Moving with Pets

Moving with Pets

As with all parts of the moving process, relocating your pet(s) can be stressful.

It doesn't have to be, though.

Although you can't really prepare your pet for his or her new home in advance, you can prepare yourself for life with them in a new place. Equally important, you can make their transition as smooth as possible, by planning ahead.

Here are some easy ways in which you can make the move easier on your pet and yourself.

  1. Visit the veterinarian before you leave. During the visit, have the vet check your pet's general health to ensure that he/she will be fine during the trip (especially, if it's a long trip). Get a copy of all your pet's health records to take in, and if possible, request the name of a vet in your new town. When applicable, get all the information you'll need to know about sedating your pet for the trip or ask how to respond if your pet gets carsick.
  2. Keep your pet out of the way on moving day. On moving day, the door to your home will likely remain open for significant amounts of time, which may encourage your pet to sneak out. Moreover, when movers are navigating through piles of boxes with limited vision, having a pet underfoot can be dangerous for both them, and your pet. Consequently, it is critical to keep your pet safe during moving day by securing him or her out of the way -- either in a bathroom, empty bedroom, or pet carrier. Remind everyone participating in the move where he or she is, so that nobody accidentally lets him/her loose.
  3. Find out whether you will need to re-register your pet. Certain places have strict pet registration and vaccination policies. Contact state authorities (or governmental ones, if you are moving overseas) and find out exactly what you need to do to make sure your pet is fully legal.
  4. Buy a new ID tag for your pet. If you know your new address in advance, order a new identification tag for your pet's collar, immediately. Doing so will make it easier to locate him/her if he/she gets lost, en route, or in his/her new, unfamiliar surroundings.
  5. Find an animal-friendly hotel. If you will be stopping on the way to your destination or will be staying at a hotel for the first few nights, make sure that the hotel is willing to accommodate pets. Likewise, if you will be renting a home, upon arrival, confirm with your landlord that pets are welcome.
  6. Prepare your pet for the trip. Never feed your pet too much before a long trip or give it too much to drink. When possible, take your pet for a long walk before the trip.
  7. Acclimate your pet to the pet carrier in advance. If you will be putting your pet in a pet carrier for an extended period of time, it will significantly help to get your pet used to it ahead of time, too. Let your pet spend a few minutes a day inside and make it as comfortable as possible by adding familiar items, if space permits. Also, take care to choose a secure pet carrier, as faulty latches or weak material can prevent it from being transported safely and efficiently.
  8. Prepare for pet drop-off and pick-up, when applicable. If possible, check with both your local and destination airports about how and where to drop-off and pick-up your pet. The more information you have in advance, the easier the move will be. When moving overseas, your pet may need to be quarantined for a period of time. Knowing this in advance will enable you to prepare yourself and your pet, as best you can.
  9. When traveling by car, make sure that your pet is secure. If your pet will not be secured in a pet carrier, make sure that you have proper safety harnesses and that your pet is comfortable being restrained in this way. If necessary, practice with the harness on short drives, so that your pet will know what to expect. Never travel with pets in the trunk of your car or leave pets alone in a parked car. When you get out to stretch your legs, allow your pet the same luxury.
  10. Pack all things your pet will need for the trip. When taking a long car trip, make sure you bring sufficient food, water, and treats for your pet. It's also recommended to protect your car seats with an old sheet or blanket. Bring your pet's favorite toy and any medication that he or she might need during it (the trip). Lastly, make sure to bring plastic bags and cleaning supplies just in case your pet gets sick or has an 'accident', en route.
  11. Bring familiar objects with you. Chances are good that your pet will be confused or scared in your new home. Make sure to bring familiar items in your carry-on luggage or make sure they are accessible immediately, upon arrival, so that your pet will acclimate to its new surroundings, as quickly as possible.


Moving with fish presents an entirely different set of challenges. Before relocating your fish, consider whether it's more worthwhile to move the aquarium and supplies and invest in new fish. If your fish are reasonably priced or do not hold specific sentimental value, you can avoid the hassles of transporting them by simply replacing them, upon arrival. Consider gifting your fish to a friend in your old neighborhood.

Alternatively, many pet stores may be willing to take your fish. Some may even offer a nominal credit, in return, which can be used to purchase fish food or supplies for your aquarium. If, however, you choose to move with your fish, here are 8 tips that may be helpful:

  1. Do not transport fish in their aquarium. The best way to transport fish is in a Styrofoam container that is lined with a plastic bag. Both of these items are available at most pet stores. The plastic bag will protect the fish in case the Styrofoam gets perforated and the Styrofoam will keep the fish protected against bumps in the road and severe temperature changes. Make sure the plastic bag is pulled tight against the box, as a plastic bag that collapses on a fish will have detrimental results. Plastic buckets may be a viable alternative to Styrofoam boxes, but these buckets do not protect against temperature changes and are not ideal for long trips.
  2. Make sure to fill the travel containers properly. Whether you are using Styrofoam boxes, plastic containers, or even just plastic bags, make sure to fill travel containers up with water from your aquarium before you disturb the gravel.
  3. Do not feed fish within 24 hours of travel. This precaution will help prevent the water from getting contaminated, en route. You also need not feed the fish while traveling, as eating in unnatural surroundings may bring unnecessary anxiety to it (the fish). You may be surprised to learn that fish can survive without food for up to a week, so depriving them during the move should not be harmful.
  4. Transport fish in a climate-controlled environment. Simply put, your fish should be transported in the backseat of your car, rather than the trunk.
  5. Consider a portable air pump when taking long trips. If you will be traveling for more than a day or two, invest in an air pump that will circulate air for your fish. As is the case with humans, a lack of sufficient oxygen is deadly for fish.
  6. Cover the fish tank to soothe the fish. Covering your fish during transport is especially important when they are being transferred in a clear container, as the darkness will calm the fish during transport. Still, even fish that are transported in a Styrofoam box can benefit from a blanket's insulation. Feel free to check on your fish periodically for signs of distress, but remember that peeking too regularly may disturb their calm.
  7. Refill your aquarium with used water. You may be moving to a new home, but your fish will feel most comfortable in the same water from your old home. Make sure to take at least 20% of the aquarium's water with you. When possible, take more. Once the aquarium is set up in its new home, place the gravel in before the water, as this will keep the water clean for the fish.
  8. Monitor your fish carefully upon arrival. It is normal for fish to struggle in their first few moments in a new aquarium, even if their new 'home' is the same tank they'd been living in, previously. Put one fish at a time into the tank, and see how each one reacts. If you see serious signs of distress, remove the fish immediately and check the water temperature and water chemistry. Make sure to monitor your fish for at least a week upon arrival in your new home, to check if it or they've gotten ill, along the way.


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