Moving With Pets to a New Home: Getting Pets Used to a New Place
Moving with pets raises human stress levels and your cats and dogs are no different. While many dogs enjoy adventure and visiting unknown places (and smells!), cats bond closely with their home territory. Any change can put their tail in a twist when moving disrupts routine. An unfamiliar location, smells, and sounds raise levels of fear, anxiety, or stress (FAS).
With proper care, though, you can reduce or even eliminate the angst. Here are tips for moving with cats and dogs and helping them quickly acclimate to their new home.
10 TIPS FOR MOVING WITH PETS
Before You Move
Pack Out Of Sight. Cats and dogs can become upset seeing furniture, clothes, and other familiar objects packed away. We know pets (especially cats) love boxes, so having them around your cat could risk your pet hiding away and getting lost. Confine your pets to a safe room away from all the disruption until you complete and move all the packing boxes out of the home. Put a sign on the door “PETS INSIDE, KEEP CLOSED!” Confining to a room with their property also prepares them for their first few days in their new home, where they’ll also be temporarily confined.
Prepare For Travel. Plan so your pet accepts car or airplane travel. For smaller pets, acclimating them to a safe carrier or crate helps enormously. The crate becomes the one constant and familiar-smelling safe spot for your pet both during travel and once you arrive at your new home. If you’re traveling by plane, check with the carrier to be sure your crate meets their size criteria. Here are some tips for traveling in cars with your pets.
Crate Train Pets. Start at least two weeks before the move and leave the crate out all the time so pets can come and go at will. Turn it into a favorite sleep spot with a comfy bed or blanket. Hide fun toys or treats in the crate (perhaps catnip for kitties) to associate positive things with the location. Adding a tee-shirt that you’ve worn but not washed adds your comforting scent and can help reduce stress. Feed favorite meals here can help enormously. Also, adding a favorite treat your pet ONLY gets when inside the crate also can accelerate acceptance. Try a natural milk-based treat of Zylkene (alpha-casozepine) that helps calm pets of any age. You can offer Zylkene during travel, and also once you arrive, to reduce moving stress. For the first several weeks, you may want to crate your dog whenever you leave the new home, so he feels more secure–and won’t indulge in destructive separation behaviors.
At The New Place
Confine Your Pets. At your new home, set up one room specifically for your dog or cat with all his toys, bowls, bed, with litter box and scratch object for your cat. You’ll be unpacking boxes, opening and shutting doors, and don’t need a door-dashing pet adding to your headache. Be sure to shut windows, too. Better yet, think about leash training your cat.
Keep Familiar Gear. Resist the temptation to buy new cat trees, dog beds, and toys until after your pet becomes settled in the new place. Stocking the room with familiar objects that smell like your pet can help keep him calm. Having a room of his own also helps the pet become familiar with the new place, one small space at a time.
Pet Proof Your New Home. Think about all the “whoops” areas that might accidentally hurt your pet. You’re still learning about the new place, too, so think about electrical wires, window blinds, or hidy-holds. Be sure to check the fenced yard for toxic plants or yard supplies, too.
Use Pet Gates. Gradually expand your cat’s territory in the new house. Cats won’t be interested in doing anything else until they’ve explored the new place top to bottom to find hiding spots, perching places, and lookouts. Opening the door could mean your cat disappears somewhere you can’t find him. But you can use moveable pet gates to segregate the upstairs, for example, or expand the cat’s territory down a hallway. Once cats feel comfortable with the expanded area, you can move or remove the pet gate and supervise as he explores his new space.
Continue Routine. As much as possible, maintain your pets’ regular schedule. Feed at the same time, continue scheduled walks or play sessions, and any other favorite activities. It can take two or more weeks for cats to adjust to and accept a new routine and home, so be patient. Dogs may adjust over a few days but some also take weeks or months.
Offer Doggy Leash Walks. For dogs, a walk around the new neighborhood familiarizes him with his new sniffing area. Show him all the cool spots, encourage him to have fun. You’ll want to keep the dog leashed for at least the first couple of weeks until/unless you know his training keeps him under your control. A secure fenced yard offers peace of mind for you and extra benefits for your dog, but you’ll still want to supervise outings. Ensure your dog can’t dig under, or leap over, the fence.
Update Identification. Be sure to update your new address on your pet’s microchip or other identification in case he manages to go astray in the new place. See about locating a new Fear Free Certified veterinarian and transferring your pets’ records.
Different cats and dogs adjust to new places at different rates. With these tips, you’ll increase the odds your pets adjust well, as quickly as possible, to their new home-sweet-home. Click on one of the ComPETability books and order the title for additional help.
Another version of this post appeared previously on FEARFREEHAPPYHOMES.COM
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!