Getting through the emotional stress of moving is difficult enough for adults and children. But what about pets, a species with whom we can’t even level? Pet owners are often baffled by their pets’ behavior during and after a move. Sometimes it’s a personality change, a regression in housebreaking habits or a sudden unexplained illness. Even if you don’t notice something that dramatic, there’s no question that your faithful companion is feeling stress. How do you move your pet and keep the strain to an absolute minimum — both to yourself and your beloved pet?
If you’re planning a cross-country move by air, call the airlines first — before you make any reservations — and find out which ones allow pets as “animal passengers.” Approximately 750,000 pets make airline trips every year. Most of the major airlines, such as American, Delta, Continental and Northwest, will allow animal passengers provided outdoor temperatures are within a certain range. Pets may be brought on board with their owners as “carry-on baggage,” or placed within the cargo section of plane as “checked baggage,” weather permitting. Airlines also have established regulations regarding the number of pets permitted per flight, both on board and in the cargo section; as well as number of pets permitted per passenger; and size and weight limitations for carry on and checked baggage. If at all possible, book a direct flight to avoid the additional stress of plane changes.

If you’re contemplating having your pet travel in the cargo section of the plane, you may want to consider first that because this area is in the belly of the plane, you won’t have access to your pet at any time during the flight. While the cargo area is both heated and pressurized, this area isn’t lit, so unless you tranquilize your pet first, the experience is likely to be traumatic. And you should note that the safety of some varieties of tranquilizers has been questioned. These substances can have a dramatically different effect upon your pet at high altitudes.

The federal Animal Welfare Act defines the guidelines for the transportation of animals by air, ground and water; however, as an added protection, some airline carriers take a particularly strict approach and require passengers to submit a certificate of acclimation form signed by their veterinarians, permitting the animal to be in temperatures below 45 degrees; as well as an interstate health certificate.

As your moving date approaches, try to maintain your pet’s routine, including feeding, exercise and play times. When you begin to box up your belongings, and particularly when the movers arrive, you may want to consider recruiting a friend to pet-sit to avoid undue stress for your companion. Make sure your pet is wearing updated identification, and that you’re carrying some kind of identification for your pet, including recent photos. If your pet escapes at any time during your move, you’ll be prepared.

Veterinarians also recommend that if you pack a water supply from the home you’re leaving. Changing water sources could cause your pet stomach upset and ultimately, dehydration. Keep your pet’s food as bland as possible; this isn’t the time to experiment with new brands or varieties. Check with your vet for his or her recommendations. Bring your pet for a thorough physical exam prior to your move, and make sure you obtain your pet’s updated records from your vet.