For people who have four-legged family members, moving brings an additional set of challenges. Think of it from the pet’s point of view: they experience the dismantling of their territory, behavior changes on the part of their people, and then transportation to a new place that is kind of familiar, but not really. Unlike small children, who can be told what to expect, there is no real way to explain to a cat or dog why you’re moving, although that probably doesn’t stop us from trying.
Moving causes us stress, and our pets pick up on that and feel anxious. Both cats and dogs are accustomed to routines and schedules, and as those get disturbed by moving related tasks and the move itself, that is an additional layer of stress. And finally, as we rush around trying to complete tasks and get everything done, we pay less attention to our pets, which is also worrying for them.
So the question shouldn’t be is moving stressful for pets, but how can we alleviate our pets’ stress at moving?
First, try at all costs to maintain feeding routines, play, and your dog or cat’s bed, feeding areas and other spaces until the day of the move. Be sure that pets get attention, and that dogs, especially high energy breeds, get enough activity.
Get your cat (and dog, if necessary) used to their carrier. A few weeks before the move, set it out with the door open, and place toys and a towel inside. Provide treats while your pet is in the crate. Once the crate is familiar, you can move on to short car rides so they become used to the sensation of moving. (Treats can help here, too.)
As moving day approaches, you want to set up a safe space for your pets that can be closed off if necessary. Pick a room that is already empty and that the movers won’t need to access. Move your pets food, bed, crate, litter box, toys and other items in there a few days ahead of the move, so that on moving day they aren’t surprised by being bundled into the room. On moving day, you can put them in the room, with a sturdy gate across the door for dogs, and the door closed for cats. Put a note on the door that there’s a cat in the room; one thing that will definitely make moving day worse is if your runs out an open door.
Moving stress can make dogs forget the rules. Once in your new home, walk your dog through the house and around the yard. It’s best to put your dog on puppy rules for a few weeks. That means they spend time in their crate when unaccompanied or you’re busy, and that you watch them for signs that they need to go out. This will help prevent accidents within the house.
Cats should be allowed to explore on their own, without rushing. Bring their carrier into your new home, set it in a quiet corner, and leave the door open. Talk to them when you hear them meow as they explore, but don’t be surprised if they hide when approached.
For both cats and dogs, you should reestablish feeding, play and bed time routines as soon as you’re in your new home. Most pets settle in fine, but watch carefully in the weeks after the move for toileting issues, listlessness or lack of appetite, and for behavioral changes. If something seems off, talk to a vet. Cats especially should be watched, as urinary blockages from stress can be life threatening.