A change, they say, will do you good. But without proper preparation, the same might not be true for the four-legged members of your family. Each year, about five to seven million pets nationwide are relinquished to shelters, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). In many cases, this decision is reached when families are facing a major lifestyle change, such as moving, going through a divorce or preparing for a new baby.
You may be moving on up, but don’t let your pet become a victim of circumstance. Moving is one of the top 10 reasons dogs and cats are given up by their owners, according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, but it’s also one of the easiest changes to prepare for. Here are four simple steps to making the transition as smooth as possible:
- Check — and double-check — the pet policy. Before deciding on a home or apartment, be sure that your pet will receive a warm welcome from the new neighbors or landlord. There might be limits on the number, weight or breed of permitted pets. And homeowners, take heed: Pet restrictions are not exclusive to apartment complexes — some municipalities and condominium associations have a limit on the number of pets allowed in a residence.
- Prepare your pets. Before the day of the big move, start preparing your pet for new experiences. For example, a few days before you start packing, leave the boxes out so your pet gets used to the idea of having new things in her house. If your pet is not accustomed to travel, take this time to introduce her to her carrier by offering food rewards and praise and taking short trips that end on a positive note.
- Give them space. Cat lovers can make their feline friends more comfortable in the new home by offering them a temporary room of their own. This space should be pet-proofed and filled with the cats’ litterboxes, beds and favorite toys. When the cats come out of hiding and seem to be adjusting, you can then begin to let them explore more of the house, one room at a time.
- Monitor their progress. Although some behaviors, such as hiding and showing mild hesitation, are normal in the first few days of changing residences, be on the lookout for signs that your pet might be in distress or suffering from severe anxiety. For example, if your pet isn’t eating, drinking or using the litterbox, those are some signs that she may be very upset or sick and should be taken to the veterinarian.
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