how to move cats across country

Help! We’re Meowving.

Moving across the country for work or school can be a stressful process for your pet.

While you have the benefit of looking ahead and preparing for the change, your cat is in for a big surprise when her routine, home, and familiar surroundings drastically change. It is up to you to make sure this transition is as easy as possible for Kitty.

In general, moving requires detailed forethought and numerous lists, and moving your pet complicates things even more.

By moving through the points of this article, you will be on your way to having thought of everything your cat may need throughout the process.

What should I plan for?

The short answer is everything! Planning ahead as far as possible will make the difference between a smooth or a stressful move for your cat.

Here are a few first things that will be necessary to attend to well before the day of the move.

Update Kitty’s collar and ID tag.

Make sure that your cat has a comfortable and secure collar that has no chance of falling off or getting lost during the move. Make sure that their ID tag is updated with multiple ways of contacting you.

Pet Health Network recommends leaving your cat’s name off the tag and using the space for relevant information like your phone number, email address, and a notification that your pet is microchipped.

Get your cat microchip tag.

While an ID tag is enough in most cases, a microchip is the best way to be certain you can reunite with your cat if he goes missing on the trip.

Most veterinarians can insert the chip, which is smaller than a grain of rice and is a procedure similar to a routine shot.

Be sure to register your pet with a reliable organization like Pet Key before you move.

Consider harness training.

Most moves will require you to allow your cat out of her carrier to walk, eliminate, or just take a break.

Cats can be jumpy when stressed, so you may want to work on training your cat to use a harness and leash to make time out of the carrier safer.

This video explains the basics of harness training and provides some helpful tips for reluctant or obstinate cats.

Familiarize your cat with the carrier you will be using.

Depending on whether you will be flying, driving, or taking another form of transportation, choose an appropriate carrier for your kitty.

Make sure she will be comfortable with the size and shape. If possible, begin letting her go inside and spend time in the carrier at least a month before the move.

Prepare for your kitty’s arrival in your new home.

If you are staying in an apartment, make sure you have communicated to your new landlord that you will be bringing a cat and pay any applicable pet fees.

Pack the kitty essentials that you will need right away—food, litterbox, water—in an easy to access place.

If you will not be transporting these items with you on your journey, make sure you know where you will be able to quickly buy them once you arrive.

How do I take my cat on a long car ride?

If your primary form of transportation is driving in a private vehicle, there are some special considerations to take for your pet.

Although cat car travel requires less planning than on an airplane, it is still important to create a clear plan for how to safely and comfortably get your kitty to his new home.

Choose the right cat carrier.

For long car rides, a carrier with hard sides is usually the best option. This will allow you to more easily secure it in your car and will protect your cat from any unforeseen driving mishaps.

Find a way to secure the carrier.

Once you have selected a carrier, it is important to find a way to securely place the carrier in your car.

According to the American Humane Society, cats should never be in the front seat as the release of an airbag could injure or kill your pet.

Try using the seat belt or elastic bungee cords to keep the carrier secure and free of jostling.

Go for practice drives.

If your kitty is not already familiar with car rides, it is a good idea to take her for short rides in her carrier in the weeks leading up to the move.

That way you can ensure that she is secure and that she can get used to the experience of traveling this way.

Take lots of breaks.

While on the road, it is necessary to stop often to allow your cat to drink, eat, eliminate, and take a break from being in the carrier. Be sure to only take your cat out of the carrier in a safe location away from traffic.

Never ever leave your cat alone in your car.

In addition to the risk of pet theft, your cat may be in danger of temperature extremes that can lead to death or irreversible organ damage.

Pam Johnson-Bennett of Cat Behavior Associates warns that even cars parked in the shade can heat up to temperatures that will be dangerous for your cat’s small body.

How do I fly with my cat?

Taking a kitty on the airplane requires many special considerations to keep him safe and comfortable.

Be sure to check in advance with airlines before purchasing tickets to make sure you will be able to take your cat on any particular flight.

Ask lots of questions.

While most airlines offer a guide to taking cats on board, it is important for you to think through any scenarios not covered and to ask remaining questions before your flight.

Some examples of topics to consider are immunization requirements, required carriers, and whether you can bring your cat with you into the cabin.

Prepare for kitty security.

Airline security can be a frustrating, though necessary, process, and adding a pet to the mix can be even more frustrating.

Review TSA travel procedures before flying and be prepared to remove your cat from his carrier when asked.

A harness and leash can be helpful here in making sure your cat doesn’t panic and run.

Keep your cat safe in the cargo hold.

If possible, always fly with your cat in the passenger cabin. If this is not permitted, there are a few things you must keep in mind for your cat to stay safe in the cargo area.

  • Be aware that your pet’s safety is not guaranteed. Weight the risks of airline cargo travel and choose a different option if you can.
  • Take a direct flight. This eliminates the possibility of your cat ending up in the wrong destination. It also shortens the overall travel time.
  • Travel on the same flight as your cat.
  • Notify the pilot and a flight attendant that you are traveling with a cat in the cargo area.
  • Do not feed your cat for 4-6 hours before the flight. Provide some water for her by placing a few ice cubes in her secured water tray before boarding.
  • Travel with a photograph of your cat just in case.

Be aware that brachycephalic cats can be unsafe while flying.

While squish-faced cats such as Persian, Burmese, Himalayan, and Exotic Shorthair breeds may be allowed in the passenger cabin, most airlines, such as American Airlines, will not accept them for cargo shipping.

The reason is that these cats have short nasal passages that can put them at greater risk for oxygen deprivation or strokes.

This risk remains even in the passenger cabin. If you have a brachycephalic cat, it is best to choose ground travel for your pet.

What about other types of transportation?

Cats are currently not allowed on most ships. In 2016, Amtrak announced that pets are now able to travel by their owners on the train.

Call an agent before booking your train ticket to learn about applicable fees or possible exceptions for your route.

In general, follow the same guidelines as taking your cat in a car for trains, buses, and other forms of ground transportation.

Keep in mind that you will not have control over the frequency of stops, so take advantage of each opportunity to give your kitty a break from her carrier.

Moving across the country with your cat can feel intimidating. Fortunately, the right planning can make the trip safer and less stressful for both you and your cat.

You know your cat best so always keep her personality and preferences in mind when you can. Good luck to you both in your new home, and travel safely!