Moving With Pets: 6 Steps for Less Stress

moving with pets
When Manhattanite Mandi Pek was moving into her new apartment, she wasn't worried about the packing, or the renovations, or even the time off from work. She was worried most about moving her pet Harley, an 8-year-old Shih Tzu. "I had brought Harley home at 9 weeks old," Pek says. "It was the only home she has ever known."

Pek's concerns were well-founded. To her dismay, the once independent pup became needy and confused in her new home.

Moving can be stressful enough, but moving with pets adds a whole new set of worries. Moving with a dog, cat, snake or bird takes careful planning, a little bit of research and a lot of compassion to help the animal arrive safely and adjust to new surroundings.

Here are a few tips from pet experts around the country to help you and your pets have a stress-free move.

1. Plan ahead

If you're moving with pets to a new neighborhood or city, make sure that you find a veterinarian before you arrive. Bring along a copy of your pet's medical file from the previous doctor. Also, don't pack up pet toys and other items until the very last minute, and label the box clearly, so you can find it easily in your new place.

Plan in advance for other changes that moving with your pet makes necessary. Pek, for instance, found a new dog walker and introduced him to Harley before the big move.

2. Stick to consistent routines

Dr. Kat Miller of ASPCA Community Outreach says that keeping to a regular schedule can ease the anxiety of a new home for your pet. Maintaining familiar exercise, bathing, and grooming routines before, during and after the move helps your pet make the transition.

Don't force pets out of carriers or crates if they're not ready. Pek let Harley spend as much time as she wanted in her travel bag, the Shih Tzu's beloved "safe" place.

3. Keep pets out of the way of the movers

If you can't get a friend or family member to watch your pet during the actual move, find a safe place to keep the animal away from the action and noise. Veterinarian Donna Spector, an adviser for Halo pet care products, suggests placing a sign on the door to alert movers that your pet is in that room, as well as stocking the room with food, water, toys and (for cats) a litter box. Check on the animal frequently, Dr. Spector advises, to offer a little attention and a treat.

4. Introduce them to new surroundings slowly

It's always best to ease pets into a new situation gradually, says Eugenia Vogel, consulting trainer for the i Love Dogs website. "Have your dog on a leash initially when you go inside," says Vogel. "Then just chill in your new place for a while, making great associations with a fun and new house for your dog."

Start pets in a "home base," adds the ASPCA's Miller, allowing the animal to get familiar and relaxed in the new space before introducing it to the rest of the home.

5. Be aware of special needs

"Small animals, birds, fish and reptiles are very sensitive to environmental changes and require extra-special 'white glove' care during a big change like a move," says Miller. She suggests bringing containers of water from your previous home to gradually mix with the new water and always checking the pH and chlorine content of new water before using it in the habitats of aquatic and amphibious pets.

Spector advises owners to also be aware of temperature changes when transporting pets such as snakes or reptiles and to always use caution when opening a snake's traveling box. "They may unexpectedly try to get out," she warns.

6. Remain calm and give them love

Perhaps the easiest and most effective way to combat moving stress is to take deep breaths and keep yourself happy and calm. All of the experts recommend giving pets extra reassurance and love during moving time. "If you're calm about all the activity, it will help your pet be calm, too," Vogel explains.

For Pek and Harley, the adjustment came with time. Pek took a week off from work to help her pup adjust and keep her company in the new place. When she went back to work, she enlisted the help of her stepmother to check in and make sure that Harley was adjusting to her new dog pack during daily walks. Today Harley is back to her old self. "I can honestly say she is happier here than she was at our old place," says Pek. "She literally bounces down the hallway."


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