Helping Your Pet Adjust To A New Home

Whether you’re transitioning to a new home down the block or across the country, moving is no simple task. It’s hard to imagine anyone is feeling more stressed out than you, but your four-legged friend, who depends on the familiarity of their home surroundings, is being thrown into a whole new environment with no understanding of why. Your beloved cat or dog may begin to display major behavioral changes, but punishing or lashing out at them will only make the transition harder.

We know you love your pets so here are some simple things you can do before, during and after the move to help your pet more easily adjust and feel right at home in their new surroundings.

Before The Move

Since you’re going to be super busy once the move actually begins, take the time beforehand to update any contact information listed on your pet’s collar. Also, if your pet has a microchip, confirm that the company you use has your most up-to-date information on file. Next, focus on helping your pet prepare for the move.

  • For Your Cat: One of the hardest parts is going to be the move itself. To get your cat to his new home, you’re going to need to use a cat carrier, and most likely drive in a car. If this is a new experience for your cat, it can be terrifying – after all, for many cats, a car drive usually means a trip to the vet. You’re going to want to familiarize your cat with both the carrier and the car. Start by leaving the carrier out, with blankets and treats inside. Let your cat independently explore the carrier. Start this with plenty of time before the move—at least a few weeks— so your cat begins to feel comfortable in the carrier, and may even chose to be in it on his or her own. Once familiar with the carrier, try taking your cat for a drive. Start with a short drive, only 10 minutes or so. Then, increase the drive time by 10 minute increments until your cat’s anxiety decreases and he or she becomes familiar with the sights and sounds of a car ride. Line the bottom of the carrier with a soft towel and include a small litter tray. Hard sided, well ventilated carriers are your safest choice and should always be secured to the back seat using a seat belt. And, speaking of safety, resist the urge to let your kitty loose in the car as doing so can create a distraction while you are driving, and unsecured cats can easily sneak out of the car when the door opens.
  • For Your Dog: It’s important to familiarize your dog with the new neighborhood. If you can take your dog on walks there, or bring them to the new house beforehand, that’s ideal. If not, try bringing something from the house or the neighborhood back to your dog, so they can get used to the smell.

In general, you should avoid isolating your pet while you’re packing. Let your furry friend explore the boxes. This will reduce anxiety prior to the move, and help put them at ease after the move when their new house is full of boxes.

During The Move

To avoid any added chaos, your pet shouldn’t be there to help you move in. Not only will your pet be a major distraction, but it’s also risky to let your dog or cat roam around an unfamiliar setting, especially when exterior doors may be left open as your moving van is being unloaded.

  • For Your Cat: Keep your cat in the carrier or confine him or her to a small room, such as a bathroom, with a litter box, water and food. Make sure you put up a sign to let everyone know not to open the bathroom door.
  • For Your Dog: The best option is to have a sitter, preferably a family member or a friend, who can take the dog to their house for the day to keep your canine friend out of the way. You can also consider boarding your dog at the vet or taking him to doggie day care while you pack up and load up. However, even having your friend or family member keep an eye on the dog at the new house can be helpful.

After The Move

As you’re adjusting to your new home and surroundings, don’t lose sight of the fact that your pet is too. Any out of the ordinary behavior is probably due to the fact that they’re anxious and not yet comfortable in their new home. The sights and smells are unfamiliar, and they’re missing the world they knew. While your cat might spend the whole day hiding, you may find yourself needing to revisit some training techniques with your dog. There are a few things you can do to make the transition easier:

  • Stay Consistent: Try to keep things like their crate, litter box, and food in a similar location as they were in the old home. Make sure to stick to the same schedule for walks and feedings that you had before. Wait to upgrade that old dog bed or litter box until they’re more comfortable – anything with a familiar smell will comfort your pet — and be sure to bring their favorite toys to your new home. Try to keep things as similar to the way it was at the old house as possible.
  • Spend Time With Them: If you can afford to stay home for a few days with your pet, do so. You are the one constant, and they’ll appreciate the extra love and quality time. Play with your pet in the yard so they feel comfortable exploring the new environment. Make sure they understand that this is a new home for both of you, and that you’re not just leaving them there alone.
  • Be Patient: Give your pet time to adjust; don’t expect them to be back to their old self right away. They might be behaving a little differently than the pet you know and love, and that’s okay. They’re scared, and more than anything they need your understanding. When they do behave well, make sure you give praise. And while you shouldn’t let your pet get away with misbehaving, try not to be too harsh. They may start acting out in order to get attention, and the best way to handle it is to not give them attention – positive or negative.
  • Find A New Vet Nearby: If you moved too far from your old veterinarian, its important to set up a “get to know you” visit with a new vet as soon as possible. This way you’ll be ready in case there’s an emergency. If your pet is extremely skittish, a vet can also help medicate your cat or dog during this stressful time if absolutely necessary.

Pets have been scientifically proven to provide relief in times of stress, and reduce anxiety, so you owe it to cat or dog to do the same.  If you follow these tips, it won’t be too long until the new place feels like home for both you and your pet.