YOUR PET’S BEST FRIEND – CHRISTINE MALLARAs we face the coming of yet another New Year, our thoughts often turn to new beginnings and opportunities to change things in our lives that might improve or simplify them. For many people, especially when they retire, this might mean a change of residence – perhaps to a smaller house or condo that doesn’t require as much maintenance, or maybe even a long distance move to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. But sometimes it’s difficult for our pets to be uprooted, their routines changed, their lives turned upside down for a time. Here are some tips to making a smooth transition to a new home:
  • When things are getting busy with preparations, don’t forget to make time to exercise and play with your dogs and cats every day. Packing and bustling and worrying are all part of the process for people, but pets don’t understand these changes in their surroundings and the moods of their people. Keeping some time for lighthearted fun is important, and the endorphins created by exercising and playing help to fight those stress hormones that might be brewing.
  • On moving day, lock pets into one room while movers work. Make sure every pet is wearing ID tags in case of accidental escape.
  • Make sure they have their favorite things with them on the journey and especially when they arrive – their own beds or favorite toys can be reassuring to them.
  • Set up something very familiar for them from home right away in the new place. For us it was always our mattress – making it up right away with the familiar comforter gave our kitty a reassuring spot in the new empty apartment full of boxes. Even when our furniture was delayed, immediately setting up the air mattress with the bed linens from home (as opposed to waiting till nighttime when we were ready for bed) helped her a great deal. Home base!
  • Consider purchasing a Comfort Zone Plug-in device (they come in both dog and cat varieties). These contain reassuring pheromones that you won’t smell but your pets will. These can help to calm them and help them adjust to new surroundings. They are also available in a spray form that are useful to use in the car or their kennels during the trip – use it lightly and let it dry a bit.
  • When you get there, keep their routines as similar as possible to those in the old home. Keeping feeding times and walk/play schedules the same can give them a reassuring sense of stability.
  • Bring a good supply of the food that they normally eat – this is not a good time for a food change! The stress of moving is often enough to disturb their digestion – don’t add to their troubles by switching foods because you can’t find their brand in a new town.
  • Many brands of food have “store finder” links on their website that can help you find a pet supply store in your new area.
  • Don’t forget to increase their exercise again when you’re trying to settle into a new place. This is especially important for when you need to leave them alone in the new house. They may feel very insecure being left alone somewhere new, but exercising them before you leave will help them to burn off some of that nervous energy.
  • After you play with them/exercise them, leave them with something novel to chew or play with as you leave the house. Dogs enjoy chewing when they’re stressed, so giving them something appropriate to chew on. Catnip can be calming to cats or make them silly – either way it can be helpful.
  • Make sure to leave dogs in an area that they can’t get into trouble in – they may have been “good” in their old house, but this new place has lots of cardboard boxes, and your possessions may not be in familiar places, making investigation and destruction a real possibility
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