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Moving and Pets

Many people have heard stories about pets running away after a move and would like to avoid such a problem.

Generally animals thrive on repetition, consistency and routine. So the move should be made with a minimum of change and stress. Pets' possessions - beds, dishes, toys - for example, should be ready for them when they arrive at their new house.

Cats are oriented to places while dogs are oriented to people. This makes cats harder to move and more likely to set out on an "impossible journey" to find the old homestead. To head off such a catastrophe, cats need to have a strong feeling that the new house is the same comfortable environment that they have always known.

Start cats out in one room. Then slowly let them explore the new surroundings and make sure where their food and litter box are located. After three or four weeks, when the confusion of the move has settled down, let them outdoors (if they normally go outdoors). Stay with them in the yard until they get used to the new surroundings and know how to get back in the house.

Dogs want to be with their families, so they are unlikely to try to return to the old house. It is important, however, to orient them to the new neighborhood so they do not get lost.

Veterinarians recommend that owners confine and control dogs for some time after the move. They should take them on a leash for walks so the dogs get their bearings, learn the scent of the neighborhood animals and leave their mark. Urinating and defecating, both used as marking, are the way a dog responds to an area marked by other dogs. It is instinctive protection to let other animals in the vicinity know they are there.

It is suggested for those moving long distances, to use the least traumatic possible form of transportation for their pets. Most animals, particularly the young and old, will make the move easier if they stay with the family in the car. Arrangements should be made to keep the pet with the family at overnight stops. For traveling cats, using soft-style pet carriers that allow the pet to be held is recommended. Shipping the pet is only good if the trip is short and direct.

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Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association
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