Whether your furry companion is a hamster, a gerbil, a ferret, a guinea pig, a chinchilla, a rabbit, or a mouse — or you have more than one of these small mammals, you’ll need a careful plan to protect your pets when you move. Moving is one of the top five most stressful changes in people’s lives and can be extremely disorienting and difficult for pets, too. After all, you know why you’re making changes. As much as you may talk to your pets and explain it to them, they won’t understand why their habitat is disrupted.
As a pet owner, it’s essential to prepare for moving your pet well in advance so you can make the move as stress-free as possible for both of you.
Preparing to Move With Small Mammals
One of the most important steps to take before you move is to find out the rules about whether you can keep your pet in your new home. For example, Hawaii and California ban ferrets. Some local jurisdictions or homeowner associations may restrict certain types of pets, so you should check those rules, too.
Next, consider how you plan to transport your pet to your new home. Driving may be preferable because you have more control over the environment, but if you’re moving long distance, that could be a complicated trip and you may need to find pet-friendly hotels.
While flying may be faster, you may not be allowed to bring your small mammal into the cabin with you. Most airlines ban ferrets, chinchillas, and mice from being transported on board the plane. Some airlines make exceptions for some small mammals such as rabbits and hamsters, but they are likely to have specific requirements for a carrier.
Whether you’re traveling by car or plane, you’ll likely need a special carrier to transport your rabbit, chinchilla, mouse, hamster, guinea pig, gerbil, or ferret. It’s important not to use a glass tank since they can easily crack or break when being moved. Many small mammals like to chew, so you need to be careful to avoid a cardboard carrier for those pets. Ideally, you’ll buy a smaller carrier for your pet than they have at home, so it fits more easily in the car or under an airplane seat. In addition, a smaller carrier can make them feel more secure. Allow your pet to explore the carrier and use it occasionally well before moving day so it becomes familiar to them and even smells like them.
Talk to your vet to get individualized advice about moving with your small mammal and to get a health certificate if needed for your new location. Be sure to line up a vet in the new location, too, especially in case of emergency.
Moving Day With Small Mammals
On moving day, it’s important to keep your pet out of the way of the movers and in as quiet a place as possible. Always keep your pet securely in the carrier. A nervous pet may run away or even bite you, so it’s best not to take them out of the carrier even though you may be tempted to soothe them. Secure the carrier on someone’s lap or strapped into the backseat.
Since you will be moving the carrier around, take out hard toys and food dishes that could hurt your pet if they slide around in the carrier. Do provide something soft for your mammal to cuddle up and sleep in, and a place to hide from the stress. Don’t use a tube for your hamster, mouse, or gerbil, because your pet could easily get stuck in it during the movement of a plane or car.
Provide food on breaks rather than leaving it in the carrier where it can spill. If you can attach a water bottle to the carrier, that’s ideal, since small mammals can easily get dehydrated. You don’t want a water bowl sloshing around the carrier.
Temperature control is extremely important for small pets. It’s best to keep the temperature consistent and avoid having air conditioning or heat blowing on your small mammal. Don’t leave your pet in the car for more than a couple of minutes because the temperature can quickly become dangerously hot or cold.
While you may be stressed yourself during a move, try to remember that your pet will be nervous too. Talk softly to your pet and don’t play music too loudly. Bring a towel or light blanket to put over the carrier if that helps calm your pet.
Settling Into Your New Home With Your Pets
When you arrive at your new home, you’ll have a million things to do at once, but your first priority should be your pet. Until the movers are gone and all the doors and windows are closed, keep your pet securely in the carrier for safety. Try to put the carrier in a quiet place. You can add in toys, food, and a water bowl now that the carrier isn’t in danger of being jostled.
Set up your pet’s space in your new home as closely as possible to the configuration of your previous home. Depending on the type of pet you have, keep your pet in their cage for the first week or two for acclimation. Slowly introduce your pet to the new house one room at a time once things have calmed down and the smells and sounds become familiar.
Checklist for Moving With Small Mammals
Copy and paste this checklist into your notes app for an easy reminder when you’re planning and prepping for your move and on your moving day.
- Check the rules in your new location around your pet. Some jurisdictions don’t allow ferrets, for example. You may need a health certificate from a vet in some instances.
- If you’re moving long distance, check with the airline about whether you can travel with your small mammal. Airlines generally don’t allow ferrets, mice, or chinchillas to travel in the cabin or even in the luggage compartment, but some make exceptions for hamsters and rabbits.
- Make an appointment with your vet to get individualized advice and a health certificate if needed.
- If you’re moving long distance, ask for a referral to a vet in your new location.
- Buy a carrier that’s appropriate for the plane or car trip. Usually, you’ll need a smaller one for travel. Don’t try to move your pet in a glass tank or, if they like to chew, in a cardboard box.
- Provide soft cushioning inside the carrier and, if you have a hamster, gerbil, or mouse, a place to hide from the stress of moving.
- Take away any items that can move around and hurt your pet during travel such as a hard dish or toy.
- Provide plenty of water from a bottle attached to the carrier. Bring plenty of food to provide during travel breaks.
- While you’re traveling, keep the temperature consistent and avoid having air conditioning or heat blow on your pet.
- Don’t leave your pet in the car for too long as it can heat up or get too cold very quickly.
- Set up the pet’s room ahead of time, or as quickly as possible after you arrive, with some familiar items, especially things that smell like their previous home.
- Settle your pet as soon as possible in a quiet room while you unpack.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.