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PetPourri: Trading Spaces – Moving and Your Pet

By Aly Wagonseller

The ink on the dotted line of your new home contract or apartment lease has barely had time to dry when panic starts to settle in. Thoughts of packing up worldly belongings, registering kids in different  schools and finding that perfect sectional for a new family room create a whirlwind of emotion, stress being at the top of the meltdown list. During all this frenetic activity, someone furry watches and wonders what all the fuss is about. A part of the family who, much like a small child, needs special consideration when moving from their beloved comfort zone to a new and often scary place. It’s your adorable yet nosey kitty or pup, and failing to prepare them for settling into strange new digs may not only leave them a nervous wreck, but might wreak havoc on your new surroundings as well.

The Trouble with Cats and Dogs

Even the most agreeable animal can become a veritable horse of a different color when hastily rustled from their den. Sensitive pets will pick up on the stress we humans experience during the moving process, which can lead to jumpy and needy behavior that escalates as moving day draws closer. Couple this with the sudden removal of familiar furnishings that are part of your pet’s territory, and full blown animal anxiety can ensue. Incessant barking or meowing, destruction of property, lack of appetite, hiding, lethargy, licking, tail biting and forgone potty training habits are among the many symptoms displayed by pets that have trouble adjusting to a big move. Some may even exhibit a flight response and try to run away from the problem, and your pet is definitely one belonging you don’t want to get lost in the transition. Not only are these behaviors destructive to your four legged pal, family and personal property, but they can put a damper on becoming BFFs with your new neighbors or landlord.

Prepare to Make Your Move

How you handle the days leading up to and including “V” (Vacate) Day can make all the difference in your pet’s state of mind. If possible, pack a little at a time in a calm demeanor while in your pet’s presence. It may sound silly, but talking to your animal can be soothing and therapeutic to you both, so try speaking to your furry pal about the lush new backyard or dog park located near your new abode.

Be vigilant about keeping your normal routines.  Disruptions to feeding, walking and playtime habits can compound the stress of impending change. Schedule your time to ensure that most everything is packed a day or two prior to the move. This can help prevent chaotic distractions that may endanger your pet, while also creating a smoother transition. Other tips to consider prior to your move include:

  • If your pet is not crate trained or used to doggy or kitty daycare, designate a quiet room in your existing home as a pet refuge. Fill the room with their bed, toys and food dishes, and allow them to get used to the room for a few days prior to the move. On moving day, post a Do Not Enter sign on the door and keep it locked if possible. This will keep your animal safe and secure, prevent injury from moving furniture and avoid overstimulation from too many strangers.
  • Print up tags with your pet’s name, new address and phone number before the move and attach the new tags prior to your arrival. Consider having your pet microchipped for extra security.
  • If you’re a dog owner and simply relocating to a different neighborhood in the same city, take your dog for a walk in the new neighborhood several times before moving day. He’ll meet new puppy friends and garner some familiar smells that should help ease the transition.
  • If moving out of state, research laws associated with pet ownership beforehand. Some states may require a veterinary evaluation or shot record to avoid quarantine upon entry. Hawaii is known for being particularly stringent in regard to pet entrance laws.

Most importantly, be sure to give your animal as much TLC as possible during this stressful time. Explain your pet’s plight to children who are old enough to understand, and encourage them to give Fido or Tabby an extra scratch behind the ears as a reminder of their love.

Home Sweet Home

Once you’ve arrived safely at your new dwelling, designate a secure retreat for your pet while you get situated, filling the space with their favorite belongings. New furniture might be exciting for us humans, but dogs and cats need familiarity. Toys and blankets with the scent of your old home are comforting to your furry friends, so try to refrain from suddenly redecorating with color coordinated beds and bowls.

As you settle in, quickly reinstitute a daily routine for feeding, walking and playing. Being in an unfamiliar place may cause some confusion over designated potty areas, so be sure to nip bad habits in the bud by immediately cleaning up any accidents. Have a heart and refrain from harsh punishment until your little guy or gal knows the lay of the land, which typically takes a few days. Pet proof any areas that may be dangerous to unsuspecting curious types (especially if your pet is new to a pool), and inspect gate locks and fencing to see if any possible escape routes need repair or barricading.

Scaredy Cats

While dogs relate best to people and can adjust to wherever their owner resides, cats are creatures of people and property, a trait that warrants extra attention when moving. Besides creating a safe haven that includes his bed, food, litter box and scratching post, you’ll need to employ a few tricks to help your feline feel safe and secure while protecting your belongings from stressed out kitty tantrums.

  • Confine your cat to one room for several days, allowing him to explore small areas in your home gradually over a period of two weeks. If he resists leaving his area, encourage exploration by leaving a trial of catnip for him to follow around. Be sure to clean up after he’s done.
  • Pheromones that your feline deposits by rubbing her cheeks over various objects in her territory are very calming and can help her feel safe in a new environment. Before moving in, nab a sample of your cat’s pheromones by rubbing its cheek with a soft towel. Prior to the grand entrance, brush the towel against various areas in your new home including windowsills, furniture and walls to help create a familiar feel. Spray pheromones are also available for use.
  • If you have an outdoor cat, moving away is a great time to make the transition indoors. If this isn’t an option, be sure to keep your cat confined to indoor areas for at least three weeks. Gradually explore the outdoors with her on a leash for several days, incrementally increasing the amount of time you venture out until you feel she’s confident in her new neighborhood.

Trading spaces may be an exciting time, but it can also be a very stressful time for both humans and pets.  With a little planning, some patience and a few dog and pony tricks, your pet should quickly adjust to your new surroundings, leaving both of you happy, healthy and ready for a new adventure.

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