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Moving to a new home with Fido doesn’t have to be stressful

Dog with moving boxes
Olive wonders what the moving boxes are for

As real estate agents, we know firsthand that moving to a new home when you have pets can be a challenging situation, not to mention stressful on the pets. For most people, leaving their animals behind is out of the question. For those of you who will eventually move with pets, proper preparation can ensure that your next move will go more smoothly, for you and your pets.

dog in moving box
You can’t put your dog in a moving box!

Before the Move

For the most part, dogs respond to a family relocation with different behaviors. Many of our past clients socialize

their dogs quite a bit, taking them places and often stay overnight with them. One of our agents, Caroline Hersh, has a dog named Olive who was quite comfortable with their move a couple of years ago. This is not the case for all dogs.

Dogs are often easier to travel with, but if your dog only travels in the car to go to the vet, you’ll want to acclimate him to riding in the car a few weeks before your move. Start with short trips, perhaps to the park. Positive attention will reinforce the pleasurable aspect of car rides and help decrease anxiety.

Cat owners tell us that during moves, their cats were clingy and atypically affectionate or temporarily reclusive.

If your cat’s only exposure to a carrier was when she came home from her prior home, leave it where she can examine it daily. Place your cat’s favorite blanket or toy in the carrier, and praise her when she goes inside. When the cat feels stressed, she’ll hopefully hide in the carrier instead of in a suitcase or box.

On the day of the move, place your cats or other small animals in their carriers and confine your dogs to one room or the backyard. If your dog has any territorial protectiveness or gets stressed out easily, ask a neighbor to watch him for the afternoon until all of your belongings are packed away. Only after everything is out of the house should you retrieve your animal and place him in the car or moving truck.

Cats should be placed in a hard-sided carrier. Allow enough room on either side of the carrier for proper ventilation, covering the carrier with a sheet or light blanket for the first few hours of the trip. Cats get a little freaked out when they see the world moving by, but that after a few hours, they should relax.

Dogs should also be restrained. Safety harnesses, which attach to any seat belt, allow your dog to sit or stand comfortably, whereas safety gates, made of either mesh or metal, give him added mobility in a restricted area. An unrestrained, uneasy dog can compromise your control of the car while driving. Plus, your already disoriented dog may escape from the vehicle at a roadside stop.

Additionally, don’t forget to pack a separate bag for your animal. Take some of his favorite food, as well as a gallon of water, because water characteristics change regionally. If you are traveling with cats, they can generally travel for eight to 10 hours without having to use a litter box, but it never hurts to bring along a disposable litter box for emergencies or overnight stops. You will also need to bring a pet first aid kit and some extra towels, in case of accidents. Place temporary ID tags with your new address and phone number, or a cell phone number, on your pet’s collar.

Hidden Hazards

Not all moves can be made in one day. If you must stop for the night, call ahead to hotels that claim to be pet-friendly. Many pet-friendly hotels have a limited number of rooms available for people with pets, or will only allow small dogs and cats.

In the hotel room, look around for any dangers, such as open windows or holes in the wall, before letting your cat out of her carrier or your dog off his leash.

New Home Sweet Home

When you reach your final destination, immediately remove your animals from the car and segregate them in a single room as you assess the home.  Check for open windows, chemicals in the water, mousetraps under the bed or dressers and even drapery cords, which cats can get tangled in. Only after all of your boxes and furniture have been moved in, and all of the movers have left, should you let your animals out to explore. For some animals, it may take days or even weeks to become comfortable.

“It’s not easy to move with animals,” says Schoem, “but it’s part of the obligation we have to them.” With forethought and planning, there is no reason why moving to a new home cannot be accomplished with a minimum of stress—for both you and your companions.


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