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Moving Your Pet to a New Home

Moving to a new home can be stressful for everyone, including the family pets. The period before the actual move is also stressful. Pets can react to the packing of belongings, movement of furniture, and mounting tension and fatigue in their owners. Moving day can be intensely stressful for your pet. It must leave its comfortable surroundings and may be separated from you. Travel by car, air, rail or sea is also stressful for pets, who may be required to be caged in a separate compartment. Misbehavior most commonly associated with moving relates to territoriality. Anxious cats and dogs mark their territories by deposits of urine or stool. The stress of moving to a new home may cause them to urinate or defecate in inappropriate locations. Cats also mark their territories by contact with scent glands at the corners of the mouth, cheeks and foot pads, and by scratching with nails on their forepaws. Destructiveness, particularly in dogs, reflects a general state of arousal and anxiety. Your dog may show territorial aggression toward passersby or visitors to your new home. An outdoor cat will likely become engaged in fights with an entire set of new rivals in its new territory. You may also find that sleeping patterns are disrupted until your cat or dog relaxes in its new home. Understanding the sources of your pet's anxiety when moving to a new home is the key to easing the transition. Once you decide to relocate and begin to prepare for the move, take steps to reassure your pet of your relationship. Treat your pet to a new toy and take frequent breaks from packing or unpacking to play with it. If your pet enjoys being brushed or combed, this form of physical contact can be comforting. If you have less time to take long walks with your dog, go for frequent short ones. Walks in the new neighborhood help familiarize your dog with the area, and your presence during the walk will reinforce a feeling of security despite strange surroundings. Ask a friend to help occupy your pet with enjoyable activities while you attend to necessary chores. During the move, some pet owners find it easier to board their pet at a friend's home or a commercial boarding facility. By removing your pet to a relatively neutral place in the days just before and after relocation, much of the intense stress may be avoided. Your pet may be anxious, of course, as a result of brief separation from you and placement in temporary lodgings. Your stress level, however, may be lessened simply by knowing that your pet is well cared for. If the move is made easier and less stressful for you, your pet will benefit. Because pets are so sensitive to our moods, it will be less anxious when you are reunited in your new home. Consider which arrangements would be best for everyone involved. It may be possible to visit your new home with your pet before the actual move. Allow it to explore, speaking in soothing tones as you accompany it from room to room. You may wish to give it a special food treat or feed a regular meal to form a positive first impression of the unfamiliar surroundings. If your pet is too distracted to eat, try playing a favorite game or just sit and pet it for a while. The more visits you can make before moving day, the more familiar with the destination and the less anxious your pet will be. For cat owners, it may be possible to relocate your cat to the new home just before moving day. Visit your cat and spend time each day at the new location so that your cat will already feel "at home" before you move in. On moving day, confine your cat to one room or to a pet carrier to avoid injury or escape as heavy boxes and furniture arrive. If you don't have the opportunity to introduce your cat to the new location, keep your cat in a carrier in a quiet area during the move. When the movers have left the new home, confine the cat in a comfortable room, such as your bedroom, and keep it there for the first few days. Once your cat seems comfortable in one room of its new territory, allow it to explore other areas for brief periods. In this way it will not be overwhelmed by all the new territorial details at one time and can make a more gradual adjustment. Make sure your cat or dog knows where to find its food and water. Try to keep the same feeding schedules. Walk your dog at the same hours as before the move. Place your cat's litter box in a quiet corner of the house or one that most resembles the box's location in your former home. Place a second box in an alternative location to see which your cat prefers. If your pet sleeps in a special bed or crate, set this up before you unpack for yourself. Moving to a new home with your pet need not be a traumatic experience. The key words are continuity and positive reinforcement. Continuity in daily routine, type of food and familiar objects will make your pet feel more secure despite the necessary modifications. A bit of positive reinforcement in the form of extra praise and attention will help neutralize any unpleasant emotions associated with a move.