How to Move with Your Pet

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 9:00am
dog and guardian outside

Moving to a new home may be one of the most stressful life events you’ll ever have to tackle. But in the chaos of cardboard boxes, packing tape and moving trucks, you might not realize how stressed your pets feel, too. We chatted with ASPCA Director of Anti-Cruelty Behavior Research Dr. Katherine Miller about ways to make the transition as safe and easy as possible for your furry friends.

Choosing a new ‘hood, house or apartment

Before you pick out your dream home, make sure your pet will love it just as much as you do. When it comes to square footage needs, cats and dogs differ. Older dogs, puppies and dogs with house training issues will need to go outside often, which might be difficult in an apartment building with lots of stairs or a house without a yard.

Packing up your stuff

Cats aren’t big fans of change. You can help your cats (and skittish dogs) adjust to the moving process by bringing in moving boxes early, and by keeping your furry friends in a familiar room you plan to pack up last. On moving day, keep your pets in a quiet room or at a friend’s house.

Planning your road trip

Many pets haven’t spent much time in crates or cars. In the weeks or months leading up to the big trip, you can prepare your pets by gradually acclimating them to their crates. First, place your pets’ food inside an open crate, and eventually have your pets eat meals in the crate with the door shut.

Settling into your new digs

When you arrive at your new home, it will be tempting to set your dog or cat loose to explore. But a new and unfamiliar space can be overwhelming to your pets. Start by allowing them to adjust to one room—their “home base”—which should include their favorite toys, treats, water and food bowls, and litter box for cats.

To learn more about how to prep your pets for the big move, please read Moving with Your Pet.

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Becky Brooks

A few years ago we moved to Florida from Illinois with 6 dogs and 2 cats. We handled it by making 3 trips: My husband, adult son and I drove to FL in our Jeep with 3 dogs, leaving the rest of them with a boarder. We left the 3 dogs at our new home with our adult son and flew back to IL, then drove back to FL in a rental car with the other 3 dogs. Then I left my husband here with all 6 dogs, flew back, got the cats and flew them with me and my teenage son IN the cabin of the plane with us. Our biggest problem was that one of the cats chewed thru the mesh on her carrier BEFORE we got to the airport, so we had to buy duck tape and tape up all of the rips. Next time I would buy a stronger carrier.

Barbara Ryan

When we moved from CA to FL, we had never moved with our two cats before. We put them in a large crate together - which helped. We also tried to stay in the same hotel chain- similar rooms helped a lot. But they "talked" until we hit AZ.I don't believe in using sedatives, so we just did our best to calm them down- classical music worked wonders. They also got fleas in a hotel room we were stuck in when a hurricane blew threw TX delaying our move. SO make certain your animals are proactively treated for fleas.
When we moved from FL to OK, we treated them proactively for fleas, covered the carrier with a thin towel, they 'talked for a while but they just feel asleep. Classical music helped again...but would put us to sleep. They did pretty good staying in hotels, hiding under the bed and exploring each (similar) room again. They were so good though. If you are calm, it really helps. An covering the crate loosely, but not to block air circulation really a super good thing. Good Luck!


My most recent move from Nashville to New York was calm, cool, and collected believe it or not. I also don't like to use sedatives with my older yellow lab and much older cat, so giving them Rescue Remedy calmed them both so that they weren't anxious, yet they were still able to be alert and aware. I highly recommend it as well as all of the great suggestions above. It also helps if we are calm as well, because our animals are so sensitive to our moods.


I have had 3 major moves in the last 25 years. The key is keeping your pets in a secure carrier or crate and expect the unexpected like a dog who insists on marking every tree across 5 states and a cat who gets car sick. The last move took a lot of planning to transport 2 dogs and 6 cats, but it was worth it.


I plan on moving 5 states away and I have a cat. Is that how I'm going to have to hand him?


I was a military child and we had to move our four cats to Germany. Not the easiest thing to do since one of them was really old. If flying your pets out of country do not sedate them as the airplane wont let them board if the seem sedated. Also, try to keep them as calm as can be. Even spoil them a little so they know that they are loved. If you must board them upon arriving at your destination, visit them often so they know that you still exist and that you still love them.

Kathy Scott

I moved in May from a condo in north Jersey to the Jersey Shore. My 14-year old cat looked like she was handling the packing fairly well. In order to alleviate her stress on moving day, as well as to cut the risk of having her "escape" courtesy of a mover, I took her for her annual vet visit the day before the move and made arrangements for her to spend the night there. I was quite wrong to think she wasn't already stressed out, because this normally docile cat (at the vet and home) attacked the vet, his wife, and me!!! So he sedated her just to be able to clip her nails and settle down for the night. The next morning when the moving van left, I went to pick her up from the vet, and we had a lovely one-hour drive to our new place...she was great in the car. She did not, however, like staying on the sunporch while the furniture/boxes were moved in and I had to let her out into the whole (larger) condo as soon as the movers left. She didn't hide and she did just fine. She has always "done it her way."


When I moved from Chicago to NC .. I flew with my dog he was a little antzy passing security because it was so new and he never knew what it was like... but once on the plane he was pretty quiet .. so it was alright once off the plane prepare your pet to use the bathroom.. the poor thing had to GP LOL ..


We haven't moved with our current trio of dogs, though our oldest, a 13 yo bichon has moved with us from our single family home with a fenced yard to our current condo. Our pets travel with us several times a year on mini vacations or longer. The most recent trip this summer was an 1150 mile trek from NY to Fla, with one stop in NC. Our 3 dogs have gotten used to staying at pet friendly Marriott Residences, and love to join us in the car, even for 12 hour trips!

I think the more frequently your pets take long drives with you, and the more frequently they get to stay in vacation accommodations, the easier they might find a move. We've had 3 dogs for about 15 years now, and our current brood consists of 3 rescues, a 13 yo bichon, a 5 yo havanese and a 1 yo coton. As long as they are with their "people," they really don't care where they are. They know their water bowls and they always have plenty of their toys and chews. If you are planning to move, take a couple of overnight trips and give your pets a lot of your time.

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