9 Tips for Moving Cross Country with Cats

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9 Tips for Moving Cross Country with Cats

Moving across the country is often a very stressful experience that may be exacerbated further when pets are added to the equation. Organizing any move when you have a cat comes with some degree of hassle and there are even more factors to consider when you are moving across the country. Cats are sensitive creatures and the slightest change in their routine may cause adverse effects on their health. Therefore, it is important to pay close attention to your pet during every step of the moving process.

The degree of difficulty may also change with your mode of transportation. For example, if you are flying, you will have a different set of things to consider versus if you are driving. However, our furry friends make our lives more enjoyable and we wouldn’t dream of moving without them. If you have plans on moving cross country soon and you have a cat, here are nine tips to help make the transition a little easier:

Plan ahead and pack the essentials

If you’ve never traveled a long distance with your cat, be prepared to do a lot of packing. Since you will be in a confined space with you pet for a number of hours, it is important to keep it comfortable. Planning ahead and being prepared will prevent any unexpected surprises from popping up. Perhaps the most important item you will need is your cat’s litter box. Second to that will be air fresheners, which are more for your comfort than theirs. You’ll also need plenty of Ziploc bags and towels for the long drive. If you don’t already have a carrier for your cat, it is wise to invest in one. A cat calming spray is helpful if your pet gets a bit antsy in long car rides. If you will be flying cross country with your cat, call the airline ahead of time and find out its procedures for transporting animals. Some airlines have a better reputation than others when it comes to dealing with pets. Getting your cat safely to your new destination is a top priority.

Schedule a visit to the vet

Traveling cross country with cats

Before you make the long journey, get clearance from your vet that your cat is in good shape to travel. This may not be an issue with younger cats, but older ones may have underlying issues that would make a long journey very difficult for them. A long drive and being in a confined space for a long period of time will take a toll on any animal. Taking a sick animal across the country will make for a very hectic and unpleasant car ride. Your vet will be in the best position to recommend a mode of transportation that will be suitable for your pet’s current health. Get all medical records and proof of immunization so that you’ll be able to easily register your cat once your get to your new city. The vet will also be able to provide anti-anxiety medication, which can assist with calming your pet so they are more relaxed for the long journey.

Get a microchip

If you don’t already have one for your pet, then a microchip is definitely worth the investment. Prices start as low as $45 so it is not something that will break the bank. Cats have a tendency to take off running when they are frightened. No matter how well prepared you may be, it is impossible to predict the situations that may arise that could cause your pet to get antsy. A microchip can be vital in helping to find your cat in the unfortunate event they get lost during your cross-country move. Once you get your cat’s microchip, be sure to register it in the National Pet Microchip Registration Database. If you have any doubts about whether or not it can help to find your pet, then you should know that it helped a Florida woman reunite with her missing dog after 12 years. A cross-country move is stressful on its own. So a microchip is worth it for not having to worry about losing your beloved animal.

Find pet-friendly hotels and accommodations

If you’re driving cross-country with your cat, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to make a few rest stops along the way and some will be overnight. Depending on your journey, you may even need to stay in multiple hotels. Do sufficient research and book a pet friendly hotel in advance so that you can eliminate the guesswork when you are already on the road. Leaving your cat in the car is not an option and the pet policy varies across hotels. Getting accommodation that will allow you to bring a pet may be challenging if you will be booking something like an Airbnb. Contact the host ahead of time to ensure that your bringing your cat along won’t violate your short-term rental policy. Some short-term rentals may charge extra for a pet or even add a cleaning fee but it is well worth the cost. Knowing in advance whether or not your pet will be accommodated will help to give you an added peace of mind.

Stick to a routine

Traveling cross country with cats

We all tend to work better when there is structure and your pet is no different. It is important that you keep your cat’s routine as consistent as possible. Keeping a routine would make all the difference between a cat who is willing to cooperate on your long cross county drive and one that is not. Don’t alter feeding, rest, or play times, as it this may throw off its general mood as the trip progresses. You may need to pull over at times to feed or play with your cat to keep them in a good mood. If you are pressed for time on your journey, you will need to factor this in. Cats are intuitive creatures and will pick up on even the slightest change in routines. If your pet is aggravated, then the journey will not be very smooth, especially if you will be stuck in a car for hours. Give your cat the same level of care and attention as you normally would both before, after, and during your cross-country move.

Ship your cat by air, if possible

Depending on your financial circumstances, driving may be the more economical option. However, traveling by air with your cat would take away a lot of the additional work and preparation. The length of journey should play a factor in your decision as well. For example, if you will be traveling only a few hundred miles, the car ride will not be extremely stressful on your pet. However, if you will be making a trip from one coast to another, you will easily be covering over 2,000 miles. That’s a long time for your pet to be confined in a small space, no matter how well you prepare. If you decide to fly with your cat, check the airline ahead of time to determine whether your pet will be in the cabin or cargo area. You will undoubtedly be checking bags on such a long journey. There, be sure to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare in case any issues arise so that you will be able to adequately deal with them and also make it to your flight on time.

Do research and be prepared for pet licensing requirements

Requirements vary by destination, so it is always good to plan ahead and be prepared. For example, in Seattle, all new pets must be licensed within 30 days upon their arrival. These laws are in place to ensure that pets are properly tracked and health records are up to date. After all, pets that don’t have their relevant shots can become a public health hazard. Being compliant with local state laws regarding pet registration will help you to avoid hefty fines in the future. Once you figure out your move-in date and know the specific requirements for your new city, set a calendar reminder to get everything up to date for your cat with the relevant authorities. For your convenience, many of these authorities accept registrations by mail and there are a few that accept them online. This will save you a lot of time and effort while you settle into your new home.

Take a practice car ride

Traveling cross country with cats

As with all things, practice becomes perfect. If you are worried that your cat will not be calm despite all your preparation or if they have never ridden in a car before, take a practice car ride before the big trip. For this short practice trip, you won’t need to pack all the items you plan on bringing for your cat on the trip, such as medication for anxiety or a litter box. In fact, all you will need is your cat’s carrier or perhaps you can let it roam free in your car, if you are comfortable. A quick ride for a few blocks will greatly help in getting your car adjusted to being in a car and reduce the likelihood that it will be anxious or aggravated on the long journey.. Leading up to your move, you can also practice taking your cat with you on errands. The quick trips will help it to get acclimated with being in a car and reduce the likelihood that it will be too jittery when you are ready to make your cross-country journey.

Keep your cat indoors after the move and monitor it closely

No matter how well you prepared your cat, it will undoubtedly take some time to adjust to the new surroundings. Keep your cat inside for at least a week to allow its body to adjust to the new surroundings. Put your cat in a room with all the essentials it may need - food, water, litter box, toy, bed, etc. Do not allow your cat to roam around the new house just yet. Wait until it is completely settled and calm inside the room before you introduce any external stimuli. You can use this time to settle in yourself and complete all the necessary post moving tasks that you will need to do. Keep a close eye on your cat and look for signs of feline depression. It is not easy to diagnose depression telltale signs such as lack of appetite and increased aggressiveness may indicate that something may be wrong with your pet.

Moving cross-country is always a big step. Bringing your cat along for the journey doesn’t have to make it more stressful. After all, pets are meant to bring joy to our lives. With a little extra preparation, your move with your cat will be as smooth as possible. Check out our helpful moving tips to for information on how you can maximize your time and money so moving doesn’t break the bank. You may also need to rent a self storage unit during and after your move.

Jodi Reid

About Jodi Ann Reid

Jodi is a writer for the Self Storage Blog. She enjoys traveling, working out, eating healthy and having fun.