Checklist: How to Move Your Pets

Moving can be stressful. You have to worry about relocating your family, your belongings, and last, but certainly not least, your beloved pets.

The secret to successfully moving your dog, cat or other household pet is planning. Follow this checklist to make sure you have everything you need before you and your furry friend hit the road. 

Know the pet laws and regulations of the state where you are moving

Most states require special permits for certain animals, such as wolves, monkeys, large cats, or any large, exotic animals. You can find all animal-related laws online on your state’s Veterinary Office or Department of Agriculture websites.

Next, check with the City Clerk’s office in your new town to find out about local ordinances. Leash laws and licensing are common, and so are limits on the number of pets per household. Zoning laws may prohibit certain animals, such as goats, pigs and chickens, in residential areas.

If you are moving to an apartment or condo, make sure your pet is allowed before you move in. Many communities do not permit cats, dogs, aquariums and exotic pets such as iguanas, venomous snakes, tarantulas, ferrets, etc.

Obtain all necessary paperwork

Health Records

Be sure to get your pet’s health records from your current veterinarian, as this information will help your new veterinarian provide the best care to your pet.

Health Certificate

Most states require a health certificate for dogs and many states require one for cats and other pets as well. The certificate must be issued by a licensed veterinarian and be no more than 10 days old. Up-to-date inoculation records should accompany it. Check with your veterinarian or animal-control agency for the state’s requirements.


You may need to purchase a permit before your exotic pet can enter your new home state. Ask your veterinarian for help with the application process.

Properly ID Your Pet

If your pet can wear a collar, put one on it and attach an identification tag. The tag should include the pet’s name, your name and the destination address. Most states require a rabies tag for dogs and cats, and for some exotic animals.

It’s also a good idea to have a microchip in your pet, which will provide a permanent ID for your pet.

Animal ID requirements vary in each state, so be sure to check with your veterinarian or animal control agency to be sure you have all of the necessary ID.

Decide on the Best Transportation Method

Moving can be a stressful time not only for you, but for your pet as well, so it is important to choose the best method of transporting them to your new home.


Car travel is the most popular mode of pet relocation. It provides a feeling of security for your pet and for you, and is less expensive than air travel.

If your pet is not used to car travel, take it on short rides before the trip. This will accustom it to the motion of the car. If it is prone to motion sickness, ask your vet about pills to lessen the symptoms.

Do not feed or water your dog or cat for a few hours before you leave. After you are on the road, feed once a day only. Make frequent stops for water and exercise, and be sure to keep your pet on a leash for its protection—and yours.


Some airlines will allow your pet inside the cabin, in an approved container, under the seat. A guide dog, properly harnessed, may sit at your feet.

If you do not accompany your pet, or if your pet is too large to travel in the cabin, it must travel as checked baggage or cargo. Most airlines will allow dogs, cats, birds and fish. However, some may not take venomous snakes or other exotic pets.

Most movers are not permitted to transport pets, and neither are buses or trains, with the exception of transporting guide dogs.

If you cannot take your pet with you during the move, there are several professional pet service companies that will transport your pet for you.

Get a Pet Carrier

Whether your pet travels by air or automobile, a portable kennel, or pet carrier, is essential. This will ensure your pet’s safety and comfort. The carrier should be just big enough for your dog or cat to stand up, turn around, and lie down.

Allow Your Pet to Adjust to its New Home

Just like people, pets need a little time to get used to new surroundings. A favorite food bowl, bedding and toys will help it feel at home.

Katie O’Niones is a corporate marketing specialist for leading mover Atlas Van Lines. Nearly 500 Atlas interstate moving agents in the United States and Canada specialize in corporate relocation, household moving services and in the specialized transportation of high-value items such as electronics, fine art, store fixtures and furniture.