Reduce Stress When Moving with Pets

10 Tips for Moving with Pets

Moving can be tremendously stressful. The logistical challenges can be daunting: packing, purging, finding the right moving company and arranging for new schools for the kids, to name just a few. There are boxes scattered everywhere, furniture is out of place and mail needs to be forwarded.

What about your pets? Whether you have a dog, cat, rabbit, horse, hamster or any other animal – they feel the stress as well.

Most pet owners want to be considerate toward their furry friends and help ensure their well-being, whether a new move is down the street, down the highway to the next city or on a plane across the country.

“You have to anticipate how the animal will react,” says Johanne Cadorette, marketing manager for Air Canada Cargo. “All animals will be stressed in these environments. It doesn’t matter what we do to make them comfortable. They have been taken completely out of their element. There are a lot of loud noises.”

Think about the stress your pet feels when it goes to the vet, she says. Now, multiply that by five. The more you can prepare and get right, the more you will reduce their anxiety.

“I have known people to refuse jobs or transfers based on what the impact would be on their pets,” says Lorna Barkey of Lyon Petmobile Services in Toronto, Ont. “For many people, their pets are as important as their children.”

Cat sitting in a open pet carrier.

10 tips to keep your pet safe and the anxiety level down during a move

  1. Prepare them early. Give your pet some time before you move to get used to whatever they might encounter that is different from the normal routine. That might mean travelling in a car, or getting used to a pet carrier. Leave it in the living room for a few days. Take them in a short trip with it around the block. As Cadorette says, it could upset the pet if it has never been in the container beforehand.
  2. Size matters. The proper-sized pet carrier or cage is very important when moving pets. Your dog or cat should be able to stand up without touching the ceiling of the carrier. The length of the carrier should be longer than the length of the pet. “A pet carrier that is too small may cause your pet to overheat during travel,” says Bruno Mansueto of Worldwide Animal Travel, based in Richmond, B.C.
  3. Give them air. Make sure the pet carrier is properly ventilated so your pet is comfortable. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has regulations on how many ventilation holes a carrier must have. Talk to your local pet store or veterinarian about what kind of carrier is best for the kind of travel you’ll be doing.
  4. Keep them hydrated. Water is important since de-hydration during travel is an issue, especially on flights. Stress can also make a dog pant more and require more water.
  5. Buckle up. If you are driving, buckle them up with pet seatbelts or make sure the carrier they are in is secure and can’t be thrown about the vehicle in case of a collision or hard brake. Before moving day, make sure the pet is comfortable and is used to any new restraints.
  6. Be careful with medication. It’s generally recommended that you don’t medicate your pets for a move, especially if you are flying as the effects of sedation products are more severe at higher altitudes. There are natural products designed to calm your pet or ease motion sickness, such as ginger or Rescue Remedy, for example, so opt for natural products designed to calm the animal if needed. Talk to your vet about this first. Also, if your pet is already on some medication, make sure you have enough for well beyond the move so that you don’t run out before finding another vet, for instance.
  7. Follow the rules when travelling abroad. If you are moving longer distances, make sure whatever airline carrier you opt for is certified by the International Air Transport Association. The IATA has tough rules when it comes to live animal travel. An experienced carrier will walk you through the export and import paperwork. They will help you plan the journey and help you save money. All countries and some provinces and states have their own rules when it comes to importing animals. You will need to know what those rules are, around topics like animal quarantines and rabies shots. “You would be surprised how specific those rules are,” Cadorette says. Even if not travelling by air or crossing borders, your pet’s vaccinations should be fully up to date.
  8. Expect the unexpected. Be prepared for things that might go wrong. Flights can be delayed, for example. “Just because your pet is on a flight doesn’t mean it won’t be delayed,” Cadorette says. There can be bad weather, delays with movers or hotel reservation mix-ups. Try to have backup plans for these events.
  9. Keep yourself calm. Your animals can sense when you’re stressed. Staying calm yourself will help them adjust. Consider dropping them at an animal daycare the day of the actual move, so that you can deal with the stresses of moving without worrying about animals underfoot.
  10. Give them time to adjust to new surroundings. Separation anxiety is a real thing for pets like dogs, especially when they are removed from their routine. Be patient. Reward them with treats. Take them for a walk. Give them time to roam their new neighbourhood.

In the end, with proper planning, your pet can have a safe move with as little stress as possible. For advice on travelling with your pets by car, boat or plane, go to our Travelling with Pets story.