Moving can already be an arduous task, but toss animals in the mix and it introduces a whole new set of complications. Moving with pets requires a bit of planning, patience and a sense of humor, according to experts and experienced homeowners. Below you'll find stories of pet moves and advice on how to do it.
Dogs and Horses and Goats, Oh My
When Krista Carpenter and her family moved to the small community of Tumalo, Ore., to live and work on a ranch, they brought their two dogs, three horses and two goats with them. They rented out their home in California and didn't’t look back.
So when her husband’s job managing the ranch ended unexpectedly, they found themselves with just 18 days to find a new home for themselves – and all their animals.
“Not only were we challenged with quickly having to find a place with horses and pets involved, but we wanted to stay in a specific area," Carpenter says.
The couple’s young son was involved in sports at school, and they didn't’t want to uproot him. But not just any property in the area would do. They needed to find a rental that was set up for, and accepted, their whole menagerie – and for a price they could afford. Leaving the animals behind wasn’t an option.
“We’ve had horses basically our whole lives,” Carpenter says, “and we’ve never not had dogs.”
The couple had also never rented. Still, they dove head first into the process, scouring Craigslist posts for the small, but horse-friendly community in rural Central Oregon for something suitable, and quick.
“We found a couple places with property and fencing, but no barn or stalls,” she recalls.
Building their own shelter for the horses on a rental property didn’t seem like a wise investment, so they kept looking. Some of the properties came with the amenities they needed, but wanted to charge “pet rent” for the horses at rates as high as $250 per horse per month – an additional expense of $500 a month.
“It took us a couple weeks; we looked at four places total,” Carpenter says. “We ended up finding a little house in Tumalo with acreage, a horse setup and a barn.”
By the time it was all said and done, it took the family just over the 18 days to find a place. But Carpenter says they consider themselves incredibly fortunate.
“We got really blessed to find the place that we found in the location and in that time frame,” Carpenter says. They did have to get rid of the goats due to a lack of suitable fencing, which she says was unfortunate. “Thank goodness it was an easy transition for us.”
She says she credits persistence and having all their ducks in row – as well as a bit of luck. For those in similar circumstances, Carpenter says you just have to keep looking and be willing to make some compromises.
“There are properties out there,” she says. “It’s challenging, especially now, to find a place with horses and dogs and things; you’re going to have to look more beyond where you want to live.”
For bird owner Leila Hofstein, moving brings a different set of challenges. Because not all rental properties accept avian companions, and because Portland has a tight rental market, Hofstein generally doesn’t bring them up.
“Birds tend to fly under the radar because they don't cause carpet/floor damage the way other pets do,” she says. “I'm usually pretty sly about it anyhow just to be safe.”
And while birds can get chatty, Hofstein says her African Senegal and African Grey parrots are comfortable enough to remain calm during the transition.
“I've had each of them for a long time – The Baby just turned 17 and Beaker is 14ish this year – so they're pretty chill about moving as long as they know I'm nearby,” she explains.
Keeping the parrots calm is a primary focus during a move. While Hofstein hasn’t had to worry about finding a parrot-friendly apartment, she does work to ensure the change doesn’t take a toll on her beloved pets.
“Remember that you're dealing with a living creature who is probably more stressed out than you are,” she advises. “Make plenty of time for them to hang out and chill with you through the moving process, and make sure they have items they can destroy or hide in throughout the process.”
Not taking these precautions means the birds may find something on which to take their stress out that you'd rather they didn’t, or discover a sneaky hiding spot and have you searching high and low.
Planning the Pet Move
Regardless of the type of animals or the distance being traveled, experts offer some best practices to ensure a smooth transition. No. 1 on that list: Do your homework.
“You’ll need to do some research to find out what the rules are,” explains Caitlin Moore with Austin-based PetRelocation.com, a company that assists with long-distance pet moves, including international travel.
Those rules include the number and type of pets allowed by the country, state or property management company pet owners will be working with. And while traveling within the U.S. is less complicated than moving abroad, Moore says that if pets are traveling by air, they will still need a health certificate to show they are healthy enough to fly.
Once owners know the hoops they’ll have to jump through – some rental companies may require photos and vaccination records, for example – the next task is preparing the pet for travel. As stressful as moving can be for people, it can be even more so for pets, who don’t have the benefit of seeing the big picture.
“One of the biggest things we stress is kennel acclimation,” Moore says. “You want to help your pet get used to the travel accommodations before you move.”
If a pet only goes in its kennel during the stress of the move or trips to the vet, it may be reluctant to get inside or become anxious. To reduce these risks, Moore suggests getting your pet used to its travel container ahead of time by bringing it into a common space and using treats and toys to show the animal it's a safe and fun place to spend time.
Planning ahead makes all the difference, according to KC Theisen, director of pet care issues for the Humane Society of the U.S.
"If you’ve waited until moving day, it's already too late," she says. "Planning should begin a couple months in advance."
In addition to ensuring your pet will be permitted in your new residence, Theisen encourages owners to familiarize themselves with the pet amenities in the area, such as specialized vets and dog parks or agility courses. She also stresses the importance of considering transportation options.
"With pets, one thing we think about is walkability because pets generally aren’t allowed on public transportation," Theisen explains, noting this is especially important for city dwellers. "You need to plan how you’re going to get back and forth to your veterinarian."
And when it comes to moving day, she says the best thing owners can do is keep their animals safe, secure and separate from the process to whatever extent they can. This might mean kenneling a dog during the moving process or simply finding a quiet corner for their crate.
"Sending them away lets them not be part of all that stress and reduces the risk of being lost," Theisen says. "[Moving] is a very chaotic time and puts pets at risk."
But with proper planning, owners can settle into a new home with their pets safely in tow.