The summer is a popular time to move. Families move during the vacation time to allow kids to acclimate to new schools, and college graduates are moving to new jobs. I recently moved into a new apartment that, while only 20 minutes away, provided me with firsthand experience on moving a pet. Whether you have a cat, dog, reptile, bird or other animal, preparing for and handling the transition appropriately is important. Packing, travelling, and adjusting to a new place can be incredibly stressful for some pets, so here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Before the move, you will want to look into the area you are moving to. When looking at houses or apartments, ensure that your animals are allowed and check the regulations of the area (cats might have to be declawed, or dogs are only on certain trails). Drive or walk around the neighborhood to look for aggressive dogs or hazards, parks, and other places you might encounter on a walk. If you are moving a significant distance, search for a new veterinarian in the area, and arrange to have your records sent there ahead of time (you don’t want to have a sick dog on your second day there and not know where to go!). Know the laws of the state or county you are residing in. Some areas do not allow exotic pets, or have a permit process for them. Others will need you to license the dog within a certain timeframe, or do not allow unleashed animals outside. If you have a puppy or older dog that will need to use the bathroom more frequently, plan easy access to outdoors ahead of time. An apartment with only stairs where you reside on the 5th floor may not be a good option!
When you have chosen a new home, you will want to prepare your pet for the trip. Update their ID tags, microchip and other records with your new contact information. If your pet escapes or becomes lost, an outdated phone number or old address will slow your ability to become reunited. Bring moving boxes in early, rather than a day or two before you leave. Put your pet’s food, bed, and toys in a quiet room that you plan to pack up last, so they can keep their familiarity as long as possible. Pack things gradually, maintain your usual routine (even if you may not be working), and keep calm and happy. If you are very stressed about this transition, your pet will be too. If they aren’t used to being in a carrier or crate, set it up in your home, and put a favorite toy or treats inside. Let them spend time in it at their pace when they choose. Do not force them to go in, this will only increase their aversion to it. If they do not enjoy riding in the car or only do it rarely, take short trips around the block or to a nearby location. You can gradually increase the travel time, and make sure to reward them with praise and treats (make it fun for them)! If you will be moving by air, consider ground transportation for your pets. There are several companies (we like Royal Paws) that specialize in moving pets privately, and in the most comfortable way possible, rather than putting them in a crate in the cargo hold of a plane. This is often a less stressful scenario for both you and your pets!
On the day of the move, you will want to keep your pet in the enclosed familiar room. If using movers, keep the door shut with a sign on it, where they can be away from the commotion and noise. Pack this room and your animal only after all the furniture, boxes and everything else is moved into the vehicles. You don’t want your dog to get out or your cat to get stepped on! Feeding them a light breakfast may help prevent an upset stomach or other digestive issues due to stress. Putting a sheet over their carrier or crate for the first part of the drive may help calm them until they get used to the car. Never put your animal in the cargo areas of a truck or moving van! As with any travel, make sure you stop for ample potty breaks, water and food, and exercise. Keep them leashed, with identification, and travel with a copy of their records, as well as any meds or food that might be needed. Some pet owners find that putting a favorite and familiar toy in the crate helps their animal, others use the reward of a new toy or bone. When you arrive at the new residence, you will want to inspect your home before bringing your pet in. Look for hazards such as cleaning products (often in the toilet), pest control chemicals or traps, open or unfastened windows, electrical cords and more. When it is safe and secure, you may bring your pet into the home (inside the crate or carrier if possible). While you may be tempted to release your pet to explore all the parts of the new place, it is actually better to confine them to one room. Choose a quiet room that they can use as a “home base” for a few days. Set up their crate/carrier, food, water, toys, litter and other belongings in this room, and only allow them to explore that space. This can help prevent your pet from becoming overwhelmed with all the new space, and keeps them safe while you move in all your other furniture and boxes. If you have a dog, take them out for short walks or remain in the yard for the first few days. Introducing them to a new house is stressful enough, exploring a whole neighborhood could overwhelm them. As your pet explores their “home base” room, reward them with praise and treats. Spend time with them in this room doing low-key activities. When the animal has adjusted to this room, allow them to explore other parts of the house (but not all, keep some doors closed) at their leisure. I hid cat treats around my new apartment during this phase, and let her sniff them out – instant reward for exploring! It is good to supervise your pet for the first few times they do this, and when they are home alone to put them back in the home base room with a treat or toy. Establish a routine for your pet right away, including feeding time, walks, and play, even if you yourself have not settled into one yet. After your pet is comfortable, if you want to move their litter, food, or bed out of the home base, do it very gradually, moving only a few feet at a time. Another option is to set up a second location, and allow them to use both, and then remove the first location after a few weeks. The most important part of helping your pet transition to a new home is to remain positive and calm, and show them lots of love. If you are feeling unhappy or stressed, your pet will too. Often in the flurry of unpacking, starting a new job, and other tasks, your pet can be forgotten. Do not let this happen, as your pet will need more attention and care than usual to help them get used to the new place.
Moving can be exhausting, exciting and stressful, but we should do everything we can to minimize the effects on our pets. Some cats and other skittish pets can often refuse food or become ill due to the overwhelming nature and depression that can accompany this transition. By preparing early, ensuring comfortable transportation, and providing a safe and secure new home, pet owners can help ease the stress of a move on their animals. And a happy pet makes for a happy owner too!
For more information on ground transportation and Royal Paws pet travel, visit www.royalpaws.com
Sources: ASPCA, PetFinder, Royal Paws, PetCo, Atlas Van Lines