You might be excited about moving to a new home, but chances are your pets are less than thrilled. While they are glad to be with familiar people, the less-than-familiar setting can be stressful to them, leading to some undesirable behavior changes and reactions.
We reached out to experts for their strategies and suggestions on the best ways to help your pet adjust to a new home.
WHN Expert TIP – Chip It: Having your pet permanently identified with a microchip increases the odds that your pet will be reunited with you if it runs away from its new “digs.” Already chipped? Makes sure you notify the company of your new address.
1. Take it slow.
While you may be tempted to give your pets the run of the new place as soon as you arrive, this can be counter-productive, according to the ASPCA’s Moving With Your Pet article. They can be overwhelmed by the strange space and all the new smells that come with it.
The ASPCA recommends establishing one room as your pet’s home base, complete with its favorite toys, treats, water and food bowls and litter box for cats. Then once your pet is comfortable in that location, let visit the other spaces one room at a time.
“You can relocate your cat’s litter box from the ‘home base’ room to a more permanent location by moving it slowly over time,” adds the ASPCA. “Try moving the litter box one foot forward each day.”
Try to spend the first few days in the new home at home with your pet, leaving only for short periods of time so it can get used to being “home alone.”
2. Watch for escapes.
Pets can try to escape and go back to their former home, so it’s important to keep a watchful eye on open doors and don’t let them run around loose outside, even if you think the fence is adequate. Purina’s Tips For Moving with Dogs and Cats recommends taking your dog on a leash for a walk around the house inside and out, since your presence can help allay any initial worries and help him get used to the new sights and smells.
As for cats, they are nothing if not experts at hiding. While your cat is confined to its new home base, take a cat’s eye view of your new home and look for those places where it might decide to hide, such as unfinished areas or crawl spaces, recommends VCA in Moving to a New Home with Cats and secure them so you don’t spend hours trying to find Fluffy.
3. Do a safety sweep.
You want your new home to be as safe as possible both for its human and animal residents. Double-check all the window and door screens to make sure they are “push-proof” and that doors close securely. Verify that tall bookcases are secure since some cats love to take flying leaps to high shelves that can send the bookcase rocking to the floor. Likewise, secure drapery and blind cords so pets don’t become tangled in them.
Also, look for any rodent or insect traps, bait or poison the previous owners may have left behind. Be sure to check the basement or crawl space area as well as around the exterior of the home, in the garage or any other outbuildings. Finally pack away packing materials such as plastic wrap, packing tape, string and sharp objects like scissors or box cutters, says Moving.com in How to Make a Cat Feel Comfortable in a New Home.
If you’ve moved to a different state, find out what type of wild animals or birds that could be a problem for your pet, such as coyotes or hawks that could view a small animal as a meal source.
4. Bring the blankie.
You may be bringing new furniture into your house, but your pet will prefer old faithfuls: its toys, bedding, and water and food bowls, notes AARP in Help Your Pet Adjust to a New Home. The same goes with the routine. The more your pet’s schedule in the new home matches what it was used to at the last place, the faster it will adjust.
WHN Expert TIP – It’s All About The Smell: “Aid your cat in claiming the new home as her territory by rubbing a glove over her cheek glands while you pet her and then rubbing the scented glove on items in the house at her nose level. Resist the temptation to buy new things, such as beds and scratching posts, for your cat; opt instead to keep the ones your cat is used to, which already have a familiar scent and markings.” VetStreet’s Make Moving Less Stressful for Your Cat
5. Give it time.
While it’s understandable that you’ve got a lot to do—all those boxes that need unpacked!—give your pet some extra loving too. Not only will help your pet adjust, but it will also reduce the potential for difficult behaviors that are triggered by feelings of being out of control. According to VCA’s Moving with Your Dog, this can range from chewing things to marking its territory with urine. That’s why it’s important to be part of the exploration, so you can encourage your pet when it’s behaving while interrupting undesirable ones.
Cats can have problems getting comfy in their new digs, too, points out PAWS in Helping Your Cat Adjust to a New Home. Since hiding is one of the coping mechanisms they use, Paws recommends sitting close to where the cat is and talk to it quietly. Need to move your cat to a better place than its current hiding spot? “Carry him gently to a quiet protected area where he will feel secure. Be sure food, water and litter box are nearby,” says Paws.
6. Ask the vet
Pets like people can have trouble adjusting to a new environment, and in some cases can suffer from separation anxiety or relocation depression. Your dog may bark excessively, lose interest in eating or show other unusual behaviors. Your cat may stop grooming itself, stop eating or spend more time than usual sleeping.
If your pet is having extreme reactions to the new home, experts agree that punishment isn’t the answer since it will only upset your pet more. Remember: “acting out” is an indication of stress. Instead, it’s time to schedule a visit to the vet to get professional advice and medication if warranted. (More tips can be found in MyMovingReviews.com’s The Ultimate Guide to Moving with Dogs to a New Home and Moving with Cats to a New Home: How Moving Affects Cats.)
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