Animal Tales: How do I prepare my pets for moving?

Question: My family and I are moving out of state. Can you provide some advice on the best way to prepare our pets for the move?

Answer: Moving can be an exciting time but also extremely stressful. Many companion animals do not handle sudden changes easily, and moving can make even a happy-go-lucky, mellow pet anxious. With advance preparation and planning before, during and after making a move, you can alleviate a tremendous amount of stress for both you and your beloved pet.

Here are some things to consider:

Discuss the move with your veterinarian. In some cases, your veterinarian might prescribe anti-anxiety medication or sedatives for your pet to help keep them stay calm.

If moving out of the area, obtain copies of your pet’s medical records to take along and give to your new veterinarian. Many veterinarians and local pet supply stores also offer holistic, all-natural products designed to calm your pets and relieve anxiety.

Make sure your companion animal is wearing current identification and is microchipped — a permanent form of identification. The Whatcom Humane Society can microchip your pet for only $20. When you arrive at your new home, immediately update your pet’s identification and microchip contact information.

Get your pets used to traveling and riding in carriers. Set carriers out several days prior to the move and allow your pets (especially cats and small animals) to become comfortable inside and around them. Make sure your pet has a positive association with travel, riding in the car and carriers.

Packing and moving can be hectic, confusing and noisy. While packing the house, confine your pet to a safe, secure area of the house. Scared or stressed animals can quickly dart out of open doors and garages during the move. Consider boarding your pet at a boarding facility or with a trusted pet sitter or friend during the crazy days before the moving van arrives.

If transporting your pets to your new home in a vehicle, make sure cats, small animals and small dogs are securely contained in a roomy, well-ventilated carrier. Consider covering the carrier with a sheet to help decrease stress levels. Larger dogs should be secured with a harness and seatbelt clip. Check with your local pet supply store for various options.

For long-distance moves, NEVER take your dog off leash when stopping for potty breaks and DO NOT let cats or small animals out of their carrier or outside. Identify pet friendly hotels in advance by visiting petswelcome.com or pet-friendly-hotels.net.

Prepare a “travel bag” for your pet with enough food, toys, litter, treats, etc. to care for them during the trip to their new home.

If you have to transport your pet via airplane, book a direct flight. Check with various airlines to see if they will allow your pet to travel in the cabin with you. If not, make sure you are comfortable and informed with the airline’s pet travel policy. Do not transport your pet in the cargo hold of a plane during extremely hot or cold weather. If possible, book flights on a weekday, when airports are less crowded and fly during the early morning or late evenings.

Once you arrive at your new home, confine your pets to a safe, secure room while unpacking. Provide them with their favorite toy, blanket and other familiar items that will help them feel comfortable. Do not let them immediately have the run of the house or yard, as they will be stressed, tired and completely unfamiliar with their surroundings.

Unpack as much as possible before allowing them to explore their new home. Keep to your “normal” routine as much as possible.

Safe travels!