Moving is stressful. You know this. Your dog knows this. And, oh gosh, your cat really, really knows this.
When you’ve got pets, it adds an extra layer of logistics to moving, as well as some TLC. To help make the process easier on Fido and Fluffy, the folks at ApartmentTherapy.com asked animal trainers and behaviorists for their best pet-friendly moving tips. Here’s what they have to say:
1. Set up a ‘safe room’ for your cat
Lovers of familiar spaces and the territorial, a cat’s home turf is everything to them, explains Mikel Delgado, cat behavior expert with Rover, an online marketplace for pet care services. When you move a cat to you new home, you may notice some fearful behavior, Delgado says, like hiding, being more vocal, or acting more needy than usual.
To help, she suggests setting up a “safe room” for your cat during the first few hours, days, or even weeks in the home. (The timeframe will depend on how nervous your cat gets).
This should be a relatively small, enclosed space with all their necessary and favorite items. In addition to your cat’s litter box, food, and water, put their bedding, scratching post, and favorite toys in there.
Once your cat is back to his normal routine, you can let him explore the rest of your home.
2. Consider taking your pet to a petsitter on moving day
If you’re moving locally, consider hiring a pet sitter for kitty or having your pup stay with a friend for the day or overnight, suggests Nicole Ellis, pet expert and certified dog trainer with Rover. “Strangers in your home taking your stuff can be confusing and stressful to pets,” Ellis says. “Not to mention your hands will be full on moving day. With the door open all day it’s also an easy opportunity for a pet to escape.” It will be easier for your pet to adjust once everything is already moved and you’re in a calmer state.
3. Unpack your pets’ belongings first
Set up your pets’ areas before unpacking the rest of your belongings, recommends Russell Hartstein, certified dog and cat behaviorist and trainer. It allows them to start getting settled in ASAP. Make sure there are unwashed items, like an old T-shirt of yours or bedding for your dog that smells like home. Also, as your dog becomes acquainted to the new environment, carry his most-prized treats. This can change the association of the new stimuli from “Oh, no, this is scary” to “Wow, this is wonderful! I like it here,” Hartstein explains.
4. Pet proof your new place
Got a yard at your new place? Give it a thorough inspection, Ellis says. If you have a fence, check every inch of it, being on the lookout for places your pets could escape from.
“Watch your pets the first few times they explore the yard,” she says. “Dogs can jump higher than we are often aware, so keeping them company while they’re outside is always safest.”
5. Explore the neighborhood with your dog
Get to know the new neighborhood with your pup, Ellis says. “Remember, they hear much more than you do,” she says. “They may never have heard the sounds of a basketball court, for example.” Also, meet your neighbors, Ellis suggests, so your pet knows who is allowed on their block and who is “stranger danger.” If you’re moving into an apartment, dogs can be a little more vocal and sensitive on the first few days. Hearing new sounds in a new environment can easily set off even the calmest dog, Ellis says. She suggests introducing yourself to neighbors and letting them know your dog is adjusting. Leave a phone number in case your pup is barking too much during that transition, she suggests.
6. Carry on with your routines
When it comes to moving with pets, it’s definitely a “handle with care” type of situation as they adjust to their new surroundings.
“The best thing you can do is to introduce the same routines that you had in your old house,” says Robert Cabral, dog trainer and member of the advisory board for Wag!, a pet services site. Bring your dog’s same bed and other items with familiar smells to your new home, Cabral says. Regular walks can be critical to familiarize your dog with the new neighborhood and also to keep your dog from urine-marking in the new home.
Also, be sure to show your dog where his food and water bowls are located, as well as where he can find his favorite toys, says Dr. Wailani Sung, a pet behaviorist with Chewy, a pet food and pet-related products retailer.
Don’t assume your pet will let you know when he’s ready for a potty break. The stress of a new location may cause him to act differently, Sung says. For this reason, regular walks are important.
7. Update their microchips
Last but not certainly not least: Update your address and phone number on your pet’s microchip when you move, reminds Jim D. Carlson, DVM, owner of Riverside Animal Clinic & Holistic Center of McHenry, Illinois. So many people forget this step, he says, but an up-to-date microchip can help get your pet home quickly if he’s lost in his new neighborhood.
by Brittany Anas, photo credit Carina Romano. Click here to read more on ApartmentTherapy.com.