Moving to a new home is a part of life. It can be both exciting and stressful for every member of the family – including pets. Even the most relaxed, chill dog or cat might experience stress when they see their home being pulled apart and packed up. Furthermore, adjusting to a new environment can be particularly challenging for animals, who tend to be creatures of habit.
When moving with pets, it’s important to consider and plan for your animal’s needs before, during, and after the move. Here are some tips to ensure the moving process goes smoothly.
What to Do Before Moving with Pets
Preparation is the best way to avoid stress when moving with pets. Before moving day arrives:
- Assess your new neighborhood for pet-related risks
- Get your pet comfortable with moving tools
- Find a new veterinarian
- Consider boarding or getting a pet sitter for moving day
Familiarize Yourself with Your New Neighborhood
It’s generally advisable to become somewhat familiar with your new neighborhood before moving, but you should also explore your new home with your pet in mind. Are there stairs that might create a problem for a senior dog with hip issues? Is the yard secured by a fence? Are there any plants that are dangerous for pets in the landscape surrounding your new home?
Don’t limit your assessment to the home exclusively. It’s also a good idea to take a walk around the neighboring streets without your pet and think about various risks or stress triggers in dogs and cats that might appear in the new environment. Is there a dog that hangs out in his yard unleashed? Are there community cats around that haven’t been spayed or neutered? Be on the lookout, too, for amenities your pet might enjoy, such as a nearby dog park, creek, or walking trail.
Introduce Boxes and Moving Tools Far in Advance
If you’ve ever seen a cat play with a cardboard box, you have an idea of how distracting pets might be during a move. It’s important that your pet is familiar with the moving tools such as boxes, packaging tape, and bubble wrap. While all of these materials will be super novel for your pet at first, the longer they’re around, the more comfortable your animal will be with them.
Try to get your packing supplies gathered far in advance and start packing up less-used items as early as possible. Not only will stretching out this process make it easier on you, but it will also ensure your pet isn’t shocked or distressed when a bunch of moving boxes appear in the living room.
Do You Need a New Veterinarian?
If you are moving to a completely new city or state, you will need to get a new veterinarian before your move. It’s important that your dog or cat always has access to a doctor. Have copies of your pet’s health records transferred to the new clinic so the veterinarian can be completely prepared when your pet arrives. Make a point to introduce your animal to the new practice as soon as they’ve adjusted to their new home.
Helpful hint: If moving out of state or internationally, ask your current veterinarian for a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) for each of your pets and be sure all vaccinations and rabies tags are up to date.
Think About Booking Pet Care on Move Day
Another crucial preparation tip for moving with pets: consider using a pet service for your cat or dog on moving day. No matter how well prepared you are, moving day is often chaotic, busy, and stressful. From the constantly open doors to the strangers hauling boxes, not only does moving present a lot of stress triggers for the typical pet, but it also presents the risk of your animal escaping and getting lost.
A pet care service such as a sitter or an animal daycare can be a wonderful option for the day of the move. You’ll need to book this in advance and take some additional preparation steps if your pet has never spent time with a sitter or at a daycare. If you want to enlist pet care help for moving day, you should put it on the calendar far before the actual move for the best results. And if boarding or daycare is not an option, consider keeping your pet in its crate or travel carrier in a quiet, safe space away from all the commotion.
Tips for During the Move
Moving with pets might mean moving down the block to a new house, or a four-day drive across the country, or even a flight to an entirely new continent. Whatever kind of move your family is doing, here are some tips for keeping your pet safe and comfortable during the process:
- Keep to routine as much as possible
- Consider calming tools to help your pet manage stress
- Ensure your pet is safe in transport
Keeping to Routine Will Reduce Stress When Moving with Pets
There are various parts of your pet’s day that, if possible, should remain consistent. Try your best to maintain the same meal times for your cat or dog. Even if those meals are happening in a hotel room or at a gas station, the timing can be comforting for your animal.
Any routine element you can maintain will be useful in keeping your pet calm. This might mean pulling out their favorite soft toy around bedtime, or stopping the drive to take them for a quick “lunch-break” walk like you usually do. Your pet still has their basic needs – food, water, exercise, affection – so keeping to their established schedule as much as possible will be beneficial for their mental health.
Consider Calming Support to Help Your Pet Manage the Stress of the Move
Consider using some additional resources to help your pet stay calm during a move. This might mean starting a regimen of nightly CBD for cats with melatonin before the move so your pet can rest easily during the process itself. Calming herbs like valerian root, chamomile, and lemon balm can also support the relaxation of both cats and dogs during this busy time. Calming support might even come in the form of a familiar toy or blanket, or a shirt that smells like you. Try to provide your pet with as many comforting resources as possible while their world is changing around them.
Keep Your Pet Safe During Car Transport
Your pet’s safety is crucial during a drive, whether it’s down the block or across the country. Be sure your pet is safely secured in a crate or carrier and that they feel totally comfortable going for trips in the car. If they’ve never taken a drive before, you’ll need to prepare intensively for this process in advance of the move.
Another key feature of safety during a move is ensuring your pet’s tag information is securely attached to them and they are microchipped. If your pet gets lost during a gas station stop in between your old town and your new one, it’s vital that there is a way to trace them back to you. Also be sure to update their tags and microchip registration information with your new address and current phone number.
How to Care for Your Pet After a Move
Post-move care is just as important as tending to your pet during the move. After you’ve arrived at your new home:
- Establish a safe space for your pet immediately
- Update your pet’s microchip information
- Introduce the new home slowly
Your Pet’s Space Should Be Set Up Immediately
Your pet should have a safe space immediately available to them after arriving at their new house. This means a spot with all their familiar things: a comfy dog or cat bed, food and water bowls, litter box for cats, and toys. This space should be somewhat removed from the hustle and bustle of unpacking, so your pet can access quiet and privacy if they need to calm down. Having this space set up and ready when you arrive is ideal. If you can’t set it up in advance of your arrival, have a family member or friend sit with your pet while you set it up upon arrival.
Update Your Pet’s Microchip Information When You Move
If your pet is microchipped – and they should be! – you’ll need to update the microchip information online to reflect your change of address. This is vitally important because, if your pet gets lost, the only way he or she can be reunited with you is if the microchip info is up to date. Most microchip companies make such an update easy to do and it shouldn’t take long – just a few minutes on the computer. Prioritize this task immediately upon arriving at your new home.
Start Small When Introducing Your New Home to Your Pet
You might be eager to show your new pet around the house immediately upon arrival. While it’s good to allow your pet some space to roam and sniff when you first get to a new place, you also want to avoid overwhelming them. Start with a single room or two and let your pet adjust to that space. Over the course of a few days, allow them to explore each room of the house under your supervision (treating the room with their space as a home base). Then, once the house is fully explored, you can start to venture outside together and see the surrounding outdoor area (unless you have an indoor cat).
Some Pets May Struggle During or After a Move
When moving with pets, it’s important to keep a close watch on your animal for signs of depression or anxiety. Moving can be a huge struggle for some pets and it’s your responsibility to keep your animal’s mental health in check. As long as you are prepared and supportive of your pet, your move is sure to be a success and your pet will find joy and comfort in their new home before you know it!