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Moving Day with Pets

Jennifer Mcguiggan
May 23, 2008

How to minimize your pet's stress level.

I remember reading somewhere that moving to a new home is one of life's top 10 stressful events. I can't verify the statistical data, but personal experience seems to bear it out. Think of everything that goes into moving: finding a new home, packing up, the physical trip to the new location, unpacking, getting used to a new environment, figuring out where everything is.

Now imagine doing all of that (except for the packing, of course) without having a clue about what's going on. That's essentially what pets go through when they move with you. Just as for humans, moving is stressful for animals. Here are some ways to help your pet make a smooth transition, before, during, and after the move.

Before

Like most large projects, the key to a successful move is advanced planning. While you're house hunting, packing up boxes, and making transportation plans, remember to plan for your pet. For one thing, make sure she is up-to-date with all vaccinations and other medications. If you're moving to a new city or state, ask your current vet for a recommendation in your new neighborhood. Also consult with a local vet to find out if the new area has any ordinances, laws, or regulations that you need to comply with. Once that's in order, plan ahead for the steps listed below.

During

On moving day, don't risk misplacing or damaging one of your most treasured items: your pet. Consider taking your pet to a safe location away from the hustle and bustle of moving, such as the home of a trusted friend, pet sitter or family member. Remember, the goal is to keep your pet safe and minimize her stress level, so don't do this if it's just going to freak her out.

If going to a third party location isn't a good idea for your pet, keep her in a safe room on both sides of the move. At your old home, choose a quiet, out of the way room and empty it out except for your pet's food and water, a litter box for cats, and maybe a few favorite toys and a small bed.

You don't want someone to accidentally let your pet run away on moving day. If possible, lock the door. Otherwise, put a very large sign on it that says, "Do NOT open. Pet inside." Personally, I'd block off the door with yellow police tape, but maybe that's going overboard.

If your move requires a long car trip or even a plane ride, read Have Pet. Will Travel? Part 1 and Part 2 for tips on travel safety. There are also some commercial services that specialize in "pet relocation," but ask your vet for recommendations and do thorough research before leaving your pet in the hands of any service provider.

After

Help your pet adjust to life in her new home with another "safe room." Create a comfortable environment for your pet with all of her necessities in a quiet room at the new house. Keep your pet in her carrier, take her into the room, and shut the door. Open the carrier and allow your pet to come out when she's ready. Judge your pet's readiness to explore the rest of the house when she doesn't hide for cover when you open the door.

Remember to pet-proof your new home before you give your pet free range. Try getting down on your hands and knees to see things from your pet's perspective. Pinpoint what your pet could get into, and then take the appropriate safety precautions. For me, this means covering all electrical cords with plastic tubing and blocking off any openings under bookcases and furniture. (My tiny, six-pound cat is a notorious cord chewer and contortionist who likes to squeeze into -- and get stuck in -- tight spaces! Rabbits are notorious chewers too!)

Be patient as your pet adjusts to her new surroundings. The more consistent you can be during this time of change, the less your pet has to worry about.

Jennifer McGuiggan is a freelance writer and editor in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. She writes for a wide variety of clients and publications, and sometimes writes about her cats Gatwick and Cheska on her blog: thewordcellar.blogspot.com.

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