You got some exciting news! You’re moving! You’re scared and excited. Then you look at your cat(s) and you get scared. Moving with pets is never easy. Moving with cats is even harder. We have a few tips on how to move with your cats. Make the experience less stressful for humans and felines!

We have some experience moving with cats. 5 years ago, we moved all the way from outside Sao Paulo-Brazil to New York-USA with Tiger. Yes, Tiger was 2+ hours in a car ride to the airport, 4+ hours waiting in the airport, 10+ hours in the airplane, ~1 hours going through immigration and a small car ride to his new home. Moving from a tropical land, a house and the best cat TV ever (birds, lizards, bees, etc.) to a small apartment in the snowy cold with a wall view (welcome to New York).

Then we moved apartments in NYC with Tiger.

Then we moved cross country with Tiger and Arnie (airplane tips!)

Then we moved apartments with Tiger, Arnie and JR.

It can be stressful but if we plan, everything is easier.

What you, are the caregiver, need to do:

  • Decide the method of transportation: Are you going to drive or fly? This will affect what you need to do next.
    • By Car: Make sure you have a comfortable carrier for your kitty, a litter pan (with litter) and a few baggies for poop and pee. If you’re traveling across states, make sure you know the department of agriculture laws in the states you’re driving through and moving. If you’re staying in hotels, make sure they’re pet-friendly.
    • By airplane: Call your carrier. Call them before booking your flight. You’ll need to learn if they have any restrictions for traveling with pets if you can bring your cat with you as a carry on or if you’ll need to have them in cargo. This is what we recommend you ask them:
      • What are the pet fees
      • What are the restrictions bringing your pet with you
      • Dimensions and requirements for carrying on
      • Vetenerian documents needed
      • Process for check in
      • How many hours in advance you need to check in/get to the airport
      • The process to book your cat to fly with you
  • Make travel arrangements: Book your trip
  • Go to the vet: Check your pet health. While we never used medication on our boys, you can always see with your vet what is best for your cat. Also, make sure you’ll get any and all documents needed for the travel.
  • For international travel: Do your research. Some countries require pets to be quarantined, some don’t. Most countries will require veterinarian documents and paperwork from the department of agriculture (For Tiger, we got the documents from the veterinarian and took it to the Department of Agriculture at the airport). And be aware of timelines. For instance, our documents needed to be no older than 7 days. And the veterinarian needed to fill out specific paperwork with specific wording. Know what to ask, and what you need to get.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, google it. You can find a lot of people’s experiences, information, and companies that will take care of everything for you (for a fee).
  • If you find conflicting information, call. Call the airline, call the veterinarian, call the department of which you need information. There’s no harm in asking.
  • On the day of the travel: Make sure they use the bathroom before they’re in the carrier. Have food, treats, and water handy.

If you’re calm, your cat will be calm as well. If you’re nervous, they’ll be nervous as well. Being an anxious person, it’s hard to keep the nerves down – but I do try my best by planning in advance.

When we moved cross-country we flew from NYC to Denver. Our airline was Delta – and it was great. They’re very pet-friendly. We paid a fee of about $200.00 per cat to bring them with us on the airplane. We could still bring 2 carry-on items plus a cat each.

For our international flight, we flew with TAM Airlines. They had a limit of 2 pets per flight and it needed to be the same species. We paid the fee with our ticket bookings but there was no guarantee Tiger would be able to be with us until we checked in. This was not a fun feeling. The attendant recommended us calling a few days prior to our trip to check the status and to get to the airport 5 hours before our check-in. We did all of the above and Tiger was guaranteed to fly with us – and not on cargo. (Side note – when we’re checking in there was a family that would not be able to take their dog with them because the limit had been reached on their flight. And they did not have a carrier in compliance with cargo specifications)

Most airlines have a limit of 1 pet per person, limit of pets per airplane, pet weight allowed and, some, have breeds restrictions. When possible, we always recommend having your beloved cat with you. It’s safer and you can calm them down.

While the airline cannot guarantee your pet will be able to fly with you – usually it’s first come first serve basis on check in – they can indicate if any other passenger will be bringing their pets with them.

Our flight was a smaller airplane so we had to buy new carriers. We opt for these from Amazon. They’re easy to carry and very soft – so it can fit pretty much anywhere. We were advised to get to the airport about 2 hours before the flight to ensure the boys would travel with us and that we had enough time for check-in and security.

Things might have changed since 2016 – but our recollection we couldn’t check in online while bringing pets and we couldn’t select aisle seats (security reasons). The check-in was simple and smooth – the attendant checked the paperwork from the vet, the confirmation we paid for the boys and off we were to security.

Security was a bit more stressful. There were a lot of not so patient people behind us in the line and a not so nice TSA agent. Not so nice until she realized we had cats! She gave us a bit of extra time to get our things together. We had Tiger and Arnie on harness so it’d be easier to walk though the metal detector. They were ah-okay. But if you have a skittish cat, you can ask for a security room for them to check the cat.

In the transportation box we had:

  • Identification – Tiger/Arnie and ours
  • Cat picture
  • Copy of the vet paperwork
  • Baggie with treats
  • Pee-Pee pads inside the carrier (in case of an accident)
  • Baggies for poop accident
  • Small container for water
  • Used t-shirts (for scent comfort)

While neither Tiger or Arnie wanted to eat or drink water through the process, we did offer them from time-to-time.

In the airplane, we had them under the seat, we opened the carrier a little for them to stretch. Arnie was not interested in anything. Tiger peaked outside a bit but wanted to stay inside his bag. For security reasons, if you’re considering taking the cat out of the bag, make sure they have a harness/leash on. You don’t want them to get scared and just run off.

Tiger on the international flight was looking around a little more but showed no interest in getting out of the carrier. He did eat a little treat and drank some water.

When arriving at your new destination, it’s recommended to have your cat in a room – not the entire house. Make sure they have a litter, water, food, and their favorite toys/bed. This will help them acclimate to the new house and know that they have a safe place.

For our boys, we give them about 3 days to feel confident and then they’re off to explore the full house.

And, friend be prepared. Be prepared for people asking to see your pet, to touch your pet, asking what is inside the pet, if your pet travels nicely, if they’ll be loud, people saying that they hate cats, they’re allergic to cats, why you’re moving with your pet (wasn’t any place you could leave it? 😤)

In a nutshell: be prepared. be confident. be calm.

If you travelled or moved with you cats before, let us know your experience and tips on the comments below.