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🚛 Essential Tips for Keeping Pets Safe During a Move

Dutchess County SPCA's top tips to ensure a smooth transition

Forbes reports that just over 27 million Americans moved in 2021. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s data shows that in the US, 44.6 percent of households have companion dogs, and 26 percent have cats. That means that, along with their humans, millions of companion animals are moving into new homes each year.

Moving is stressful when it only involves humans. However, ensuring that furry family members stay safe and happy during a move can be extremely challenging. Packing for a move may frighten animals who don’t know what’s happening. Moving boxes provide many places to hide. And moving teams coming in and out of a house can prompt even the most secure cats and dogs to hide in hard-to-find spots or run out the door. 

WATCH how a stowaway cat who climbed into a box and ended up more than 500 miles from home

Traveling can also be hard on pets. And, once you arrive at your new home, animals may feel extreme stress from being in an unfamiliar place.

Despite all of the difficulties, there are steps you can take to ensure your beloved furry family members stay safe and calm during this process. Here are Dutchess County SPCA’s (DCSPCA) top tips for ensuring a smooth transition for your pets.

Plan ahead.

When it comes to a big move, don’t just play it by ear. Have a strategy for where your companion animals will be during every stage of the move. What room will they be in when the movers come? When will you transport them to their new home? Where will they be when the movers arrive? Remember, even “velcro” cats and dogs may be spooked by a move and run out the door. Please make sure your animals are secured somewhere during every stage of the move.

Before your move, make sure all of their tags are up-to-date, with your cell phone number, and that their microchip contact information is also currentjust in case they do manage to run away during your move. 

Keep companion animals away from chaos.

Ideally, your animals will be in a room or rooms with all doors closed during the move. If that’s not possible, then the next best option is to keep them in crates or carriers with their favorite blankets and toys. Wherever they are situated, play soft, relaxing music for them, make sure they have plenty of water, and visit them frequently (with treats). Do whatever you can to create a cozy environment no matter how much chaos is transpiring in the next room. This is essential to keeping them safe & calm.

Put pet safety first.

During a move, things can be frenetic. There may be unexpected challenges, such as heavy traffic, or a flat tire. Please keep in mind that the safety of your companion animals should always come first. Small animals should be in a securely closed crate or carrier, and all pets should be with you every step of the way. Never leave your animals unattended in the car, and never transport them in a trailer. If you are flying, ask when you purchase your ticket if your furry companion may fly in the cabin with you, where they will be safer and more comfortable than in the cargo area. Depending on the size of your pet, some airlines allow pets in carriers into the cabin with you. And with the launch of BARK Air, there’s an airline that caters specifically to dogs (with no size restrictions)!

Allow companion animals time to decompress.

It can take your companion animals some time to get used to their new home. DCSPCA Executive Director Lynne Meloccaro suggests caring for your cats and dogs as you would if you’d just adopted them and are bringing them home for the first time.

They should be confined to a small space for a few days until they acclimate and then allowed to explore the rest of the home in stages,” explains Lynne. “A dog should be walked around the exterior of the home a few times before being brought inside just as you would do if you had just adopted them.”

Cats and dogs may react to being in a strange place by trying to hide or run away. Because of this, it is of the utmost importance that you keep them in an enclosed area at first, with their favorite beds, toys, blankets, and anything else that they know and love from their prior home. A useful tip for cats is to not clean their litter box, but instead bag the used litter and take it to the new home. That may sound a little icky but it will make a great difference for the cat to smell their own familiar scent in the new space.

Many cats have, upon moving into a new house, found a hole, or a chimney, or a drawer to squeeze themselves into, leaving their humans in a panic for days. And many dogs have run out the door and into a brand new, unfamiliar environment, where they quickly become lost.

Moving to a new location is a very common reason for lost animals, and can be prevented by keeping animals in an enclosed area until they’ve had time to settle in (which could take a few weeks). When they are ready, monitor them as they explore the house, until the space is familiar. 

If you can take the time off from work, spend the first few days with your pets after you’ve moved in the house.

Moving with pets can be scary. Just follow these steps and be patient. Hopefully soon you’ll be getting cozy on the couch with your furry family members in your brand new home.

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