By Dr. Becker
Moving is difficult and stressful for every member of the family, including pets.
Now, it’s true your dog or cat doesn’t have to do any packing, unpacking or heavy lifting. He doesn’t have to change schools or learn to navigate a new, unfamiliar neighborhood. But your pet feels stress just the same.
He, too, is in strange surroundings, and unlike human family members, he doesn’t understand why his comfortable, predictable world has been turned upside down.
There are two things you must do as your pet’s guardian during a household relocation:
- Keep your dog or cat safe and secure before, during and immediately after the move
- Re-establish a daily routine for your pet immediately upon arriving in your new home
If you’re traveling some distance to your new location, you’ll want to plan well in advance whether you’re going by car or flying with your pet. Make sure to have all the arrangements made and supplies purchased and set aside ahead of time, including an up-to-date ID tag or collar for your pet.
Moves are stressful enough without the added burden of rushing around at the last minute to the vet’s office to pick up a copy of your pet’s records, or to shop for a crate or travel carrier.
On moving day, before any activity starts, make sure your dog or cat is confined in a secure area of your home so there’s no chance she can bolt out an open door or window.
During the physical move, your pet will feel unsure and stressed as her familiar surroundings disappear room by room. In an effort to soothe herself, she may take off down the street given the chance, or if you have a cat, she may find a place to hide that is inaccessible to you or dangerous for her.
So don’t take any chances. Put your pet safely in her crate in an out-of-the-way spot before the movers are scheduled to arrive. An alternative is to drop your dog or cat off with a trusted friend or relative for the day.
The First Few Days at Your New Home
Keep in mind that a dog’s primary attachment is to his family members, whereas a cat’s is to his environment. This doesn’t mean your kitty isn’t attached to you, but only that he also needs familiar surroundings and a predictable routine to feel comfortable and secure.
This is why cats don’t adjust as easily or quickly as dogs to a move. For your cat, it’s not quite enough that you’re there in these new, mildly terrifying surroundings. Kitty must fully adjust to all the unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells and surfaces of his new digs -- and that can take some time.
A dog, on the other hand, will sniff around the new place a bit, but as long as you’re nearby, after a short time he’ll flop down contentedly on the floor for a nap. (While he’s snoozing, you’ll have time to play a few rounds of Find the Cat – a popular game most families who’ve moved with a kitty know all too well.)
Actually, all humor aside, it’s every bit as important to secure your kitty inside the new place as it was in the old place on moving day. Whatever you do, don’t give your cat free run of the house while there are doors or windows standing open for even a split second. Cats are known for leaving their new homes in search of their old ones. Sometimes they find their way back to their old neighborhood, but more often they are never seen again.
You must walk a fine line here. On the one hand, you want to make absolutely sure your cat can’t flee his new home, which could mean he spends time in his carrier or a closed room during the first few days of the moving-in and settling-in process.
On the other hand, you want to encourage your cat to roam free about the house as soon as possible to speed up his adjustment period. Each situation is different, so you’ll need to use your best judgment when it comes to your move and your cat.
Needless to say, if your cat was in indoor-outdoor cat at your old location, he’ll need to be an indoor-only cat at the new place, at least until he’s grown very comfortable with his new environment and you can insure his outdoor space keeps him safe from danger. Moving is also a good time to turn an indoor-outdoor cat into an indoor-only pet, if necessary.
It’s important to quickly re-establish a consistent daily routine for your pet. Try to replicate the old schedule as much as possible by keeping feeding times the same, and of course you’ll want to continue with your pet’s excellent diet without skipping a beat.
Establish a permanent location for food and water bowls, the litter box and your pet’s bedding and toys.
Pick right up with regular walks for your dog and whatever exercise sessions your dog or cat is used to.
Do your pet and yourself a favor and take a few minutes each day during the long, tiring unpacking process to play together. Focus only on your pet while you throw the ball for her or watch her dive around the room chasing the beam from a laser toy.
The time you spend one-on-one with your pet will help her adjust more quickly to her new life in her new home, and it will also be a much-needed break for you and other family members after a stressful, exhausting move.