Moving into a brand new home is equally thrilling and intense. If you’re a pet owner, you may be anticipating the stress your dog or cat may feel from being in a new and unfamiliar place. Factor in organizing, packing, plus the actual relocating process, and your furry friend may be in for a confusing and tense experience.
Here’s the deal: Moving doesn’t have to be a stressful experience for you or your pet. With thoughtful planning and helpful tips, the situation can come off without a hitch. Ahead is our handy guide to moving with dogs and cats (safe and stress-free).
Overarching Tips for Any Moving Stage
Like humans, cats and dogs can be adverse to change. Therefore, throughout the entire process (including the first few weeks and months in the new home), support your pet by keeping routines consistent and supportive. While it may seem obvious to dive head first into planning and packing—plus taping and labeling every box—that’s counterintuitive to keeping Fido happy and well-adjusted. Instead, focus on daily rituals (like morning walks) that enforce a sense of calm and stability. Not to mention, this will also help you maintain focus and balance, too.
Next, create space in your ongoing routine for exercise and play. This is a good way for your pup or cat to burn off excess energy (that might be triggered by anxiety) and stave off boredom. After all, a bored pet might be prone to bouts of destructive behavior!
Lastly, make sure you have a secure and easily accessible space just for your pup. This tip will help enforce a schedule and everyday normalcy for your furry friend. Space for napping, lounging, and playing on a comfy-cozy bed or designated spot makes any animal feel snug, safe, and secure.
Organizing and Packing Up
Here’s when a lot of the heavy lifting comes in. Your dog may be confused as to why there’s a sudden influx of boxes and objects moving around (especially when you start packing up their toys).
First, the best way to get your possessions neatly packed and ready to go is to plan. Before putting one item in a box, determine exactly how and when you’ll move. Depending on the distance—by car or plane—you might need specific documents like vaccinations and insurance to move safely with your cat or dog. (Note: We recommend traveling by car as the safest option to minimize stress as much as possible.)
In this stage, you might also want to introduce your cat or dog to a crate if you’ll be moving a sizable distance. As you’re prepping and planning for the move, training your pet to gradually get used to the crate helps ease anxiety and nervousness. During this period, you’ll want to ensure that any vet visits (including prescriptions, current vaccines, and identifying collars) are up to date.
With proper training and routines, your pet will easily get used to moving boxes and the evolving state of your home, making this part of the moving stage smoother with less distractions.
Planning the Move
To begin, secure pet-friendly lodging if your move is across the state or the country. Odds are, if your move includes lots of driving, you and your pup (or cat) will need a cozy and safe place to crash before finishing up the last leg to your new abode.
The next key part of the planning process? Pack a to-go bag for yourself and your pet. This handy bag—think of it as an overnight bag—can be a total game-changer. Pull together all of your furry friend’s must-haves for easy access during the routine meal, treat, and play times. Think toys, treats, food, bowls, puppy pads, and any vital medications you can unpack at a moment’s notice.
After, you’ll want to confirm with your moving company (if you’re using one)of any hardline details, permits, and insurance. One, that’ll help you save any headaches for the move. Two, it’ll also provide clarity around the moving schedule and how that can affect your cat or dog’s routine.
Then, it’s time to pet-proof your new home if possible. Ensure to double-check all appropriate areas for any possible safety issues that could potentially put your pet at risk. For example, loose window screens (or holes) are spots a cat can easily slip through. Or, doors and gates with locks that don’t catch can be a weak point for a curious door to push the door open and run out. Ensure to check any locks, windows, and even lids and canisters for places that your pet could potentially get into and either get outdoors into unfamiliar territory or break into harmful chemicals.
The big day’s safest and easiest component includes traveling safely with your pet. So—if you’re driving, ensure that your cat or dog is secured in a crate and buckled up. Or, if you have a larger dog, ensure they’re securely in the back seat. It’s also important to keep some treats and a portable water bowl on hand, as when pets are nervous, they can pant and be prone to dehydration.
Once you’re in your new space (congratulations!), designate a cozy and secure area for your pet. Make sure that this spot is easily accessible for you in emergencies, but it’s otherwise secure (aka, no curious kitties or pups can get out). After all, you’ll be moving boxes in and out and with the constant motion and open doors, your pet could easily slip out. (Pro tip: Make sure a litter box is an easy-to-find spot for the cat!)
As you’re bringing in furniture and boxes, slowly introduce your furry bestie to new spots in the house. Doing it all at once can be overwhelming, so taking little steps is best. Then, when you settle in and unpack, show your pet different areas of the house for them to explore. And soon enough, they’ll feel snuggly and warm in their new space.
Stephanie Valente is a Content Director and Editor in Brooklyn, NY. She’s previously held writing and social media positions at Barkbox, Men’s Journal, and currently works at a full-service advertising agency. She’s a self-confessed home and design enthusiast. Stephanie is an award-winning poet and fiction writer. When she’s offline, you can find her taking a yoga class, running, hanging out with her rescue dog Pepper. Find her on stephanievalente.com.