Traveling with dogs and cats

Put identification tags on your pets’ collars with in-transit contact information — a cell phone number or the number of a relative or friend. If Fluffy or Fido gets loose, you want people to be able to help your pet return to you.

If you’re traveling by car and the traveling time is more than a couple of hours, stop regularly to give your pets a break on a leash. For longer trips, bring pet food, pet dishes, and (for cats) litter and a small litter pan.

In the new home

While you’re moving furniture into your new home, doors will be open a lot. Choose a room for your pets to stay in until the movers have finished. Before you let your pets out of their pet carriers, unpack their food dishes, bedding, and toys so that they’ll have familiar items with them right away.

Dogs and cats can find harm or cause harm more easily when a home is at the moving-in stage. Check for these possible dangers (to your pets and to your belongings) before allowing your pets to explore the new home:

In the home

  • Items that your dog might want to chew on, such as electrical cords or your shoes, might be accessible at this time.
  • Boxes and other objects piled on top of each other can topple easily, especially if a dog bumps into them or a cat jumps on them.
  • Items that are usually out of animals’ reach might be within their reach before you finish unpacking. Make sure that medications, chocolate, antifreeze, and other items that are poisonous to cats and dogs are not where your pets can access them.

Outside and leading outside

  • Doors that lead out of the home should be closed.
  • Windows should be closed or have screens on them. Check that screens aren’t loose.
  • Make sure that the fence and gate are secure before allowing your dog to be in the yard unleashed.

Further reading

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