6 Ways To Make Your Pet Feel At Home In A New Place
Moving a pet to a new place can be the most stressful part of the entire ordeal, including signing the contracts. I would know; I just moved my elderly rescue cat to a new country via a 14-hour trip in the back of a car. Miraculously, she doesn't hate us, partly because she's a very laid-back animal and partly because we prepared impeccably for the transition. If you're moving, your first priority (after finding the box where you packed the scissors) is to make your pet feel at home in a new place.
You may encounter old wives' tales about the best way to get them settled; "put butter on a cat's paws" is a popular one, even though experts agree that it's actually pointless and a waste of good butter. While it's not going to do much good to put dairy products on your beloved critter, there are other, more helpful tips that can make the transition smoother.
The basics of moving pets are all about making sure the pet is safe, maintains a routine, and doesn't panic about their new home or their place in it. If you're worried your animal is going to find the process of moving stressful, consider a kennel or cattery so that they can move between one furnished place and another. Here are a few tips that can otherwise make your fur baby feel at home ASAP.
1. Use Dirty Laundry
Odd though it may be, cats and dogs respond very strongly to the smell of their owners, and familiarity in scent is important. The charity PetSmart recommends that you should save up some old laundry that has your sweaty smell on it and place it in a prominent location in the new place; for cats, that probably means the one room you're shutting them into for the first few days. "Put a piece of each person’s dirty laundry, like a t-shirt or pillow case, in a place where your pet will spend time. Let him get used to having the smells mingle around him," they suggest.
2. Keep Old Dog Beds And Toys
Dogs are very fond of routine and need a lot of structure, and that means that moving — new place, new potential threats — can be very destabilizing. Which leads to this unusual tip: keep all of the gross, chewed, falling-apart toys and beds from your old home and don't upgrade them until your dog is well-settled in your new place. Bark magazine explains, "It is natural to want to buy new stuff when you move to a new place. Yes, I know it’s discouraging to bring a nasty, fur-covered old dog bed and water bowls with dings in them into your new home, but those things are comforting to your dog, so don’t take them away."
3. Lure Cats Into Carriers Over Weeks
Getting a cat into a carrier is an act of intense concentration and art; I was taught a trick by a vet to get our 11-year-old beast into her transporter or it would never happen. (Put the carrier on the table, put the cat's front paws in the carrier, and slightly drop their back paws so they have to crawl forward so as not to fall. Works like a charm.) If they're going to be in the carrier for ages during the move, though, vets at WebMD suggest luring cats into their case for at least a month in advance.
"Start feeding your cat in the carrier," they say. "If your cat is reluctant to enter the carrier to eat, start by just placing his dish next to it. After a few days, put the dish just inside the carrier, right near the opening. Then, over a week or two, gradually move the dish toward the back of the carrier so your cat has to step a little further inside each day." The end result is a cat that has to be fully inside the carrier to eat, and they're comfortable being in the carrier — which they'll have to be during the move.
4. Get A Weighted Anxiety Coat
Got a nervous dog that will find the challenge of a new place really upsetting? Anxiety remedies for dogs are widely available — there are pheromone plug-ins for both dogs and cats — but dogs in particular have an extra option: a Thundershirt. It's a weighted coat designed to reduce stress and anxiety by pressing lightly on the dog, and it comes recommended by The Dog People. "For the big day," they say, "consider anti-anxiety gear". It'll lower your dog's anxiety levels and help them cope with change.
5. Rub Cat Spit On The Walls
Cats in particular adapt to new places through scent, specifically their own scent, which they rub on as much stuff as possible. Animal charity Blue Cross suggests that, to acclimatize them to a new place, you should help the process along. Sweat glands in cats are by the mouth and on the chin. "You can help by taking a soft cotton cloth and rubbing it gently around your cat’s face to pick up their ’personal scent profile’," says Blue Cross. "Dab this around at cat height in the room(s) where the cat will be kept at first so that the cat begins to feel at home and bonds with the territory. You can repeat this daily and build up your cat’s scent within the house before letting them outside." Weird? Maybe. Effective? Extremely.
6. Do A Doggy Tour
This may seem ridiculous, but dogs need to be introduced to their new place with gradual familiarity (cats, meanwhile, are territorial, and should likely be moved all in one go to avoid confusing them). Doing a "dog tour" of the new location with your dog ahead of time is a good plan to help them acclimatize, according to Dogster magazine. "To avoid or at least minimize the adverse effects of a move to a new home on your dog, include your dog as early as possible in the process," they suggest. "Before moving in, walk with your dog on-leash through each room of the house. Spend dedicated time with him to get him comfortable in the new surroundings." Tour guide commentary up to you.
Moving pets is highly stressful, but if managed well — and not pushed too hard — a lot of animals will adapt pretty quickly to their new place. Just steer clear of butter.