Think moving is stressful? Imagine how your pets feel! Many animals are sensitive to change and are easily unsettled by shifts in routine, strange smells and new locations. We’ve all heard the stories about confused pets escaping during or after a move and ending up lost in a strange place. Don’t let this happen to yours! Some easy steps for moving with pets can help keep the process calmer, safer and saner for you and your furry friends.
Ahead of Time
Start by updating your pet’s ID information. Get a new collar ID tag with your new address and current cell phone information. If your pet is microchipped, update the associated address and phone numbers. Make sure you have an identifying photo of your pet on hand just in case he or she gets lost during the move.
Let your veterinarian know you’re moving. If your pet suffers from acute anxiety or motion sickness, your vet can recommend medications, feeding schedules or other strategies to help him feel better. If you are moving long distance with pets, you may need your vet to send paperwork to a new office, or extend prescriptions to cover the time it takes for you to find a new veterinarian. Don’t forget to update vaccinations if needed and check on any special entry requirements (such as a health certificate) if you are moving to another state or country. For international pet relocation, consult local authorities for travel and entry guidelines.
Assess your own stress levels. Pets are incredibly perceptive. If you are losing your cool, this will multiply their natural fear and uncertainty around the move. Consider getting an early start on packing, budgeting some extra time off work, or hiring a professional mover to help take some of the pressure off. A stress-free move for you is the best move for your pet!
Think about giving your pet a break. Does your pet have a trusted sitter, trainer, friend or pet grandparent’s house he enjoys visiting? During the move, you may want to spare your pet some stress by arranging for him to be somewhere fun while you do the heavy lifting.
Bring in boxes or other packing materials early on so your pet can get accustomed to them. Don’t rush all your packing at the very last minute, which can be alarming for your pet. Instead, start early and take your time packing over a longer period, so your pet will have more time to adjust.
Will your pet travel in a carrier or crate to the new house? If so, it may have been a while since your pet was in it last, so it’s wise to pull this out early as well. Don’t force your pet inside, but encourage her with treats when she explores it on her own and try to turn this into a game. Giving your pet some time to get comfortable with the crate or carrier will pay off when it’s time to load up.
Prepare an overnight kit of pet essentials in a suitcase or backpack. Plan to keep this with you, separate from the rest of your packing boxes. Include:
your pet’s bedding
litter or poop bags
food and water dishes
a several day supply of food
…and whatever else your pet will need to feel at home during the first few days after the move. This way your pet will have everything he needs even if unpacking takes you longer than expected. Don’t forget cleaning supplies in case of accidents, which are more common during travel and in unfamiliar environments.
It may be tempting to take this opportunity to wash your pet’s bedding, but we recommend against it. The familiar smell will help make the new place feel more like home. Familiar routines are also reassuring to pets. Stick to the same routine of exercise and meal times as much as possible.
On Moving Day
If your pet will be present during the move, designate a separate, secure area for your pet away from the action. For example, this could be a bathroom with the door closed or a crate in the garage — whatever will be safest and quietest. Provide ample fresh water. Secure your pet in this location before the moving truck arrives. Check in on your pet periodically and, if your separate area does not include a litter box, provide leashed potty breaks.
You are the best person to transport your pets. While traveling to the new home, keep your pets with you in the car, not in a van or truck. Always transport small pets in a secure, well-ventilated carrier. For large dogs, you may wish to invest in a pet seat belt harness. Feeding your pets a few hours before you leave can give them time to digest and go to the bathroom ahead of time, cutting down on motion sickness or accidents. If you are moving a relatively short distance by car, we recommend that you don’t let your pet out until you get to your new home. Nervous pets may bolt in an unfamiliar area. However, if you are on the road for more than a few hours, plan to make regular stops to offer potty breaks and fresh water. Keep pets leashed at all times while they are not in the car or their carrier. If you will be stopping overnight, www.petswelcome.com or www.pet-friendly-hotels.net offer listings of hotels that allow pets. Be sure to book ahead!
Before you start unpacking boxes, dedicate a small, safe room to the pet — a bathroom is usually a good choice. Set out favorite toys, treats, bedding, food and water dishes, etc: whatever will remind your pet of home and help him or her feel comfortable. Keep your pet secluded in this area as you settle into the rest of the house, with frequent check ins to remind your pet that you are nearby.
The ASPCA recommends taking extra time to thoroughly pet-proof your new home on arrival. Check for safety concerns you may have overlooked on previous visits. Make sure fences, doors and window screens are secure. Check for poisonous houseplants or exposed electrical outlets. Are there stair or balcony railings your pet could fit through and fall? Have any pest control traps or poison been left? Are there open packing boxes with contents your pet shouldn’t be getting into? Your pet will be in exploratory mode in this new territory and may behave in ways she didn’t in your previous home. Passing a critical eye over your surroundings can help you ensure that your new home is 100% pet-friendly.
Congratulations, you’re moved into your new home! You’re probably already feeling relieved and accomplished, but bear in mind that it may still take a little more time before you can celebrate a successful move for your pet. Help him get comfortable in his new home by expanding his range slowly. Take your time with this. Being turned loose in a completely new house or yard all at once can be overwhelming. Instead, open one new door at a time and give your pet a chance to adjust little by little. This also gives you time to establish your pet’s new “potty area” and is extremely helpful in avoiding accidents.
Once you’re all unpacked, you may want to hold onto a moving box or two. Many pets love to sit, hide, or play in them!
Give it time. It may take days or weeks for your pet to stop acting nervous and settle in, but time and patience generally do the trick.