How to move with animals
I should preface this by saying I have two cats and a dog and have moved with all of them and it’s the most dreaded part of any of my moves. It’s traumatic to me to see how stressed my precious babies get by the change of scenery which is probably only adding to their stress. What’s it called when a snake eats itself? Ouroboros? That’s kind of what moving a pet is like for me.
That being said, you should accept the animals will be stressed but there are ways you can help reduce this stress. Let’s talk about cats first since they are truly creatures of habit and environment. Below are tips to help you and your feline friends are ready to move right meow. And remember, the first move you make with a cat is the most traumatic for them. Each one after gets easier. There is light and you will survive this.
You will want your cat to feel pretty comfortable in their carrier. And trust me, you’re going to want a cat carrier for moving day. Since I have two cats, I have two soft carriers that I can unzip the top. Since cats are cats and love getting in boxes or containers of any sort, I make a point a few weeks before to pull the carriers out of the closet and place them in the living room. It’s not a sightly decoration tip but the cats are curious and will hop in and out. I make a point to incorporate the carriers into their playtime (one has a fake fish toy she adores) and I’ll fling a toy in the carrier to make them jump in. Occasionally I will zip up the carrier closed with a cat inside so they can feel what it is like to be in a space they are comfortable without the stress of being carried around. They get so used to this and so relaxed, even after I unzip the top, they have been known to take a nap in there. This is really good!
You can go an extra step and start feeding the cats in their carrier but this isn’t something I have done before so I can’t speak to the effectiveness of this trick. My cats are just such messy eaters I don’t want to deal with cleaning up the carrier.
Make sure your cat has had a bit to eat in the morning to reduce upset stomach. It’s also likely they won’t be very interested in food after the move for a little bit so this will give you some peace of mind.
If you can, keep your cats in a neutral location so they won’t be bothered by the hustle of moving day. Since my parents cat-sit for me on occasion when I am out of town for longer periods of time, their house is a great place for me to drop them for a day or two. They’re comfortable there and don’t mind that transition. If you don’t have that option, keep them in a room with a closed door, especially if they are strictly indoor cats. Make sure they have access to food and water and ask your helpful movers to please not enter the room as they won’t need the extra stress of meeting new people on this day. This means all of your moving boxes and furniture needs to be out of that room before everybody arrives. Remember take take down the artwork and pack into picture mirror boxes and move to the staging area. Every time you open that bedroom door is added stress for your cats.
If your cat is especially anxious, you may want to ask your vet for a sedative you can use on this day. It will reduce your pet’s anxiety and calm them throughout the process. My cats don’t particularly love car rides so you’re going to need to brace yourself to be strong when they seem upset. Staying calm yourself will help your animal. You may be in for loud meows and claws on this day. This is the part where the sedative seems a wise investment.
If your moving day isn’t just around town but rather you’ll need to spend the night in a hotel, make sure your hotel is pet friendly. You never want to leave Mittens in the car overnight as temperatures can vary wildly even when the outside temperature is mild.
So now you’re in your new home. My number one suggestion: Pick a room for the cats and get that room mostly set-up first. This has always been my bedroom so I can interact with the cats in the evening after everything has settled down. So I set-up my bed, stick the dresser and other bedroom furniture where I’m happy with it for at least a few days and only then do I place the cats in their carriers in the room. With a closed door, I’ll let them stay inside the carrier for awhile, possibly up to an hour depending on the animal. Leaving them there alone while you finish unpacking will be good for them to adjust to their new quiet space.
After opening the carrier, I don’t force anything. Make sure the room you’ve chosen has a litter box, water and food for the animal and maybe a scratching post of an old moving box or two. Also make sure it’s void of any poisonous plants and any escape routes like an open window or spaces they shouldn’t be in are blocked. Wires need to be secured since your animal may be acting out of character. Let them choose to explore the room. Having things that are familiar to them, like the bed, and blankets that have a scent they are familiar with will help your cats adjust.
I typically leave the cats in my chosen room for a few days. The typical response is for them to hide under the bed unless I am in the room and I know I can start opening the bedroom door to the rest of the house once they start sleeping on the bed with me again.
With the rest of the house, again you’ll want to make sure wires, plants and escape routes are all secured. I find by simply opening the door and making my presence in another room, like the living room sitting on the couch very calm, they feel safe enough to explore. It’s going to take time for them to feel in charge of the place and that’s okay. I let them do it on their own and only move on to further steps once I gauge from them they are ready. Overall I would expect the transition to take two weeks for your pet to adjust.
I’m going to talk about how to reduce stressful moving day for dogs in the next post so stay tuned.