Moving across country with a cat
Life, Moving, Pets

Tips for Moving Across Country with a Cat

I am a proud mom to two angels: a cat named Zeke and a dog named Stella. They (along with Richard) are the lights of my life. Since we are a tight family unit, Zeke and Stella (obviously) moved with us this fall.

Richard and I really wanted to move and were excited that it was actually going to be happening. However, when all of the pieces started to come together this fall and all signs pointed to “this is it!,” there was only thing on my mind: How the heck am I going to get Zeke from point A to point B? Moving is already stressful as it is, without the whole moving across country with a cat part.

You see, Zeke enjoys the comfort of his own home. Literally, the last thing that he likes to do is go for a car ride. We’ve had several memorable trips to the vet where he meowed the entire time and eventually went to the bathroom in his crate. Knowing this is what happens on a 20 minute car ride, I knew I wasn’t excited for the 7+ hour trip from Rochester to Arlington.

But, we didn’t have a lot of options, since Zeke was definitely coming with us. I did a lot of prep work and research to make moving day go as smoothly as possible. If you ever find yourself moving across country with a cat (or any distance), I hope you find the following tips useful.

Get the Right Gear


As soon as I knew we would be moving, I started to acquire the right gear for Zeke. Luckily, the three major things that I needed to acquire for the trip were a bed/carrier, a harness and a new name tag.

Pet Carrier

Zeke was already due to get a new pet carrier. We had been using the same one for him and his littermate (RIP Margot) since they were kittens. By the time we were ready to move, the crate we had been using was starting to rust and was very bulky. In sum, it wasn’t a great contender for Zeke or for the long distance move.


Prior to departure, I did a lot of research and ended up purchasing a Sleepypod. A Sleepypod is a mobile pet bed that is specifically designed to be multi-functional. Sleepypod’s have the following features:

  • Detachable mesh dome that allows the pet to see out and the person to see in
  • Velco attachments so you can easily buckle the Sleepypod into the car
  • Soft, fuzzy interior for comfort
  • Removable machine-washable cover and foam bedding (Full disclosure: I ended up having an issue washing the foam interior and it ripped. Luckily, I was able to call Sleepypod and they sent me a new one! Although disappointing that it ripped in the wash when it’s supposed to be machine-washable, I’m very happy that they replaced the foam part free of charge)
  • Sturdy strap so you can carry the Sleepypod on your shoulder

With a $166 price tag, it was not cheap. However, it received great reviews and serves multiple purposes (bed, carrier, safe haven). I was a little nervous at first that Zeke wouldn’t be a fan, but after several months of use, I can definitely say it has been a lifesaver.

Within seconds, Zeke was in love with the Sleepypod (as long as the dome was off). He wasn’t as crazy about the dome at first, but in time he has come to love it both with and without the dome.


The second thing that I needed to get for Zeke was a cat harness and leash. No, he’s not angling to hang outside. I wanted to get a harness and leash for him to wear during our trip to help prevent any potential escapes from the car. Or to scoop him up when he tries to go under the front seats.

Name Tag

Lastly, I made sure to get him a new tag for his collar before we moved. Once we had our new address, I went out to PetSmart to get a tag with our new address. This gave me piece of mind that he had the latest contact information on him while we were traveling.

Prep with the Vet

Adjusting before moving across country with a cat

Prior to moving, I notified my vet that we would be moving and I acquired a couple of things:

  • Microchip: Zeke has a penchant for trying to escape from the house. Last June, he was finally successful. Since I wanted to have more peace of mind, I decided to take the plunge and get him microchipped before leaving. Note: Don’t forget to update the address with the microchip company once you have your new address!
  • Certificate of Health: To stave off any issues that could occur when crossing state lines, I had the vet write up a certificate of health for Zeke. I didn’t end up needing to use it, but it’s one of those things that’s worth getting just in case.
  • Medication: Since Zeke had a history of being a finnicky traveler, my vet suggested using a light sedative/anti-anxiety pill for the drive. I’m no veterinarian, so what is right for my pet might not be right for yours. Definitely check with your vet if this is something you think you might need.
  • Full Health Records: The move to Arlington is meant to be a fairly permanent one. As a result, I knew I would be needing to find a new vet for Zeke. Before leaving, I had my vet give me a copy of his full medical records so that I could provide them to the new vet once we found one.

I think when all was said and done, the vet costs prior to moving were around $100. That included the microchip (the majority of the cost), the medication, and the printout of the medical records.

Test it all out

Before the big day, we wanted to make sure all of our ducks were in a row. To prepare, we gave a few things test runs:

  • Cat harness: As you can see from the video above, Zeke wasn’t a huge fan of the harness the first time he tried it on. I tried to entice him with treats to get him to actually walk around like a normal cat, but NOPE awkward cat somersaults it was. Luckily, after about 20 minutes in the harness, he was fine.
  • Sleepypod: I put the Sleepypod out for Zeke to get used to in the weeks leading up to the move. We also went on a few test runs in the car with him riding in the Sleepypod. Even though he loved the Sleepypod for relaxing at home, he was still meowing in the car.
  • Meds: Per the vets suggestion, we chose one day about a week before the move to test out giving Zeke his medication for the car ride. We wanted to make sure he didn’t have any adverse reactions and we wanted to get used to what he would act like. Everything went smoothly, so we were ready to go!

Cross Your Fingers, It’s Moving Day!

Moving Across Country with a Cat means taking a pit stop

Packing and preparing

Moving day was quite the event! Before we hit the road, we sectioned Zeke off into the bathroom while we were trying to get things into the car. We also, per the vets direction, gave him his medication about an hour before we left.

We packed the following things in the car:

  • Sleepypod
  • Litter box with clean litter tied into a bag
  • Paper towels and cleaner (in case of accidents)
  • Harness and leash
  • Medication
  • Health records and Certificate of Health
  • Food and water

The Ride

Overall, moving day went as smoothly as we could have hoped. Unfortunately, Zeke decided to meow constantly for the first three hours of the trip (despite having taken his medicine). About halfway through the trip, we decided to take a pit stop. When we stopped, we let Zeke out of his Sleepypod to explore the car. In the picture above, you can see him in his cute little harness checking out the people going into and out of Sheetz.

Having the harness turned out to be really useful. While we was allowed to roam, he kept trying to climb under the front seats. We were able to easily grab the back of the harness and pull him back up. While we were stopped, we also opened up the litter box to see if he needed to go. Luckily, we had no accidents any time during the trip!

Letting him out during the break seemed to have helped, because he was mostly quiet for the rest of the trip.

Getting to our new home

Once we got into our new apartment, we immediately took Zeke (with the Sleepypod) into the bathroom. Since he’s not used to being introduced to new spaces, we wanted him to be able to start small. This also allowed us to open up the cat litter for him to use.

After about an hour or so, we opened up the bathroom and he came out to explore the apartment a bit. Each time he got a little too scared or overwhelmed, he ran right back to the Sleepypod. In the first few hours and days of being in the new place, the Sleepypod became his spot of safety – just as we had intended! Worth. Every. Penny.

The Verdict

Checking out the new digs after moving across country with a cat

So, I pulled off moving across country with a cat (or at least across states with a cat)! In fact, it was probably one of the only things in our move that went smoothly.

Would I do it again? If I absolutely had to. Would I do anything different? Probably not. I think that preparing for the trip helped make it go more smoothly for both me and him. At the end of the day, he’s a meow-er in the car, so I don’t think he’s ever going to get past that.

Luckily, I don’t see any long distance moves in our future! So keep your fingers crossed that we don’t have to endure the whole moving across country with a cat thing any time soon!

Have you ever tried moving across country with a cat? How did it go?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them, I receive a small commission for referring you. As always, all of my opinions are my own!

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