Moving companies cannot move living creatures so you will have to take responsibility for moving any pets yourself. This isn’t just a case of making the physical moving process as smooth as possible – you need to manage their psychological reactions to the move too and make sure that they are kept safe and secure at all times. If you prefer to have someone else move your pet for you, you can find professional pet services that will do the job for a fee. If you also can’t face moving your pet on the day of the move you can think about having them put into kennels for a day or so until you have everything sorted.
Unless you’re traveling very long distances it’s better to physically move your pet(s) yourself in your car or the vehicle you’re traveling in. This way you can manage their care during the move and they’ll feel better just being with you. If you are traveling by car and your pet isn’t used to this spend some time before the move giving it short trial rides. You don’t need to do this with every pet – it’s doubtful that it’ll benefit a goldfish for example – but it can help with cats and dogs.
You need to consider the type of container that your pet will travel in if they need one. Your best bet is to buy a purpose built box or container that is suitable for the type and size of your pet. Many of you may already have travel baskets for pets and these will be fine too. Do be aware that airlines often specify particular types of approved containers for pets that are flying. You may have to buy these from a specialist shop or from the airline itself – talk to their representatives for advice. If in doubt your veterinarian or local pet shop will be able to help. Containers should always be large enough for your pet to stand up, lie down and turn around in. They MUST have adequate ventilation and not leak. It’s always wise to take extra precautions against accidents by putting down something absorbent in the bottom of the container before you start your journey. Make sure that you can secure the container and that it is strong enough to cope with accidents. If you are moving birds or pets that live in cages you can simply use these for most moves but it’s a good tip to cover the cages first to help your pets remain calm.
On the day of your move you need to put your pet somewhere quiet and secure. The packing up of your belongings can be a chaotic, loud and confusing process for a pet – it’s kinder to close them in one room until you’re ready to move them. Also, larger non-caged pets, such as cats and dogs may take the opportunity to bolt if all your doors are open and searching for a lost animal is the last thing you want to do on moving day! Make sure they have food and water and some familiar items to keep them happy and keep popping in to see them. Stick a large notice on the door saying not to open it and warn anyone helping you with your move that your pet is shut in there!
Before you move talk to your veterinarian if you are at all unsure how to transport your pet. They’ll be able to give you valuable advice on how to move them and may also sell pet carriers for the journey. If your pets don’t travel well, get sick in vehicles or you’re worried about long-distance travel and the stress effects they can also advise on medication that can help your pet out. You’ll also need to check if your pets need vaccinations brought up to date, special inoculations, permits and so on and whether they need any special certificates – your vet will be able to advise you on the legal ramifications of moving with pets. If your move means that you’ll be changing veterinarians then arrange to get a copy of your records to hand over to your new one.
You need to be making particularly early preparations if you are taking your pet abroad or on a flight. Each foreign country will have specific regulations governing bringing pets into the region and you will undoubtedly need documentation and/or ‘pet passports’ to get them allowed in. The paperwork for this can be extensive and you may need to apply well in advance. Ask your veterinarian, airline or the embassy of your destination country for further advice on what types of pets will be allowed in and what documentation you need.
Flight regulations for pets will vary according to airline and the duration of your flight. Some airlines will allow certain types of pets into the cabin for some flights – in all other cases they will have to go in the hold or, in the cases of extremely large animals, may have to travel freight. Some airlines won’t carry certain pets and some countries won’t allow certain types to enter. You MUST check first – otherwise your pet will simply be sent home or quarantined and you’ll have to pay for the process. Special arrangements usually apply for dogs for the disabled and you need to check these as well.
Flight arrangements for pets need to be made well in advance and you need to adhere to any airline/customs regulations otherwise your pet will not be allowed to travel. You must talk to the airline first to check their procedures before your flight. Turning up with a pet (no matter how small) with no prior notice certainly won’t get you on a flight. And, if you don’t meet regulations, they’ll refuse to carry your pet – most airlines have a list of cases when they’ll refuse anyway such as extreme temperatures and so on, so you need to check for these exclusions as well. Talk to your veterinarian to discuss the effects flying may have on your pet – your best option may be to sedate it to minimize what can be a strange and stressful experience. In all cases you will need travel and health documentation, an approved container and probably a special ID. Some countries operate a pet passport scheme as well. If your pet has to go in the baggage hold make sure that their container is clearly marked – if you’re at all worried write LIVE ANIMAL on every available surface so that baggage handlers know to be careful. Don’t feed or water your pet too close to flight time – for long journeys take the advice of the airline and veterinarian on feeding. Finally, remember to pick your pet up at the other end! You’d be surprised how many people forget to do this – resulting in extra costs if the animal is shipped back or placed in a kennel.
If your move is a long-distance one and you’ll be driving yourself to your new home stopping at hotels on the way make sure you find hotels that will take your pets. For anything but the shortest journey you need to have a box or bag available to cover short-term needs. This should include food, water, bowls, favorite toys/blankets etc, baskets, leashes and so on – anything and everything your pet will need to keep it happy, fed and under control for a few days. Being with you will make them feel better but being in a car for long periods and travel in general can be disorienting. The more familiar things a pet has around it the better it’ll cope. If you are traveling long distances make sure to always keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier when you stop anywhere. A confused and stressed pet will be more prone to run away given a chance even if they are with you. It’s not good to leave pets alone in the car and, in certain countries, this is actually illegal. If you do have to leave them, keep the time short and leave a window open so that they get some air (but not so open that they can escape!)
On the day of the move try not to feed your pet or give it too much water for a few hours before you set off. This will minimize the risk of the animal being sick on the journey. Do stop regularly to give larger pets such as dogs a break for exercise and to give other pets a rest, something to eat and drink. Keep meals and drinks small and regular rather than large and infrequent. Animals can get just as carsick as humans! Make sure that larger pets such as dogs and cats have an ID chain with your NEW address and telephone number on it. If your pets are being transported via a carrier box write your contact details on the side.
Getting to your new home might be a relief for you but it continues the strange moving experience for some pets. Cats and dogs, for example, establish specific territories within their home environments and, if you move them, they lose these. You need to be aware that they will need time to settle in after the move. Make sure that you put out all of their toys, bowls and bedding etc., somewhere quiet before you introduce them into their new home. This will help them realize that this really IS home. Keep pets indoors for a few days, or only take them out on a leash, until they get used to their new surroundings. If they are particularly stressed by the move and you let them outside their first reaction may be to set off for their old home!