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Moving with Pets: 5 Steps for an Easy Move

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Last Updated on 03/14/2024 by hortonteam

It’s a hot summer day and you’re scurrying around trying to make sure everything important is making it inside the moving truck. Frantically checking the labels on your cardboard boxes, you catch yourself thinking, “I’ll be glad when this is all over.” Your fur baby might be the last thing on your mind in that moment, but did you know they might be even more stressed from the move than you? Learn how to ease the burden when moving with pets with these five, easy steps.

Plan Ahead Accordingly

If you’re planning on moving with pets, probably the most helpful piece of advice to reduce your pet’s stress is to plan ahead. Whether this means getting your pet adjusted to the war-zone look of your home (clothes pulled out, boxes everywhere, etc.) or more accustomed to the container they’ll be transported in, any preparation can be a big help. Both cats and dogs will want to investigate unfamiliar objects like moving boxes, but cats may be more inclined. If your pet seems uneasy at the site of moving boxes, try keeping all the boxes in a separate room until the day you’re ready to move. Another common issue deals with pets who aren’t used to a carrier or crate for transportation. If this applies to your fur baby, it’s a great idea to introduce the device to your pet weeks before your moving day. For both cats and dogs, try leaving the carrier or crate in a room where they will see it daily, and for added comfortability, place some of your pet’s toys or a used shirt in the container—your pet will associate your smells with a sense of comfort and safety.

Remove Your Pets from the Scene

One of the best ways to reduce stress when moving with pets is to separate them from the moving chaos altogether. Some people suggest moving your pet into a different room with a shut door until the very end of the pack-up sequence of the move. This may work for some, but it may also cause extra stress for some pets (especially dogs) as they might feel like something significant is going on just outside the door. If you have a pet that doesn’t handle being left alone very well, this second method might work better for you. Think of a friend or relative whom your pet has been exposed to and feels comfortable while around them. You can leave your pet with this friend for the day, or at least until you’re ready to get on the road. Utilizing this method will help ease your pet’s anxiety, and you also won’t have to worry about your pet escaping through a back door that someone left open during the move.

 Home-in-the-Car Method

Even though this portion of advice is mostly for moving with your pets over long distances, the same ideas can be applied for those pets who seem especially stressed by the moving process. Just like with the carrier and crate directions above, it’s important to make your car seem like a safe, comfortable place for your four-legged friends. If your pet is small enough to be transported in a carrier or crate, just follow the same directions as before. For an added bonus on longer drives, try covering your cat or dog’s transportation container with a blanket. Doing so will eliminate most of the external stimuli that cause anxiety, but make sure the temperature and breathability are both at acceptable levels for your beloved pet. If they will be travelling outside of one of those devices, try spiffing up the back seat with some of your pet’s favorite toys and comfortable fabrics like blankets or towels. This will help calm your pet and make them feel more at home. Whichever method you decide to go with, make sure you have enough food and water available to last your pet the entire trip, and find some way to secure or protect your pet in the case of a car accident.

Proper Presentation

One difference in cats and dogs when moving with pets is how they’ll react to the new home. While cats may be more timid at first, dogs are usually excited at the prospect of discovering a new location. However, it’s important to gradually introduce both types of pets to the new home, and the process will go over much better (especially with dogs) if you explore the home with them. Tote your cat around in the carrier or walk your dog from room to room on a leash. Some pets may be afraid of a new home if they explore it by themselves, and it’s not uncommon for some pets (especially cats) to hide until they feel its safe. One way to help ease this portion of the experience is to partially set up the home—in a similar way as you would for home staging—prior to bringing your pets over. This will help them feel more at home, even if it looks completely different than their previous home. You don’t need to do this throughout the entire house; try establishing a “safe room” for your pets that they can retreat to whenever they’re done exploring. With so many new smells, it’s important to establish an area of familiarity.

Reduce Your OWN Stress

If you’ve ever owned pets, it probably won’t take much convincing for you to believe that animals absorb our emotions. This is true for cats, and it’s especially true for dogs. With that in mind, you need to do your best to keep your stress to a minimum during the moving process. We know, we know—that’s a tall order! But try to think about the experience through your pet’s perspective: all of your owner’s possessions have been dragged out of every room and closet and are being loaded into boxes, some of which are being carried by strangers (hired moving people) into big, loud vehicles (moving trucks)! On top of all that, your owner seems like they’re about to break down at any moment. Make more sense? Even the smoothest relocations are still inherently stressful, so do your best to make yours as stress-free as possible. Whether this means keeping a stress ball in your pocket or enjoying a beer with the people helping you move, your pets will thank you for it.

These steps are mostly suited for cats and dogs, but many of them can easily be adapted to fit the needs of your other pets as well. Following these steps might not completely cure your pets of their anxiety, but doing so will help with the process; moving with pets can be a challenge, but it’s one that can be remedied. Do you have any other tips for moving with pets? Share them with us in the comments below.

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