The Big Move: Easing the Transition for Pets When You Relocate
Whether you're moving down the street or across the country, it makes little difference to your pet -- the dramatic change to their immediate surroundings can cause stress and confusion. Think about how your dog gets antsy when you grab your keys and head for the door; now imagine everything in the house being boxed up and new people arriving to carry your belongings out of the house.
You know your pet better than anyone. If they're prone to anxiety when you leave them alone, prepare for a move to heighten that tendency. Likewise, cats that may have shown no propensity for nervous behavior have disappeared when a house begins to be packed up, and a missing pet is the last thing anyone dealing with a move needs to worry about.
If you're planning to relocate, follow these tips to ensure that the transition is as easy as possible on you and your furry pals:
Prepping For the Move
- A week or two before you begin packing, choose a place in your house to put your dog and cat bed or kitty litter that can remain unchanged until you're ready for your final departure. Get your pet used to spending time in this place -- it'll be their 'safe area' during all the commotion in the rest of the house. If you choose a cubby space like a laundry room, make sure that the pet doesn't feel like going there is punishment. Keep all their toys and treats on hand, or even bring a chair and a magazine in and spend some time in there with them so that they're comfortable and they realize this is 'their space.'
- Create new pet tags before you depart, with your destination address and a cell phone number. A runaway incident during a move can generate incredible stress for you and your pet. Make sure that the contact information on their collar isn't outdated.
- If you're leaving town, schedule a final appointment with your veterinarian. Make sure that all their health records are intact (including proof of rabies vaccination) to transfer to a new vet, and seek out a recommendation from your own vet's network in your new town. Your vet can also update your pet's microchip with a new address and contact information. Finally, it may be worth asking about medications for anxiety if your pet tends to get nervous by traveling (especially if you plan to fly and ship them in a crate as cargo).
- Check up on your new locations rules and regulations regarding pets. If a local license is required, make that a priority upon arrival.
During the Move
- While you pack your home, let your pet relax in the safe area you've created for them.
- If you have children, or friends who are helping you move, put one person on 'pet duty.' Give them the job of staying with your pet, feeding them, and taking them out for walks and exercise. This activity will help distract your pet from the chaos going on the home during packing.
- If traveling long distance by vehicle, have a 'car kit' ready for your pet, including a jug of water, portable bowls for food and water, an extra leash, and their favorite toys and treats. When feasible, let them use their normal bedding during transit and in hotels or overnight stops along the way.
If your pet has managed the move without anxiety, hopefully they'll be as excited as you to arrive at your new destination. Even if your dog is typically excellent at being off-leash, however, don't immediately set them free in a new location where they'd be lost if something spooked them into running away. Likewise, it may be wise to keep cats inside for a few days before letting them out, so that they understand that they are in their new home before wandering to wherever it is that outdoor cats go.
Your first step in your new home should be to lay out the items from your pet's safe area at the old house in a new spot. With their bed and favorite toys in place, they'll be much more likely to quickly associate the new space with 'home.'
Most importantly, spend quality time with your pet during the move and in the days upon arrival at the new home. There's a lot to get done, of course, but your pet's need for attention will be even more elevated during a time of transition.
Have you moved with a pet before? What other tips do you have for dog and cat owners planning to relocate?
Kenneth McCall is an avid ski and hiker. When he is not engaged in outdoor activities he is a hands on managing partner at storage.com, building websites and tools for homeowners and businesses needing storage, including storage units in Gardena and around other locations in California.