How should I move my furry family members?
July 22, 2010 8:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning to move from Michigan to the Portland area in a few months (target date is end of October/beginning of November). Yay! I'm trying to plan ahead - so I'm wondering what would be the best way to move my pets. Best, in this case, means the least stressful option for my pets.

I figure that I can either take them with me in the car, or ship/freight them somehow.

The animals in question are a 2 year old, 30 pound corgi, and a 7 year old, 9 pound tuxedo cat.

I drive with them frequently, but not very long distances. The longest trip we take is to my parents' home, which is just over 2 hours away. They seem to travel well that way - although the cat hates getting IN the carrier, once we're on the road, he seems to be pretty quiet. The dog also rides quietly in her crate; I think she feels safer that way? She frequently sheds and pants anxiously when we drive to the vet or the dog park - I don't bring her crate for those trips.

I'm wondering whether it would be less stressful for them to be with me in the car - they're both very attached. The cat 'yells' at me when I leave him alone for a weekend, and I think I'm the only person the dog really feels safe around.

The other side of the coin - since it will be such a long trip, would it be less disruptive for them to be shipped somehow? It'd probably be more stressful, but over a shorter period of time, I would think.

A few other pieces of information that might be useful:
- I have a 4 door Honda Civic. The dog's crate and the cat's carrier pretty much take up the entire back seat.
- My mum graciously offered to help me with the drive out there.

What do you think would be the best option? Let me know if I can provide more information.

(P.S. I have found some of the past threads on moving pets - the pet-friendly motel one was especially helpful. Thanks!)
posted by rikhei to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have driven across the country with two cats and I have flown across the country with pets. Both seem to be somewhat stressful but my feeling is that having your pets with you, taking it slow and staying in pet-friendly motels allows your pets to remain with you which I think is least problematic for them. We let the cats wander in the car when we traveled and just made sure they wore her leash around. Had some water and a littler box in the back of the car. Made sure everyone was all harnessed/secure before we opened any of the doors. Pets can go into sort of hiberation mode when they travel and not eat/drink/pee/poop much until the end of the day, but they seemed to handle it okay and I was much happier having them with me. Plus the drive is nice, no matter which Portland you are going to.
posted by jessamyn at 8:18 AM on July 22, 2010

I took my two cats with me from Michigan to southern Tennessee at Christmas; they seemed to do fine. They pretty much slept the whole way, but on the way home they discovered how to get out of their mesh carrier and thought the dash looked like a good place to sun themselves. So I'd suggest keeping them crated unless your mom goes with you to keep them off the dash, steering wheel, brake, etc. I used a mid-sized dog crate (when I stopped to buy a new one) with water, food and one of those peel-top disposable litter boxes.

I also drove from here to Florida with my cousin and her two pound lapdog last summer. We stopped frequently for water and tinkles and planned ahead to amuse ourselves at dog-friendly places. Obviously you may have to manage leaving the cat in the car while letting the dog out to pee if the cat is not leash-happy.

Despite the logistics, I'd say drive. Even if driving so far is confusing and annoying to your animals, at least they'll be with you. I can't imagine anything more traumatic than being shipped in a box by strangers.
posted by motsque at 8:33 AM on July 22, 2010

I drove my two cats and my dog from Detroit to Baltimore, with a stop halfway. My dog was fine. The cats settled in to a somewhat stressed but quiet state as long as they could see my dog from their crates (the cats were each very attached to my dog, who loved and protected them). Since my dog had moved before and was completely non-stressed by the move, he comforted them.

They all took the trip much, much better than I thought they would, although the cats practically jumped into their crates when I brought them out the second morning.

My sense is that keeping them together and with me, even for a longer period, was less stressful on them than flying them would have been. But, I suspect it'd have a lot to do with the temperament and relationships between your kids.
posted by QIbHom at 8:35 AM on July 22, 2010

Even if driving so far is confusing and annoying to your animals, at least they'll be with you. I can't imagine anything more traumatic than being shipped in a box by strangers.

This plus infinity. They will be *much* happier with you. Especially your dog who has some stranger issues - like my dog, it would really really suck to have baggage handlers grabbing and pushing his cage into a plane - and probably a plane change - or several depending on which Portland you're moving to.
posted by xetere at 9:13 AM on July 22, 2010

In my experience, driving with them is the way to go.
posted by lucy.verdad at 10:22 AM on July 22, 2010

We used to drive with our cat from Iowa to Vermont every summer, and he loved it--litter box and crate in back, but he was given free run of the car. He was kind of an odd one, though. I drove from Iowa to Wyoming with one of my current cats, and she very much went into hibernation mode for the whole 2-day trip, except for the motel, where she would not sleep--but she cheered right up as soon as we got where we were going.

A friend of mine from graduate school flew with her cat all the time--she could take him with her on the plane and put him under the seat, and she said that was fine.
posted by newrambler at 10:29 AM on July 22, 2010

I've driven three cats from Texas to New Jersey for a move, and then back when we moved back. When I was a teenager, my cats were also shipped from the UK to Texas (different cats). Apart from the expense, I do think it's less stressful for the cats for us to drive them than shipping them would be.

Definitely take your mother up on the driving help. My husband and I took three days for the TX-NJ drive each way, and it was nice to share shifts and leave someone in the car with the cats when it was time for bathroom breaks and food purchases.
posted by immlass at 12:01 PM on July 22, 2010

I drove from Anchorage Alaska to Portland with my 7 year old, 22 pound tuxedo cat (he's big-boned). He would cry pretty much non-stop for the first hour each day and then go to sleep. I wouldn't say he's particularly easy-going, so I was pretty surprised he took it so well.
posted by Nabubrush at 2:55 PM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: I've driven across the country twice (Dallas -> Seattle, Seattle -> Austin) with cats happily contained in the backseat with no issue. Also once drove from Houston to Albuquerque with 2 cats and an angry poodle (I was a passenger, though, not a driver).

Here's what I learned:
• Cats will sometimes complain during stop-and-go, but they mostly sleep for the trip. I've known folks who got sedatives for their kitties and never needed them, but I've also known a couple who were glad to have them on hand. All dogs vary, so better to think ahead and have something on hand in case it gets stressed out.
• You can put cats on harnesses to let them get walk-around time during breaks, but they probably won't go potty. You'll need to have a configuration that supports a litterbox (we built a tunnel out of a mesh laundry hamper and zip-tied a small litterbox to one end with a plastic liner between it and the seat front & back; worked great).
• Don't let cats out of the car unless they're on a harness or in a container. In fact, don't open the car door unless these things are true. Really, probably true for dogs, too - the poodle was lazy, but I know other dogs that would take the opportunity/confusion and bolt. I've been through the worst-case scenario: We lost a cat in Wichita Falls because of my mom's brilliant theory that the cat would go potty and just come back.
• If your dog is traveling outside of a container, leave the lead attached to the collar/harness and put the seatbealt through the lead's loop. Much safer in an accident and prevents dashing out.
• For us, none of the critters really wanted to eat much during the drive (although they sometimes nibbled kibble) but were ravenous during the evening stops. You have to prompt kitty to drink during driving breaks, but most dogs happily slurp a bowl of water without coaching. Just remember you'll have to stop for elimination.
• We didn't allow free-roaming on the cross-country drives because of potential risk to all involved, and it wasn't a good idea during the state-to-state drive (escaping kitty, driver-distracting dog, and more).
• If you must leave them in the car alone at any point, make sure it's for a very short period of time, well-shaded, and with windows open as far as you can without encouraging escape attempts (being in containers will make that part easier). Know that any time you do leave them alone - even for a minute - someone is likely to be upset and worried to see it and could call the police or even attempt to "free" them. Taking your mom up on her offer would help you mitigate this immensely.
• Never leave litter or litter remains for housekeeping to clean up (we always left a little extra tip for housekeeping when traveling with animals to leave warm feelings behind for pet-bearing travelers, too).

Mostly? The critters were all just fine with the process and I didn't have to worry about the horror stories of animals-as-cargo. We were able to comfort everyone during stops at night and restore some semblance of normalcy quickly.
posted by batmonkey at 3:26 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well, that was an overwhelming response in favor of driving with them. Thanks, all! One moving decision made!
posted by rikhei at 5:12 PM on July 22, 2010

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