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1. Visit your vet
If you haven't had your dog or cat microchipped, do it now. Pets can easily slip out of the door during a move and become lost. Collars and tags can fall off, but a microchip will give you added security in case the unthinkable happens. Your vet can also recommend a clinic in your new neighbourhood and supply them with your pet's medical records.
"Clients can take the records or we email them to the new vet," says Troye McPherson, a veterinarian in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and the Nova Scotia representative of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Council.
2. Maintain your pet's routine
Pets crave consistency. In the weeks leading up to the move, stick with their routine. Changing feeding, walking or sleep patterns can amp up your pet's stress levels and inappropriate behaviour.
"If your dog is used to being walked at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., you want to stick to that schedule," McPherson says. "Try to keep things as normal as possible while you're packing, so they won't feel that everything is changing and they'll be more calm."
3. Don't let your pet watch you pack
Watching their home being taken apart can rattle a pet's nerves. "Cats in particular are very stuck on where things are in the house," McPherson says. "Some cats start having accidents when furniture is moved."
If your cat or dog is more sensitive than usual, remove him or her from the packing experience. Have a family member take your pet to the groomer or to a friend's house. If outside help isn't available, relocate your pet to another room where packing noise is minimal. Remember to bring along his or her toys, bed, water dish and litter box, and to check in frequently, offering plenty of cuddles and reassurance.
4. Pack your pet's belongings last
Label the boxes that contain your pet's toys, bowls and bed clearly and plan to carry them in your car, so they're easy to find. Unpack your pet's belongings first so that he or she has something recognizable from the old abode. Familiar smells will help your pet feel safe, relaxed and at home.
5. Travel with care
If you're driving to your new place by car, make sure that there's a safe spot for your pet. "Be careful what you stack beside your pet, so boxes can't topple onto them," McPherson says.
Bring snacks, a collapsible water dish and bottled water. Sedating medications, however, are not a good idea, warns McPherson. "Some of the medications make it difficult for pets to respond to temperature extremes. If it's cold, they can't shiver to warm up, or if it's hot they don't get the message to pant to cool down," she explains.
A smart, pet-friendly alternative is the Thundershirt, a light coat that helps cats and dogs remain calm and avoid motion sickness.
Birds, small rodents and reptiles can be transported in their cages in your car. It's virtually impossible to move fish while they're swimming in their bowl or aquarium. Drain the aquarium and place your fish in a tied plastic bag that's filled with water. Place the bag inside the empty aquarium for added protection from punctures.
If you're flying, McPherson says to call the airline in advance to find out their rules for transporting pets. Airlines and border agencies may request vaccination records or health certificates. Depending on your pet's size, he or she may be permitted in the cabin with you or relegated to the cargo hold. In both instances, your pet will have to fit into a travel crate to keep him or her safe during the flight.
6. Beware of open doors
When movers are shuffling in and out with your belongings, ensure that your pet is in a secure location, whether that's in his or her crate, cage or in another room behind closed doors. You can also board your pet for the day so that he or she is away from the action and can't bolt.
7. Welcome home!
To help your pet acclimatize, "investigate the new neighbourhood," McPherson says . "If your cat is an outdoor cat, put them on a harness and go out with them a few times."
Accompany your dog in the backyard until you've checked the fence for holes, as it's not uncommon for pets to attempt to return to their previous address after a move. And don't forget to resume normal routines. Taking your dog for at least one walk a day through his new territory will make him feel at home and allow him to say hello to some new furry friends.