We live in a mobile society. It is not unusual for people to make numerous moves throughout their lifetime. Sometimes, it’s jobs or family ties that take us to new locations. Sometimes, it’s just a need for change – the city dweller yearns for quiet country life, the rural inhabitant wants easier access to shopping and cultural events and heads to the city. Whether it’s across town, across the state, across the country, or across the globe, people move from location to location.
Moving is one of the biggest stressors we encounter in our lives. If moving is stressful to us and we know what is happening, imagine how our pets feel when they see their environment disrupted and they have no idea as to why. Surprisingly, there are ways to make moving easier and less stressful for your pets. So, let’s see how we do that.
Picking the New Location
While pets don’t get a say in where or when you move there are certain conditions to consider. If you are moving to a different state or area of the country, it is especially important to look into local dog laws there. Some areas have breed specific restrictions which means that certain breeds may not be permitted. This is something you definitely want to investigate before you move. It would be heartbreaking to go to your new home and find your dog is not permitted.
Likewise, it is important to consider other “dog factors” when searching for a new residence. Are there dog friendly areas nearby? While you may not want or need a dog park for playtime, is the neighborhood good for walking the dog? Are there sidewalks? Are there parks or wildlife areas nearby or within driving distance where dogs are permitted? If you’re moving to an apartment or rental property, be sure pets are permitted and check if there are size restrictions for dogs.
If you are moving to a foreign country, there are entirely other levels of considerations to be investigated. Everything from local dog laws to quarantine restrictions, to transporting your dog to the new location via plane or boat.
Preparing to Move
Now that you have found the perfect new home, you need to get packed. Packing is disruptive especially to our pets, both dogs and cats, who thrive on calm surroundings and regular schedules. Try to give them time to get used to what’s going on around them. Get packing supplies like boxes, bubble wrap, and packing tape early if possible and set them in a spare room or more infrequently used area so that pets can investigate, sniff, and get used to them. If they seem to be intimidated or frightened by these items, provide positive reinforcement, such as treats and praise, when you see them investigating.
If your dog or cat is not used to a crate or carrier, now is the time to work on getting them comfortable with it. Put the crate or carrier in a safe area where your pet can check it out at their own pace. Put treats or toys inside to encourage them to go into the crate or carrier. Once they feel comfortable, shut the door, and let them stay there for short spans of time. This is especially important if you will be driving a considerable distance to your new home as you want your pet safely restrained in a crate or carrier while driving.
As you start the packing process, try to keep your pet’s life as normal as possible – easier said than done right now with all the other things you are doing. While it may seem like just another chore to do right now, it is important that you try to maintain regular playtimes and walks, and of course, keep your pet on their normal feeding schedule. At the moment, the environment is looking pretty scary to your pet so it’s important to help them feel comfortable.
If at all possible, try to keep your pet’s favorite room as the last room to pack. Doing so will give them a safe place to retreat to when the rest of their home appears chaotic. Even though packing is crazy and chaotic, try to keep the home as picked up as possible while packing – throw trash away and have a specific area for storing packing supplies when not in use. Be sure to safely store cleaning supplies as well. You don’t need an emergency trip to the vet in the midst of the packing turmoil.
Adjusting to the New Home
While you want to get your boxes unpacked and items put away as quickly as possible, your pet still has no idea what’s happening. One of the best ways to help your pet adjust to its new home is to maintain its normal schedule as much as possible. This will require patience from both you and your pet. It is important to keep your pet on their regular feeding schedule, take those walks at the usual times, and break for playtime as you normally would.
While organizing your new home, try to find a quiet place that your pet can call their own. Place their bed and toys in this area. Even if this will not be the permanent location for their personal space, they need to have a safe place to which to retreat away from the hubbub of unpacking and reorganizing.
If your dog has a favorite chair or couch that they claimed in your previous home, don’t discard it before moving. Take it with you to the new home, even if you plan on getting rid of it. Having that familiar piece of furniture will go a long way to helping your pet feel comfortable and safe in the unfamiliar surroundings of the new home.
Try to keep the placement of your pet’s things in the new home similar to where they were in the previous home, even if only temporarily. If your dog had their feeding bowls in the kitchen of the old home, place them in the kitchen of the new one. If the toy box lived in the family room of the previous home, try to put it in the family room of the new home. Likewise, now is not the time to try out new food, beds, or collars on your pet. Familiarity is what your pet needs right now. So, keep as much as possible the same for your pet.
If your new home comes with a fenced-in yard, be sure to check everything about the yard to make sure it is safe. Is the fence solid and secure? Are there any holes under the fence that your dog could squeeze through and escape? Does the gate latch securely? Is there any way that the gate could open? If so, you may want to add a chain around it for added security. The first few days that you put your dog out in the yard, go out with them. It will help them to feel safe and you can watch for any potential problems that may exist or cause harm to your pet.
Now more than ever, it is important that your dog has current identification tags on their collar. Make sure they are up to date with the new address. If your dog has a microchip, be sure to contact the company to update your information. If your dog gets loose, they may not be recognizable to your new neighbors nor may they be able to find their way home in this new and yet unfamiliar location.
Be prepared for the possibility of accidents from your pet. Everything looks different and smells different and they may not understand which door to go to or where the litter box is. Be sure your cat knows where to find the litter box and has easy access to it all the time. Use the same litter box from the old home, you can always replace it later after your kitty has adjusted. Put your dog on a potty schedule the first few days – going out at regular times, going to the same door, using the same phrase to see if they want to go out. Good defense is the best offense to avoid accidents.
Don’t be surprised if your pet is extra clingy or wants more attention. Conversely, they may choose to spend more time alone till they adjust to the new home. The important thing to remember is adjusting will take some time. With patience, both you and your pet will adjust to the new home and surroundings, then both of you can relax and have a happier, healthier life in your new home.