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A Guide to Moving Anxious Pets Safely

dog and cat under blanket together
Gladskikh Tatiana / Shutterstock

Moving homes, apartments, and even states is a stressful time for everyone involved. And while people often take time to make themselves and their children more comfortable throughout the process, pets are sometimes overlooked even though they experience a lot of anxiety.

Anxiety comes from your animal’s fear of change and separation from their family, both of which the chaos of moving can exacerbate. But moving doesn’t have to be all bad for your furry friend. By putting in the extra effort to make sure your pet is comforted every step of the way, you can make moving fun and exciting experience for the whole family.

Whether you’re doing all the moving work yourself or you’re hiring moving professionals, here’s everything you need to know about reducing your animal’s anxiety and keeping them safe before, during, and after your big move.

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

What to watch out for before your move

The time spent before your move, when you’re searching for your new home and checking out the neighborhood, isn’t super stressful for your pet because they don’t know what’s coming. But there are steps you can take ahead of time to choose the right home for the whole family, prepare for the upcoming transition, and help keep your pet safe.

Here are some steps you can take before Moving Day to prepare your pets.

Consider the type of housing

Take into consideration your pet’s size, energy levels, and current lifestyle when selecting your new home. 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 have 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?

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.

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.

Steps you can take to keep your pets calm and safe during the move.

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 cross-country moves, 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 throughout the day. 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.

What to pack for your pet on Moving Day.

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.

Get them set up before they arrive

If possible, set up their bed and/or litter box before you bring them to their new home. While most animals will want to check out the new environment, showing them where they’re going to sleep and go to the bathroom will help immediately calm them and prevent any unwanted accidents. If you have an anxious pet, scatter some of their favorite toys and blankets in each room of the house to encourage play and exploration.

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.

How to help your pet settle into your new home after the move.

Check for hazards

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.

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.

How to detect signs of pet anxiety.

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, there are a variety of things you can do to help your pet get used to their new surroundings and resume normal behavior.

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.

How to treat pet anxiety.

By following the above tips and treating your pet’s anxiety with the proper activities and medication, they’ll eventually come to love their new home as much as you do. Don’t worry if it takes some time, as animals are known to take longer to adjust to new environments than their owners. But as long as you’re by their side, your pets are sure to find comfort even during the longest cross-country moves.

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