Written by Claire Schneider
Moving is a big life event for the whole family, even for our beloved four-legged friends. When changes are made to their living environment, pets can become uncomfortable and stressed. They may seem anxious and nervous during the packing stages of moving because they don’t know what is happening. They likely have developed separation anxiety from past vacations and other stays away from their owners. Many animals, especially dogs, are known to be emotional and to have a natural fear of abandonment.
Because of the attachment to their owners, it is always prudent to pay special attention to pets early in the process. If possible, give them comfort by taking them to visit the new home before the actual move to familiarize them with their new surroundings.
Prior to moving day, pet owners who make a little extra effort on their furry friend’s behalf will be rewarded with a less anxious animal. Just being aware of your pet’s feelings, just as you would your child’s, will give him a sense of peace amid the managed chaos the day is sure to present. Giving pets as much affection as possible will also reassure them they are still being cared for.
“Moving is very stressful for a family,” said ASPCA President Larry Hawk, D.V.M. “That stress is also experienced by the pets. They want to know that they’re part of the family and that they’ll be going, too.”
Moving can be especially stressful for cats since they are more focused on their surroundings and don’t adapt easily to change. Disruption to their environment can cause them anxiety which may lead to behavior changes. The best thing you can do is to plan a moving strategy which creates the least amount of noticeable change.
If your animals are anything like mine, they tend to get nervous at the first sign of packing, even if it is just an overnight bag for a quick trip away. To reduce their stress, spread out your packing over several weeks and start packing rooms pets usually stay out of to keep packed boxes and belongings out of sight.
A few weeks before moving day, plan a visit to the vet. This is an ideal opportunity for a quick check-up and to ensure records are up-to-date; I recommend asking for a copy of their veterinary records. If necessary, you may also ask if they have any recommendations for veterinary clinics in your new town; you can research online reviews to select your new provider.
If you hired movers, let your pet get to know them before they start moving your items. Animals are very territorial and may be hesitant to welcome strangers into their home. Give the movers some time to introduce themselves to your pet by slowly petting them. Having treats handy for the movers to dole out is a surefire way to get fast acquainted with any cat or dog.
Has a family member been assigned to caring for the family pet on moving day? This could be one of your children, a friend, or family member. To ensure their safety, put animals in a blocked off area (using a baby gate or boxes) so they become a spectator of the action yet safely out of the fray. Putting them in an isolated room could cause them further stress since they know something is happening yet can’t see it. Make sure they have food, water and, of course, their favorite toys to keep them occupied.
When packing up the car, leave plenty of room for your animals. By giving them ample space, they will be more comfortable and relaxed during the drive to their new home.
Hitting a high note in the new home
Immediately introduce your pet to the new surroundings, allowing them to explore each room. Don’t rush them. Bring in their food and water dishes, along with their toys, to make them more contented. To help with the adjustment, place familiar items in locations similar to the old house—at least for a period of time. Also, follow their current routines; they have had enough changes already.
Invest a little time in planning ahead for your furry and four-legged friends, and the move will be less stressful for your whole family.
Here are some helpful tips for moving with specific animals:
• Before and after the move, surround your cat with familiar objects ― feeding and water bowls, toys, blanket, or bed. If you are using a crate, leave it in a place with which they can become familiar.
• Since cats are very sensitive to their environment, gradually introduce them to their surroundings by restricting them to one or two rooms at the onset.
• Like cats, dogs should be slowly introduced to their surroundings, then leashed outside until comfortable with the area.
• If you are unable to stay home the first few days following a move, consider arranging a friend or pet sitter to visit a couple of hours a day to ease your dog’s anxiety and to burn some healthy energy.
• Traveling is the most difficult part of the moving process for fish. Place fish in bags with a mix of new water and clean water directly from their aquarium. The less the fish are crowded the better. Put rubber bands around the tops of bags and place the bags inside a dark, insulated cooler.
• Let the filter run for a few hours before returning your fish to their tank, and try to limit their time away from their normal habitat to less than 48 hours.
• Use appropriate-sized carriers for birds and cover the bottom with litter. Remember to secure carrier doors with a clip from the outside. Keep the birds cool and protected from the sun at all times.
• Transport a supply of food and water from the previous house, then gradually switch from old to new supplies.
• Small pets such as gerbils, guinea pigs, and hamsters are more sensitive to drastic temperature changes. Take care to protect them from cold drafts or direct sunlight.
• These animals can travel in the cage they normally live in, but make sure it is well sealed so they cannot escape.
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