Moving and Packing Your Pets and How to Make that Transition to Their New Home Less Stressful

Patty Khuly, DVM
Vet Reviewed
By Patty Khuly, DVM on Jul. 21, 2011
Moving and Packing Your Pets and How to Make that Transition to Their New Home Less Stressful

I don’t normally reference non-professional websites by way of offering veterinary advice, but sometimes the information I find in the oddest of places is actually very helpful. In this case I was impressed by a Movers and Packers website (yes, really) and their recent post on moving pets.

As someone who’s just moved two cats from two separate homes into mine, I’ve been living this issue 24/7 for the past week. Consequently, I was curious to know how this layperson-authored site’s advice might compare to my own. And since it’s prime moving season (summers are big for this, in case you didn’t know), I thought you might be interested, too.

Unfortunately, the advice I happened upon was all about dogs, with nary a feline-exclusive tidbit in sight. The good news is that the info was far more worthy than I might’ve expected from a non-animal professional sort of site. Consider:

Prepare your pet for the move
  • In preparing for a move to a new home, leash-train your dog well ahead of time, so that you can keep control of the dog during the move, and while familiarizing the pup with your new home.
  • Another important step is to be sure that your dog is crate-trained. A crate gives your dog a home-within-a-home, a safe and comfortable place to be when the dog is confused or fearful, both during the move and once in the new home.
  • Just before loading your pet for the move, be sure that all of the dog’s immediate needs are met; that he or she has been played with, fed and watered, and allowed to urinate and/or defecate.

Prepare your new home for your pet

  • Examine the home, from both human and dog’s eye level, to eliminate or secure any hazards to the dog, such as chemicals, poisonous plants, or tempting electrical cords. Also, see that there are no irreplaceable valuables within reach, that your dog may damage or destroy, or worse, that may be a choking hazard.
  • Immediately on moving, you should set up the dog’s crate, some favorite toys or possessions, and the dog’s own food and water dishes, in order to give your dog a sense of the familiar as soon as she or he arrives.
  • Be sure that all doors, windows, and outdoor fences and gates are secured against your dog’s possible escape, before allowing the dog to roam and explore.
  • Before the move, it’s a good idea to choose a veterinarian that you feel comfortable with in your new locale. Trying to find and choose a vet in an emergency that happens during or immediately after a move can waste precious time that your dog’s health and well-being may not be able to afford.

During the move, and once you’ve moved

  • It is usually best to make the actual move with your dog in its crate, or otherwise secured safely and not allowed to roam free in the moving vehicle, just as you would with a child. Be sure that your dog is on a leash before exiting the vehicle, and immediately begin familiarizing the dog with the area outside your new home. Walk the perimeter of the yard, allowing your pup to sniff and explore while secured at your side. If there is a particular place that you want to designate for urination and defecation, take the dog first to that area and offer praise and perhaps a small treat as soon as either has been done.
  • If the new yard is secure, this would be a good time to play with your dog, and associate the new location with fun and connection with you. This would also be a good time to introduce a new toy and offer another tasty treat or two.
  • After potty and play time, re-leash and bring your pup into the new house and to the area where the crate, food, water dish and familiar toys have been located, before you continue to explore the rest of the new house with your dog.  After you allow the dog to explore and become familiar with the new house, a meal and some time to relax together is appropriate.

All in all, great stuff. For the kitties, however, I might’ve offered a few extra bullet points:

  • Keep kitty(ies) in one small-ish area for a week or two to get him/her/them acclimated to the litterbox/feeding zone and to stave off the stress of agoraphobia.
  • If you have multiple cats, you might want to separate your house into multiple zones for the first week or two to let cats with greater affinity for one another get used to smaller spaces in their own company, without having to stressfully compete for resources with cats they’re less friendly with.
  • If you’re planning to let said kitties out of doors, a couple of weeks indoors to help them acclimate is often considered advisable before offering them outdoor access. In these cases, owners should be around to hang out with them and supervise for the first couple of days of outdoor access, ensuring that cats know where their food and water sources are.
  • Pheromone sprays and other aromatherapy or nutraceutical products may be helpful in alleviating anxiety for some cats. Consult your veterinarian or trainer/behaviorist for some ideas along these lines.

OK, so those are the suggestions I have available. Any of you willing to offer any more advice along these lines?

PS: My kitties seem to be acclimating well. Unfortunately, they seem to be enjoying their environment more than they are one another. Not that they’re fighting (not at all), but they are awfully good at ignoring one another. And in such relatively small confines, it’s kind of impressive that they’ve managed as much.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: Paddles in a Box by nebarnix

moving with pets, cat in box, moving your cat to a new home, relieving anxiety in cats

Patty Khuly, DVM
Vet Reviewed


Patty Khuly, DVM


Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health