Moving Pets Cross Country? Here Are Some Helpful Tips


moving petsMoving your entire life across the country can be a fun, and scary, time in your life. It’s your chance to start fresh, plant new roots, and see a part of the country completely foreign to you. A move across the country is usually a good time to take inventory on your life, and cut ties with all the “stuff” that is nothing more than glorified trash. The less you have when you go from coast to coast, the easier the move is.

Of course, among the “stuff” in your life, one thing that certainly isn’t trash are your pets. And while moving across the country is stressful and chaotic enough, doing so with a pet can be enough to drive you insane. As more and more horror stories pop up about what happens to pets that are kept as cargo on a plane, people are opting to take their dogs and cats on the road with them. So, what can you do to make that road trip one you’ll never forget … for all the right reasons?

1. The animal mechanic. Before you drive across the country, you take your car to a mechanic to see how it’s running. As a 6-time cross country-er, I can tell you from experience that mechanics like to know, specifically, that you’re about to take this massive trip, so that they know what kind of check-up to do (it’s not just the miles, it’s the elevation of the Rockies, the hours of constant running, etc.). The same goes for your pets. Before you go on your trip, take your pets to their veterinarian. Let them know you’re about to go on a cross country trip, so that your vet can ensure your animals are good to go. This includes ensuring your pet isn’t harboring any parasites that could weaken its immune system, since your pet’s immune system is likely already compromised due to the stress of the move.

2. Your travel kit. Your pet needs its very own travel kit. What kind of travel kit does he or she need? You need a pet first-aid kit, single servings of your pet’s food in plastic bags for those long stretches (besides, you don’t want to switch food over the trip … that could spell smelly trouble), and a travel-friendly bowl for water. You’ll also want to bookmark, as that site will lead you to members of the American Veterinarian Medical Association (for emergencies), based on city, state and ZIP code.

3. Plan for potty & walk breaks. When you plan your trip across the country, keep in mind that your dog or cat will want to take a “break” every few hours. For cats, this is likely not as important, as you probably don’t walk them at home. However, you probably don’t want to have cat litter in your car all day and night, so plan on having breaks where you create a quick litter box for your feline friend, which you can toss out after she goes to the bathroom.

As for dogs, let them out to go to the bathroom every few hours. They’ll always have to pee a little bit on these breaks – at least – but it’s more about changing up the scenery for them. That means letting them sniff around the area for a bit as well.

Every eight hours, go for a walk with your dog. That’s the easiest way to get you and your dog active on an otherwise rather sedentary activity – driving.

4. ID your dog. Traveling across the country opens you and your pets up to a greater risk of accidents. Among these accidents is the potential of your animal getting lost (or even stolen). Do yourself a favor and update your ID tags (maybe you have your address on your current tags, but that will no longer do. Use your cellphone number) and consider microchipping your animals, as tags and collars have a way of separating from pets (particularly if your pet is stolen).

While it’s a challenge, moving across the country with your pet is doable. It takes a fair amount of preparation, as well as empathy for your animals. So long as you know what to expect, and plan for the unexpected, you’ll soon be dipping your toes in an entirely different ocean.


  1. Hey Richard,

    Thanks for this article. I would imagine there are a lot of cross-country trips (whether moving or traveling) this time of the year.

    I think you have created a great list here for many pet owners. The only thing I can think of to add would be to ensure that your dog is still getting the affection and as much routine as possible. Also, I know that there are some calming aids that I have used for my dog that are very effective. There are many available in herbal form, pill form, or even clothing (like the Thundershirt).

    Again, great article

  2. If you have a menagerie of pets, large dogs, or pets with special needs, consider hiring a professional pet mover. My husband and I own and operate The Waggin Trail Express, an eleven-year USDA certified company. We stop every 4 to 5 hours to walk dogs and overnight in pet friendly motels. We have made pet moving a stress-free experience for lots of people and pets over the years. We can pick up the pets before the movers arrive and deliver on your timeline rather than the airline’s schedule. We even supply the carriers.

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