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How to Travel Long Distance by Car with Pets

Tips for Moving Cats and Dogs to Your New Home

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How to Travel Long Distance by Car with Pets

If you're planning a long distance move and have to get your cat or dog to your new home, then you'll need to do some extra work to figure out how best to move them, including ensuring their safe delivery while on the road. This article is based on my own personal experience of moving cats from Canada to the US and the US to Canada as well as driving tow large dogs from the Yucatan in Mexico to Canada. If you're moving your pet across international borders, I recommend reading this article on international moves that will provide some specifics about preparing pets.

And if you're looking for a true story of a couple who moved three pets down to Mexico, take a look at their experience in the article: A Moving Experience with Animals

Step 1: Decide How to Best Move Them

In my many years of moving house, each time we've had to move pets with the only difference being the number of animals we had to move. Most of the time we flew them to their new destination, in particular when the number of days traveling by car didn't even seem feasible. However, one of our last moves, one that took us from Canada back to the US, was the first time I needed to weigh flying our kitties to their new home versus moving them down by car.

In our case, one of our cats was 21 years old, which is old for a kitty. She has special medical needs, including high blood pressure and I was worried that flying her down, even if she were to fly with me under my seat, that the stress would be too much. On top of that, it was difficult to figure out how to move the rest of the animals and to get them there all at the same time or close to the same time. Our move involved flying to a major international airport then driving 1.5 hours to the new place - both of which added a lot of stressful time to our pets' journey.

In the end, after realizing we'd could only fly one cat at a time (flight restrictions made it difficult to fly everyone at once), we decided to take them with us on the drive down. As it would be a full two-day journey, we needed to find pet-friendly accommodation and make sure everyone was in good health before starting out.

If you're not sure how to move your pet - to fly or drive - I recommend reading this article that describes how to prepare your pet for the journey, including what to ask your vet and how to decide what's best for them. If you decide to fly your pets to their new home, check out the article on How to Fly Your Cat or Dog.

Step 2: Prepare for the Trip Down

If you're moving dogs rather than cats (or maybe it's both), you'll find dogs a lot easier to move. First, dogs are usually good in the car and don't mind traveling in the backseat. Second, it's much easier to find pet accommodation for dogs than it is for cats. Cats tend to not like traveling in cars so driving can be quite stressful for them and for you.

Plan the Route

Regardless of whether you have pets with you or not, it's always a good idea to plan your route carefully when driving a long distance. Unlike pleasure trips when you can stop and stay wherever you feel and can take your time, moving adds both a deadline and stress to the planning. So to ease the stress, plan your trip to ensure you're not driving too much in one day and are allowing enough time for breaks and gas fill-ups. This is particularly true if you're driving on your own, as I did the last time we moved. Also, give yourself additional time on the road to deal with unforeseen events, such as getting lost or having car trouble. Both of which can easily upset a tight schedule.

Book Accommodation

Once you have a route set and a good idea of where you'll spend your nights, it's time to find accommodation. I highly recommend booking a room well in advance of your trip. Pet-friendly accommodation is available but depending on where you're traveling, it can be difficult to find.

For my last move, I went online and did a search for pet-friendly hotels. Some popular chains such as Best Western have several locations that allow pets, while La Quinta is pet-friendly no matter what city you stop in. However, be warned: just because a hotel states it's pet-friendly doesn't mean it'll take all pets. I recommend you call first before you book. Have the agent guarantee it'll take the type of pet you're traveling with then secure the reservation.

Remember, too, that often the pet-friendly hotels reserve special rooms for you and your pet so be prepared for a room that's far from the lobby or not as nice as what was shown online. Not all hotels give the worse rooms to pet-owners - in fact, La Quinta gave us beautiful rooms on the ground floor so it would be easier for our arthritic dog to get outside.

Pet Supplies to Take in the Car

  • Pet food
  • Pet bowls (either metal or plastic as glass can break)
  • Spoons
  • Dish soap
  • Pet wipes
  • Bottled water (if traveling in areas where the water isn't drinkable)
  • Treats
  • Pet beds and blankets (familiar smells help reduce stress)
  • Toys
  • Pet medications
  • Yummy pet food (this is stuff that your pet loves to eat but shouldn't have very often, just in case they stop eating while traveling)
  • Medical records

Extra Stuff for Dogs

  • Poop bags
  • Leashes

Extra Stuff for Cats

  • Cat carriers - one carrier for each cat
  • Litter box
  • Kitty litter
  • Litter scoop
  • Lots of garbage bags (for the used kitty litter)
  • Feliway spray (to spray inside the carriers and in the car to reduce stress)

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