Tag Archives: Pets

Moving and Traveling with Pets

Moving is stressful enough without having any extra headaches to deal with. Whether you’re relocating across the country or across the street, the key to coordinating a successful move is to have of your ducks in a row; this includes a plan for your pet. From fish to Fido, it’s important to have a plan for the most important family member!

Know Before You Go!

Chances are, your family pet is either a cat or dog, but if you have an unusual pet, make sure you contact the State Veterinarian’s Office or State Department of Agriculture requesting the pet laws and regulations of your new state. You might need to get a special permit, depending on the type of animal.

Once you’ve determined the state’s regulations, it’s a good idea to check with the City Clerk’s office in your new community for local pet ordinances.  Some apartments will not allow cats or dogs, or will have weight limits on specific animals. Make sure you’re 60 lb. lab will be welcome in your new home!

Pets Have Paperwork

Bet you didn’t even realize it, but your pet has paperwork! Most states require a health certificate for dogs and many states require one for cats, birds. Check with your veterinarian to determine if your pet requires a health certificate. Typically, current inoculation records must accompany it.

In addition to a health certificate, your pet must have proper identification. Whether you are moving by air or by car, any pet that can wear a collar should have one on, with an ID tag secured to it. Most tags will and should include the pet’s name, your name, and the destination address.  In addition, most animals require rabies tags so if your pet hasn’t been inoculated for rabies, you will want to make sure to handle this before you move.

Prep Your Pet for Travel

While many of us cannot bear to be away from our furry friends for more than a few hours, if you are traveling by air to your new apartment, your pet might have to fly separate. Your first step is to confirm that the airline allows animals. Some airlines allow pets to fly with you if they are kept in a USDA and IATA-approved container small enough to fit under the seat. Pets not accompanied by the owner must travel air freight. If your pet must fly air freight, make sure you sedate your pet to alleviate any additional stress. Also remember to clearly indicate write the words “FRAGILE. LIVE ANIMAL” and “THIS SIDE UP” on the outside of the container.

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Traveling With Your Favorite Pets

Traveling with an animal should be thought of as similar to traveling with a small child. The worst thing I think I’ve seen to this day was someone who had several dogs loose in her car- all with their bodies half way out the windows (which were rolled all the way down) as well as one dog in her lap while driving! Needless to say, I made sure that I was not anywhere near this woman’s car.

Traveling with pets needs to be taken a little more seriously by pet owners. There are things that you should do to ensure the safety of your furry friends just as you would ensure the safety of yourself or your loved ones while driving. To help put things into perspective, would you travel with your two young children in a car without first strapping them into a seat belt? How many parents do you see with a minivan full of kids who are roaming around and sticking their bodies out the window? Now, let’s take a look at pet owners. Would you drive your car with your newborn baby in your lap? How about your seven year-old daughter? Not only is it distracting, but it is incredibly dangerous. There are enough distractions in a car such as the radio, your cell phone, food and beverages. Throwing animals into the mix further complicates things.

While many pet owners and other pet lovers thing that seeing dogs with their heads and bodies halfway out the window is adorable, nothing could be farther from the truth. At the end of the day, dogs are merely animals, and animals are unpredictable at times. There was one time when I was traveling with someone and their German Shepherd. At the time, the German Shepherd wasn’t full grown, and it was sitting in my lap in the passenger seat. The person who was driving had rolled down my window so that it was three fourths of the way open. Would you know that when we stopped at the next intersection at a light, there was someone who had pulled up along the side of us and they had a couple of dogs in their car…Before I knew it, the dog that had been sitting so pleasantly on my lap suddenly got excited and tried to jump out of the car! We actually had to pull off the road so that we could both reign in this dog to prevent it from falling and injuring itself!

I think part of the issue is that humans treat their animals as if they, too, were humans. In America, people treat their domesticated animals better than they do each other sometimes. We let them sleep in our beds, eat the same food from our tables, etc. However, when it comes to driving, this is where we falter. If we were really treating animals like humans then we would make sure that they are buckled up for their own safety, for our safety as well as for the safety of others.

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Traveling With Pets in Your RV

Anyone who owns a pet probably has zero trouble admitting that their animals (and birds and fish, too) are part of the family. Truly. And as such, their furry friends are entitled to all the perks and benefits of being a family member, including travel. Would you load up the RV for that trip to Yellowstone and leave your toddler at home? No, of course not, which is why so many travelers find the ways (often times, a recreational vehicle) and the justification (Fido will miss us terribly) to accommodate their pets on the road. Ask the fella in the next campsite with the iguana, Siamese cat, and Schnauzer and I’ll bet he’ll tell you traveling with his menagerie was one of the prime reasons he opted for an RV in the first place. And who can blame him?

The emotional, soothing effects of pets towards their owners is well-documented. (We assume the effects are vice-versa but my beagle isn’t talking yet). Studies have shown just the act of petting an animal lowers one’s stress and calms the body, so perhaps it’s a medical necessity Fido joins the traveling squad from this time forward. Doctor’s orders. And if we love something, we always want it near. You probably don’t need much more a reason than that. However, toting an animal in your home on wheels isn’t as easy as hoarding a supply of catnip and keeping their water bowl filled. No, just like you, proper thought should be given to your animal’s environment, acclimation process, and safety before departing on that maiden voyage. Here’s a few suggestions on how to make the transition.

Preparation is Key
When all is said and done, pets want to be with their owners. Even if it requires an angst-ridden period of adjustment – and leaving their scratching post at home – most animals will gladly sacrifice a bit of their push digs for quality time with the two-legged set. Sadly, the same isn’t always true for teenagers, but I digress.

However, it’s still best to put pets at ease, which is why we recommend baby steps to get them ready for life in the RV. It took you some time to bond with the motorhome, so give them a similar grace period. Have the family pooch spend some time in the RV in the driveway before hitting the road. Starting this a few days before the trip will probably do, gradually increasing the duration of time you both hang out inside. Cats are notoriously finicky about new settings, so let them take their sweet time.

Remember, the more comfortable they are, the happier they’ll be, so don’t rush it. And since all animals like to establish their turf, be sure to carve out their very own niche onboard, complete with bed, bowls, toys, and a few favorite objects. I’m sure they wouldn’t object to some treats thrown in for good measure or a new plaything or two. If you really want to expedite this touchy-feely phase, let them eat a few meals onboard. Like us, the fastest way to an animal’s heart is through their stomach. When they start opening up to the RV experience (a napping pet is a happy pet), try upping the ante by slowly introducing new sensations. The sound of the generator, the idle of the engine, the squeak that occurs when opening the roof vent. Just like my dog hates the vacuum cleaner – and balloons – it’s best to find out what irks them now rather than letting them break the silence at that quiet campground. But ultimately, just let them be and relax at their own pace. You’ll know when they’re ready.

Maintain the Rules
Eventually, your pet will come to see the RV for what it is – just an extension of home. I mean, will that lazy cat of yours really need much in terms of explanation of how to use a trailer’s sofa, bed, or chairs? We’re guessing instinct will take over and her 16-hour naps will reassume as normal. It’s for this reason that we recommend enforcing the same rules of home in your home away from home in order to prevent confusion. If it’s verboten for your pets to sleep on the furniture on home, then keep it consistent. If breakfast is served at 4:14 a.m. at home (like my dog’s), then maintain that schedule on the road. This type of thinking should also keep your 150-pound German Shepherd out of your bed – that is, unless he’s used to sleeping there. Again, normalcy is key, and you don’t want a confused animal running rough shot all over both the RV and home once you return from your trip.

Test Trip
We’re guessing most pets, particularly dogs, will adapt to RV living quickly. In most cases, it’ll probably be little more than just turning on the ignition and going. However, some, particularly older animals, might not like it so much, which is why we recommend a practice trip if you’re having doubts. Spend a night at a local campground to let her get a feel for things. This is also a good time to practice leaving your pets inside the RV for short periods, say 10-15 minutes or so.

Many campgrounds that allow pets are fine with them alone in the RV provided they don’t make excessive noise. (It’s imperative to learn a campground’s pet policies before you arrive, however). Your pet’s reaction to their owner’s absence should be determined before a longer trip is engaged. It’s possible they won’t like it at all. Separation anxiety may cause dogs to bark endlessly or tear up the place awaiting your arrival. Or she may be too unnerved by the animals prowling in the forest or the loud neighbors next-door or the humming of the furnace to mellow out. If you find the RV experiment is failing, you’ll need to weigh your animal’s needs versus your wants. It might just be better for everyone to go the route of the kennel or pet-sitter while you’re away.

Leader of the Pack
Give your animals enough respect to spend adequate time packing their stuff. Fortunately, most travel pretty light and can put up with a lot in order to be near you. However, don’t skimp on their gear, especially easily forgotten items such as plastic bags (for picking up after them), flea and tick medicines, favorite toys, collars (complete with name, address and phone number), leashes, bedding, and other indispensables. Some campgrounds require proof of rabies vaccination, so bring that as well. A call to the veterinarian is a good idea, if for no other reason than to run your destination by your doctor to see if he or she recommends any sort of special medication (anti-tick medications, etc.) for those parts.

Pet-friendly Itineraries
Once you’ve established whether your pet can handle life onboard, it’s time to decide if a particular trip is right for them. Some animals quickly grow miserable if their days are spent cooped up in unfamiliar locales waiting for your return from the amusement park or Grand Canyon tour. Active vacationers should consider whether animals will be happier at home or with you. More sedate trips, those where you’re around much more than you’re away, will probably be more than agreeable to them. Also, why you’re considering places to stay (campgrounds with a game room for the kids, fishing hole for mom, etc.), give some thought to those offering pet-friendly features, such as walking trails, dog runs, and pro-animal policies to make for fun days for them as well.

Follow the Rules
It only takes a few cavalier pet owners to sour a campground owner’s attitude towards those traveling with animals. Be sure to check in advance to see if pets are allowed. Fortunately, most campgrounds are still favorable towards them – and their paying owners – but don’t buck the trend with poor behavior. Its imperative you pick up after your dogs. No, the rationalization that, ahem, feces are just part of nature is no good, especially when another guest stumbles upon it on the way to the swimming pool.

If leaving pets unattended is a no-no, then don’t do it. It’s no secret who has pets and who doesn’t, so your chances of getting caught are higher than you think. Finally, most everyone wants animals leashed. This is hard for some owners who let their pets have the run of the place, but consider it one of those non-negotiable items. You see, the leash rule isn’t for you – it’s for all those folks unnerved at the animals dashing their way. Remember, not everyone loves pets like you do. If you don’t own a collar and leash, it’s time to get one just for this purpose.

Comfort and Safety
It’ll only take one quick tap of the breaks for animals to realize life inside the motorhome or tow vehicle requires more solid footing than, say, dozing on the ottoman at home. Sure, buckling animals in isn’t an option, but making sure they’re napping in a safe spot is always a good idea for the longer driving days. Stay vigilant in terms of making sure they’re comfortable, since like the kids, animal’s objections are more subtle.

Are they cool enough in the back of the motorhome? Panting and excessive water drinking are good signs they could use some help. Remember, they’re walking around with fur on their backs. Run the air or open windows for good cross-ventilation if need be. Keep their water topped off and don’t overfeed (or overexert them) on hot, humid days. If it’s going to be warm where you’re going, we recommend never leaving animals unattended. While an RV doesn’t heat up as fast as an automobile, it can get warm to the point of danger to pets.

After a trip or two, you’ll be an expert in traveling with those four-leggers in your life. And despite their propensity to bark at squirrels and cough up the occasional fur ball, you’ll find pets require many of the same things as you – time to adjust, predictable routines, basic comforts, and companionship. And as a family member in good standing, we have no doubt you’ll oblige them.

Article written by Brent Peterson for the June 2009 issue of the Camp Club USA e-Newsletter.

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