(© Tom & Dee Ann McCarthy/CORBIS)

For some renters, the stress of moving with a pet begins long before you start hitting up your 10 best friends to help lug boxes the size of a small child. Hint: If you're still looking for a pet-friendly pad, search the Web sites of humane organizations, such as The Humane Society, for links to pet-approved rentals. But let's assume you've gotten beyond all that and you have a month to get Fido, Fluffy, and Woodstock ready for the big move.

Moving is tough enough on humans, but animals don't have a clue why strangers are removing the furniture. Like the rest of us, pets need a little extra TLC at moving time. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make their move easier at both ends and on the road.

Prepare to make your move

Take your time. Stretch out your packing time over several weeks. Avoid panic in the last days, leaving moving day as relaxed as possible for you and your pets.


Make travel arrangements. If your move involves air travel, contact airline carriers one month in advance. Ask about their pet regulations, and make reservations. Choose a nonstop flight to avoid extra handling and climate and air-pressure changes.


Visit your veterinarian. A couple weeks before moving, request a copy of veterinary records, a rabies vaccination certificate, and a health certificate. Be sure your pets are up to date with their shots. If your pet is a senior or has health problems, ask whether a mild sedative would be advisable before travel. Can your vet recommend another in your new location? For out-of-state moves, contact the State Department of Animal Husbandry or the state veterinarian about entry regulations—almost all states have entry laws for most animals except tropical fish.


Don't change. Keep your pets' routines, such as feedings and walks, as normal as possible in the week before moving. Because dogs and cats need to feel in control, they might exhibit behavioral changes or even become ill when stressed. Treat them with the same level of attention you would ordinarily give them.


Make a pet room. A few days before moving, choose a small room to be the "pet room." Tape a sign to the door that says "Pets: Do Not Open." Make the sign large enough that friends or movers can see it easily. Move food and water bowls, as well as toys, into this room. Provide dogs and cats with sturdy carriers equipped with litterbox (for cats), chew toys, or favorite objects that have a familiar smell. Leave carrier doors open so pets can adapt to them before travel day. On moving day, keep animals in their carriers. As an alternative, consider boarding dogs and cats, or ask a friend to caretake your dogs during the last few days.


Get tags and leashes. If you have a dog or an indoor/outdoor cat, buy or create identification tags with your new address and phone number. Be sure your pets are wearing them during travel. While you're at it, pick up a cat leash—you'll need it if you're taking a long road trip or an airplane as well as for the first few days that Fluffy goes outdoors in her new neighborhood.


Tips for the Road

If you're traveling by car, keep cats and dogs in carriers large enough to accommodate food and water bowls plus a small litterbox for Fluffy. Stop about every two hours to give larger pets some fresh air. Be sure to use a leash if you let your cat out. Maintain a comfortable car temperature for all pets, and don't ever leave animals alone in a car on a hot day. Even with the windows cracked, this can be fatal. Birds and other small pets (hamsters, guinea pigs, and the like) are especially susceptible to drafts and heat. Cover cages to keep animals calm and well protected, and remove water bottles except during rest-stop water breaks.


Travel checklist:

  • Veterinary records, certificates, and recent photos
  • Medications
  • Your pets' usual foods and plenty of water from the home you're leaving (changing their water source can be disorienting and upset their stomachs)
  • Food and water bowls, a can opener, and resealable lids
  • Toys, chew bones, and treats
  • Leashes for cats and dogs
  • Beds (pillows, towels, or other crate liners)
  • Plastic bags and scoops for dogs
  • Litterbox for cats
  • Cage covers for birds and rodents
  • Paper towels for messes
  • Provisions for the first day at the new home

Moving In

Dog and cat care:

  • Again, choose a small room to be the pet room, where dogs and cats can feel secure as you move in furniture and belongings. As much as possible, have furniture, bowls, and toys in place before you let your pets out of their crates.
  • Don't let pets outdoors without a leash until they've adapted to their new surroundings—several days to a week for cats; dogs adapt more quickly.
  • Continue giving your pets water from home for the first few days.
  • If your pets misbehave, consider ways to reduce their stress. If you suspect they may be ill, make a veterinary appointment. Don't punish your pets for initial misbehavior. Cats especially will not understand, and distrusting you will only increase stress and stress-caused behaviors.
  • Clean up "accidents" immediately. Animals tend to repeat behaviors in the same areas, so remove odors as quickly as possible.

For dogs only:

  • If you're moving nearby, let Fido visit your new digs before moving day. (This can also be effective with cats, but keep them securely in their crates.) Show them that you're relaxed in this new environment.
  • Take Fido on regular walks around the neighborhood to introduce him to new sights and sounds.
  • If your dog is a chewer, invest in a roomy crate as a doggie condo for times when you're away from home.
  • Create a steady schedule for walks and feedings.

For cats only:

  • For the first few days, give Fluffy the security of one room as a home base, including all her supplies. Let her explore the house or apartment at her own pace, one room at a time.
  • Remember the saying about cats and curiosity? If you're moving into an upper-level apartment, don't open windows more than one or two inches unless they're securely screened.
  • Place litterboxes away from feeding areas, preferably on top of a replaceable throw rug or carpet remnant. (Cats are very sensitive to odors and often avoid using a litterbox that's too close to their food and water.) Remove droppings daily and replace litter weekly.
  • If your cat likes to climb curtains, replace existing curtains with an inexpensive tablecloth or sheets you don't mind sacrificing to the cause, until your cat is settled.

By Sally Anderson