Home   |    Moving   |   Pets   |   Travel Checklist

Make an appointment & have your pet examined by your veterinarian; collect pet records. Ask your vet for a reference for a practitioner in the new city. Have all of their health documents in one convenient place. You'll need to pack a travel "suitcase" for your pet. Usually, the certificate must be issued within ten days of the plane trip.

Air Travel

Air travel should be booked four weeks ahead of departure for domestic moves and six to eight weeks prior to international flights. Check the airline regulations. Some airlines have additional and more stringent requirements for international travel. These rules may require additional ventilation and labeling, and a shipper's certification.

In the summer, choose early morning or evening flights to avoid extremely hot temperatures. In the winter, choose daytime flights to avoid extremely cold temperatures. Try to book a nonstop flight for your pet to avoid accidental transfers or delays. Don't travel during heavy traffic times such as weekends or holidays.


Get your pet acquainted with the kennel by keeping the kennel in the house with the kennel door open. Try to get your pet to sleep in the kennel or eat there prior to the trip. In order to travel in the plane's cargo hold, your pet must travel in a kennel that meets the following requirements (most pet stores and airlines sell kennels that meet these requirements):

Kennel Size and Strength. The kennel must be big enough for your pet to stand, sit and lie in a natural position. The kennel must be easy for airline personnel to open (latch the kennel door, but do not lock it!) in case of an emergency, and it must be strong enough to withstand the rigors of transportation. Make sure that the kennel is free of any objects that might injure your pet during the loading process or in flight.

Kennel Floor. Your pet's kennel must have a solid leakproof floor. Although the regulations allow for wire or other types of ventilated subfloors, they prohibit pegboard floors. Be sure to cover the kennel's floor with litter or some other absorbent lining.

Kennel Ventilation. Obviously, your animal must be able to breathe freely and comfortably during the flight. Therefore, the regulations are quite specific as to how much ventilation your pet's kennel must provide. The ventilation openings must take up at least 14% of the total wall space of the kennel. At least one-third of the openings much be located in the top half of the kennel. The kennel must have rims -- usually on the sides -- to prevent the ventilation openings from being blocked by other cargo. These rims must provide for at least three-quarters of an inch clearance.

Grips. There must be grips or handles on the kennel so that airline personnel can lift the kennel without having to place their fingers inside the kennel, where they might get bitten by an anxious and frightened pet.

Markings. Your pet's kennel must be marked so that airline personnel know that it contains a live animal. Writing the words "live animals" or "wild animals" on the top and one side of the kennel will do the trick. The lettering must be at least one inch high. Also, draw directional arrows on the kennel to show which side is up. Although the law does not require you to put your name, address and phone number on the kennel, it is a good idea to do so. You should also put the address of your travel destination if it is different from your home address.

Pet Preparation

Make sure your pet's toenails are clipped. You don't want them to get hooked on the carrier door or other openings.

Take a photograph of your pet. You will want to have a current photograph with you in case airline personnel lose your pet.

Purchase a sturdy collar for your pet with two identification tags. On one tag, write your pet's name, your name, home address and home phone number. On the other tag, write your destination address and phone number. Make sure the collar and tags cannot get hooked on metal grates or other parts of the kennel during flight. Veterinarians recommend breakaway collars for cats.

Food and Water

Feed and offer water to your pet four hours before the flight. Federal law requires you to do this. Don't allow your pet to overeat, however. Veterinarians recommend against having pets travel on a full stomach.

Regardless of how long or short the flight is scheduled to be, you must provide airline personnel with written instructions for feeding and watering your pet over a 24-hour period. This is because the flight may be delayed or your animal may be diverted from its original destination. You must attach these instructions to the kennel. Also, you must securely attach food and water dishes to the kennel in such a way that caretakers can access the dishes without opening the kennel door. Attach a bag containing food to the outside of the kennel.

Federal regulations require airline personnel to provide food and water to puppies and kittens that are between 8 and 16 weeks of age every 12 hours. Airline personnel must give food to older animals every 24 hours, and they must give water to older animals every 12 hours.

Hotel Reservations

If you're planning to stop at a hotel/motel along the way, call ahead to find out which ones permit pets. Make reservations as opposed to stumbling upon one on the road. Have leashes on hand to move your pet from the car.

State Laws

Every state has laws regarding animal entry. Your pets must comply with the health regulations. Before making moving arrangements, take your pet to its regular veterinarian for a health checkup, vaccinations, and to inquire about entry permits and sedation. Ask for a referral in your new area and obtain important documents, such as your pets' health records and rabies tags. 

International Laws

Animal entry laws may be doubly strict internationally. Depending on the country, your pet may be quarantined for up to six months for health inspection. In these cases, you may have to consider leaving your pet with a relative or a friend.