Advice on Easing Your Pet Into a New Home

How to help your cat or dog feel safe and sound.
By: Cheryl Lock
A cat and dog in their home.

Moving into a new home can be an exciting, albeit stressful and even scary endeavor for some people. But what about the impact it has on our four-legged besties?

How are they effected by moving into new surroundings? And what can we, as their pet parents, do to help them?

We reached out to pet expert Arden Moore of Four Legged Life andPet First Aid 4U to find out more.

PawCulture: Why might it be difficult for pets when you move homes?

Moore: Pets crave routines, and some handle change better than others. It’s important to mentally and physically exercise your pets (including indoor cats) during this transitional time to help them stay mentally and physically healthy. Taking your dog for a quick, brisk walk or playing with a feather wand toy with your cat for even 10 minutes can help reduce your level of anxiety and stress during the moving process.

PC:What are some signs that indicate your pet may be distressed by a move?

Moore:If your dog or cat suddenly starts urinating or defecating in the house (outside the litter box) during the moving process, this could be stress-related. Your usual calm cat may spend more time hiding under a bed or in a bedroom closet. Your dog may start lip licking — a sign of stress — or walk away from his food bowl. When your pet starts displaying actions that are not normal, it’s best to book an appointment with your veterinarian. While the actions may be related to feeling stress by the house upheaval, they could also be early signs of illness that just happen to surface at the time of the move.

PC:What are some ways you can help ease your pet into a move?

Moore:Dogs and cats are astute at reading our emotions and studying our postures. You need to remain calm and confident as much as possible in order to keep your pets calm. Try to book times each day to spend one-on-one time with your pets, even for 10 minutes. Focus on your pet by playing a game or reinforcing a basic obedience cue or even enjoying a cuddle session. Let your curious cat investigate the moving boxes. Serve a meal to your dog in the room you are packing. Eating is very pleasurable for dogs, and being able to eat a meal while you pack in a room can ease some of his anxious thoughts.

If your dog gets along with others and is up to date on his vaccinations, you might also consider treating him to a day or two at a well-run doggy day care during the packing week so he can unleash his pent up energy in a safe environment. For cats, I encourage you to designate a room — say a small bedroom or spare bathroom — and make it into a feline-welcoming room. It should have a food puzzle toy, water, bedding, litter box and some type of music playing (classical seems to be the choice among cats) to mute out the noise of packing.

Also remember, some dogs and cats can get antsy and may want to dart out of doors, so post notes in bright colors to movers making sure they know to keep the doors leading outside shut and that they know the number and type of pets inside your home.

Consult your veterinarian if you need to temporarily give your pets calming medications. Be aware of any possible side effects before deciding if it is a viable option to give your pet.

PC:What if your move involves a long car ride, like ours did?

Moore: I maximized the space inside my vehicle to make sure the ride was smooth for my four pets. In the back of the SUV, I placed a comfy dog bed. Then, I put my dogs in harness vests that were tethered to the car so they were able to move about but were secure. I brought spare leashes, a fully stocked pet first aid kid, bottled water, dog and cat food, pet treats, disposable poop bags, handi-wipes and paper towels. For the cats, I placed each in sturdy ventilated carriers big enough to house small portable canvas litter boxes. Each carrier had a small, non-spill water container for them to stay hydrated during the long drive. We reserved pet-welcoming hotels and once we arrived, I immediately placed the cat carriers inside the hotel room’s bathroom and closed the door.

I would also invest the time now to take a veterinarian-approved, hands-on pet first aid class. Learn what to do in a pet emergency to stabilize, immobilize and get your pet to a veterinary clinic because minutes count — this is the best way be your pet’s best health ally.

Finally, try to smile, laugh and bring out the ‘playful pup’ inside you. Yes, moving is stressful for everyone in the household, but try to make it a fun adventure for all, too!

Image via Shutterstock