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7 Tips for Moving with Your Pets


Moving is stressful for people and their pets. I remember flying from Louisiana to New York with my two cats. I thought about tranquilizing them. My cats’ veterinarian did not recommend it. In all honesty, I was so anxious about the safety of my cats that it was me who needed the drugs.

If you are moving to another state, city, or town, here are a few tips you may want to keep in mind to minimize your anxiety about traveling with your pets:

Avoid Flying
If you are relocating with dogs, it's best to drive so that you can stop periodically and walk your dog. This way your pet will feel secure by having you close by. But if you must travel by plane, take steps to insure a smooth trip for you and your pet.

If You Have to Fly, Find a Pet-Friendly Airline
Some airlines provide climate-controlled cargo areas for pets. A climate-controlled travel area is important for pets because in other parts of the aircraft, the temperatures may become extremely hot or extremely cold. Some airlines will allow certain kinds of small pets to travel with their owners in the cabin; others will not. (Beware that few pets are likely to meet airline requirements for in-cabin travel.) Some airlines at their hub airports have kennel facilities to hold pets during layovers. At the kennel facilities, it may be possible for your pet to be checked on, fed, and given water by airline personnel. Check with your airline to find out more.

Make Sure Your Pet Has Good IDs
Your pet should be wearing a collar that provides his or her name and your contact information, as well as vaccination information. Your pet’s travel kennel should have the same information. If you have one, tape a photo of your pet to the outside of the kennel so that if your pet happens to be an escape artist, airline personnel will know who they are looking for. You may want to invest in a microchip that can identify your pet if he or she gets lost.

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Pack Food for Your Pet
You can tape a Ziploc bag of your pet’s food to the outside of the travel kennel. That way, if there is a delay and your pet is left in the care of your airline, airline personnel will have something to feed your pet.

Don’t Sedate Your Pet
Many airlines will not allow pets to travel under sedation. Veterinarians warn that sedation can depress a pet’s respiration and make it difficult to breathe.

Prep Your Pet
Make sure that your pet’s travel kennel (you’ll need one if you are traveling by air) is large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around. Give your pet time to get used to the travel kennel. Leave the kennel open in your home for several weeks before you plan to leave. Occasionally put treats inside the kennel. This will give your pet a chance to explore the kennel and become familiar with it.

Visit the Vet before Traveling
Your pet may need a certificate of health from the vet in order to travel, and that will mean catching up on vaccinations. In addition, you will want to make sure that your pet is healthy enough to travel.

If you are traveling internationally, you may want to consider using a pet relocation service. Professional pet relocaters can handle the complicated details of negotiating pet quarantines and finding out what vaccinations are required in the country to which you are traveling. Many have veterinarians on their staff who can provide vaccinations and implant identification microchips, if you choose to use them.

If your relocation is temporary, consider leaving your pet at home with a trusted family member or friend. Of course it is difficult to be apart from your pet, and you may need to take time to allow your pet to get used to a new custodian. But if your pet is very old, sick, or prone to anxiety, leaving him or her behind may be the best choice. For some pets, the trauma of a trip across the country, especially if the trip occurs in the cargo hold of a jumbo jet, may be too much.

Michele C. Hollow writes about pets and wildlife for and other national publications. She also covers interiors and other lifestyle topics. She is the owner Pet News and Views, the animal advocacy blog. 

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