Downsizing and Real Estate

6/7/2022 | By Cathy M. Rosenthal

Moving to a retirement home often involves uprooting dogs and cats and other pets as well as people. When Seniors Guide read this letter to pet advice columnist Cathy M. Rosenthal about moving long distance with pets, we knew that the issue would resonate with many of our readers and their families.

To help, we put together this helpful overview resource guide for making a move with pets.

‘My Pet World’ looks at moving long distance with pets

A senior couple moving to a retirement community 600 miles away – and traveling by plane – sought guidance from pet advice columnist Cathy M. Rosenthal on making the move with their two cats.

Dear Cathy,

I am desperately hoping you can provide some guidance on how to get two cats transported over 600 miles away from our current home. We are seniors moving to a retirement community. The drive will be too long for us, so we are trying to figure out how to transport our two scaredy cats. Our vet was not able to provide us with options for separate transport. The thought of each of us carrying the cats on a plane is daunting. One cat is large, and I don’t know if he’s too big to carry on. Cargo is a bad option. Just getting them into carriers for the vet is difficult. I’ve researched separate transports but there are so many out there, and we just don’t know where to start and who to trust. These two adopted boys are part of our family so we wouldn’t think of giving them up. Can you give us any guidance please!

Lisa, Huntington Station, New York

Dear Lisa,

cat in a transport crate. photo by Linqong, Dreamstime. Tips for moving long distance with pets are useful for anyone moving, downsizing, or transitioning to a retirement home, taking dogs or cats.

So glad you are moving and keeping your pets! My first recommendation is to bring them into the airplane cabin with you. I know it can seem daunting, but it’s actually much easier to bring them with you than to transport them on a separate transport plane. Call several airlines to discuss their protocols and exact measurements for the space where the cats will need to be placed. It’s also possible first-class seating might give your felines extra space, so ask them about that option as well. Then see if your cat will fit in the size kennel they recommend. Your cat should be able to move around in the kennel comfortably.

If that doesn’t work, you have two other options.

Option one: A family member could drive them, but 600 miles is a long way, and a lot can happen during the trip. But if you know someone you can trust, it is a reasonable option.

But option two will shorten their trip. You can book them on a transport plane just for pets. I don’t know any of these services personally but look them up by searching on the internet for “pet transport services cross country,” and finding one that will fly from New York to your destination. Then read as many reviews about the company as possible. Those reviews will give you lots of insights into who to choose for transporting your cats. Then call them and talk to them and walk through the process with them. If you find a company with a lot of four and five-star reviews and talking with them makes you feel comfortable, then you will know you found your transport service. Time your flights so you can pick them up yourself from the airport.

Long-distance flight concerns

In other tips on moving long distance with pets, Rosenthal assured one reader who was concerned about cats taking a long flight from Miami to London:

If they are on a non-stop flight, they should sleep/rest during the entire trip. The cargo hold is pressurized and climate-controlled, so it will accommodate them. Airlines won’t fly animals if it’s below 45 degrees or above 84 degrees. The concern is not the temperature in the cargo hold, but the holding area or on the runway where animals wait before boarding a flight. This is something to consider if flying cats during the summer. Overall, the cats will be a bit stressed during the trip but should recover within a few days after reuniting with their “mom.”

Moving long distance with pets in a car

two huskies and a cat in a car photo by Konstantin Zaykov Dreamstime. Tips for moving long distance with pets are useful for anyone moving, downsizing, or transitioning to a retirement home, taking dogs or cats.

She also gave the following advice on moving long distance with pets for those traveling with dogs and cats in a car.

Moving with pets is doable with advanced planning. Begin by calling hotels or search home rentals like Airbnb to find places that accept pets. Then let them know you are moving and how many pets you are bringing. There may be a per pet charge fee or a pet limit (most limit to two pets only).

If there is a pet limit, you have three options.

  1. Ask the hotel or Airbnb host for permission to exceed their limit. Get this permission in writing before you set out on your trip.
  2. Rent two rooms so you can be within the pet limits per room.
  3. Place them at a local kennel overnight. That option also gives you a little time to yourself after a long day and less worry about who doesn’t get along with whom.

The cats are fine traveling in their carriers as long as they can stand up and turn around in it. In fact, it’s the safest place they can be. If you let them out in the car for any reason, stay inside the vehicle with them so you don’t have to open a door. Wait to feed them when you get to your overnight destination.

Talk to your vet about getting medication to help them rest easier. Oftentimes though, the hum of the car on the road puts most pets to sleep. Play some soundscape or spa-like music to help all of you relax.

Make sure everyone has a microchip as well as collar and tag with your cell phone number.

Traveling with dogs

Last fall, in an article similar to moving long distance with pets, Seniors Guide rounded up advice on traveling with dogs. Important advice included:

  • Schedule a vet check before the trip
  • Take small but important steps to ensure the dog’s emotional well-being
  • Consider a crate.
  • Always have collars, tags, and a microchip.
  • Build in time for exercise.

Read more in our original article, “Travel with Dogs: Tips for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.”

Preparing the new home

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers tips on preparing for a move and on helping a pet acclimate to a new home. For example:

  • Acclimate the pets beforehand to the crates they’ll be in during the move.
  • On moving day, keep the pets in a quiet room with the door shut, but otherwise try to keep the routine as normal as possible.
  • Pet-proof the new home.
  • Allow them to adjust to one room at a time, starting with a “home base” stocked with their favorite toys as well as food and water.

Pet ownership can be so beneficial to people – and especially to seniors – taking furry friends along when moving to a new home makes perfect sense.

Related: A few more tips for moving with pets

Information from Cathy M. Rosenthal © 2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Cathy M. Rosenthal

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.