First families throughout history have welcomed pets into the White House. That’s no surprise, considering that more than 60 percent of all U.S. households live with dogs, cats and other pets. But moving can give our pets anxiety, so it’s best to learn some coping strategies for your furry friends.
“Relocating is stressful for pets,” said Kurt Venator, D.V.M., Ph.D. and chief veterinary officer at Purina. “Planning ahead and making extra preparations can help your pet adjust to your new surroundings.”
For families moving across town or into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Purina experts offer tips to help prepare pets for a stress-free move.
1. Take a ‘practice-run’ ahead of time: If you’re moving with dogs, let them explore the new neighborhood before you move if possible. This helps them become familiar with the scents and sounds of the area.
For a cat, help him or her get used to their crate. Leave the carrier out with the door open for the cat to explore weeks ahead of time, making it an enticing place by putting favorite treats, toys or a blanket inside. Take a few short practice drives so the cat is used to traveling in the carrier. This will reduce the stress of travel on moving day.
2. Make a moving day plan: Consider your pets’ safety amidst the chaos of moving day. Keep cats in a space away from the moving process. A bathroom at your new home is an ideal spot to set up food, water and a litter box, so cats are out of the way and comfortable until the move is complete. If you’re moving into a home the size of the White House, just don’t forget which bathroom you put your feline friend in.
Dogs can be trickier. It’s best to assign a family member to care for them throughout the move or ask a trusted friend (or Secret Service agent) to pet-sit for the day.
3. Help curious cats settle in: It takes time for cats to become familiar with their new surroundings. Make sure doors and windows are closed, as they may try to escape to find their old home. Cats may “disappear” into a hiding place like a closet to calm their nerves. When in doubt, look under the desk in the Oval Office.
Introduce cats to one room at a time — beginning with the permanent location of their litter box, to avoid confusion. Set up one more litter box than you have cats to promote harmony in your household. Keep their things in this first room, so they become used to the new home with familiar scents, then move their “scent soakers” like bedding and scratching posts across the house to make other rooms feel more familiar.
4. Let dogs sniff out their space: Allow dogs to use their natural instincts to smell and explore by walking them on a leash for their first tour around the house. The sooner they get used to the scents of their new environment, whether it be the Lincoln Bedroom or the guest bedroom of a new apartment, the sooner they’ll feel at home. Maintain a regular routine and spend extra time with them at home to help them feel secure. Avoid leaving your pup outside unattended at first; a new environment may bring out new skills you didn’t know your dog had like jumping over or digging under fences as an attempt to return to familiar ground.
5. Going the distance? Locate needed services: If you’re moving far away, consider the different types of pet care services you’ll need to secure once you’re in your new city. You’ll have to find a new veterinarian, pet-sitting or walking services, plus pet-friendly parks.
“After you move, give your pet extra attention,” advises Annie Valuska, Ph.D. and senior pet behavior scientist at Purina. “Your presence will have a calming effect and reassure them.”