Moving with your pet

By Frania Shelley-Grielen. All rights reserved.

Moving is one of the top three stressful experiences for humans and when the move includes our pets, the stress can affect everyone in the family. However, humans do get to offset some anxiety through exercising some choice and control over what the move might bring while our animals simply get none. Planning and executing a move for us, includes all sorts of think ahead moments from anticipating potential issues and figuring how best to address them to what to look to forward to in your new home. Each new experience from packing boxes to moving trucks to rearranging furniture are events that your cat or dog or both get to show up to without knowing ahead of time they are coming. As many plans and expectations as you have for your new place you pet simply cannot share them. This is all foreign, uncharted territory outside of the realm of the routine world your cat or dog has come to know and depend on. Knowing this, how can you make that move less stressful for the companion animals in your household?

Before you go: Pack for your pet too- Toys, beds, scratch posts, litter pans and other pet paraphernalia need to be as recognizable as possible to provide familiar smells and known object recognition (think “their stuff’). You know how you hear that packing a suitcase for humans is a good idea for that initial settling in period of your new place? Your pet needs one also.

Make sure your pets have collars and ID tags. Collars for cats need to be snap away for safety. Tags need your name and phone number, the most effective way to reunite lost pets in case of emergency.

Moving day: is sure to be chaotic with everyone coming, going and doors left ajar, open, slammed, not to mention all sorts of strangers to your pets in the form of moving men, etc. Keep it safe the day of for cats by making sure to confine pets to the last room anyone will enter with a securely closed door. Even better, place cats the morning of, after food and litter breaks, into cat carriers with one of your worn t shirts to provide scent and comfort. Position the carriers against a wall and not in the center of the room for additional security. Partially cover the tops of the carrier with a pillow case to block some visual exposure making sure there is sufficient airflow. A spritz of Rescue Remedy on muzzle and/or paws is helpful for both cats and dogs.

Larger dogs can be kept with you on lead and smaller dogs can also be confined to carriers. Make sure and bring your animals with you and never on the moving van and check frequently on them to monitor stress.

Your new place: Allow for less is more with cats initially. While you may think having an option to explore the new digs is the way to go for felines all that new space is overwhelming and scary. Keep cats in one room for the first week or two. Your bedroom is the ideal space especially since you will be spending all those nocturnal hours together and is full of your scent, all of which is incredibly reassuring in a new space. Install familiar cat beds, toys, litter box, and a feeding station. Cat houses or beds on a raised surface or cat towers are ideal for hiding and getting familiar with things in cat time. Allow for cats going incognito when they arrive and do remember to greet kitties by name on each entrance and exit to and from the room for reassurance in this new scary space.

Explore your new place with your dog- Make sure and take the time to allow the dog to sniff around, on a leash, the block, yard, perimeter of your home. This walk around should also include the indoor areas of your home. Remember to engage with your dog at all times in the process-talk to your dog in a happy and calm voice, explain what is going on and where you are now even if it is to describe each new room. While your dog may not understand every word you are saying, your tone of voice and accompanying body language will reassure your dog that he or she is in a possibly welcome and safe place. Keeping the dog on leash with you keeps the dog physically connected to you, helping to foster both emotional and physical security for the both of you.

Keep the routine: Maintain consistency where you can. This means feeding and litter box cleaning at the same times as before, the same for walk schedules and other outings. Your pets anticipate events like these and keeping on schedule will give much needed structure to getting everyone familiar with a new environment.

Share what’s good about your move: You know the things you can look forward to about your new neighborhood or home, your pet does not. Consider the pet perspective in cat tower placement –in the corner near that sunny window or other pet perfect spots for beds and cat houses. Map out the route to a new dog park or a great walk with lots of sniff potential. Remember to start small, all that great newness can overwhelming so keep that familiar cat environment confined to one room for the first ten days or two weeks before spreading out cat furniture to the whole house and keep walks and dog parks visits shorter for starters as well.

Allow for excitement/reaction: Your pets will no doubt respond to changes with a level of excitement or inhibition. Be the social support that your pet needs by providing routine and calm energy. Talking to your pets and playing classical music at home on the first few days is soothing. After the first several days introduce interactive play time with cats and a five minute morning and evening training session for dogs (sit, down, stand or any variation of three commands five times in a row) to provide engagement, comfort and structure with all that excitement.

Allow for mistakes: Even with the best house training your home is new to your dog or cat, there are no familiar smells in the walls, or safe and comfortable corners to be in, yet. Should there be a break in house-training, know that this loss of control may be stress related. Avoid any reprimands as they will only serve to create more stress.

Moving is a stressful and exciting experience. Here’s to making the best of it from the canine, feline and human point of view.

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