moving pets by car

Moving with Pets: Moving Pets by Car

Moving Your Pets by Car
A car is a practical way of moving with your pet, particularly if the distance you are moving is relatively short -a day's travel or less. Overnight travel is more involved and includes making and confirming advance reservations at motels or hotels that permit pets. If camping, find out whether pets are permitted in the public or private campgrounds at which you expect to stop.

You should always have the documents pertaining to your pet's health available. You may be asked to show them at any time, especially when traveling, so it's advisable to keep them handy.

Dogs and Cats
Unless your dog or cat is already conditioned to car travel, start taking it on short trips to familiarize it to car motion and to teach travel manners.

A dog should be taught to sit or lie quietly in its own place, to keep its head inside the car, not to annoy the driver or passengers, or bark at passing vehicles.

Most cats are frightened of car travel, but usually become accustomed to it quickly. You can allow the cat to find its own niche in the car as long as it doesn't interfere with the driver or passengers. Otherwise, you let your cat ride in its own carrier.

For either a dog or cat, a carrier or portable kennel is one of the most useful items you can have on an overnight motor trip. It becomes the pet's "home-away-from-home" while staying in a motel or hotel room. Folding kennels, as well as crates designed especially for station wagons, are available.

Condition your dog or cat to the restraint of a leash. Cat harnesses are available at many pet shops. A stake with a long leash attached will be useful in keeping your pet restricted outdoors, which is an especially good idea for campers, as most campgrounds do not permit pets to run free.

Have your dog's nails clipped before the trip to prevent scratches and upholstery damage to the car.

Attach pet's travel identification and rabies tags firmly to its collar.

For your convenience, pack a travel kit for your pet. Include:

  • Pet's food and water dishes and supply of pet's regular food
  • Can opener if needed
  • A few treats
  • A favorite toy or two
  • A blanket
  • Comb and/or brush
  • A sedative prescribed by your veterinarian
  • Mop-up towel, paper towels or a few newspapers
  • Flea or tick repellent if you'll be in rural areas
  • Spray-type room deodorant or air freshener if you'll be taking your pet into a motel or hotel room during the trip
  • Scooper and plastic bags to clean up after your dog at motel or campgrounds
  • A litter box, bag of litter and scooper for your cat

Birds and Other Small Caged Animals
Birds and small pets, such as gerbils and hamsters, can generally travel in the cage they use at home.

Remove the water container from the cage to avoid spills. Place the cage in the car out of drafts but with plenty of ventilation, and be sure it will not tip over. Give the pet fresh water at every stop - small pets become dehydrated very quickly, particularly during hot weather. Feed at the usual time.

Travel tends to have an adverse effect on birds. They are very susceptible to drafts and sudden changes in temperature, as well as being easily frightened. To keep the bird calm, its cage should be covered while on the road.

Tropical Fish
Tropical fish are susceptible to an abrupt change in water temperature, and their condition is directly affected by overcrowding. To move tropical fish by car, it's best to remove them from the aquarium - unless it's a small one of five gallons or less that can be moved without too much danger of breakage.

An unbreakable container of a size easily handled when it's half-full of water (minnow bucket, lidded container with air holes in the lid) makes a convenient carrier. Or, use a leak-proof plastic bag closed with a rubber band; place it in an outer bag of similar size to prevent accidental leakage; then into a sturdy container, such as a plastic foam picnic cooler. This system is handy for stabilizing the water temperature for up to 48 hours.

When transferring them to the container, remember that fish need air; fill the container or plastic bag only about one-third full of water.

Use the water from the aquarium. Add the fish (don't overcrowd) and close the top. Open the container or plastic bag every four or five hours to freshen the air supply.

It probably won't be necessary to feed the fish. Many species can go without food for as long as a week with no ill effects.

Plants and snails from the aquarium can be carried along in plastic bags with a small amount of water. The aquarium accessories should be carefully packed by either you or the mover.

If convenient, take along in a separate container as much of the aquarium water as you have room for.

At destination, replace water and fish in the aquarium as soon as possible. Add tap water a little at a time to fill the aquarium to the proper level, letting the fish adjust gradually to the new water. New water may need treatment before use to neutralize any chemicals it might contain. Neutralizers can be purchased at most pet shops, as can liquid healing agents for use if fish become bruised while traveling.

If the fish must be moved in the aquarium itself, remove about half the water, the aerator, heater hood, and anything else that might shift and cause the glass to break. Cover the top with plastic film to keep the water from splashing out. To avoid breakage, take care that the bottom of the aquarium is solidly supported while it is being lifted and moved.

Unusual Pets
Among the more unusual pets are monkeys, boa constrictors and other snakes, lizards, alligators and skunks. These can be transported by air, adhering closely to airline instructions for crating, or in your motor vehicle.

However, many states have specific regulations covering the entry of wild or exotic animals. It's wise to contact the regulatory agency of the destination state prior to moving to be sure which animals are allowed. 

Last Minute Car Travel Checklist 

  • It's advisable to place the aquarium into a corrugated carton and pad it with crushed paper. Wedge the carton in the car so it will not slide during the trip. Replace the aerator immediately upon arrival at destination.  
  • Check destination state's pet entry regulations.  
  • Contact your local and state government agencies in charge of animal health.  
  • Take pet to veterinarian for checkup and health documents.  
  • Apply for entry permit if one is needed.  
  • Inquire about sedation for pet; obtain pet's health record' schedule.  
  • Second visit to vet if necessary... ask vet to recommend a colleague in the new city.  
  • Obtain and prepare travel identification tag.

For more information, read tips on moving dogs and cats or return to the pet moving guide.