tips for moving with pets

Moving can be challenging, especially when you have furry family members to think about. Dogs and cats thrive with routine and familiarity, so a change of scenery can be overwhelming. Luckily, if you plan your move accordingly, they should adapt in no time.

By keeping your pets secure and happy before, during and after your move, you’ll appreciate an overall worry-free experience for everyone involved. Learn ways to smooth the moving process so your pet can comfortably transition into their new home.

Can Moving Be Stressful for Pets?

Animals always know when something is amiss, even if they don’t exactly know why. Cats and dogs are accustomed to routines, and when these schedules are interrupted by moving-related tasks or the transportation process itself, they might experience stress or anxiety. While they may not be able to communicate these emotions, you might notice behavioral changes or destructive tendencies in your pets when their territory and routines are disrupted.

And since moving can cause stress in humans, it only makes sense that our pets would pick up on our emotions and find the process equally overwhelming. They might also become confused watching their owners rush around to complete tasks while paying less attention to them.

Cats, in particular, are prone to anxiety caused by sudden changes to their scenery and may become worried when they find themselves in an unfamiliar place with new sights, sounds and smells. That’s why it’s essential to alleviate your pet’s uncertainties by preparing them for the move and quickly settling them into their new home and routines upon arrival.

General Tips for Moving With Pets

To lessen your pet’s anxiety and make them feel safe and secure throughout your move, consider trying the following strategies:

1. Ensure Your New Home and Environment Are Safe

A new home can mean potential safety hazards for your pet. To pet-proof your future space and environment, follow a few tips to keep your furry friends safe:

  • Secure screens, gates, windows and doors.
  • Ensure your pets can’t squeeze through or jump over railings if you have a balcony.
  • Search your outdoor fencing for potential escape routes.
  • If your new home doesn’t have a backyard, ensure your neighborhood is safe enough for walking.
  • Remove any poison control or pest traps that may have been left behind.
  • Check your backyard for any poisonous plants that could be detrimental to your pet’s health.
  • Remove electrical cords, mothballs and other objects that could potentially harm your pet.

Keeping a clean and clutter-free home will also reduce the likelihood that your pet gets into something harmful. And by keeping medicines and cleaning chemicals on high shelves and covering trash bins or tiny spaces behind washer and dryer units, you’ll keep your pet safe and protected for your big move.

2. Stick to Your Pet’s Regular Routine

Since your pets are creatures of habit, you’ll want to stick to their regular schedules before and during your move to reduce their stress. Minimize any disruptions as much as possible to avoid issues later down the road. Keep your pets happy by:

  • Feeding them at the same time every day
  • Not skipping their walks or playtime
  • Giving them extra love and attention during this stressful time

By sticking to your pet’s routine and keeping them occupied with exercise and extra attention, they’ll be happier throughout your move and adapt to their new surroundings with ease. And if things are too busy to fit in extra playtime or walks, calling upon the help of friends or dog walking services can be beneficial.

3. Talk to Your Vet About the Move

Talking to a veterinarian about your move can be especially helpful in tackling the challenges of moving with a pet. Vets know a lot about helping animals manage stressful situations, and they can provide tactics that will help you reduce their anxiety throughout the moving process.

vet checking cat's heart beat

At the vet, you can:

  • Ensure your pet’s vaccinations and health records are up to date before your move.
  • Request a copy of your pet’s medical records if you’re moving to a different city or state and need to switch vets.
  • Ensure your pet is healthy and stocked on prescriptions to prevent emergency visits during your move.
  • Request recommendations for a vet in your new community if you haven’t found one.
  • Chat about stress-reduction strategies and how to move with pets to keep them secure and happy.

4. Stock up on Pet Supplies

As the date of your move approaches, you’ll want to make a trip to the pet store to stock up on necessary supplies. By purchasing essential items for your pet ahead of the move, you can avoid a dash to the store while you’re in the middle of unpacking your new home. You’ll also have peace of mind knowing your pet is prepared for the journey ahead. Before the move, ensure you have:

  • Ample food
  • Urine pads to prevent unexpected messes
  • Extra towels and baby wipes
  • Window shades for your car
  • Treats and chew toys
  • A collapsible water bowl

You might also pamper your pet with new toys or devices such as automatic litter boxes when you get to your new place. Keep disruptions to their feeding routines minimal by ensuring they always have access to food and water and keeping your new home stocked with the right items.

5. Stick to a Routine and Set up Your New Space

As soon as you arrive at your new home, let your pet ease into their surroundings. While things may be hectic as you get settled, try to stick to their regular feeding, walking, playtime and sleep routines.

Dogs will likely want to explore right away, so it can be beneficial to walk them around your neighborhood to get them acquainted with the new sights and scents. In contrast, cats may need more time to adapt to the changes slowly.

Bring along your pet’s familiar food and water dishes, toys, blankets and beds so they feel at home. Set up their crate or litter box so they can familiarize themselves with the items in their new home, but try to keep them in similar locations as they were in your previous home.

Preparing for Long-Distance Moves With Pets

When it comes to moving long-distance with pets, you’ll have a few other things to consider. Prepare your pets for the long journey ahead by following these steps:

1. Check Local Regulations for Pet Owners

Before moving, you’ll want to check local pet ownership regulations and laws in your new area, whether you’re moving across town to a new apartment or cross-country to a new state. A new apartment complex or homeowner’s association could have requirements that affect your timing or other moving details, so it’s best to look into the policies in advance.

Breed restrictions might prevent you from living in certain areas with your pets. Additionally, animals like reptiles or domestic livestock might require additional paperwork or need to meet different regulations. If needed, look into pet laws associated with moving out of the lower 48 states.

2. Select a Moving Company That Will Accommodate Your Pet

women petting her dog while packing for move

When bringing your pet along for a long-distance move, you’ll want to choose your moving company carefully. Some rental truck companies don’t allow pets in the cab, and of course, your pets should never travel in the back of a truck with your belongings.

3. Prepare a Travel Kit With All the Necessary Supplies

At this point, it’s important to bring items from your old home that your pet will associate with familiarity and comfort. Pack a kit that includes food, water, medications, treats, leashes, favorite toys or anything else they may need. Bring waste disposal options such as plastic bags or disposable litter boxes for any surprise messes.

4. Take Them in Your Car

While pet relocation companies can take care of transporting your animals, it’s generally easier for your pet for you to travel along with them. If your pet has never been in your car, familiarize them with it before your move so they feel safe enough to travel long-distance. Take them on test drives in the weeks leading to your trip to ensure that driving isn’t a new and overwhelming experience.

5. Keep Them Comfortable on the Drive

The best place for your pet is in a harness, crate or carrier fastened by a seatbelt. Keep them adequately restrained in the backseat and secure any boxes to keep your animals out of harm’s way.

You might put a blanket over your pet’s crate to reduce visual stimulation and keep them calm throughout the drive — this can be especially helpful for birds or cats. Avoid packing items too tightly around them to ensure they always have ample airflow, and provide blankets, beds or pillows to keep them happy and comfortable.

6. Plan for Rest and Stops Along the Way

Plan stops along the drive for bathroom breaks so your pets can stretch their legs or access water. If you’ll need to stop overnight, schedule pet-friendly hotel stays, remembering that some places might not welcome all kinds of animals. It’s unsafe to leave your pet alone in your car and even illegal in certain states. Search for pet-friendly parks or truck stops along your route and consider drive-thru food so you can stay in the car with your pet.

7. Update Your Pet’s Identification

Update your pet’s microchip or the contact info on your pet’s ID tags before your move. If your pet gets lost, you’ll want someone to be able to get in touch with you so you can get your pet back to your new address safely.

Considerations for Different Types of Pets

When you move cross-country with your animals, you may notice certain behavioral changes or attention-seeking tendencies as they settle in your new place. Fortunately, you can employ a few techniques to cushion this transition.

Tips for Moving With Dogs

women smiling with dog while preparing for a move

For dogs, anxiety can cause behavioral changes like indoor accidents or increased chewing or barking. Some dogs may settle within days of your move, while others might take weeks or months to fully adjust to their new environment.

When moving with a dog, consider the following strategies:

  • Stick to a routine even when it might be inconvenient: Dogs are creatures of habit and will need their new homes to resemble their old way of life as much as possible. 
  • Provide plenty of exercise time: Playtime will put your dog’s mind at ease and help them relax so they can sleep more easily. It can be helpful to push for more playtime immediately after your move and provide lots of chew toys to keep them away from your valuables.
  • Give them extra attention: Providing your dog lots of affection through snuggles, playtime and treats can help reassure them that they will be okay.
  • Stay at home as often as possible: Take time for yourself to settle into your new home and spend plenty of time with your dog so they feel comfortable with the changes as well.
  • Speak with a vet if needed: If your dog is prone to anxiety and these methods aren’t helping, speak with your vet about medications or drug-free therapeutic options that can help calm them down.

Tips for Moving With Cats

Like dogs, moving with a cat will be all about stress reduction techniques. Felines are especially prone to anxiety when their surroundings and routines are altered, though they are typically better at hiding their emotions. To keep them comfortable throughout the moving process, try these tips:

  • Keep your cat comfy in their carrier: Cats can get fussy when traveling, especially if they aren’t used to being confined. Some cats enjoy a small space to cozy up and relax, so it might be a great idea to keep your carrier open around your home in the days leading up to your move. This way, they can relax inside and become accustomed to it for smoother travels.
  • Deep clean your new home: Cats are susceptible to smells, and it’s a given that your new home will smell much different than your last. Consider shampooing your carpets and vacuuming to rid your new home of any strange smells, especially if the previous occupant had pets. This will make your cat feel less stressed and more at home.
  • Make a game out of it: Cats love boxes. Make a game out of moving by letting your kitty explore your boxes so they can get comfortable with the changes. If they’re unsure about it, place catnip and treats inside to get them excited.
  • Give them space: Cats generally need their own space to relax as soon as you arrive at your new home. It can be helpful to give them a separate room to unwind before allowing them to explore other parts of the house. Place their litter box and food in an easily accessible spot that they can make their safe haven.

Choose David McCarthy Moving to Help With Your Next Move

Several techniques can help alleviate stress if you have pets and you’re moving houses. Follow our tips throughout the process to keep your pets happy and comfortable.

When you choose David McCarthy Moving, our professionals can aid the process so you have more time to focus on your furry friend. We are an independently-owned and -operated company with over 30 years of experience, and our experts look forward to making your move as smooth as possible.

For a free quote, contact us today!

dad and son petting dog while packing for move

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