How to safely move with your pets

How exciting to be moving into a new home! Unfortunately, your pets don’t understand why their world is being packed into boxes and their favorite chair has disappeared. For your pets, especially cats, moving can mean nothing but frightening chaos. A little bit of planning can result in a safe move that keeps stress as low as possible for your furry family. Here are some helpful tips to safely move with your pets.

Take Care While Moving Things Out the Door

Put your cats and dogs into a separate room or a cage while moving things out the door. Even if you are moving just one box outside, you need to secure your pet. If you put them in a separate room, lock it and hide the key so nobody else can open it. Put a sign on both sides of the door that the door must be kept closed to protect your pets.

Many pets panic when you start moving around the items in their home, and they dart out the door in fear. If they are really panicked, they can run wildly, and when they stop they do not know where they are and can’t get home. Many pets are lost when people move, and it’s preventable.

Set Up the New Home in Advance

If your new home is relatively close by and it’s possible, set it up for your pets before their arrival. Put up the cat tree, set out the cat litter, put out water bowls, toys, and dog and cat beds. It will be easier for them to adjust if some familiar items are waiting for them. Keep them in one part of the house as they adjust, and don’t forget to give them lots of attention even though you are busy.

Consider Collars, ID Tags and Microchips

Make sure your dog or cat is microchipped even if they wear a collar with an ID tag. If they get lost and lose their collar, someone who finds your pet can discover they belong to you when they check the microchip at a vet or animal shelter. Update your contact information with your new phone number and address.

All dogs should have collars or harnesses and ID tags. Some people are afraid of putting collars on their cats, and other people use break-away collars made especially for cats. If possible, put a collar and ID tag with current information on your cat.

Take or keep a current photograph of your pet so if they do get lost, you can make posters and show the neighbors the photo.

Contain Your Pet during transport

If you are traveling by plane, you will need to put your pet in a pet carrier of a type approved by the airline. Check with the airline in advance for the criteria the pet carrier must meet. If you are driving to your new house, put each cat into a cat carrier. It is NEVER safe to transport a cat in a car without a cat carrier. If they escape from the car when you make a quick stop on the road or Jr. rolls down the window, it’s unlikely you will see your cat again.

Dogs may be transported in carriers or on leashes, depending on how you and your dog are most comfortable. But make sure they are completely restrained if a window is open and when you open a car door. The new environment can be disorienting, leading them to do unexpected things. A carrier or secure cage is safest.

Both cats and guinea pigs do not like change, and should be carried carefully. Guinea pigs’ hearts are at risk in a chaotic move. Move guinea pigs in small, warm carriers that are not too large.

Like cats and guinea pigs, birds will be nervous about the change a move brings. Make sure they are in a secure cage when moving, and keep them in a cage until things calm down in your new house. It doesn’t matter if they normally fly around your house. This is not a normal time. Make sure the bird stays warm. Ask your vet about covering the cage during the move.

It’s difficult to transport fish, who can die from the stress. If you are moving to a nearby location, you may be able to move them in your car in bags of water from their aquarium. Check with your vet and a fish-savvy pet store about the best equipment and methods. If your move is not nearby, you should probably rehome the fish with a loving person who will care for them.

Keep Vet Records Handy

Get your pet’s records from your vet, or if the records are electronic, ask your old vet to forward them to your new vet. Make sure you have your pets’ vaccination books handy, and that they are not buried in the bottom of an unknown box.

Use a Leash

After your move, keep your dog on a leash when outside unless your yard is fenced. Do not leave your dog alone outside even in a fenced in yard for the first month or so, because it’s possible there is an escape route you have not discovered but that your dog will. Make sure you have a leash on your dog when you bring them into the house. It takes at least a month before a pet understands they live in a new location.

Keeping Pets Safe Inside in the New Home

Once you get to the new home, keep your pets in a separate room away from the front door until they know where they live. This is a repeat of what you did when you were moving out of your other house. However, it’s even worse if your cat or dog gets loose shortly after moving to your new house, because they don’t know where they live, and the chances you will get them back if they bolt are low.

If you normally let your cat go outside, don’t do so until you have lived in the new house for a minimum of a month or they will likely get irrevocably lost. Bear in mind that overall, cats who live indoors live to 17 or older; cats who are allowed outside have an average lifespan (https://pets.webmd.com/cats/features/should-you-have-an-indoor-cat-or-an-outdoor-cat#1) of two to five years. But no matter how you feel on that issue, your cats need to be inside for the first month or two after a move.

Moving to a New Country or Province

If you are moving out of the country, you will need to fulfill legal requirements before your pet is allowed in. These will likely include proof of vaccinations and possibly a quarantine. Check far in advance of your move about what is required to move your pet into the new country. In some cases, the quarantine can be so lengthy, that you might want to consider rehoming your pet with a trustworthy friend or relative. If you are moving to a new province or state, they may also have health requirements that are different than the one from which you are moving. Once again, check far in advance of the move.

Don’t forget to check about zoning laws. You don’t want to move to a new house with your six dogs and find out the city has a regulation that prohibits more than two dogs in a household. Some exotic pets and specific dog breeds such as pit bull breeds are banned all together in some locations.

Flying with Pets

Flying with pets is risky if you can’t carry them into the cabin with you. Pets die and are injured on flights every year. In 2016, 26 animals died while being transported on planes, and the rate of injury was even higher.

If you must fly with your pet, and the airline will not let the pet in the cabin with you, it’s best to get a direct flight. That way, there is no danger of them being exposed to heat and cold on the tarmac for hours or put on a wrong connecting flight. Avoid flying your pet during times of extreme hot or cold weather. Make sure they have adequate food, water and in the case of cats, cat litter. Buy the best carrier you can, and check repeatedly that it is properly closed.

If your pet is flying, your vet may want to give them a mild sedative to reduce the stress. Don’t overdose your pet.

Summary: Plan Ahead

The most important thing to do when moving with a pet is to plan ahead and give it some thought. Talk to their vet, and if moving out of province, look into legal requirements in your new location. Try to view the move through the eyes of your pet and make it as stress-free as possible.

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