Relocating with Pets

The new job is wonderful – the salary is great, and you love the office. However, there happens to be a catch – it requires that you move to another country. The place is lovely, and it is perfect for your family. But can you take little Fluffy with you?   Will she be happy with the new place?  Moving is a difficult time for us, but what about our pets?

puppies in moving box

“Moving with your pet can be a challenge therefore it is important to plan ahead,” says Dr. M. A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.  What are the things that one should know before relocating with pets?

“It is important to focus on making their transition to their new home smooth because an agitated pet can be scared and run away, get confused and get lost, or be stressed and be destructive,” Crist says.  Her suggestion is to keep the pet confined before and during the move, and then settling quickly into an everyday routine after the move.

When talking about moving, what are the options for transporting pets?

“It is important to make travel arrangements in advance to avoid the unexpected,” Dr. Crist says.

She suggests enquiring with travel agencies and pet transportation services. These agencies take care of all the shipping details – pickup, boarding, and delivery – for an associated cost for pet insurance and transportation charges.

Transportation of pets requires a lot of planning on the part of the owner. For example, if you are planning on air travel, you need to know the specific regulations of the air carrier.

“Puppies and kittens less than eight weeks of age are prohibited from traveling by air transportation,” Crist says. “Pets are usually placed on the plane last so that they can be unloaded first.  Weather can be a concern and it is better to ship pets during moderate weather and not in extreme heat or cold.”

Large pets travel as air freight, small pets may be allowed to travel in the passenger cabin with the owner, and those pets travelling without their owners need to be shipped by air express (usually rodents, birds, and tropical fish).  These shipping containers are available at pet stores and pet supply companies. Crist recommends a strong container to withstand the pressure of other freight accidentally toppling on it. She also suggests choosing containers with good ventilation and a leak-proof bottom.

Other transportation modes require other precautions.

“If traveling by automobile, be sure to get your dog or cat accustomed to riding in the vehicle,” Crist advises.

A travel kit with the pet’s regular food and fresh water is important.

“Changing the drinking water suddenly may cause stomach upset in some of our four-legged friends,” Crist says. “A favorite toy, treats, scooper, and plastic bags to clean up after your pet are recommended as well.”

The recommendations for transportation vary for different pets. Crist recommends that fish should not be overcrowded in their transportation containers, and the water temperature should not change suddenly.

Horses can be transported by air freight or a horse trailer (ground transportation).

“Horse transportation agencies are available and even have pick-up and delivery,” Crist says. Birds are highly sensitive to changes in wind drafts and temperature, not to mention being easily frightened. “It is recommended to travel with the bird cage covered but with plenty of ventilation. During transportation, remember to have travel identification tags with the new phone number attached to the pet’s collar.”

Dogs and cats can have this information on their collars, while horses can have brands, tattoos, and registration papers, and birds can have it on their leg bands, she says.

Most importantly, one needs to be aware of the health regulations of the place you are moving to when transporting pets. Pets need a health certificate after a veterinary examination, and an international health certificate for international travel. These certificates have expiration dates, and it is important to check that the valid period has not expired before you travel.

“Discuss with your regular veterinarian about recommendations for a veterinarian in the new location and travel with a copy of your pet’s records,” Crist recommends.

The new state or country may have different laws for entry with a pet, and it is important to know these beforehand. There may be standard border inspection at some places and random inspections at other places. This is especially important for unusual pets like snakes, lizards, monkeys, or wild animals.

“Communicate, well in advance, with the regulatory agency of the final destination of the pet, prior to moving to understand all of the requirements needed for that pet to be admitted to its final destination,” Crist advises.

At the new home, Crist recommends to confine the pets till they are familiar with the new environment.

“Try to use the pet’s same food and water dishes, blanket, bed, and toys and try to place them in a similar location as they were in their previous home,” she says.

Relocating with pets requires extensive planning.  Sometimes, extra vaccinations and health documents are required six months in advance of the actual move. So, it is important to be aware of the rules and regulations of the place you are moving to.

“It is best to make arrangements ahead of time,” Crist advises so that both you and Fluffy can have a stress-free relocation.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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