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Everything you need to know about moving with pets

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Moving with pets can be tricky, but it's not impossible

Have a big move coming up? One of the things a lot of people don't think about is how that move will be affected by having pets. If you do, there are a few extra things you'll need to think about.

Back in 2000, this Texas gal made a big leap — I moved over 3,000 miles to Philadelphia. It wasn't just a big deal for me, though, but also for my dog, Mosby. But we got through it, and so can you, but it starts before you even start looking for your new place.

Research the neighborhood

If you can, it's great to actually visit the neighborhoods where you're looking into living. If you're a parent, you wouldn't move without looking into the schools and safety, right? Same goes for your pet. If you can't, you'll have to rely on your realtor to get the info for you. You'll want to look at several things.

  • Are the neighbors generally pet-friendly? Are there aggressive or unattended animals walking around?
  • Is there a good place to walk your pet?
  • If there's a homeowner's association or if it's an apartment complex, what are the pet-related rules?
  • How will the space affect your pet? (For example, older animals may have issues with stairs, sunken or elevated rooms or the patio.) 

Take several weeks to pack

If your animal tends to have issues adjusting to change (this is common with cats), pack over several weeks. Let it get used to the boxes and become confident this doesn't mean anything bad.

Also, pack your pet's stuff last, and make sure it's all in one box (except what you need when you're on the road). Pack the box where you can easily get to it in case you realize at the last minute you forgot to make sure it could play with beloved Mr. Fuzzy at will.

Consider microchipping, GPS and new tags

Having a microchip implanted only costs $25 to $50 and may be the difference between getting your baby back or not.

But a microchip isn't a GPS. You can also purchase special collars and gadgets, like this one from Tagg, that do have GPS. Prices vary on these. You don't even have to use them permanently (unless your furry friend is a veritable Houdini), just until you're confident your pet considers your new place home.

Additionally, if you have all of your new contact information, go ahead and have a new ID tag made so that someone who finds your pet knows the right number. If not, consider having a temporary one made with the contact info of someone back home who knows how to get in touch with you.

Vet visit

Ask your vet to give your fur baby a once-over before the trip. Make sure you have plenty of any medication it needs, and ask your vet for a recommendation for a new vet. Just because your vet doesn't know anyone immediately doesn't mean he or she won't have great tips or other resources to help you find one. Your vet can also contact your new vet and arrange for the transfer of records (which you should ask for a copy of) and even chat with your new vet about any special needs your pet has.

How are you traveling?

If you're flying, it's tempting to hire a pet relocation service, and many of them are very good, but they're expensive and may be unnecessary (though in the U.S. they're tax-deductible). Do consider that pet relocation services have a reason to take really great care of your pet, as do airlines, but relocation services are specialists. If that's not a concern, check with airlines to see what options they have for your pet taking the same flight.

If you're traveling by car, that presents its own challenges, especially if you're moving long distance. You'll need to plan out your trip carefully, including the places you want to stop.

Use a service like Furkot to plan your route. You'll need to look for pet-friendly hotels and animal parks in every area as well as rest stops. It's OK to let your pet use the bathroom at a gas station, but you never know when you'll end up deciding it isn't the safest place to let your pet out. With cats, you can even take them (with their litter box) into a bathroom with a secure (lockable) door. It's also helpful to map out several emergency vet clinics along the way.

Make sure your pet is in a location that gets plenty of air circulation and that it's accessible to you from the passenger seat in case you need to attend to your animal. Don't ever unbuckle (pull over first), but you may want to check on your pet or just give it a treat.

Don't forget to pack your leash in the car along with plenty of water, food, treats and meds if needed (and a litter box in the trunk for cats) for your pet (and Mr. Fuzzy if that's how your pet rolls). You'll also need a crate or a pet seat belt for optimum safety — free-roaming pets in vehicles are dangerous for animals and humans.

If your pet isn't used to a carrier, leave it out in the house with treats and toys to encourage it to explore it and get used to it. Then take a few short drives to get it used to traveling with either the crate or the seat belt. Same goes for getting your cat used to a leash — you don't want it bolting when you get to the first rest stop.

Don't just unpack

Before you go nuts getting your stuff unpacked, give your animal one last bathroom break. Introduce it to the house slowly by putting all its stuff out in a single room. Then just let it roam around for a bit. Once it seems comfortable, let it explore the rest of the house.

Think about your animal

Many animals have special needs or circumstances. If your animal is skittish or tends toward anxiety when changes happen, be aware of that. Your vet may even be able to prescribe temporary medication for anxiety or give you tips on non-medicinal ways to deal with it. Just remember, you can't reason with an animal, so love, understanding and patience are key.

More on moving tips

12 Things to never do when moving
The cost of rent around the country will absolutely shock you
House hunting 101 

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