10 Do’s and Dont’s for Shipping Your Pet

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated January 16, 2024

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A woman with a dog sitting on the floor next to moving boxes, preparing to ship her pet to another state.

There are many logistical hurdles to overcome when it comes to planning a long-distance move. Between packing up your belongings, cleaning up the old house, and trying to stay on schedule, it’s easy to overlook one major aspect of the move: How do I get the family pet from point A to point B safely and without traumatizing the animal? Shipping your pet to another state is something most people will only do once or twice. It’s hard to know how to prepare for shipping a pet to another state.

Our pets are family members, and we only want the best for them. It’s understandable that you’ll have a lot of anxiety when you’re planning to ship an animal.

We have years of experience working with pet owners with shipping need and drivers who are experts at transporting animals. We’ve used that experience to create this handy list of do’s and dont’s for shipping your pet long distance.

1. Don’t Rely on a Moving Company to Transport Your Pet

Moving companies transport most items but draw the line when it comes to pet shipping. That’s probably a good thing because you need a specialized expert to handle the job.

Research pet transportation companies to find the best fit. There are many pet shipping businesses to choose from.

  • Luxury companies like Royal Paws and Starwood Animal Transport are pricey but plush.
  • Exec Pets provides a more affordable option for shipping pets on a budget.
  • Sites like CitizenShipper save you money with vetted and experienced pet drivers competing for your business.

2. Do Plan Ahead of Time When Shipping Your Pet to Another State

Shipping your pet is a complicated process — especially if you’re using an air nanny. With so much advance preparation required, we urge you to get the process started as soon as possible. You’ll avoid headaches on moving day and feel confident your pet is fit for the journey.

Air Travel

  • Research which airlines accept pets and make sure your pet carrier is air-travel compliant.
  • Book your flight reservations at least six weeks in advance.
  • Gather pet vaccine records a month before the flight and send a copy of your pet’s rabies vaccine certificate to the proper authorities at your destination.
  • A vet must assess your pet two weeks before the flight.

Ground Travel

  • While the paperwork requirements are usually less strict for ground transportation, many companies require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection issued within 10 days of travel.
  • Confirm whether the transportation company will provide a carrier, food, and water. If not, be sure your pet has a carrier it’s comfortable in.
  • Take your pet for gradually longer car trips to get it accustomed to the car.

Get your cat checked out by a vet before moving day.

3. Don’t Forget to Gather Important Vet Records

As mentioned above, keep all veterinary records close by when you’re shipping a pet to another state. When you’re shipping via ground transportation, vet records are a helpful resource for the driver. This is even more important if you’re shipping your pet to another state. Some states have health restrictions due to rabies and other diseases.

When your pet is flying, it’s even more important to have all the required paperwork. If there’s anything missing, the airline won’t allow your pet to board the plane. These records include the following:

  • A signed and dated copy of the airline or transporter Customer Acknowledgement Form (where required).
  • A copy of your pet’s original health certificate. It must be issued and signed by a licensed vet, and the examination must have occurred within 10 days of travel.
  • The health certificate needs to include the breed, weight, age/date of birth, the date of examination, a statement that the animal is free of infectious diseases and physical abnormalities, and that the pet is healthy enough for travel.
  • Some jurisdictions accept electronic health certificates — check the USDA pet travel website has information about what locations accept e-certificates.

4. Do Have Your Pet Microchipped

While it’s highly unlikely your pet will be lost during the shipment, having it microchipped is one way to give yourself some added peace of mind.

  • If for some reason, something goes wrong, the microchip makes it much easier to find the pet.
  • Most microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are passive devices — meaning they only store information and don’t transmit information.
  • According to VCA Hospitals, the procedure is fast and appears to be painless.
  • A microchip is better than an identifying tattoo because it cannot be misread, and the ID number is tamper-proof.
  • The average cost of a microchip is about $50.

When you're shipping your pet to another state, the carrier is very important.

5. Do Make Sure Your Pet’s Carrier is Right for the Trip

You probably have an everyday crate for your pet but are you sure it’s appropriate for a long-distance trip? Every animal is differentcats and dogs appreciate different qualities in a carrier.

There are some standard features to look for in a high-quality pet carrier. However, in general, you want to pick one that’s best suited for your companion’s individual needs.

How to Choose the Right Pet Carrier (Regardless of Species):

  • Decide whether a hard carrier or soft carrier better fits the needs of your pet.
  • If you’re shipping the pet via airplane, be sure the carrier fits airline requirements.
  • Measure the animal’s height and length to be sure you purchase a carrier that’s the right size.
  • The carrier’s design is important — some pets prefer open, airy carriers, while others like more enclosed carriers that give them a sense of security.
  • If you’re transporting a more exotic pet like a lizard, check out our guide to transporting reptiles.

6. Don’t Ship a Pet Before It Gets Used to the Carrier

Shipping your pet out of state is a stressful experience for the owner and the animal. One way to get your companion ready for the journey is to provide opportunities for it to get accustomed to the crate.

  • Place the carrier in a room where the animal spends time. This is a subtle, stress-free way to introduce the carrier.
  • Find a way to make the carrier a fun place for your pet. Place a favorite blanket or toys in the carrier.
  • Once the animal starts venturing into the carrier, try closing the door, even if just for a moment, before the animal can react. As you repeat this step, try keeping the door closed for progressively longer periods. Be sure to reward with praise and a treat!
  • After the animal seems to be used to the carrier, it’s time to practice driving. Start with a very short car ride, gradually building up the trip length.

Bring a toy for your cat for comfort when shipping your pet to another state.

7. Do Pack Favorite Toys for the Trip

Could you imagine driving for hours without radio, Apple Music, or podcasts? Or putting your kids in the back seat for a cross-country trip without anything to keep them busy? Animals get bored too!

Not only does packing your pet’s favorite toy give them something to pass the time, but it’s also a source of comfort. No matter how many times you explain the upcoming trip to your dog, he’s just not going to understand. Having something familiar is a way to stave off some of the stress your pet feels during its journey.

Don’t just pack toys to give your pet a sense of familiarity. An animal’s unwashed blanket with the smells from home goes a long way toward easing anxiety.

8. Don’t Sedate Your Pet

This is a huge DON’T. Every pet expert will tell you the worst thing you can do to a pet before a long-distance trip is a sedation. In fact, if an airline suspects you’ve sedated your pet, they’ll refuse to allow it on board. This is also the case for many ground transportation services as well. Why shouldn’t you sedate your pet?

  • Sedatives cause an animal’s blood pressure to drop and alter its breathing rhythm. This can lead to serious health issues.
  • When an animal is sedated, it drinks less, which leads to dehydration.
  • Sedated pets aren’t alert and are slow to react; if the driver swerves or brakes suddenly, the pet could be injured by colliding with its crate.
  • Giving animals sedatives with pre-existing conditions like heart disease is even more frowned upon because of the health risks.

Instead of giving it a sedative, try to wear down your pet the healthy, good old-fashioned way: lots of exercises!

Reduce food intake before shipping your pet to another state.

9. Do Reduce Your Pet’s Food Intake Before Moving

Whether transporting a pet by plane or car, you should limit its food intake before the trip. Many pets get nauseous from motion, so if the animal has a full stomach, there could be some messy consequences. The day before the trip, give your pet about two-thirds of their normal food intake.

Pet’s can’t eat during plane transportation but include a zip lock bag of their food attached to the outside of their carrier. This is so the person who picks up the pet at the destination airport can offer a meal immediately. For hydration, it’s recommended that you freeze water in a dish so it won’t spill during the flight.

You’ll want to coordinate feeding schedules with the driver if you’re using a ground transportation service. Most pet transporters stop for bathroom and exercise breaks every three to four hours. Some animals will want a snack during these breaks, while others may be too anxious to eat. This is why it’s important to find a pet shipping company that offers direct lines of communication with the driver.

10. Don’t Choose a Pet Transporter Without Shopping Around

At the end of the day, the most important thing to do is find a pet transporter with whom you’re comfortable. Hiring a transporter, you trust to take care of your family member is the number one way to increase your peace of mind. Explore your options before hiring a pet transporter — and know what qualities are most important.

  • Price: Are you on a tight budget, or is cost no object? This will play a major role in who you hire.
  • Reviews: Research reviews from previous customers to get an idea of how the driver performed in the past.
  • Communication: How easy is it to get in touch with the driver before booking? It is important to hire a transporter with good communication skills for the safety of the pet and your peace of mind.
  • Experience: While experience isn’t everything, it certainly feels better knowing the driver has successfully transported pets in the past.
  • Certifications: The best pet transportation services have been certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and are a member of the International Pet Animal and Transportation Association (IPATA).
  • Insurance: Private pet transporters should have insurance for shipping pets.


The transportation company you hire is the most important consideration when you’re shipping your pet out of state. You’re trusting a stranger to care for your family member, which is a significant leap of faith.

When you shop around for pet transporters, you may notice that CitizenShipper checks all of the most important boxes:

  • Driver profiles have reviews from previous customers and photos from previous shipments, so you can get an idea of their past experience.
  • The insurance verification feature makes it clear what level of coverage drivers have.
  • Every driver passes a stringent background check before getting started on the platform.
  • CitizenShipper is the only pet transport platform that provides a free pet protection plan for all pet shipments.
  • An internal messaging system makes it easy to iron out every detail with the driver and stay in touch during the journey.
  • If price is a major consideration, CitizenShipper offers significant savings because drivers compete for your business using a unique bidding system.

Shipping your pet long-distance can be an overwhelming experience — but it doesn’t have to! When you book a driver through CitizenShipper for your transportation needs, you’ll have the peace of mind that your beloved pet is in good hands. Create a post on CitizenShipper today and get free quotes within minutes!