Moving, especially relocating to another country, is bound to induce stress. Relocating with your pet? Even more stress, because you will have even more to think about. The key to calm (comparatively speaking) is starting early. That will keep both you and your pet from being stressed out on the day you fly.
To help you plan calmly, we recommend our article on “10 Steps for Relocating with Your Pet.” If you’re moving with your pet to a new country, this article also offers good tips on what you’ll need to do to get ready.
Be the pack leader you are
As the pet parent, you are the alpha in your dog’s life. Your cat, on the other hand, is convinced she is the alpha in every regard. But like your dog, she literally look to you for guidance and picks up on your moods. If you’re worried or stressed out about your impending move, pets are likely to feel the same way.
Even if you are ready to tear your hair out, do your best to maintain a positive, upbeat demeanor and smiling voice – especially when you’re interacting directly with your cat or dog.
Familiarize your pet with her travel crate
Your cat or dog will need an IATA-approved kennel designed specifically for air travel. The best way to reduce her stress is to purchase that kennel well in advance of her departure, so she has adequate time to become familiar with it. She will have to process many new sights and sounds and smells during her journey. If she is riding in a crate that looks and smells familiar and feels like home, she will be much more confident.
Make sure you get the proper kennel for your size pet, and give her at least three weeks to explore it. These tips will help her adopt the crate as her personal “cave”:
- Set it where she can easily check it out, leaving the door open. Praise her whenever she interacts with the kennel. Putting treats and her food bowl in the crate will encourage her to go inside.
- After a week, close the door behind her when she enters to eat, then open it when she’s finished. Praise and reward her immediately after letting her out of the kennel. Give her a treat, play with her – make it a big deal that she was a good girl in the kennel.
- After the second week, have her enter the kennel and remain inside for 15 minutes before feeding her, and gradually leave her inside longer after eating, before letting her out. Adding a toy to keep her busy will help her feel comfortable and relaxed. Keep praising and rewarding her for spending time in the crate.
Do not plan to tranquilize your pet
If you follow our blog, you know we make this point often. That’s because it is so important, and also because many pet owners don’t realize how dangerous sedation can be during air travel. Neither the airlines nor reputable commercial pet transport companies will accept sedated pets. And the American Veterinary Medical Association strongly recommends against this practice, too.
You might think a little calming medication would be ideal to help your dog or cat sail through their trip stress-free. But, in fact, it can have exactly the opposite effect. Sedatives make animals woozy, impairing their balance. Inability to sit or stand increases their risk of injury. Wooziness also makes animals feel confused and out of control, further increasing their anxiety. Tranquilizers also increase heart rate and blood pressure, putting additional stress on your pet’s body.
Give her plenty of “just you and me” time
As busy as you are dealing with travel and moving arrangements, do not short-change your pet. Make a point to just hang out, for cuddles or petting. Make time to play, in whatever way your pet likes most, whether it’s at home, on a run, or at the dog park. Spending time with her is an easy way to provide reassurance. You aren’t abandoning her, everything is normal. “Pet time” breaks will help you relax, too.
And speaking of normal . . .
No matter how chaotic your moving preparations become, do everything you can to maintain your pet’s regular daily routine. Leave her food and water dishes, bedding, and litter box if she’s a kitty, in the same place, and work around them if you have to. Feed her at the same time(s) as always, and stay on schedule with her usual walks or other activities.
By the time departure day rolls around, your pet will certainly know something’s up, but he won’t be blindsided by every little detail.