Settling in with your pet
Updated: May 12, 2021
You’ve gone through the home search, and finally closed. You’ve packed up your things and moved into your new house (if you haven’t moved yet, read our blog on moving with pets). There’s just one thing you forgot to think about… Oh yes! You have a pet, and you want to help it settle into your new home.
Here are a few tips that’ll ease the transition and minimize stress:
Baby steps are good steps.
Imagine that you wake up one day to strange people taking all your precious things away. You don’t know where your toilet is…and you have to go to the bathroom. Then you are placed in a dark container for some unknown period, after which you are released into a large place with new smells, and more strange people. And you still don’t know where the toilet is. That’s how it can feel to a pet who is moving.
If you are moving with a dog, take the pooch to the new home a few times before you move in (if possible). Let him sniff around the house, walk around the neighborhood, and play at a nearby dog park. This will help him recognize the place when he arrives at the new house for good.
If you have a cat, you'll do the opposite! Keep transitions to a minimum, which will keep kitty at ease. See the “First Impressions” segment below for specific cat advice.
Know your pet.
If your cat, dog, bird, ferret, or snake couldn’t care less about changes in location, routine, and environment, you are one of the (very) lucky ones. More likely is that your pet has certain behaviors and responses to stresses that only you can truly know. Take the time to really think about your pet; does she have to be crated at bedtime? Does she scratch every new piece of furniture you’ve ever brought into the house? Does she have a favorite type of treat or toy that can distract him from everything around him? Make a plan that respects your pet’s personality: make the new home a positive place by offering favorite toys and play activities, and bring out the peanut butter Kong or the catnip toy that makes Tiger ecstatic!
First impressions are important.
As soon as you arrive, set up a safe spot for your pet to be until she feels safe. Unpack all his things so they’re ready for him. Cats in particular need to know their new territory, so give them a small space at first. I know a few cat owners who swear by pheromone diffusers, like this one. The “happy cat” pheromones in these products signal to your feline that this is a stress-free, pleasant place to be. Some cats may take a day to adjust; more likely, though, it can take several weeks in all. Keep food & water, toys, scratching posts and litter all in the same room at first; then expand their territory little by little. And remember: if you are moving the litter box, do it in stages, and show your kitty where it is each time!
Establish your new “normal.”
For all types of pets, keep to your normal routines as much as you possibly can. If you need to establish new routines, be consistent and offer lots of love and praise as you both learn how to live in this new space. Find a local veterinarian you love by posting on a community message board or Facebook page, or ask around at the dog park (or see our pet resources page). Take your pup to some new dog parks to meet the local dog community. If you have a cat, consider building a catio for kitty. If you take the time and put in the extra effort, it will pay off and in no time you will be snuggling with your furry friend in your new home!