The Good Word” by Dr. Carol Good – Rockford Animal Hospital

*Moving with Your Pet*

     Moving to a new home is an exciting, stressful and tiring time for people and pets. The difference, however, is that you know where you’re going and what to expect, not so with your pet. All of a sudden, their nice, familiar environment is torn apart and they are packed into a stuffed car to arrive at a new and unknown place. They don’t know who or what to expect and it’s pretty scary. So, here are a few tips to make it better for them:

First, make sure they have a microchip or at least an ID tag attached to them at all times. If they escape the car or leave the new home and get lost during the move, identification is your best way to get them back. Also, make sure the information is useful. It doesn’t help to have your old phone number/address on the ID when you’re not there anymore. Before you move, add your new address/phone number to your microchip data base and put an updated ID tag on your pet’s collar. If you don’t have time for any of this, at least write your cell phone number on a piece of packaging tape and wrap it around your pet’s collar.

Cats and dogs look at moving to a new residence in very different ways. Dogs are pack animals. If the whole pack (i.e. you and yours) go to the same place together, it is a much less stressful event than going there alone. Many dogs will not be stressed at all and settle in right away as long as they have food, water and you. For those who don’t, there are things you can do. I’ll tell you about this in a few paragraphs.

Cats on the other hand, don’t form pack relationships. Yes, they love you and enjoy hanging with you, but their “true” love is their territory (your home). Once they establish themselves in their little kingdom, they don’t want anything to change and certainly they don’t want to leave. So, as soon as boxes and movers appear, their stress level starts to rise. Then, when they get to a new home, they are absolutely freaked out with fear about what dangers may be present in this strange new place. The good news is that there are many things we can do to reduce the stress and speed a connection to the new territory.

The most important thing for your cat is to make sure it is acclimated to a cat carrier. Put the carrier out all the time where your cat can interact with it in your house. Leave the door open with a comfy blanket inside and put treats in it to entice your cat to go in. The idea is to make it “a home away from home” not “the evil box” that takes your cat away from all that is good when you put them in it for travel. Cover the carrier with a towel so your cat can’t see the scenery. Remember, strange territory means danger to your cat, so, what they can’t see won’t bother them as much.

The next step is to reduce stress with a pheromone product – Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs. These products come in sprays, wipes and room dispensers. They mimic natural pheromones produced by cats and dogs and interact with brain chemistry when a pet breaths them into their body. They cause relaxation by making pets feel safe, protected and at home. Begin using them several weeks before the move and continue for at least a month in the new place. Your cat or dog will be relaxing in your new home in no time.

If it is possible, get a room set up in your new home as soon as you arrive where you can place your pet with familiar things from your old home. Set up their dog crate or pet carrier in the room along with toys, bed and litterbox. Play some quiet music and darken the lights. Avoid going in and out of the room until your belongings are inside and doors to the outside are shut. Then, when things are quiet, open the door and let your pet explore their new place.

If you know that your pet is extremely nervous, you may want to talk to us about additional natural products or even prescription medications to reduce anxiety. This may be especially useful if there are going to be multiple moves in a short period of time or additional stressors like new pets in the new home.

Moving is hard on everyone, but with a little effort you can make it better. Try some of these tips and everyone will feel more welcome in the new home.

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