Moving with Pets

The moving truck is reserved, you’re starting to box up everything you own and you’ve already taken several carloads of stuff to the thrift store. But have you thought about how your cat, dog, chinchilla or other hairy/feathered/scaly pets will do on your move? Some animals love car rides, while others hate them, but a move is a different *ahem* animal.

Your pets know something’s up when they see all the things they sleep on, play with or chew up being put into boxes, so even those who love going for a ride can get freaked out. There are some remedies to this problem—some of the home or over-the-counter variety, and others that require a professional.

When I moved from Las Vegas to Phoenix a few years ago, I knew my cat Wakko (yes, I’m a huge Animaniacs fan!) wasn’t going to like the long drive. So, my vet prescribed a few pills to help sedate him—think kitty downers—and they sure did the trick! Wakko did everything he could to stay awake, but he was definitely in a daze, and he slept for most of the six-hour drive. (I also learned that a cat’s third eyelid is called a nictitating membrane. I committed that to memory hoping to impress people with my veterinary knowledge … did it work?)

Don’t let the shirt fool you … Wakko was a big baby during the move until the kitty downers kicked in.

I’ve heard other people talk about non-prescription things their vet recommended, but of course you should check with your vet before giving your pet anything,even stuff you can buy at the drugstore. Dosages for cats and dogs are quite different than what people can handle.

What to do along the way

Regardless of whether you decide to give your pet anything to sedate them, there are some other things you can do to make the trip go smoothly. One thing I did was to drape a towel over the cat carrier. This served a dual purpose: It shielded Wakko from the sunlight, and it also kept him from seeing me, which kept him calm. He’d be quiet for long stretches, and every so often I’d lift the towel to look in at him. Every time he noticed me doing so, he’d muster up whatever energy he could, look at me with his droopy eyes and start meowing non-stop for several minutes. So, another good tip to remember: Out of sight, out of mind.

Dogs can travel in carriers, as well, but many of them love car rides and are content to ride on the seat next to you. It’s a good idea to strap them in, and most petpets stores carry seatbelt adapters to fit your dog.

If you’re traveling with dogs, go online before your trip to find dog-friendly rest areas or other locations where you can let your dog run around and do their business (be sure to bring some plastic bags to clean up after them). Cats and other small pets will need a litter box, as well, and a shoebox works perfectly for this.

Also, if your move requires an overnight stay, find out ahead of time which hotels are pet friendly. And no matter what type of animal you have, be sure to bring plenty of food and water for them. There are a ton of websites out there dedicated to traveling with pets.

What NOT to do

You’d think it goes without saying, but NEVER put animals in the back of a moving truck or trailer with the rest of your stuff. Years ago, I heard about a woman who put her birds in the cargo area of a moving truck. Even though she only moved across town, the birds didn’t survive the Arizona summer heat. Those cargo areas are built for furniture, not living creatures. She was upset that no one told her NOT to put her birds back there. You’d think it would be common sense, but apparently not to everyone. Also, NEVER leave your pets in a hot car or moving truck, even for just a few minutes.

So, perhaps the best tip I can offer when moving with your pets is to use common sense. Think of things you’d want along the trip: food, water, exercise, some good music, and make sure your pet has all that, too. And talk to your vet—they may be able to give you a little something extra to make the move more enjoyable for you and your pet.