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Moving With Your Pet

When you’re relocating across town or across the country, the inconvenience of moving can stress out every member of your family, your pets included.  Many animals, especially cats, don’t appreciate change and may react to dramatic shifts in routine, like relocating, with fear and resentment.  Whether you are moving with your cats by car or by plane, there are many steps and precautions that you can take to ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible for both you and your pet.

Making Preparations
A lot goes into moving an entire household: buying a new home, researching schools for the kids, making travel arrangements, coordinating movers, and the various other annoying details that always seem to pop up when you least expect them.  Planning for your pets is an important step, and some of the basic pet-moving preparations are listed below:

Check State Laws
Many parts of the country have differing regulations when it comes to moving pets across state lines.  If you’re planning a move to a new state, you should contact the proper authority, such as the State Veterinarian or Department of Animal Husbandry, to ensure that you aren’t breaking any rules by bringing your pet over the border.  You should also call the town you plan to move to and familiarize yourself with its pet licensing regulations.

Get a Clean Bill of Health
Many states require that your pet be up-to-date on his or her rabies vaccination before making the move.  Schedule a visit with your vet to make sure that your cat is not only up to date on his or her shots, but is healthy and ready to make the trip. 

Finding a New Veterinarian
Just as you probably have a physician lined up for your family in your new town, having a veterinarian’s office picked out for your cat is an important precaution.  See our article on Choosing the Right Veterinarian for your Cat for advice in making this important decision.

Tips for Moving by Car
The stress of a long car trip with restless children can pale in comparison to a long car trip with a frightened cat.  However, there are things you can do to make car travel easier on your pet – and your family.

  • If your cat has only traveled the 15 minutes or so that it takes to get to the veterinarian’s office, make sure you take him or her out for a few short excursions in the weeks preceding your move.  Hopefully, these road trips will allow your cat to become more comfortable in a moving vehicle.

  • If your cat still seems very frightened by car travel, consider speaking to your veterinarian about a mild sedative.  Many vets prescribe these sedatives to help relax your cat and ease the anxiety of travel.

  • In addition to a comfortable, appropriately-sized pet carrier, be sure to pack all the necessities your cat needs for a long trip, including: familiar bedding, food, water, pet dishes, a small litter box, toys, and your cat’s favorite treats. 

  • If you’ll be staying in hotels along the way, call ahead to be sure that the hotels you choose allow pets.

  • Lastly, use caution when transporting your pet.  If your cat needs to be out of his or her carrier for any length of time while on the trip, have a harness and leash available.  Moving can be scary for cats, and they may try to run.

Car travel with a pet may sound like a difficult endeavor, however, cats are resilient and yours may adjust quickly to life on the road.  Be patient with your pet, see to his or her comfort, and your journey should go easily.

Tips for Moving by Airplane
If your move will take you several hundred miles away from your original location and you plan to fly there, you’ll need to go through several steps to make sure your cat is ready.  While there is more preparation involved in air travel, this quick mode of transportation will cut down on the time that your pet spends in his or her carrier.

  • Contact your airline to set up your reservations early.  You’ll want to schedule your pet’s flight for preferably an off-hour (to avoid layovers) and a time of year with moderate temperatures, as weather that is too hot or too cold can be dangerous to your pet when waiting to load and unload.

  • Airlines will sometimes charge an additional fee for allowing you to keep your pet with you when you fly.  If your cat and his or her carrier take up only a small area, you can sometimes keep your pet beneath your seat on the airplane.

  • Talk to your vet when considering a tranquilizer, as sedatives can affect your pet differently in the air than they do on the ground.

  • Mark your pet’s crate very prominently.  Brightly-colored signs saying “Live Animal,” and even a more personalized, “My name is _____.  Please take good care of me,” will ensure that your pet stands out from the rest of the cargo.  Also, make sure that your contact information is clearly posted on the outside of your cat’s carrier.

  • Feeding your cat too soon before his or her flight can result in an upset stomach, a messy cage, and a miserable trip.  Make sure to give your cat food and water about five hours before the flight, but no closer to the departure time.

In addition to the precautions above, be sure to request a copy of any regulations regarding transporting animals by air from your airline.  These rules normally detail what vaccinations your pet needs to be updated on, what kind of crate he or she needs to travel in, etc.

Settling In to Your New Home
Once your trip is complete and you’ve made it safely to your new home, you’ll want to help your cat settle into his or her new environment.  First, double-check all of your windows and doors so that your pet doesn’t make an escape attempt.  Second, introduce your cat to a “safe place,” or a quiet room where he or she can begin to become familiar with their new surroundings.

In your cat’s safe spot, place some furniture from home and a few other items, such as your cat’s bed, toys and food.  Allowing your cat to get used to this room, with its combination of familiar furnishings and new smells, will make his or her adjustment to the rest of the house much easier.  Don’t be alarmed if you don’t see your cat for a few hours.  Some felines take much longer to adjust to new environments than others, but your cat will definitely come out of his or her hiding place to explore.

Whether you’re moving to the house next door or to one in a neighboring country, and traveling there by land or by air, relocating with a pet is bound to be a little bit stressful for both of you.  However, by attending to all the important details of your move and easing your cat gently into life in a new home, it is possible to get both yourself and your cat through “Moving Day” in one piece. 

Planning a vacation?  Get some helpful tips on Traveling with (or without) Your Cat!

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