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Moving is a hassle, no matter how excited you are about your new home (or sick of that leaky shower head in the old one). Wrapping each plate and glass in paper, packing all your shoes by mistake, getting all the utilities changed over, reassuring your kids (and yourself) about the new school . . . it's really stressful. Adding the pets to that seemingly endless to-do list doesn't help.
And it's a tough time for them, too. Animals often pick up on anxious vibes in their homes and may respond by acting out, hiding (in a box you're about to seal with tape, sometimes), or running away. On the other hand, Fluffy may not be bothered at all — but God forbid she gets underfoot while the piano's getting loaded onto the truck.
You have a lot of planning to do already, but a little pet-related preparation before moving day will save you a lot of stress during it. Our tips:
Keep pets out of packing areas. If you can, pack one room at a time, which minimizes literal and emotional upheaval, and close pets out of the room in question, so that they don't get pinned under heavy furniture, stuck in boxes, or get evil packing tape on their paw pads. This will also spare you tripping over them repeatedly.
Related: Bedbug-Free Travel With Pets
Call the experts. When you contract a moving company, let your contact know that you have pets, so they don't send a mover who's allergic to cats or frightened of dogs. Remind the foreperson of the team again when the truck arrives, and review any special instructions ("please don't open this bathroom door; the cats will escape"). And if you've got a cross-country move ahead and not just a crosstown one, ring your vet to see if mild sedatives are in order for your pet. Our cats hate car rides, but they slept through a move to Ontario with no side effects. Flying instead? Check and double-check with the airlines to make sure you understand their policies.
Make pets the "advance team." If it's possible, timing-wise, consider setting your pet up in the new home before all the books and furniture arrive — say, the night before. Dogs in particular like a schedule and may not respond well to disruptions, so easing them into the "new routine" in the new house ahead of time could really help. Select a small room with a securely closing door that you can make cozy with some familiar items — a sweatshirt that smells like you, for example, and a few toys, plus food and water dishes and a potty. This lets the animal get a feel for the sounds and smells of the new house, but keeps her safely out from under everyone's feet, and also unable to escape into a new and unfamiliar neighborhood.
Assign a handler. A kid who's old enough to take charge of a pet, but not quite old enough to be much help with the physical moving, is perfect for this gig, but you can also task a helpful friend or neighbor. Distracting the pet for several hours while the heavy lifting is completed may soothe the pet somewhat and will definitely cut down on escape attempts.
Send them on vacation. Subtracting pets from the equation entirely is a great option if you're moving within a smaller radius, and can afford it. Parking Fido or Fluffy at a kennel, doggie "spa," or with a pet sitter or trusted friend for a few days while you get the basics unpacked and organized will lower stress for all the creatures involved.
Any other tips we left out? Do you move the pets first, last, or in between — or stash them at your parents' house until the dust settles? Any funny stories of jailbreaks or accidentally packed felines? We'd love to hear them in the comments.
— Sarah D. Bunting
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