Moving house can be a stressful time for everyone – even pets.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Feltes, owner of The Behavior Clinic in Olmsted Falls, and Tabitha Kucera, behavior consultant for Neighborhood Pets Outreach & Resource Center, and owner of Chirrups and Chatter Cat Behavior Consulting and Positively Pawsitive Dog Behavior Consulting and Training, all in Cleveland, pets can face many confusing and stressful situations when moving.
“Moving to a new home can be very stressful for you but also for your cat or dog companions,” Kucera said. “Making the transition as stress-free as possible for your companion can have big benefits, including reducing the risk of fear-based house soiling, excessive vocalizations, crying, hiding, escape attempts and aggression.”
Feltes said adjusting a pet to the idea of moving depends on the type of pet they have.
“Dogs and cats are very different in how they approach stress and routine changes,” she said. “Cats are typically indoor and dogs are going outside a lot. The environment is critical if you consider it that way. There are different stressors on how the environment is changing for dogs. And for cats, those four walls of the home are their entire world.”
Feltes went on to say owners should establish a routine with their indoor cat while moving to give them something to hold onto when in an unfamiliar environment.
“Part of that routine should be carrier training their cat,” she said. “You need to have them trust the carrier and that they expect something to happen when they go into the carrier. Also, establish a safe room with your uncaged pet while moving things around.”
Kucera mirrored this idea, suggesting owners maintain the same schedule for treats, playtime, walking, feeding and bedtime.
Kucera said pet owners should view situations from their pet’s point of view.
“Cats, especially, are very sensitive and prefer to be in a familiar environment,” she said. “Dogs tend to adjust much easier to moves than cats. That is because new puppy owners are encouraged to socialize their puppy to get them used to new people, new smells and other dogs. So, from the time they are young, dogs are out and about. People do not tend to socialize their cats as kittens, so change is a lot more difficult to handle.”
Feltes suggested pet parents bring their pets to the new environment before the final move.
“Think of it as a field trip and have them do things that they enjoy so you can make positive interactions and memories of the new area,” she said. “You don’t want to leave them alone too much on that first day. For cats, that isn’t so realistic for them. But, you can create their core territory and let them get used to one location in the environment and then slowly move them around. That way, they aren’t overwhelmed.”
Both professionals suggested owners use pheromones in the new environment if other methods prove fruitless. Pheromones plug into an outlet and are suggested to stay plugged in for 36 hours before an animal’s arrival.
If not given the proper amount of time to adapt, pets can display negative behaviors.
“Pets can develop general anxiety but also new habits like soling the house or fighting among housemates,” Feltes said. “You should avoid creating unnecessary stressors to make sure the move and transition are successful. Regardless if it’s a dog, rat, cat or ferret, if you notice they aren’t doing well, talk to your vet.”
Kucera said, “(Pets) need time to get used to their new home. During the first few days in a new home, behaviors like hiding and showing mild anxiety can be normal. If your pet continues to show these signs or show signs like not eating, drinking, becoming withdrawn or not using the litter box, consult with your veterinarian and certified training professionals.”