Moving With a Pet: A How-To Guide

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Moving is not only a big moment in your life — it's also a big deal for your cat or dog. There are a few important safety tips to consider before, during and after the big day when you are moving with pets. By taking a few precautions along the way, you can learn how to move with pets in a way that's the least stressful for your furry companions.

Getting Ready to Go

Figuring out how to move with a pet takes some planning up front. Having your dog or cat in the house while different people go in and out and favorite items get packed away will likely cause stress and anxiety for your pet. If possible, you should start getting your dog or cat comfortable with a pet day care center or pet sitter a few weeks before the move. On the day of the move, your fur friend can stay with the sitter, day care or kennel and not be nervous and underfoot while you're hauling boxes.

While you're packing everything, make sure you keep your pet's favorite toys, bedding and food bowls out of the regular moving boxes. Packing these items last will allow for a quick setup of your pup or cat's familiar items as soon as you introduce them to their new home.

If you've ever gone for an extended period of time, you may have noticed that your pet can sense something. They are very good at picking up on your departure (dogs more so than cats) whether it is trying to get in your suitcase while you pack, lying around and moping, or sitting by the door wagging their tail as if they get to go with you. Packing everything in boxes will only intensify this feeling, so setting apart time each day that you pack up a new room to spend time with them and assure them that everything is going to be OK can go a long way in easing their anxieties.

Update Pet Information

Another consideration is to update your pet's microchip with your new address. Make sure you have updated tags to put on your cat's or dog's collar, as well. If your pet gets loose in your new neighborhood, you want to be sure people can reunite the two of you. Finally, ask your current veterinarian or a local friend for recommendations if you need to find a new vet after the move.

It's also a good idea to plan ahead, especially if you're making a move of considerable distance. Start by researching vets and pet stores in the area. You want to make sure that you can quickly care for your dog's or cat's needs if something happens during the move. This includes finding an emergency vet phone number ahead of time, in case something serious happens. You want to be able to get a hold of someone as quickly as possible, without having to search the internet for a vet after an incident occurs.

Small child and big dog looking through window

How to Move With a Pet: The Big Day

On moving day, check your pet's collar to make sure it is snug and the tags are securely attached before you drop them off at the sitter's or day care center. Moving is often a long and exhausting process, so you can make overnight arrangements and pick up your dog or cat the next day if necessary.

Wait until strangers and large groups of people are gone before you go to pick up your pet. Then, survey your new home for these hazards before you let your cat or dog into the house:

  • Double-check that all doors and windows are securely closed.
  • Sweep up any sharp debris and toxic cleaning supplies.
  • Secure any wobbly furniture, closets or boxes that a could injure a curious cat.
  • Make sure all garbage is out of sight and in a dog-proof container.

One of the first things you should do after letting your pet sniff around their new digs is to point out the bathroom spot. Your dog needs to know which door they will go out, and your cat should be able to find their litter box easily. Accidents are a possibility with nervous pets, so don't scold your dog or cat if it takes a day or two for them to adjust.

If you have a cat, all of the new boxes could become a safe haven for them before and after the move. Make sure to pay special attention to where they are at all times, so they don’t accidentally find themself in a box that they shouldn't be in. This is especially important if you have people helping you move that are not aware of the cat.

Managing Your Pet's Stress

Your attitude toward moving can have a major effect on your pet. Try to remain as calm and positive as possible, and ask your family members or roommates to do the same. A move that is due to a stressful life change like a breakup or divorce might cause a little more stress for your pet, Canada's Pet Information Centre notes. Pets are creatures of habit, and changing households or family structures can be extremely hard on them. Even if the surroundings and people are going to change, try to keep up your pet's routine for mealtime, walks, playtime and sleeping.

You can also lessen your pet's moving anxiety by keeping their familiar bedding, bowls and toys for the new place and resisting the temptation to buy new supplies. Avoiding locking your dog in a strange room all day or letting your kitty roam while movers or relatives are walking in and out of the house.

Closeup of fluffy cat lying under a ladder on the floor.

Home Sweet Home

Once everything is moved into your new home, including your four-legged friend, be sure to give your pet some extra one-on-one time. A little extra cuddling or playtime may help them feel safer and less anxious. Your pet will likely need a few days or weeks to make the adjustment to a new home.

Anxiety in cats and dogs can have different signs, but there are a few things to watch for that could mean your pet is struggling to adapt to the new surroundings:

  • A change in eating habits, like overeating or refusing food
  • Withdrawal or hiding
  • Excessive grooming
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

If you notice any of these behaviors lasting for more than a day or two, talk with your vet about how to help your pet calm down and feel comfortable in your new home.

Moving with pets can be challenging. If you take the proper steps, before, during and after a move, a new home can be a positive change for the whole fur family.

Contributor Bio

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.