Tips to Make Moving Less Stressful for Pets

Moving to a new home can be stressful not only for you but also your pets. Change can be hard for animals who are used to their routines and comfortable in their surroundings. Fortunately, some planning and preparation can help make the move easier and less stressful on everybody.

Help Make Moving Less Stressful for Pets

Pug in Apartment


Find a Pet-Friendly Dwelling

Sure, maybe you’d like a four-bedroom, three-bath home with a garage, but it’s also important to think about your pet’s needs when looking for a new home. Consider your pet’s needs now and in the future — and whether your new home can accommodate them. For instance, your massive Mastiff might navigate stairs well now, but how will you help him up them if his mobility is compromised when he’s older?

Additionally, consider walking the neighborhood and chatting with people out walking their dogs to get a feel for the pet-friendliness of the area. And, if your furry family includes more than dogs and cats, think about any separate structure you might need on the property to house your pet — for instance, a stable for a horse or space for a chicken coop — and make sure you’re familiar with any town or city pet ordinances, or homeowners association rules or regulations. Read more tips on house hunting with pets.

If you’re looking to rent, it’s important to make sure your apartment is pet-friendly. Keep a lookout for buildings that actively encourage pets and offer pet-friendly amenities on-site, like a private dog park or dog-washing facilities. Additionally, it’s important to be aware of any limitations regarding the number or size of pets you’re allowed to have, as well as what the penalties might be for things like a barking dog. Check out more tips on finding a pet-friendly apartment.

Cat wearing collar with ID


Prepare Your Pets Ahead of Time

Before moving day arrives, ensure your pets have collars with tags in case they flee and get lost. Make sure their ID tags have your phone number on them, so you can be reached if they go missing. You may also want to consider a microchip to improve your chances of being reunited if you’re ever separated. Cats in particular are big fans of predictability, and the stress from moving-related changes could manifest itself in behavior like fleeing. Vetstreet trainer Mikkel Becker has more tips on how to make moving less stressful for your cat.

Additionally, be sure you have the right travel gear, says Dr. David Landers, DVM, the owner of AirVets Pet Relocation and director at large for the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association. Make sure you have an appropriately sized travel kennel for each pet who will be crated during their trip to a new home.

And in the case of an international move, be sure your pet meets all of the import requirements of the country you’re moving to, Landers says. That means making sure your pet has all of the vaccinations, testing and treatments done by an accredited veterinarian at the times required by the country you’re moving to. For most countries, these documents will need to be endorsed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture and may need to be approved by your destination country’s embassy or consulate.

Cat with toy


Help Keep Your Pets Safe and Calm on Moving Day

Piles of boxes and flurries of people in and out of the house on moving day can be stressful. Protect your pets by setting up a safe room for them with essential items: for instance, toys, food, water and resting areas, and a litterbox if you have a cat.

During the moving process, try to keep your pet’s routine as normal as possible. Consider putting a sign on the door warning people not to let your pets out to help minimize the chances they will accidentally be let out of their safe space.

Dog in carrier, ready for travel


Travel Smart

Sometimes moving means traveling a long distance by car or plane. Pets, like people, are often less stressed in environments they’re familiar with; therefore, if your pet is familiar with his traveling environment, he will likely experience less stress, Landers says. He suggests getting your pet used to his travel kennel before his trip by having him sleep in it, giving him rewards for spending time in it and having him spend time in it while you’re there and calm. Your pets can sense when you’re nervous — if you’re relaxed, they’re more likely to be relaxed.

If you’ll be driving to your new home, put your pet in his travel kennel, make sure it's fastened down so it doesn't slide around the car and take him for short drives several times before the trip. And if you’re flying, take your pet for a drive but also add in a few trips through the carwash — this will simulate sounds and motions similar to turbulence on an airplane, Landers says. He also recommends putting an item of clothing that you’ve worn in the kennel with your pet during travel, because the scent may provide some reassurance. 

Feed your pet a light meal about four hours before travel, Landers says, and, if your pet is healthy, don’t feed him again until you get to your destination if your travel is 24 hours or less. That should help reduce the chances your pet has an upset stomach. If you know your pet has motion sickness, talk to your veterinarian to see if medication to prevent nausea might be right for your pet, Landers says.

Additionally, be sure your pet has appropriate rest stops during your trip, and if you’re flying, try to choose a flight to your destination that’s as short as possible, Landers says.

dog with two balls

Photo from Thinkstock

Help Your Pets Settle In

You may be tempted to let your pets roam and explore once you arrive at your new home, but the new space may be overwhelming to them. The American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends allowing them to adjust to one room, which should include water and food bowls, pet beds, treats, favorite toys and a litterbox if you have cats. When they seem comfortable, you can gradually introduce them to other rooms in the house while keeping some doors shut.

New Puppy at Home


Monitor Their Progress

During the few first days in a new home, some behaviors like hiding and showing mild hesitation are normal. But be on the lookout for signs like not eating, drinking or using the litterbox — those are indications that your pet may be suffering from anxiety. Be sure to take the time to play with or walk your pets during these early days in the new abode to help them work off some of their nervous energy. Using pheromones in new areas and distracting them with food puzzles, games and treats can also help them create positive associations with their new home.

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