While moving is certainly a stressful time for humans, it can be just as bad for pets. They watch as their familiar surroundings get boxed up and taken out of the house then sit in a plane or car for a long trip. Finally, they are placed in a new house in an unfamiliar neighborhood. What makes things even worse is that there is no way to explain to your dog or cat what's going on. For these reasons, it is so important that you do everything you can to help your pet adjust to their new environment.
While you should always be careful not to let pets run out the door, this is even more crucial in your first days and weeks after moving into your new home. Since the pet won't be familiar with the neighborhood, they might not be able to find their way back.
TIP: To help locate your pet if they run away, you might want to have your dog or cat implanted with a microchip.
With these tips, you can help your dog or cat adjust to life in your new home. Though it won't be easy for your pets to transition, there are several ways to ease them into it.
1. Visit the new neighborhood with your pet
This may only be practical if you are moving just a short distance away. If you have a dog, taking them to explore the new surroundings before move-in day can be an effective method to curb stress later. It is not advised that you do this with a cat, since felines tend to become very upset on car rides and are less eager to explore unfamiliar terrain than dogs.
Take your dog on a walk around the new neighborhood, allowing time to stop and sniff the new surroundings. When you arrive at your new home, stay by your dog's side as they explore, and leave if they become upset. You don't want to associate the new territory with feeling anxious and fearful.
2. Use things from your old home to make the new home familiar
While you may be tempted to toss your pet's old bed and toys before you move, it will only increase the foreign feel of the home to have all new items. Be sure to pack your pet's favorite toys, bedding and food dishes and bring them to your new home. Your pet will feel more comfortable surrounded by familiar scents.
Try to keep the set-up as similar as possible to your old home, and stick to usual routines for walks, feeding and bedtime. If your pet is frightened and prefers to hide when you first arrive, temporarily keep food, bedding and playthings in that room.
TIP: If your dog or cat shows any signs that it is having a hard time adjusting -- like not eating, losing fur or being aggressive -- seek help from a vet immediately.
3. Follow their lead and let pets explore with your supervision
Some pets are curious explorers while others are nervous hiders. Your pet's personality will determine the way it reacts in its new home, and it's important that you exercise patience during this time.
When moving into your new home with a dog, walk them through the entire house to get acquainted. You should put a leash on the dog as you do this, being especially careful around staircases or any recessed areas.
If your pet wants to hide, as most cats usually will, make sure they have a safe place to do so. Cats will usually cower under the bed. Once they are brave enough to venture out, you can move their things just outside of the bedroom door to gently coax them out of hiding.
Here are some things to keep in the room with the cat temporarily:
- Litter box
- Food and water, preferably in the same bowls used in your old home
- Anything else you think will help keep the cat calm and occupied
TIP: If you have an outdoor cat, allow them to go outside for a few minutes at a time to explore the new surroundings. Be sure to monitor the cat's outdoor exploration at first, so they don't run away. Gradually let the cat out for longer periods of time, until they get familiar with the area.
4. Be calm and patient with your pet as they adjust
Pets can sense our emotions, and the way we feel will reflect on them as well. Moving is a very stressful time, but it's in your pet's best interest if you avoid showing how frazzled you are. Pets can pick up on your mood just by the pitch of your voice, so try to speak in tranquil, soothing tones around your pet and avoid any yelling.
If pets are kept happy and calm during the move itself, it'll be easier for them to transition into a new environment.
While dogs have a stronger connection to people than their home, cats can become pretty attached to their surroundings. Thus, it may be more difficult to get a cat to adjust to life in your new home. By being patient and attuned to your pet's needs, you can help them accept your new home as their own.
5. Be attentive and affectionate to establish security
With moving comes a great deal of arduous tasks, and it can distract you from your furry friend's distress. Even if your pet is staked out under your bed, visit the room frequently and talk to them as a reminder that they are safe.
Plenty of reassuring words, petting and love will ease your pet's anxiety. If possible, you may want to stay home with your pet for the first day or two, so they know you are not abandoning them.
TIP: Dogs have strong ties to their owners, so, as long as you give your pet attention, it will have an easier time adjusting.
6. Make sure the new environment is safe for your pet
The first few weeks in your new home are often characterized by clutter as you struggle to unpack and settle in. The chaotic disarray of half-unpacked boxes will not only frighten and confuse your pet but pose hazards.
Boxes should be secure with nothing heavy stacked high enough to topple over. Doors and windows should be closed at all times. If your pet escapes in the new neighborhood, they won't be familiar with the area, and your new neighbors won't know where they came from.
TIP: If you have a pet that wanders freely, make sure the animal has a collar with an ID tag. By having your name, phone number and new address, you will have an easier time if your pet runs away.