We’re moving and our pets are freaking out

Moving house is such a stressful time, and sometimes accompanied by other stressors like changing jobs or loss (death or divorce). It’s important to look after ourselves and our pets during the move, to reduce the impact as much as we can. Some of how your pets cope will be dependent on them, and how they cope with change in general. Dogs can cope better as they seem to live “in the moment” and adjust readily, provided there is some familiarity. Cats on the other hand find territory super important, and changing it will be entirely stressful for them.

Before and during your move

If you think your pets will cope, or are regularly boarded anyway, you can board them for the duration of the move and take them home to the new place. I personally prefer to let them be part of the process. Just like you would include a child and explain what’s happening, showing your pets the packing and allowing them to sniff the boxes & packing materials may help enhance curiosity and reduce stress.

Keep your routine as close to normal as possible. Obviously this is really hard as your life is pretty much turning upside down, but make an effort to still walk dogs, play with cats, and keep feeding time as usual during the move period. Walking dogs and playing with cats also helps to alleviate your stress, right?

Plan to move your pets at the same time you move. If you’re doing the move in stages especially, please avoid leaving your pets alone in a largely empty house. Plan to move pets the same day you move your bed, or plan to sleep in the new place. I recommend moving one of their beds or (unwashed) blankets in advance, as this will help put some of their scent in the new place in advance, and this can help them settle sooner. Scent transfer can be particularly helpful for cats – simply place items already with their scent in strategic places around the new home. Both dogs and cats may also be more attracted to where your scent pools most. Your bed, couch or dining room rug particularly might bring them comfort as a familiar smell, so consider when these items are moved as well.

If you feel like your pet is still struggling with the move, and the packing is just stressing them out, you can try:

  • Body pressure / touch: functional massage, TTouch wraps, special jackets like Thundershirt all can assist with calming
  • Aromatherapy: calming scents will help you too!
  • Over-the-counter rememdies like Rescue Remedy:  a few drops in the water bowl or under the tongue
  • Synthetic pheromones (Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats): may provide some relief by emulating the hormones their mums gave off
  • Medications: for use in extreme variety cases, under veterinary advice & supervision

Once you’ve moved

However you get there (moving in stages or boarding your pet), once you’re all in your new place there may still be work to do.

Set the routine. If possible, again try to keep it close to the pet’s known routine. Walking the dog, playing with the cat, and feeding times being about the same will help everyone settle much more quickly. If you do have to change things up a bit, it is OK, just set your new routine early and be consistent.

Let them explore. You can do this two ways – confine them initially to an area and gradually open up rooms for exploration, or let them explore everything first. The first way can be great for cats particularly, so they do not feel overwhelmed in their new space. Confining to a crate or run and expanding their world one door at a time, over time, gives them freedom to explore in their own way, as well as a safe space to retreat to. Dogs seem to like the second option – on leash if needed, allow them to explore and sniff every room and corner of the yard. Dedicate time to just follow them and let them explore in their own time (without getting into mischief). Even if you have rooms that will be ultimately off-limits, I’ve found that allowing them the initial check of the space seems to remove the novelty some. When they’ve explored everything and know where their stuff is, you can section it off again.

And again, if you need to, use wraps, aromatherapy, remedies, pheromones or medications if needed.

Be aware that some of your training may go backwards. Cats will often start pooping in odd places as a way to get their scent established. Dogs can struggle with toileting in a new environment. Especially if there’s other dogs or cats in the area. Walkies may become challenging as your dog works out which neighbours have dogs, and some of those neighbouring dogs might react or aggress at your dogs as you pass. Be aware that you might need to go back to basics and put some extra training work in – or get in touch with your trainer for a top-up lesson.

Call me, I can help.


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