Moving? How to Minimize Dog and Cat Stress

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Moving is tough on families, and it's particularly stressful on dogs and cats. Animals always know when something's amiss, even if they can't understand exactly what's changing or why.

The key to moving pets is to keep them secure before and during the move and to settle them safely and quickly into a routine afterward.

The family dog is a bit easier to deal with. Put his leash on and drive him to his new address. Show him his new, warm home and the securely fenced backyard. Unless the dog is a high-jumper of Olympic caliber, he'll stay put while he adjusts.

Cats are a particular worry at moving time. They not only form a bond with the people in a home, but they are also attached to the home itself. Because of their mobility, cats can be difficult to keep around the new home long enough for them to realize that this is where the people they love now live.

Once they're moved, free-roaming cats often try to flee to their familiar dwelling. The cases of cats returning to their previous homes are common for people who move short distances, and the instances of cats disappearing forever are just as common for families moving great distances.

Confinement is essential when moving cats. It keeps them safe while they become used to their new territory and make it their own. If your cat isn't already an indoor cat, bring him inside before the movers arrive. Set him up in a "safe room" — a spare bathroom or bedroom is ideal — and leave him alone. Provide him with food and water, his bed, a scratching post, a litterbox and a couple of favorite toys while the packing and moving is under way.

The cat's ride to the new home is best undertaken in a carrier, especially for the cat who rarely sees the inside of a car.

At the new home, work the "leaving home" procedure in reverse. Put the cat into a "safe room" for a few days — until the movers are gone, the furniture arranged and most of the dust settled — and then allow him to explore inside the house on his own terms after things calm down a bit.

Quickly re-establish a routine. Pick a time and a place for feeding, and stick to it for all pets.

If you've been thinking about converting your free-roaming cat into a house dweller for his health and safety, moving to a new home is the perfect time to accomplish it. In your old home, you'd be constantly listening to your cat demanding to be let out into the rest of his territory. In a new home, he hasn't established any territory of his own yet, and you can make the new home his only turf by keeping him inside from day one.

If you don't want to convert him, keep him inside for a couple of weeks, until he seems relaxed. You can introduce your cat to the new yard by accompanying him on short tours with a harness and a leash. But in the end, you'll have to take your chances, open the door and hope for the best.

While you're at it, don't forget to renew your pet's ID. During a move, your pet is at a high risk of becoming lost. That's why it's essential to get new ID tags on your pets before you disconnect that old phone number or remember to update the ID tags with your permanent cell phone contact. If you use a tracking service or microchip ID, be sure they know where to reach you by updating your records with the registry.

If you're going to need to change veterinarians, let the staff at the old hospital know and provide a working phone number in case anyone calls the hospital because of a rabies tag on a found pet. (Rabies tags usually have the vet's phone number on them.) And finally, check with the animal control department in your new community to get new licenses and find out what regulations cover your pets.

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