10 tips for moving with your pets
Helpful advice for making moving less stressful for everyone
I've moved several times in my life. One of those moves was from the east to the west coast and then a few years later, from the west coast back to the east coast. Both moves involved safely moving with Puffy, my sweet cockatiel. The goal both times was to get both of us to our new destination safely and in good health. The pre-moving preparations made all the difference in the world.
Although humans are aware of what a move entails, our pets are not. They just see a disruption in their living quarters. Boxes being packed and their owners suddenly becoming busier than ever.
Moving to a new home or apartment can be exciting but also stressful for everyone and that includes the family pet, whether furry or feathery.
Pets, like people, each have their own personality. Some pets are calmer than others and take things in stride. As long as their owners are with them, they are fine.
However, other pets that are more high-strung and more easily frightened might experience the moving process as more stressful than exciting. Pets may become anxious that they will be left behind, especially if they have been rescued and have experienced abandonment or high-stress situations in the past.
It is important to anticipate your pets’ reactions to the move so you can prepare accordingly. This will assure a smoother transition. The following tips will assist you in getting your pets from home “A” to home “B” with minimal disruption and stress.
1. If your move is local and you will be transporting your pet by car, take them on a practice trip to their new home. Let them sniff it out and get the scent of the new place and yard before all the commotion of movers and boxes appear.
2. In preparation for the move, or upon arrival to the new place, do not wash the pet’s bed or toys. Let the scent of the old home stay on the items so that it will be familiar for the pet and they will find comfort in these items at the new address.
3. If your move is not local and you and your pets will be arriving the same day as all the commotion with the moving vans, new neighbors popping in to say hi, and lots of new scents, create a safe room or area within the new home for your pet. A safe, quiet area is important whether you have a dog or cat, or something a bit more exotic like a parrot, hamster, rabbit, etc…. In the safe area place your pet’s familiar items, bed, food/water bowls, toys, etc…. Depending on your pet’s personality, you may need to have a family member stay with the pet to create a sense of calm and to make sure the pet knows he/she has not been abandoned. Having a safe location also reduces the likelihood of the pet getting out and getting lost in an unfamiliar location.
2. Prior to the move, try to get a recommendation for a veterinarian in the new area and place an advanced call to check out their hours and services. Have current veterinarian records transferred to the new office. Also, scope out the area’s pet supply stores, dog parks, pet boutiques, groomers, etc…
3. If you are looking for a professional pet sitter in your new area go to petsit.com (Pet Sitters International) or www.petsitters.org (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters). Both sites have a pet sitter locator feature. If no pet sitters pop up in your area, get recommendations from the local vets in your new area, or your new neighbors.
4. Pack a few weeks' supply of your pet’s regular food and treats and transport it at the same time you bring your pet to the new home. This will give you a secure supply if you haven’t had time to locate where you can buy that particular pet food in your new area yet or if your moving truck is late and your pet food supplies were placed on the truck.
5. Try to keep the pet’s same activity and feeding routines as they had in the old home during the moving process. Be extra attentive to your pet’s behaviors to monitor how they are adjusting either on the road, or the first few days at the new location. Birds can be supersensitive to any change in routine and location so it is important that you help them feel like their normal routines are being kept. Birds can start feather picking when stressed so try to prevent this from happening in the first place. By keeping changes to a minimum you prevent stress and maintain a sense of normalcy. Spend extra time with your pet in the initial days. This will also reduce your own stress.
6. Depending on the type and temperament of your pet, try not to leave him/her home alone in the new location for long periods of time until you sense that they have adequately adjusted to their new digs and realize this is their new home. If initially home alone for long periods of time, they may feel that they have been abandoned or that you cannot find your own way back to them. Get the dog on a new walking route asap.
7. If your cats have been indoor/outdoor cats up to this point, this is a great opportunity to transition them to just being indoor cats. I will have an upcoming post on indoor/outdoor cats in the near future.
8. Make sure to give your pets lots of praise and attention when they interact positively with your new neighbors and visitors to the new home.
9. Work on managing your own stress level. The calmer you are, the more calm and secure your pet will most likely be. As most pet owners know, our pets pick up our anxiety so to help them stay calm, you be calm.
10. I strongly urge people, if at all possible, to not transport their pets via commercial airlines because they are put in the cargo area. I've heard too many horror stories to feel comfortable recommending this option. If your pet is small, get a flight safety crate and keep them with you in the passenger seating area. Note that you will need vet papers and necessary shots and a plane ticket for your pet too. There are now private airlines that specifically transport pets so do some research on these. There are also pet ground transportation companies that will pick up your pet and drive them to their new location. Research these well so you can make an informed choice.
Being pro-active, well-planned, and mindful of all the aspects of a move can make the whole process easier on everyone.