If you’ve ever moved before, you know how difficult the process can be. Your life is in limbo for several weeks with half of your house in boxes and the other half waiting to be packed. It often feels impossible to find the things you need to get through a day, and you long for the time when you are finally settled in your new home. The transition from one home to the next is extremely difficult for people. But pets are often not as resilient to change as their owners and can find a move to a new address particularly distressing.
Taking the Stress Out of a Move with Pets
As a responsible pet owner, you want to alleviate as much of your pet’s stress as you can. Moving is fraught with new experiences and disruptions to regularly established routines. Most pets do not cope well with these things. The change to a new home can lead to confusion, and even the most well-established pet can begin to experience things like accidents in the house as a result of being uncertain where to find access to the outdoors in an unfamiliar environment.
If a move is in your future and you want to ensure the continued health and safety of your pets, here are some tips to ease the transition to your new home:
Consider a kennel visit.
Though not an ideal solution for every family, many dogs benefit from a trip to their favorite kennel or a stay with a beloved aunt or uncle during the packing and moving phases of new home ownership. Not having to be present during the packing upheaval considerably reduces the stress many dogs experience at having to watch their homes being systematically dismantled.
A visit to a family friend or kennel is also of help to owners as pets in distress can tend to hover and get underfoot. This can make packing far more difficult, and accident and injury can happen if you accidentally misstep and hit a paw or limb.
Keep routines as consistent as possible.
During a move, it is impossible to keep your routine status quo. However, it is important to ensure that certain essential “rituals” remain the same. This helps to give your pet a sense of stability in the midst of change. One of the most important things that should not change is mealtimes. If breakfast was always at 6 am followed by supper at 4 pm, choosing to remain steadfast to this routine will help your pet feel more secure by knowing that his regularly scheduled meals will still appear at the same time. Other important things to keep to a schedule if possible include potty breaks, walks, and other dog commitments such as visits to the dog park or training classes.
Ensure you have an “essentials kit.”
Things easily become lost or misplaced during a move. To ensure you have access to the things you need for your pets when you need them, it is always a good idea to pack an “essentials kit.” An essentials kit consists of anything you need on a daily basis for the care and comfort of your pet. It must include a supply of food sufficient for one to two days, some treats, several dog dishes, any medications or supplements your dog takes, and a leash. The ideal essentials kit will also include some of your dog’s favorite things such as a toy, ball, blanket, or bed. It is much easier to pack a kit than it is to have to try to improvise at 9 pm at night when you realize Fido’s bag of food is still packed in the van, and the pet stores are closed for the evening!
In case of an emergency, it is also wise to include items such as Benedryl and anti-diarrhea medication in case the stress of the move leads to an upset stomach or bout of diarrhea.
Keep your pets in one central location during moving and unpacking.
Left in an unfamiliar situation, many dogs will panic and bolt in search of their home. Though your presence is very calming to your pet; for many animals, it simply is not enough to override the longing to be back in familiar territory. With this in mind, confinement until the move is finalized is the safest approach to take.
Whether you opt to secure your dog in a spare bedroom or in the same room where you are working, keeping your dog crated is an excellent way to ensure that your dog is safe and comfortable while you unpack. Some dogs will still become unnerved by all of the commotion. To reduce the risk of this, cover Fido’s crate with a blanket or towel. This will help him to settle and feel more calm and relaxed. The less exposure to unfamiliar stimuli, the better.
Move into the house then move your pet in.
Many people make the mistake of allowing their pet to freely roam their new home while they unpack. This can be very dangerous for many reasons. Frightened animals will often panic and bolt, but they can also get underfoot and cause injury to themselves or their owners. If at all possible, get your home completely set up prior to bringing your pet to view it for the first time. This approach will eliminate the potential for injury or pets wandering off in search of their old neighborhood. They may not recognize the house, but they will remember their favorite sofa and the blanket you place on your bed each night. These creature comforts will help your pets to feel more settled and ready to embrace their new “habitat.”
Make certain all microchips and veterinary records are updated.
No move to a new neighborhood is complete without a visit to your veterinarian. Your vet is likely to be familiar with other clinics within your city and may have connections in other states if a move farther afield is in your plans. It is always a great idea to ask for a recommendation for a new vet. Once you have determined your new clinic, ask the veterinary staff to transfer your pets’ records there, so your new medical team has access to your pets’ medical history. In addition to this, be certain you have enough of all medications to last you for up to a week in case you do not have time to visit your new vet for a refill.
It is also important to make certain your microchips contain your updated contact information. Sometimes your vet clinic can assist you with this; at others, you must contact the microchip provider directly. It is vital that you update this information right away in case of a canine or feline escape artist during your move. It would be tragic to lose a pet simply because your contact information is not up to date, and you were unable to be reached.
Take special precautions for moving fish, guinea pigs, and birds.
Like cats and dogs, fish, guinea pigs, and birds don’t take lightly to moving. All three species are characterized by their sensitive natures, and care must be taken to keep them on an even keel during a time of upheaval.
If you are travelling a short distance to your new house, there is no reason your favorite fish can’t join you on the journey. Be certain to fill a bag with the tank water he is used to living in, and he should remain fairly comfortable during his travels. However, if your move takes you any amount of distance, it is kindest to simply ask a family member or friend to provide a home for your fishy friend.
Guinea pigs have very delicate hearts and require sensitive handling. Simple changes or even gentle tossing is sufficient to cause serious distress and even death to this tiny creature. For best results, ensure your guinea pig is transported in a crate that is warm and comfortable and keep any jostling to a minimum.
When birds are transported to a new environment, it is not uncommon for them to fly the coop! Many birds are social and do not like being caged, even becoming quite vocal when forced to enter one. Still, it cannot be overstated what an important safety measure it is to ensure that all birds be kept securely in a cage both during transport and for several weeks into the transition to their new living space.
Make time for Fido.
One of the best things you can do to help your pets feel safe and secure is to spend quality time with them. Even five to ten minutes of extra cuddle time will go a long way to reassuring them that all is well.
Ready to make a big move?
Moving day can be stressful for the whole family! But with a few precautionary measures in place, you can help make the transition as seamless as possible for you and your pets.