Moving? Here’s how to get your pets calm and settled in their new home

Moving isn’t just stressful for people, it can be extremely stressful for pets too. The process introduces a variety of changes and new stimuli, such as unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells, which can lead to anxiety and stress. Each pet may react differently depending on their personality, past experiences, and the species and breed.

“Since the pandemic, many South Africans have chosen to change their lifestyles, and coastal towns from the Cape to the Kwa-Zulu Natal have seen an influx in new residents,” says Dr Tarryn Dent, Business Unit Lead: Companion Animals at Zoetis South Africa, a global animal health company. “It’s often an exciting, positive change, but as all pet owners know, moving to a new home—particularly if it’s in a new city—can disrupt a pet’s sense of security and territory. Fur babies may become anxious or stressed when their familiar environment changes abruptly.”

The actual process of moving, which may involve car rides or even flights, can be particularly stressful for pets not accustomed to traveling, with the confinement, noises, and motion causing discomfort.

“Pets thrive on routine, and moving disrupts their daily schedule of feeding, walks, and playtime,” says Dent. “Arriving at a new home doesn’t immediately end their anxiety either. New smells, sounds, and sights can overwhelm pets, creating sensory overload and making it difficult for them to feel settled and secure.”

To mitigate stress and help their pets feel safe and secure, there are several strategies pet owners can use:

  • Maintain as much of your pet’s routine as you can during the move.
  • Gradually acclimate your pet to their carrier or the mode of transportation if they are not used to it.
  • Set up a quiet, comfortable space with familiar items like toys, bedding, or their favourite blanket in the new home as soon as possible.
  • Give them plenty of attention and reassurance during and after the move.

Ask your veterinarian for advice

Over and above these strategies, discuss your moving plans with your veterinarian. “Veterinarians know their patients’ temperaments and what could trigger anxiety,” says Dent. “Start by explaining the specifics of your move, including the timeline, distance, and mode of transportation. This information helps your vet tailor their advice to your pet’s needs, considering factors like the length of travel and the type of environment you’re moving to.”

Your veterinarian can offer valuable insights into managing travel anxiety and motion sickness, which are common in pets during a move. They might suggest remedies ranging from prescription medications to alleviate anxiety and prevent motion sickness, to recommendations for over-the-counter calming aids like pheromones or supplements.

It’s also important to get your pet’s health and vaccination records. Ensure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations, especially if you’re moving to a new area with different health risks or if boarding will be part of your moving process. Your veterinarian can also provide a health certificate if required for travel, particularly for air travel or moving to a different country.

“Your current veterinarian knows your pet’s medical history,” says Dent. “This is particularly important if your pet is on any chronic medication as there are specific regulations around dispensing these medications. The last thing you want in the middle of a major life change is to disrupt your pet’s medical needs. Your veterinarian is the best person to guide you on this, and they can also recommend a new veterinary care provider in your new location or advise on how to choose a new vet. Pets benefit from a smooth transition in their healthcare and for dealing with any post-move health issues that may arise.”

Remember, your veterinarian is a valuable resource in planning a stress-free move for your pet. They can provide you with specific advice and support tailored to your pet’s health, temperament, and needs, ensuring they remain as comfortable as possible during the moving process and that you can focus on the big move without worrying about how it’s impacting your fur babies.