When Miranda Benson and her boyfriend moved to a new house, Benson took their dog, Lollypup, over to the home ahead of movers, so the 50-pound dog could settle in. However, when Benson’s boyfriend arrived and opened the front door, Lollypup bolted from the house and bounded toward the street.
“She came within a few feet of getting hit,” says Benson. “We could have avoided this if we’d had one of our friends watch Lollypup instead of doing it ourselves.”
For the rest of the day, Benson played with Lollypup in a closed bedroom while movers unloaded.
Big changes in routine and environment, along with the presence of strange people (movers) and unusual sounds can cause even the most stable pets to become unnerved and flighty on moving day, says Sarah Fraser, a certified professional dog trainer.
However, moving with pets doesn’t have to be a day of flying fur and fearful thoughts. If you’re stressing about the chance of your dog or cat escaping on moving day, here are some tips to keep your furry family member from getting lost during the chaos of moving to a new home.
1. Plan Ahead For Boarding.
Arrange to have your pet stay at the home of a trusted friend, relative, pet sitter or boarding facility on moving day, says Fraser. Better yet, drop them off the day before the move.
“Bring them into their new home after you’ve had a chance to unpack the basics, including beds, food bowls, and favorite toys,” says Fraser.
2. Designate a Pet Room.
If boarding or asking a friend to watch your pet isn’t an option, designate one room as the “pet room,” says Fraser. Clear the room of all belongings to be moved five to seven days before moving day. Then place your pet’s bedding, along with food and water bowls and a litter box for cats inside the room.
“Practice having your pet spend time in that room for short periods leading up to the move,” says Fraser.
Acclimate your pet to the space by feeding it meals in the pet room and associating the area with yummy treats.
3. Utilize Crates and Carriers.
For extra security, place your pet in a crate or carrier inside the designated pet room on moving day. Crates should be large enough to allow dogs to stand up and turn around. Cat carriers should be big enough that your cat can stand without crouching and have room to turn around.
4. Post Warning Signs.
Tape clear, obvious signs to the pet room door and any other doors used by movers.
“Exaggerate if necessary,” says Fraser, with warnings such as “Do not open this door! Cat inside is an escape artist.”
Write your cell phone number on the sign, in case anyone needs to enter.
5. “May I See Your I.D., Fluffy?”
For cats, dogs, and larger rabbits, make sure that identification tags and microchips are up-to-date prior to any move.
“Also, have a good photo of your pet readily available in case he does become lost, so you can quickly make lost pet posters,” says Morgan.
6. Put a Harness on Dogs and Cats.
If you’re driving to a new city, teach dogs and cats to a wear a car harness in your home and yard before moving day, says Sally Morgan, a holistic physical therapist for pets. The harness makes it difficult for pets to bolt if startled by a loud noise when walking them at a rest stop or gas station.
7. Use Caution in the Car.
Keep small dogs and cats safely in their crates or carriers in the vehicle. For dogs, use a flat, wide collar and harness that fits comfortably for greater control in unfamiliar settings, says Morgan. If you let your dog ride uncrated, secure the leash to a seat belt. That way, the dog can’t get out or can’t run off if he jumps from the car. We recommend buying a harness specifically designed for the car.
8. Don’t Let the Cat Outside Right Away.
If your cat is an outdoor cat, walk him around your new yard in the harness when you arrive.
“Make sure that you and your cat are firmly established in the new home before letting an outdoor cat outside,” says Morgan. “Take him for a walk with the dog or just with you when you first move, so he can safely assess the area.