Moving is a stressful endeavor. From selling the house, packing, traveling to a new city, starting a new job, it’s all a lot to manage. For our pets, it can be equally stressful. Going from what is for many animals the only home they’ve known, and getting taken on a days-long car ride, or getting shoved in a kennel and put on a plane, all while having no idea what’s going on, can cause a lot of anxiety for both pets and pet owners.
There are, however, some things you can do to make the move easier for your furbabies, and set your own mind at ease.
Kennel-Train Your Pet
If you’ve avoided kennel-training your dog because kenneling seems “mean,” it’s time to rethink that idea. Like their wolf cousins, dogs are denning animals. This means that being in an enclosed space can actually make them feel safer and more secure. Should they be locked in a kennel for hours at a time? Of course not. But getting them adjusted to and relaxed in a kennel can make the move much easier, and it will feel like something familiar instead of frightening. Start by putting the kennel in your living or bedroom with the door open, encouraging them to go in with treats and toys. Over a couple of weeks, work up to getting them comfortable with being in the kennel, closing the door for short periods and slowly working up to longer times.
Consult with Your Vet
Traveling via air will require a health certificate, which verifies that your pets have been examined by a veterinary professional and are up to date on all vaccinations. Depending on the airline, you will be required to get this within 10 days of your travel date. Your vet can also discuss medication options to help reduce your pet’s anxiety during transport. Because altitude can sometimes cause adverse reactions, air carriers discourage the sedation of pets during travel, but there are some options that can calm your pet without affecting them adversely.
Consult with Your Air Carrier
When traveling on a plane, keep in mind that airlines have strict regulations when it comes to animals. Dogs must be in a kennel big enough to comfortably stand up and turn around, and have enough headspace that they can stand without crouching. Cats should also be able to turn around comfortably, and if you have any kind of rodent-type pet, you’ll need to check with your air carrier about what they do and don’t allow. Most airlines have restrictions on snub-nosed dogs, because they can have trouble breathing at high altitudes, and you can only have one pet per kennel unless they are puppies/kittens under eight weeks of age, and littermates. Animals both in the cabin of the plane or in the undercarriage must have reservations in advance, and there are fees for each pet you bring.
If you’ve decided to drive, make sure you have adequate food and water for your pets for the duration of the trip. Driving into Mexico or Canada will require the same health certificates as traveling by air, and it’s always a good idea to contact the border and make sure there aren’t any new or different requirements. Plan for plenty of rest stops, and always leash your dog when taking them for a walk. Animals in an unfamiliar environment are much more likely to bolt if they get frightened, and won’t always come back when you call them. If you haven’t had them microchipped yet, this would be a good time to do so. If your pet did get away from you, chances of finding them are increased exponentially when they are microchipped and registered.
Keep Their Routine
Once you arrive at your destination, try to maintain your pet’s normal routine as much as possible. If you feed them at 7am, keep doing so. The same with walks, playtime, and sleeping. Bring some of their favorite toys and bedding with you, so they can have the familiar smell of their own stuff. Set up litter boxes in an area your cats can easily find, as well as cat beds and towers that you might bring along. Most importantly, remember that as stressful as moving is for humans, it’s equally stressful for pets. It may take a bit of time for them to settle in and adjust to their new normal, but with patience and consistency, they can make the move with minimal issues.
Jody Ellis is a freelance writer who specializes in beauty, health, travel, fashion and style. Her work has appeared in publications such as LennyLetter, Huffington Post, BBC Future Planet, Civil Eats and Eater.