8 Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe and Secure During a Move

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated January 25, 2022
dog laying in a box getting ready to move into new home
Photo: svetikd / iStock / Getty Images

Keep your beloved pet safe and sound during your move

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Relocating can be anxiety-inducing for our furry friends, but there are many ways to help pets remain stress-free and comfortable when moving. Ensuring your much-loved canine or kitty stays out of harm’s way while you’re transporting moving boxes or furniture should be a top priority. 

Follow these tips for keeping your pets safe during a move, whether that's on the road, in the air, or your new pad.

1. Buckle Up When Traveling

If you're completing a long, out-of-state move, your pet must stay safe while on the road. There isn’t a federal law related to restraining pets in vehicles, but a handful of states have laws that require drivers to restrict pets while in motion. Some states also prohibit dogs from sitting in a driver's lap or in the back of an open truck bed.

Safely securing your pet during travel prevents them from distracting the driver and reduces the risk of injury. Pet harnesses and restraints also stop them from becoming a dangerous projectile during a crash or emergency stop situation.

If your pet is comfortable in a crate or carrier, that’s a good option. Dog and cat seatbelts are also available. Select a product that has been crash-test certified by the Center for Pet Safety to offer your pet the most protection.

2. Keep Your Pet Cool

two dogs sitting in the back seat of a car
Photo: knelson20 / Adobe Stock

The peak moving months are typically July, August, and September, so keeping your pet cool and hydrated during transit is a top priority. On the road, keep a non-spill water bowl filled with water, or consider using a cooling mat or coat to keep them from overheating. Alternatively, a cool canine is one of the many reasons why moving in the winter might be the best option for you.

Most importantly, don’t leave your dog in the car unattended during service station stops. Temperatures in a car rise rapidly on hot days, and dogs can’t regulate their temperatures as well as humans. Serious illness or fatal heatstroke is possible in less than ten minutes. 

Don’t forget to consider the temperature at your new home, too. Is the new AC unit operational? Do you have fans packed that are easy to access? Your pet may already be panting more than normal because of the stress of their new surroundings, and being too hot will exacerbate the situation.

3. Look for Signs of Motion Sickness

If your dog could fill a bucket with their drool or gets sick whenever they get in the car, they are likely suffering from motion sickness. When planning a long journey as part of a move, don’t feed your pet for at least three hours beforehand, but don’t restrict access to water. 

You can also aid their motion sickness by leaving the windows open to help balance the air pressure, and bring a special toy to comfort them. If your pet’s motion sickness is severe, you may need to speak with your veterinarian about pharmaceutical options.

4. Avoid Tranquilizers When Flying

woman petting her dog while on a plane
Photo: Luis Velasco / Stocksy / Adobe Stock

Do you have to fly with your pet? There’s lots of research, paperwork, and airline policies to consider. 

Some owners worry about how their pet will cope on a long flight, and, in the past, tranquilizers were a common solution. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association strongly advises against sedating cats or dogs during air travel because it increases the risk of heart and respiratory problems.

Instead, get your pet comfortable with their in-flight accommodation in advance, speak to your vet about appropriate calming medication, and consider products like anti-anxiety shirts. A road trip may be safer and less stressful for anxious pets, especially for brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds like Pugs, French Bulldogs, or Persian cats that are already prone to respiratory challenges.

5. Secure Your Pets When The Movers Arrive

two dogs standing behind safety gate
Photo: Aleksandr Zotov / iStock / Getty Images

During the move-in and move-out process, a constantly open door and unusual activity means the risk of a runaway pet increases. Having your pet on the loose at any time isn’t a good idea, but it’s even worse in an unfamiliar area when stress levels are high.

To keep your pet contained during the move, some people choose to hire a pet sitter or a loved one to look after their furry friends. Alternatively, you can contain them in a secure room or behind a baby gate until all the commotion is over.

6. Pet-Proof the New Pad

Before giving your pet free rein in the new house and yard, make sure common household hazards are out of your pet’s reach. Some things to consider include:

  • Block off or dig up plants poisonous to pets 

  • Remove hazards like pesticides, solvents, and antifreeze

  • Keep cleaning supplies, such as bleach, out of your pet’s reach

  • Ensure window screens and yard fences are secure

  • Tidy up trailing electrical cords

7. Update Your Pet’s Microchip

It might not be high on your list of priorities during a stressful move, but updating your pet’s microchip details is a simple task that should take less than ten minutes. Pets that escape from a new house are less likely to find their way home and could be in heightened flight mode in an unfamiliar area. Remember to update your pet’s microchip data before settling into your new home.

8. Stay Safe in the New Neighborhood

While on the subject of new neighborhoods, keep in mind that you should keep your pets secure while they get to know their new location. It’s a good idea to keep your dog on leash initially (even if leash laws are relaxed and they have a reliable recall) and an outdoor cat indoors until they are familiar with their surroundings.

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