How to Help Your Pets (and Yourself) Manage a Move
If moving is stressful on you, imagine what it’s like for your pets. Their environment is changing, familiar furnishings are disappearing into boxes, and their humans are constantly distracted from fun things like tummy rubs and tossing toys. Worst of all, they don’t understand why.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to ease this process.
Try to keep to routines.
Moving upends everything, but as much as possible, stick to your established schedule of meals, walks, and playtime. Animals thrive on predictable environments, so keep things as even-keeled as you can for as long as you can.
Create some extra calm.
Soothing music, natural supplements, pheromone sprays, and garments designed for reducing anxiety may offer some level of relief for animals that are picking up on moving stress. If your animal’s distress is extreme, talk to your vet about possible prescription medicines.
Introduce the packing process slowly.
Dogs and cats notice when things are changing, and cats in particular can be upset by disruption to their environment. Bring in empty boxes for your fur babies to sniff, poke around, and play with so they get accustomed to the sight. (There will be LOTS of boxes around in their immediate future!)
Distract them from the chaos.
You’ll be busier than usual, so see if a friend, neighbor, or paid dog walker can help out with walks and play sessions. Indoors, provide them with new toys or other activities to keep them occupied while you manage packing and unpacking.
Create a Cat Cave (or Canine Cave).
Everyone needs some downtime when things get crazy, and pets are no exception. Set up a cozy corner, crate, or closet with their beds, blankets, and other comfort items so they can retreat and recharge as needed. If the move will be the first time your pets will be in a kennel or pet carrier, this is a good way to get them accustomed to those spaces by lining them with familiar blankets and toys.
If your move includes a long drive or an overnight stay in a hotel, make sure you have a bag with food, bowls, treats, toys, medications, and anything else needed to avoid disruptions in your pets’ routines. This will also come in handy when you reach your new home, because you won’t have to worry about finding all these things in your moving boxes.
On active moving days when you’ll have doors opening and closing frequently, as well as lots of people coming and going, keep pets secured in their kennels or in a room with a closed door. Daycare is even better, as it will spare your pets the anxiety of all the chaos. Animals can behave unpredictably when under stress, so don’t count on their usual behavior.
On the road.
Keep animals safely secured in your car at all times. This may include harnesses, travel crates, or both. Try a test drive before moving day to make sure you know how to use these features (and give your pets a trial run). If your move will include overnight hotel stays, make sure you’ve booked a pet-friendly hotel and have everything you need for your pet’s mealtimes and bedtimes.
Prep the new home before leaving the old.
Do you know what plants are in the new yard and whether they are toxic to your pet? Do you have a new vet lined up if you’re changing cities, or at least have the number of an emergency animal clinic? Are there any hazards that need to be addressed, like pest-control traps or choking hazards on the floor? Moving day is a bad time to find out that your place isn’t quite pet-safe!
Provide some warm-up time.
You’ve been under a lot of stress, and you just want to set your animals free in their new home. Bad idea! To avoid overwhelming them, start one room at a time. Put out their beds, food and water, and everything else they need in that room, and once they’re adjusted there, slowly expand their access to the rest of the house.
Give some extra love.
Transitions are hard, and pets may have accidents, act out, or be more clingy than usual while adjusting to all the change. Be patient and find opportunities to reward positive behaviors and provide extra attention. After all, they provide you with unconditional love all the time, even (or especially!) when you’re having a bad day. Now’s the time to repay that affection!