Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Lazy Pet Parent's Guide to Successfully Moving with Pets

It might seem crazy, but we've been home owners for a week already! One of the unfortunate parts of moving is I always put off calling any and all service providers until waaaay too late; that meant no internet for a whole week...sorry.

My media black out was good for a few reasons, mainly that it saved me the agony of constantly hearing about the government shutdown, but also because I've been super productive without the distractions of Pinterest and online furniture shopping.

That being said, big things are happening around here and I can't wait to share the changes with you. Look out over the next few days for the progress we've made so far.

I'm happy to report that it only took our scaredy-cat Leo five days to gather the courage to come downstairs and with that development, I consider our pets' transition complete. Overall I'd call it a successful move, so I figure I can share my tips for moving with pets to help ease other overly cautious pet-parents fears.

The Dog

With the dogs, the key seems to be maintaining as much normalcy as possible. Give them access to their toys, keep the place they sleep consistent (crates have been proven to help reduce stress following a move), walk and feed them at their normal times. Pet supplies are one of the last things we pack and first things we unpack so they won't miss their stuff.

Remember, dogs are pack animals and trust the pack leader with their lives. Since you're the leader, if your dog sees you handling with the situation with confidence, they will feel safer. If you get stressed, they will worry. Just keep your cool and let thousands of years of evolution do the rest.

If you have a high-strung or territorial dog, you'll need to take some extra precautions. Some experts encourage talking your dog through the move, explaining the process calmly and rationally. While your dog doesn't understand the words (obvi), he can certainly sense your tone and emotions. Plus, sharing with your dog is a great way to address your concerns and make peace with them. Free therapy and no judgement.

I'm obviously not an expert, so if you need more help, I really liked this article: Moving tips for dog owners

We're lucky in that we have a very mellow, easy-going dog. We're also lucky that we were able to bring Boone to the new house countless time before moving in. He's seen the house at every stage, played in the yard, and even gone for walks in the neighborhood. By gradually introducing him to his new surroundings, the newness of this area waned prior to moving day.

We also arranged for both Pat and I to be home for the first few days after the move. We were able to move at a reasonable speed, take plenty of breaks, and give Boo the attention he deserves.

The plan for the dog was simple: on the morning of moving day, I took him to the groomers (conveniently located next to a Krispy Kreme). When I picked him up, instead of going back to the apartment, we went to the new house.

Since this is Boone's first move and the house isn't new to him, we figured it would be better to remove him from the stress of being there while we physically move. The A.P.T was Boone's only concept of home and seeing everything get boxed up and then an empty apartment might have confused him

Bonus: we brought a clean dog into our new, pristine home.

The Cats

With cats, no matter how much you try to ease the transition, there is no tricking them into being okay with it. While dogs can be very territorial, they also have that pack mentality which can make them more at ease. Cats are solitary creatures and will perceive the new house as enemy territory. They will be nervous as they explore. Their belongings being present can comfort them, but your main job as pet parent/property owner will be to minimize the destruction they cause until they're okay with their new surroundings. Cats will claw, cry, and pee until they feel the territory is theirs.

Fun fact: cats are the only domestic animal that does not live in packs in the wild. Legend has it, cats were smart enough to realize the benefits of companionship outweighed the annoyance.

This article was particularly helpful in planning my strategy for our move: WebMD: Moving with Cats.

Our cats were the first things to move. As soon as Boone was at the groomers and I had eaten my weight in Hot Donuts Now, I packed up the cats, drove them across town, and left the boys at the apartment to do the heavy lifting. Atty traveled all the time as a kitten and takes it like a champ. Leo, on the other hand, gets scared, shakes, and cries whenever he's zipped up in his carrier. Irony: he routinely sleeps in his carrier on his own accord.

Before we arrived, their new litter box was set up along with food, water, and boxes lined with their blankets. I knew our boys wouldn't be comfortable in an open, empty room and giving them different areas would help them feel more secure.

I kept the cats in our future guest room (now being called the cats' "safe room") while we moved everything in, then gave them the chance to explore later in the evening. We did lock them in their room overnight to ensure they wouldn't get "lost" and have an accident; since they were purrrfect we let them out for good first thing the day following the move.

Throughout the entire process, I was surprised with how much rubbing/pheromone transfer the cats participated in. Cats will rub their cheeks, sides, and even butt across anything and everything to claim it as "theirs." Every door frame, carpet, and chin was subject to two kitties being all up on that.

I was taken completely off guard when Leo jumped out of his carrier immediately, but then he promptly ran to a blanket and hid for the next several days.

Around Day 4 he was exploring upstairs, and by the end of Day 6 he was downstairs and acting as normal as he gets.

When we felt the cats were mentally ready (about a day and a half for us) we started migrating the litter box from the safe room to its permanent home in the laundry room. Cats can lose track of their litter box in a new place, so if you can't set it up initially in the permanent location, it should be moved slowly, not more than a few feet a day. We moved ours 2-3 feet twice a day, so it reached its destination about 2 days after we started moving it. While it was tedious and frustrating to have litter pebbles in our brand new carpet, our cats didn't have one single accident. Like a boss.

It took about a week, but everyone seems happy and at home, which is much faster than most "Pet Moving Tips" articles suggest the transition will take. I think the animals really benefited from their mom and dad being laid back through the whole process. And treats. They loved being bribed with treats.

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