Moving with pets offers all kinds of challenges that add to the already overwhelming moving experience and, unfortunately it’s very easy to get caught up in all of the “other” things you have to take care of. It’s important to remember that moving can be a traumatic experience for your pets, as well, and there are a number of common sense – but often forgotten – steps you can take to keep their well-being in focus with the rest of your family’s.

Rather than tackle this specialized topic on our own, though, we went right to the experts. Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Barbara Frazier, who is Behavior and Training Supervisor and Transport Coordinator for the SPCA Serving Erie County (Central New York | Tampa), who shared her expertise on moving with pets...

Just like acclimating to every other aspect of your move, for pets there are stages – pre-move, during the move, and post-move. How should families prepare their pets for their upcoming move?

One of the most important things you can do when moving your pets is developing a thorough understanding of the situation they’ll face at your (their) new home. It’s a good idea to start with security: be sure the yard/fence in the new home is secure, and inspect for loose fencing, gates or holes that a dog may get out of before you get there. In the house, decide ahead of time if there will be any rooms/areas that will be off limits to your pets and make sure all family members are aware of the rules. Make plans for how to keep pets out of those areas (e.g. gates, closed doors) ahead of time. Taking these steps will help avoid confusion for your pets as they begin to investigate their new home.

In the midst of moving your entire household, at some point your pets themselves have to be “moved,” as well. What can families do to make things easier for their pets during the actual travel?

A big part of how the actual travel will go is your experience traveling with your pets in the first place.  Is your dog used to car rides? How does he/she do in the car? How far is the drive? Some pets love being in the car and the trip will be a breeze for them.

If your dog/cat is predisposed to motion sickness in the car, you can check with your Veterinarian about whether an anti-emetic medication would be appropriate to help your pet get through the ride more comfortably, especially if the ride will be a long a one. It’s a good idea to have some old towels ready should your pet become sick in the car – better safe than sorry.

If your dog/cat typically becomes anxious in the car and the ride is long, consider working on desensitizing by taking some short trips in car ahead of time and gradually increasing the time. It may be a good idea to discuss whether an anti-anxiety medication may be appropriate with your Veterinarian. It’s safest to crate your dog and absolutely your cat in your car. There are also seat belts and car seats to secure dogs into seats for safety during travel. If your dog is not secured, however, it is safer for them travel in the back rather than the front seat of the vehicle. 

When you arrive at your new home, everything will be brand new to your pets. You’ll want to have them acclimate right from the start, but there are safety things to think about as well, right?

First things first. It’s important to remember that the area will be unfamiliar to them and if they run off excitedly, they may not be able to find their way back. Make sure your dog’s leash is attached and someone is holding the end before you open the car door when arriving at your new home. The cat’s cage door should be closed securely before moving the cat from car to house as well.

Be sure to keep pets safe from cleaning supplies and household chemicals that might not be stowed away during the move. Also, if you can, avoid escapes by gating off the area that leads to the doors that you may be using to bring large items into the new home and keeping propped open or opening wide when carrying items through.

Take your dog out to the yard first thing when you get to your new home. Let them smell around the yard/area that they will have access to. You should give them as much time to familiarize themselves as they need to explore this area. Make sure your cat has a perch or resting area that oversees a window to the outdoors. 

Are there things families can do to bring some of the comforts of their pets’ former home with them?

That’s a very important point. Many families look at their move as, “New home, new stuff, right?” You may be tempted to replace your pet’s toys, bed, perches, scratching post or favorite blanket with new items as well. You should consider keeping some of these items for now even if they aren’t in great condition so that they will have some things that will both smell and be familiar to them – when so much else about their environment will be changing. Familiar smells can be very comforting.

Litter boxes should be placed in low traffic areas where your cat has a clear “escape route” so that she will feel safe and be most likely to use it. Remember, the rule for litter boxes is to have one more box than number of cats in your home. A move is not a time to change litter type or general location of litter boxes, either. Your cats have enough to deal with in a new environment

To encourage house training to carry over to your pets’ new environment, be sure to keep a schedule similar to the one in your previous home. Make sure to make time to walk your dog and/or let him out on the schedule he/she is used to even though you may be busy unpacking and setting up. 

For more information, visit your local SPCA (Erie County | Central New York | Tampa).