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The Ultimate Guide to Moving with Pets

couple with pet
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Between packing and transporting all of your belongings, the moving process can be quite stressful, and that’s without the added stress of moving with pets. While you are busy getting things in order for your big move, you can’t overlook how this change can also affect the family pet. With everyone in your house needing to adjust to this major change, it is important for you to take your pet’s health into consideration and develop a plan of action that will make this move easy for all involved.

COVID-19 has already added an additional layer of difficulty when it comes to moving and living with pets, but this hasn’t stopped people from taking in a fur baby or two. In fact, over the past few months, it has been reported that pet adoptions have increased all over the U.S., including in Wisconsin where 319 animals were adopted and fostered in one week.

With 15 million people and counting moving during the pandemic, it’s highly possible a lot of those adopted fur babies have a move ahead of them. If you’re moving with a pet, planning early can make a huge difference in how smoothly the process goes. A number of issues can arise, but if you are prepared, you can avoid them. And if you can’t avoid them, you can at least have a better idea of how to handle them accordingly.

Are you moving states and want to know the regulations on pets? Check out our state-by-state guide.

dog and cat under blanket together

Gladskikh Tatiana / Shutterstock

Start planning early

Consider the type of housing

Take into consideration your pet’s size, energy levels, and current lifestyle when selecting your new home, especially when moving with a dog. Larger animals need more space to run both inside your home and in the backyard, so a bigger home would best suit their needs and lifestyle. Smaller dogs and cats, however, can handle living with less space — like a small house or apartment.

If you’re renting your new home, make sure the landlord allows animals. This can help you avoid issues later on. Trying to sneak in a pet is never a good idea and could lead to you getting kicked out (and not getting your security deposit back), which can be an extremely confusing time for both you and your animal.

Be honest with your landlord about your pets, their size, and their energy levels before signing a lease. You could even create a pet “resume” to help introduce your landlord to your animal and highlight their training certifications and vaccinations.

Check out the neighborhood

If you’re moving with a dog, chances are you’ll be exploring the neighborhood on a pretty regular basis during walks. Because of this, it’s smart to scope out the entire area you’re considering, to make sure it’s a good fit.

A few questions to ask yourself:

  • Are there loose dogs or other animals who might bother your pup?
  • Are the nearby roads busy or dangerous?
  • Are there any close, walkable parks or areas for your dog to run?

When you’re moving with pets, taking the safety of your new neighborhood into account can help ensure a happy home for your animals and give you some peace of mind as well..

Find a nearby veterinarian and animal hospital

If you’re moving far away from your current home, finding a vet and animal hospital in your new area is crucial. A stressed-out dog might chew on (and swallow) something they aren’t supposed to, so it’s important to have the address and phone number of an emergency vet on hand, so your pet doesn’t experience any long-term injuries.

Keep important documents on hand

Before you begin moving, contact your current veterinarian to get a copy of your pet’s medical records and vaccinations. This will prevent any travel issues from occurring (especially if you’re flying). While electronic copies are a great eco-friendly alternative, some airlines and countries prefer physical records, so having both options on-hand is your best bet.

Microchipping your pet before the move is another good idea, as it can help make sure they get sent home if they happen to wander off. If your animal is already microchipped, make sure to update the information with your new address so that your pet can be returned to the proper location.

Introduce their pet carrier early

Set up their crate a few days before the move to let your animal sniff around and lay inside of it while still in a familiar environment. This will help reduce day-of stress and get your animal more accustomed to being crated when moving time comes.

On especially long trips, adding in their favorite blankets and toys can help further this familiar feeling, which makes a move a little less intense.

boy with dog

Estersinhache fotografía/ Getty Images

How to keep your pets calm during your move

Moving is a lot of hard work, especially if you’re moving long distances or have a lot of pets to take into consideration. But by prioritizing the happiness of your pet, you can make moving day a bit easier for everyone. Plus, it allows your pet to join in on the excitement of the first night in a new place.

Consider a pet sitter

To make things easier on you and your pet, hire a pet sitter, or take them to a familiar daycare center on Moving Day. While this might not work for long-distance or moving across the country with pets, it’s a great option for stressed-out animals that might start to exhibit anxious and destructive behavior when they see their home getting packed up. Plus, it frees you up to focus on the move without having to worry about your four-legged friend getting out or having an accident.

Get plenty of exercise

If a pet sitter isn’t an option, make sure to get your pet plenty of exercise, so they’re calmer throughout the day. An early morning run or a trip to the dog park should do the trick and help ease their anxiety. Setting aside playtime with your cat can help them feel on track with their familiar routine.

For older dogs or cats who aren’t prone to exercising, introduce a brand new toy or treat on Moving Day. This can help distract them for a while and reduce their stress levels.

Let them travel with you

Separation anxiety is a big issue for most animals, as they don’t understand the concept of moving and can get worried you’re going to leave them behind. Letting them travel near you, rather than shipping them or storing them with the suitcases on a plane, can significantly improve their behavior and bring them comfort during what could be a traumatizing time. When they’re with you, talk to them frequently in a calming voice and reward them with treats, attention, and well-loved toys to make sure they stay calm no matter what.

Make their first night fun

It’s very important to establish a routine and create positive memories as soon as possible. The first night in your home can make or break your pet’s ability to get comfortable in their new surroundings.

Spend plenty of time with your pet in every room. Play games and lavish your pet with attention — this will help them connect positive memories with every room. Although most things they know and love might be packed away, an overnight bag filled with their favorite toys, blankets, and treats can help them feel comfortable on that first night.

Domestic Cat Lies in a Basket with a Knitted Blanket, Looking At the Camera. Tinted Photo.

Aleksandr Zubkov/ Getty Images

Pet proofing your home

The goal of pet-proofing your home is to keep you, your pet, and your home safe. This is especially important in a new home where they may be new carpet or hardwood floors, fresh paint on the walls, or various hazards that can result in your pet being injured or worse. While each room in your home may seem hazard-free, you still want to pet-proof to ensure there are no accidents.

Kitchen

The kitchen has just as many hazards, possibly more than any room in the home. Between food, garbage, and cleaning products, your pet could easily get into some trouble. To ensure your kitchen is a safe space for your pet, store cleaning products where your animal can’t reach,  keep trash cans in a cabinet with a childproof latch, and avoid leaving food in an easily accessible location.

Living Room

Next to the kitchen, you’ll likely spend a lot of time in the living room. If you want your pet to enjoy this space just as much as you do, be sure you eliminate hazards that can make your living room unsafe for your pet.  Fireplaces, electrical wires and cords, and plants can be hazardous to pets. You can keep this area safe by placing a protective screen in front of your fireplace, tucking away or hiding electrical wires and cords, and removing plants that are poisonous to your pet.

If you’re fond of diffusers, make sure you’re only using pet-safe essential oils. Certain essential oils can cause tremors or be outright poisonous to the family pet. The list differs for cats and dogs.

Bedroom

Bedroom hazards include things like electrical cords and wires, medications, and personal care or beauty products like lotion and makeup. Pet proofing your bedroom really only requires you to put things away in a safe space. Your pet can easily grab things off of your nightstand or chew on a lamp cord, so you want to be sure hazards are out of sight and unreachable.

Bathroom

Your pet could easily make its way to your bathroom and shred toilet paper, drink from the toilet or get hold of something in the garbage or cabinet that could make them sick. You’ll most likely want to keep your pet out of this room at all times, so keeping the door closed is an option. But just in case they gain access, you should keep the toilet seat down, install childproof latches on the cabinets, and store cleaning products in a safe place.

woman with dog in living room

gradyreese/ Getty Images

Caring for your pet post-move

Even though you might be exhausted after moving, try your best to keep a similar exercise schedule with your pets to help them adjust to their new home. Spend a lot of time at the house and give your pets plenty of love during those first few weeks, as that’s when separation anxiety can run rampant. By taking the time now to make sure your pets feel safe and comforted, you can set the stage for a lifetime of happiness in their new home.

Check for hazards

Get a jumpstart on the pet-proofing. While new homes and apartments are usually bare, there might be some unknown hazards that your pet could get into while exploring. Do a quick check throughout each room of the house for things they could choke on. Make sure there isn’t any loose wiring, chemicals, or bug traps that could hurt your pet.

Here’s a full list of items to be on the watch for that could harm your animal in your new home:

  • Antifreeze
  • Batteries
  • Bug traps
  • Cigarettes
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Composting
  • Fabric softener
  • Fertilizers
  • Insecticides
  • Loose wires
  • Medicine
  • Nails
  • Paint
  • Plants
  • Plastic bags
  • Soap
  • Toys

Unpack carefully

Outside of the potential hazards already present in your new home, the items you brought over during the move (like bed bug spray) can possibly harm your pet as well. If you have a nosy animal or one who’s prone to tearing up boxes, make sure to move any boxes containing sharp objects or cleaning supplies so they can’t get to them.

While unpacking, take careful consideration of what you leave lying out and where you unpack your boxes. During high-stress times such as moving, even the most well-behaved dogs and cats are likely to act out and chew things they normally wouldn’t. If you have a particularly messy or dangerous room, it’s best to close the door to keep your pets out when you aren’t actively unpacking.

Explore the neighborhood

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of a new home for your pup is exploring the neighborhood. Make sure to dedicate time every day to get in some exercise, which can help de-stress both you and your pet. They’ll love all the new smells and animals they meet along the way, you’ll get a chance to meet your neighbors, and you’ll both feel more comfortable in your new area.

Keep a similar schedule

Most animals thrive on a set schedule, so keeping the same routine throughout the move can help them feel more at home faster. Although it might be hard to stay on the exact same schedule you had before, keeping their exercise and feeding times the same is a simple act you can do that will greatly benefit your pet in the long run.

Give them lots of attention

One of the main things your pet wants to know throughout the moving process is that you still love them, and you aren’t going anywhere. Spending lots of time with them, cuddling, and playing are the best ways to prove to them your bond isn’t changing (even though their environment has). Experts recommend staying home as much as possible those first few weeks until your pet grows to love their new home and feels comfortable staying there alone.

frenchie on a couch

Fernando Trabanco Fotografía/ Getty Images

Pets and the pandemic

Earlier this year, people stopped trekking to the office and started working from the comfort of their own homes to improve their chances of health and safety.  This has taken some adjustment, but pet owners have had a particularly interesting experience quarantining with their pets. With this being uncharted territory, people are looking for additional resources to help them navigate this new normal, particularly how to move with a pet, how to pet-proof their homes, and how to deal with pet anxiety.

Tips to (weaning off) quarantining with your pet

After months of quarantining with their pets, pet owners may find themselves concerned with how their animals will handle post-pandemic life. Your return to work will be another big change for your pet, and if you are not careful, they could experience separation anxiety.

If you are worried about how your pet will handle your schedule post-pandemic, you can get them prepared for this big change by taking action while you are still home quarantining with your pet.

Take a walk without your pet. Your pet has gotten accustomed to your presence, so they need to once again get used to you being gone to work. Taking a walk without your pet will give them time alone. While your walk may not be as long as your work shift, this time without you will get your pet one step closer to being comfortable with you gone.

Give them toys to distract themselves throughout the day. Your pet may want to be near you all of the time because they are bored. If your pet is busy, they won’t be focused on what you’re doing or if you are even in the house. While you work, give your pet toys to distract them. This can also be a great way to help with your pet’s anxiety once you return to work.

Put animals in a different room while you work. Again, your pet needs to get used to you not being in its presence all day every day, so alone time is important when trying to get them used to life after quarantine. Putting them in a different room while you work denies them access to you. When you return to work, they won’t be able to see you, and by putting them in the room now, they will be conditioned to spending time alone for a portion of the day.

Don’t make a big deal out of arrivals and departures. When you enter or exit your home, your pet will notice. Since quarantine began you may not have left as often, so when you do walk out of the door they may have more of a reaction than they used to. Whether you are going on a walk, going to the grocery store, or going to work, don’t pay your pet any attention. If you don’t make departures and arrivals a big deal, your pet may grow to not care too much about you coming and going.

Leave your recently worn clothes with your dog. Leaving your pet alone can be hard on you both. During your pet’s alone time, your scent can be calming for your pet, so if you want to make the transition smooth for them, leave a recently worn clothing item with them when you leave. You may not be there physically, but your pet will appreciate still being able to enjoy your scent.

african american woman on couch with dog

fStop Images – Winnie Au/ Getty Images

Animal anxiety: How to help your pet

A pet’s size, personality, and past experience all play a factor in how much anxiety they will exhibit when major life changes occur. Some of these reactions are outside of the owner’s control, while others can be quelled through a variety of actions and medications. But before diving into how to treat your pet’s anxiety, you need to first understand the symptoms that anxiety can bring about.

Signs of Animal Anxiety 

  • Tail tucking
  • Hiding
  • Destroying things
  • In-house accidents
  • Excessive Barking
  • Trying to escape
  • Abnormal panting
  • Change in energy levels

Typical symptoms include a change in mood and energy levels, excessive barking or meowing, hiding, trying to escape, and other generally destructive behaviors. But depending on your pet’s personality, these might not all apply.

Anxiety can show itself as any major change in their mood, behavior, or emotions that aren’t what you typically expect from your pet. If you see these symptoms, it’s important to give them extra attention and monitor their progress over time.

Helping your pet adjust

During this transition process of moving into a new home, there are a variety of things you can do to help your pet get used to their new surroundings and resume normal behavior.

Helping your pet get used to a new space requires steps that are opposite those recommended to get your pet used to being home without you. Spend more time with your pets, as they’re usually most nervous about being alone in a new place or getting separated from you. When your pets do exhibit destructive behaviors, distracting them with playtime or new toys can help occupy them and get out that nervous energy.

There are also a variety of natural anxiety remedies geared toward dogs and cats that are perfect for the first few months in a new home. However, if you find these aren’t helping in the long term, or your pet’s symptoms are getting worse, they might need a trip to the vet. Veterinarians can prescribe anti-anxiety medication that can help stressed-out animals.

Natural remedies for pet anxiety

Outside of spending more quality time with your pets, there are a lot of objects and natural remedies that can help calm your pet. New toys are a simple solution as they can provide hours of play and excitement, perfect for when you need to step out of the house for a bit. Other ideas include catnip, CBD oil, redirecting with training, and noise machines to drown out unfamiliar noises.

Treating moving anxiety

  • Introduce new toys or offer treats to quell boredom.
  • Provide new hiding places throughout the house.
  • Use a noise machine if your new home is loud at night.

Cat anxiety

  • Spray pheromone products in each room.
  • Make eating more fun with puzzle bowls.
  • Add more litter boxes throughout the house.

Dog anxiety

  • Redirect anxious actions with training practice.
  • Practice leaving to lessen anxiety.
  • Try out CBD oil when they won’t calm down.


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