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How to Transport Your Pets Long Distance

man carrying a small dog in a backpack carrier

Over 73 million homes in America have pets. If yours is one of them, and you’ve decided to move to a new city or state, your furry family members will need special consideration through the moving process.

Getting your pet safely to your new home doesn’t have to be a headache. If you want to learn how to transport pets safely and humanely, keep reading. We’ll explain everything you need to know about pet transport options, how to ship a dog or cat, and how to prepare to move with a pet.

How to Transport Pets

When you’re transporting your pets, you have three main options:

  • Driving
  • Flying
  • Booking a pet transportation service


Each option has pros and cons, and your pet transportation strategy will be different for each. Once you’ve decided which moving option is for you, you can plan how to transport your pets.


Driving is a popular moving strategy, that allows you to pack your belongings into a moving van and drive them to your new home. Don’t forget to arrange for professional door-to-door auto transport as well. That way, you can drive the moving vehicle without worrying about putting extra wear and tear on your car.

Driving is also a great choice for your pet. Your furry or fluffy friend can ride along in the cab (in a pet carrier if necessary). If you’re driving, you can plan your route to make it pet-friendly and take as many breaks as your pet needs.


Flying can be notoriously hard on dogs and cats. While some animals do well on airplanes, airlines warn that, for many pets, air travel can be extremely frightening.

If your pet is too large to be your personal item (and taken into the cabin), they will have to be kept in the cargo hold. Some airlines don’t allow pets to fly in the summer months due to the high temperatures in the cargo hold, which can be dangerous for animals.

Booking a Pet Transportation Service

Some pets are just difficult to transport. Maybe they live in a glass tank or aquarium, or maybe they get inconsolably anxious whenever they travel. Whatever the reason, if you have a hard-to-transport pet, consider a specialized pet transportation service.

This option is similar to hiring a moving company to transport your belongings, except that they professionally ship your pet. Pet transport services have expertise in transporting tricky pets, and they are usually licensed to transport between states. They can also help take care of the legalities of moving with a pet as well.

Can You Ship a Dog or a Cat?

Yes, you can.

Dogs and cats are America’s most popular pets, and fortunately, they’re also the easiest to ship. With the right know-how, shipping your dog and cat can be surprisingly easy. It just requires planning and preparation.

How to Ship a Dog or Cat

The first step to shipping a dog or cat is choosing the right carrier. If you have a smaller pet, such as a cat or small dog, who often comes with you in the car, your regular soft-sided carrier will be fine for a longer trip. Hard-sided carriers are good for big dogs.

Make sure to measure your pet before picking out their carrier. However, the best sign of a good carrier fit is that your dog can stand up and turn around inside. This allows your furry friend to reduce their anxiety, get comfortable, and avoid cramps.

How to Prepare a Pet for Transport

No matter how you’re transporting your pet, it’s not just about getting the right carrier. You need to prepare your pet for the stress of transportation. Here’s how to make sure your fur baby is ready for the big move.

Make Friends with the Pet Carrier

If your dog or cat isn’t used to traveling in a pet carrier, make sure you set aside some time to help them get used to it.

Rather than feeling forced into the carrier, your pet should be able to build positive associations with it by spending time inside the carrier before moving day. Encourage your pet to explore the carrier by leaving the door open and putting a treat or toy inside.

Once your dog or cat is used to the carrier, practice closing the door for a few minutes. Stay close to the carrier, talking to your pet in a soothing voice. Gradually increase the amount of time your pet spends in the carrier until they can comfortably stay in the carrier for five minutes or more.

Most importantly, never use the carrier to punish your pet. It can be tempting to send your pet to the carrier when they need a time-out session, but if your pet associates the carrier with punishment, they’ll be distressed when moving day comes and they have to spend hours inside. Focus on making the carrier a fun and safe place for your pet.

Take Them to a Vet

No matter what method of transport you’re using, a vet visit should be your top priority as you get close to your moving date.

At your appointment, have your vet check your pet for any developing health issues. The stress of travel could exacerbate your furry friend’s health concerns, so your vet should do a thorough assessment to make sure that your pet doesn’t have any new health problems.

You’ll also need to obtain an intrastate health certificate for your pet. Most states require this certification of good health to ensure that incoming animals don’t bring animal-borne diseases into the state. The veterinarian can certify that your pet is in good health, and update your pet’s vaccinations to meet state standards.

If your pet is prone to travel anxiety, this is the perfect time to get a prescription for sedatives to make the travel process easier. Finally, don’t forget to ask your vet to fill your pet’s prescriptions before you go. You’ll need enough medication to last the trip, as well as enough to last until you can find a veterinarian in your new city.

Check Your State Laws

States have varying laws regulating which animals can cross their borders. These laws apply to everything from your family goldfish to livestock.

Since state laws can differ widely, make sure you check the specific regulations in your new home state. Here are a few things you might have to consider:

Breed Bans

Some states have laws regulating the entry of species or breeds that are considered dangerous. Although controversial, most states prohibit or restrict some dog breeds. Others permit these breeds to enter but require other restrictions, including keeping the dog muzzled while in public, displaying a warning sign at their house, or having the dog wear an identification tag.

Health Checks

You may have to send your pet’s health certificate to your new state before you move. In other cases, you may only need to present it at the border. The health certificate will certify that your pet is free of contagious diseases and has all of their necessary shots.

Check your municipal regulations as well. Many communities restrict the number of animals per household, including cats and dogs, so if you have lots of furry family members, double-check that your new community allows them all.

Last-Minute Pet Transport Preparations

As moving day approaches, make sure you prepare travel snacks for your pet. It can be tempting to comfort them with treats during the stress of travel, but make sure that you don’t overdo it — too many treats can cause an upset stomach, and that’s as unpleasant for your pet as it is for you.

Instead, make sure you have your pet’s regular food on hand. If you have a long road trip ahead of you, prepackage your pet’s food into resealable baggies. This will save you from digging into a big pet food bag at every rest stop.

Don’t forget to bring your pet’s water dish and a case of bottled water. At every rest stop, you can pour your furry friend a drink. Stock up on animal waste bags too — nobody likes a pet owner who leaves their animal’s mess in the parking lot of a convenience stop.

Even if your pet doesn’t typically use a leash, invest in one. Cats are Houdini-like escape artists and can slip out of a collar, so if you’re going to bring your cat outdoors at your rest stops, pick up a harness.

Plan Your Route

Plan your driving route with your pet’s needs in mind. Your dog and cat may need more potty breaks than you do, so make sure you plan extra time for pit stops.

If you have an energetic dog breed, your pet will need even more frequent breaks from the carrier. Make sure your route includes animal-friendly parks and green spaces that allow your dog to exercise.

Transporting Your Pet, Made Simple

A long-distance move comes with lots of stressors. Learning how to transport pets doesn’t have to be one. With this guide, you’ll be ready to decide how to ship your pet safely and efficiently.

Make your move even easier with American Auto Shipping. With an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, we’ve been helping Americans move since 1999. Contact us for your free auto shipping quote today.

Dave Armstrong
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