When I moved my dogs and cats from Hawai'i to Pennsylvania, I created a checklist. If you're moving pets across country or across town, you'll need a checklist too.
MONTHS BEFORE THE MOVE
Create your pet information center
A notebook or expanded file folder to contain all your paperwork and printed information. Use Dropbox or other cloud storage for the electronic information. You can also use OneNote or Evernote.
A calendar to track deadlines and appointments. Use either the calendar system you’re effectively using now or a special calendar just for the pets.
Get information off the web – do a search on the web to BEGIN to get information
Search using various terms such as licensing pets (add your state or ZIP), quarantine pets (add your state, ZIP, or country), pet friendly hotel, etc.
Determine quarantine, vaccination & licensing requirements of your new home. If your pets are traveling international, find out the requirements for all stopovers and transfers points.
Determine if you’re going to move them yourself or pay a pet moving service. Consider both pros and cons for each.
Call for more information
Call the airlines if you will be moving your pets by air. If you will be traveling on a certain airline, check to make sure they take animals. Check with the airline for carrier and paperwork requirements. Check that the size of dog/carrier can be loaded at your airport. Confirm the temperature ranges that animals are allowed to travel under (usually if local temperature at any stop is over 85, the animal will not be allowed to go). Confirm what can and cannot be placed in the carrier with your pet.
Talk with the pet movers if you will be using their services. They will give you a quote, but talk to them and ask questions. If you don’t know what questions to ask, start with ‘tell me how you work.’
Ask your moving company for recommendations. Pets are not allowed on moving vans, but most movers have additional resources and many have useful articles on their website.
Check with your vet
Confirm vaccinations and quarantine requirements for the move. Record specific timing requirements for the various vaccinations and blood tests on your calendar. In addition the commonly required rabies vaccination, consider getting any additional vaccinations required for kenneling your pets. Even if there is no plan to board them, delayed flights may require that your pets be boarded temporarily.
Update any shots that will be due around the time of the move. It may take you some time to find a new vet.
Get your pet microchipped or confirm & update the microchip contact information. Your local humane society may have special events for microchipping at a lower price. Provide two contacts for your pets, yourself and one other person.
Get a carrier and food/water dishes for each animal and start crate training
Make sure that the crate(s) fit in the vehicle you’ll be using (either for the drive to/from the airport or across the country). If you will be flying, the carrier will need to be IATA approved and fit on the airplane. The smaller hubs use smaller airplanes and may not accept larger crates.
Plan your travel route
If you’re driving, check out pet friendly hotels. Plan for rest stops every few hours.
If you’re flying, look for nonstop flights (no stops - best) or direct flights (no plane changes – next best).
Even if you’ll be using a pet moving service, discuss the routes with them. Get the details.
Make travel reservations as soon as possible
If you’re flying, it’s best to have your pets traveling with you (whether as cargo or carry-on) on the most direct route. If you have multiple pets, you’ll need to ensure all travel as cargo together.
ID a vet at the new home that is available on the day you move in
You may not actually go to this vet for your routine pet needs but if you’re moving in on a Sunday, having the number handy of a vet who is working that day can decrease the stress for you.
Check the collars and harnesses
Buy new ones if necessary. Harnesses are great for a small dog or cat as a harness is more difficult to slip out of. If you're flying, confirm that you can use a harness as most airlines do not allow harnesses. No choke chains.
Have two leashes for each pet if your pets will be flying. One will be tied to the crate in case it’s needed and you’re not available. The other will go with you in your carry-on.
Ensure collar/harness tags have your contact information. Your cell phone number is best or a contact at the new home. Your pet should wear the collar and tags at all times during travel and several weeks after, so be sure to get your pet used to it now. Multiple contacts if the tags have space.
1 - 3 WEEKS BEFORE THE MOVE
Confirm quarantine, vaccination & documentation requirements AGAIN
Requirements can change.
Visit your vet for a final health check and microchip verification (usually no more than 10 days before travel)
Verify that you have all the documentation and certifications you need for the health check and vaccinations.
Confirm travel reservations with the hotels, airlines, and pet movers
Wash blankets, bedding, and toys
This will allow the animals to use them for a short period (long enough to get the familiar scents back on) but limit the dirt you’ll be moving.
Refill medications and supplements
Have enough medications and supplements to get you through several weeks after you move so that you will have enough time to refill once you’ve settled in.
Begin converting to distilled water
The change in water can disrupt an animal’s digestive system. If you’re able to take several gallons of your water with you to your new home, then you won’t need the distilled water. But if you’re flying to your new home, you may want to use distilled water initially in the new home, so get them acclimated now.
Label your crates
If you’re flying or using a pet moving company, label your crates. Add your name, contact information, and “live animal” on multiple sides. Even decorate the crate so that it is easily visible from your plane. When you ask the flight attendants to ensure that your animals have been loaded, you can easily identify the crate to them.
Tie a leash to the crate.
Copy and Scan all paperwork and contact information
Include vet contact information both at old and new home. Scan your paperwork and have an electronic copy. Keep an electronic copy in your Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, OneNote or other location. Put another copy on a USB drive to carry with you. Email it to yourself and the other contact person. Keep a copy of the paperwork that you will be giving the airlines, or movers – just in case. Once the move is over though, let it go.
Bring in your outdoor cats a day or two before the move
You don't want to be searching for them as you’re trying to leave.
Consider kenneling your pets for the day of the move out and/or move in.
Send a box of bedding and toys ahead of time if you can
Establish familiar smells when they arrive.
Reconfirm all reservations
pet movers, airlines, car rentals, hotels (call directly and confirm they are still accepting pets), kennels, etc.
Plan some relaxing time for you.
The more stressed you are, the more stressed your pets will be. So taking time for yourself during the moving process is actually making your pets move a priority.
DAY OF THE MOVE
Check your paperwork
Do you have all your necessary paperwork in your pet information notebook? Do you have a copy of it in your travel folder? Do you have the electronic copy?
Keep to their feeding, medication and walk routine if at all possible.
Limit the food
Don’t feed the animals too much and too soon before travel in case they get motion sick or if they’re traveling by air. Limit their food so that they don’t have to go to the bathroom in their crate.
Keep all animals secure
If there’s movement in and out of the house (packing the moving van) and you haven’t kenneled your pets, keep them in a cleared room where they will not be disturbed. Lock the door and place a HUGE sign to remind everyone there are animals inside and to keep the door closed. I’d even tape over the door handle (painters tape) to slow anyone down that wasn’t paying attention.
Pack their suitcase or box.
Some items can go in the box on the moving van or as checked luggage. Some may need to go in the car or as carry-on with you. If the box will go on the moving van, label it well, load it yourself as the last box on and take it off yourself as the first box off.
Medications and supplements
Leash (this goes with you in the car or as carry-on)
Food and water (if you’re flying, buy bottled water when you arrive)
Toys and bedding
Check the crates.
Check the labels and attach leash, food/water dishes, and food (if appropriate).
Do a 2-minute breathing meditation.
Your calm energy helps calm your pets (and makes your move go smoother)
Plan to be at the airport 2 hours before the flight for the check-in process
Grab your paperwork and your pets
Communicate with the flight crew
If your pets are traveling on the same plane as you are, ask the flight attendant to confirm with the ground crew that your pets are on board. If there is any delay, remind the flight crew there are animals in the cargo hold so that the air for heating and cooling remain on.
AT YOUR NEW HOME
Grab the pet box or suitcase
If you’re moving in by yourself please jump to the fifth task first, as pets should not be left unattended in a vehicle. But if someone can stay with them, you can prepare some basics for their new home.
Set out the beds and blankets and toys
Place their beds in familiar locations whenever possible. Having their beds out will put their scent in their new home.
Pour some water from the old home or use distilled water
Slowly introduce the water from the new home.
Take a moment to breath and embrace your new home
Introduce your dog to the house
For the first introduction to the house, walk your dog on a leash around the house. This ensures that he has someone he trusts with him in an unfamiliar location and you can do a quick scan to make sure the area is pet friendly (nothing they could ingest or escape through). If you can, walk your dog around the block and then into the new home.
Reserve a room for the cats
For the first several days to a week, keep the cats inside and limited to one room. They can recover from the travel in relative peace and quite while you move in and they have time to adjust to their new home. If the cats will be outdoor cats, this is important to prevent them from running off and returning to the old home.
Introduce your dogs and cats to the yard on a leash
The first walk in the yard should be on a leash (dog or cat). This is to ensure that the area is pet friendly and that the gates are closed. This also lets them know it’s your space. Yes, leash your cat. A harness works great for most cats.
Keep all animals secure as you move in just as you did moving out.
Plan more flex time into your schedule the first week or two
As everyone is getting used to the new location, be gentle with yourself, your family and your pets. I know there’s a lot to be done, but take time to relax, play and enjoy. Can you take off a few days to be with them in your new home? Help them (and yourself) adjust to the new surroundings.
Return to normal routines
Supervise off-leash outdoor visits initially
Schedule the purchase of the licenses, medication refills and special foods if necessary
Update the microchips with your new contact information
Enjoy your new home!