With all the excitement and planning that go into a long-distance move, who has time to think about what you’ll do after you get there? You’ll unpack and start your new life, right? But what about your pet? Dogs and cats don’t necessarily take things in stride – at least not things like a major move. So, busy as you are, now is the time to contemplate how you can help your pet adjust to his new home.
That’s even more important if you’re moving overseas with your pet. His new world may be very different in virtually every way. And you can’t simply explain things to him, you’ll have to show the way. These 5 tips will help both of you prepare for the smoothest transition possible.
1. Consider your new accommodations
You may have a big house and yard now, but chances are good you’ll be living in a considerably smaller space in your new home. Maybe even an apartment. Without a private yard, your pet won’t be able to go outside on his own. And in many places around the world, cats are not allowed to roam outdoors.
This will affect your pet’s exercise schedule, at the very least. If you have a dog, do some advance reconnaissance to learn where you can walk him safely and legally.
2. Make your pet’s move-in priority #1
Familiarity is the key to success when it comes to helping cats and dogs adjust to significant change. As soon as you arrive in your new home, designate locations for your pet’s key activities – food-and-water station, bedding, and if your guy is a feline, a spot for his litter box.
Pack a few days’ worth of his usual food, and if possible bring his favorite blanket with you, too. Consider letting him sleep in his travel kennel at first. If you followed our advice about familiarizing him with the crate ahead of time, he will by now think of it as his special place.
It’s likely that, as your pet becomes more comfortable with his new surroundings he will identify some additional snoozing spots on his own. Keep an eye out for that, and place a familiar, comfy bed or blanket in each location.
And speaking of special places, your dog knows he’s supposed to go out to go potty, but now he doesn’t know where to go. Pick a spot and show him, just as you originally trained him.
3. Scoping out the new digs
Some animal behavior experts recommend limiting your pet to one room at first, then allowing him to gradually explore increasingly more of your new home. Realistically, however, that may not work.
So if your dog is the adventurous type, let him investigate on his own – under your supervision – or keep him by your side as you move around. If he’s the not-so-adventurous type, turn it into a game to encourage him. And if your guy is a cat, you’ll need to be even more understanding.
4. Expect unwanted behaviors
Pets often revert when they feel stressed. Formerly obedient, reliably house-trained dogs can refuse to mind you or go potty inside. Cats or dogs may go into hiding under the bed or elsewhere. They may become depressed and listless or clingy. Accept these demonstrations of anxiety for what they are, and focus on positive reinforcement of calm and doing the right thing.
5. Be patient
The more understanding and reassuring you are before and after your move, the easier it will be for your pup or kitty to adjust. As the pet parent, you’re the leader of the pack. Even your cat looks to you for guidance, even though he would never admit it.
Love and kindness win the day, as always. Plan to spend extra time with your pet as you prepare to move and once you arrive at your destination. Working to help him feel at home is more important than getting everything unpacked right away. It will help you adjust faster, too, because as we all know, home is where our pets are.