Moving With Pets Doesn’t Have to be a ‘Cat-astrophe!’

Mary Prenon | May 2017

Buying or selling a home can be stressful enough for humans, but when you enter your four-legged family members into the mix, the fur could really start to fly!

In addition to constantly cleaning up shedding pet hair, home sellers are often at a quandary of where to keep their pets during home showings. Dana Ebbecke, animal behavior counselor at the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City, suggests it may be best to keep pets out of the fray during showings.

“There may be many new people coming and going, and it can be quite easy for pets to dart out the door during the commotion,” said Ebbecke. “Putting the pets away in a safe and familiar environment, like a crate with a yummy long-lasting treat, can be the least stressful scenario for both the pet and the potential home buyers. You can also consider sending your pet to daycare or pet sitters for the day, as long as the pet is comfortable in those environments”

As far as “crating” animals, Ebbecke notes if the crate is a comfortable and familiar place for the pet, spending some time in it shouldn’t be stressful for most dogs or cats, as long as it’s not for excessive amounts of time. “Pet parents can break up crate times with a nice walk or fun game to help alleviate boredom or stress,” she added.

Whether you’re selling or buying, chances are you’ll be packing as well. The whole scenario of cleaning out closets, stacking boxes and moving furniture can also have a stressful effect on our furry friends. “Cats, in particular, aren’t big fans of change,” said Ebbecke. “You can help your cats—and skittish dogs—adjust to the moving process by bringing in moving boxes early, and by keeping them in a familiar room that you plan to pack up last.”

On moving day, Ebbecke suggests keeping pets in a quiet room with the door shut, or at a friend’s house, and trying to keep your pet’s routine as normal as possible. “For cats, it is a good idea to acclimate them to the carrier as far in advance of moving day as possible. Arrange the carrier in a favorite spot and use food, toys, familiar bedding, and catnip to get them comfortable with the carrier,” she said.

In some cases, Ebbecke said, pet owners may want to consider a boarding facility to hold them on moving day. “If the pet is comfortable being boarded or gets boarded in an already familiar environment, that may be the best choice for them. If the pet finds new or loud environments stressful, it may be preferable for the pet to stay in a crate or carrier during the moving process,” she said.

For pets that haven’t spent much time in crates or cars, her recommendation is to get them used to it in the weeks or even months leading up to the move. She suggests to prepare your pets by gradually acclimating them to their crates. First, place their food inside an open crate, and eventually have them eat their meals in the crate with the door shut.

Try carrying your pets around the house in the crate or taking a short drive. You can help your pets develop a positive association with the crate by providing treats and playtime at the conclusion of crate time.

For home buyers, your new house, condo or apartment should be a comfortable place for both you and your furry family. When choosing a new neighborhood, house or apartment, the ASPCA suggests taking a walk or drive around the area to get a feel for the new environment.

Dog owners might want to look for a home with a fenced yard. “Older dogs, puppies and dogs with house training issues will need to go outside often, which might be difficult in an apartment building with lots of stairs or a house without a yard,” said Ebbecke. “For your feline friends, ensure your potential new space allows for plenty of room to build vertically—it’s easy to create a lot of vertical space with shelving, such as kitty blocks on top of furniture”

Pet-proofing the new home is also important. Ebbecke’s ideas include tucking away electrical cords, plugging up any nooks where pets could get stuck, and ensuring that all windows have secure screens. Any poisonous house plants or pest-control poison traps should also be removed.

In addition, she also offers these tips for helping pets to settle into their new surroundings:

• Start by allowing them to adjust to one room—their “home base”—which should include their favorite toys, treats, water and food bowls and litter box for cats.

• When they seem comfortable, gradually introduce them to other rooms in the house, while keeping some doors shut.

• You can relocate your cat’s litter box from the “home base” room to a more permanent location by moving it slowly over time. Try moving the litter box one foot forward each day.

“When you’re moving, all it takes is a little patience,” Ebbecke assured. “Your cat or dog will be king or queen of your new home in no time!”

Mary Prenon
HGAR, Director of Communications