A senior man leans over the table to give his dog a high five

How to Prepare Your Pets for Moving into Senior Living

Deciding to make a lifestyle change can have a positive impact on not only your life. If you currently have a dog or cat for a roommate (or both), selecting a pet-friendly senior living community can open up an exciting new world for your furry companion too. New friends, playmates, and places to explore. But no matter how much you’re looking forward to all the opportunities and fun you’ll have in your new home, moving with pets can create additional questions. 

As you prepare for your big moving day, here are suggestions to help your dog or cat have a stress-free move.

Before your move.

Dogs are very sensitive and will notice changes in your routine. So while they may not know what’s happening, they will react to your emotions and notice you collecting boxes, going through things and packing. That’s why it’s important you start preparing them before all the hubbub of moving starts. 

If possible, take your dog to your new neighborhood and walk by your new home so they can familiarize themselves with the scents of the neighborhood and the community. If you can, go inside your new house or bring something back so your dog can familiarize themselves with its unique smell.

As you pack, include your dog. Allow them to investigate boxes and all the activities. If your dog is crated or alone in a room while you pack and prepare to move, they could feel nervous, which could lead to stress-related behaviors such as hyperactivity, jumping or barking.

If you have a cat, start getting them used to a pet carrier. If they’ve never been in a carrier, introduce the idea slowly. Start by putting a blanket and cat treats inside, leaving the door open, and making the experience a positive one. 

Once they’re comfortable with the carrier, the next step is familiarizing your cat with car travel. Start with short, 10-minute rides, then longer 20-minute rides. You’ll find your cat’s anxiety decreases as they become more accustomed to the sights and sounds associated with car travel. Be sure to leave the cat carrier out, so your kitty gets used to it and even sleeps inside it whenever they choose. While you’re packing boxes, be sure to let your curious kitty sniff around and explore.

Moving long-distance? Your pets will need to be crate-trained well before your move. If your trip involves air travel, be sure to ask the airline about their pet travel requirements. You’ll always want to keep a copy of your pet’s veterinarian records in your carry-on luggage.

Moving day.

For your cat, the bathroom is a great choice. Be sure to put their litter box, cat carrier, food and water in the bathroom, and a “KEEP CLOSED — CAT INSIDE!” sign on the door. 

When moving with a dog, one option is to assign a responsible family member to be the dedicated dog sitter. Another less stressful option is to have a dog-loving friend watch them for the day. If none of these options is available, keep your dog in a spare bedroom or crate/kennel. When deciding where they should stay, think about where your dog will be most comfortable and what will cause the least amount of disruption during your move.

On the day of your move, your pets should be wearing collars including up-to-date rabies tags and your new address and phone number.

Road trip considerations.

If you’re going to spend some time in the car, here are some suggestions for your cat and your dog.

Cat tips.

Drive time: Because of cats’ natural nocturnal tendencies, they’re calmer during the day so it’s best to drive when they’re used to resting.

Food and water: Start driving early and withhold food to minimize motion sickness, but offer water at each stop.

Litter box. The travel litter box should be large enough for your cat to fit comfortably in, but small enough to go in his carrier (if possible). If you don’t plan on keeping it in the carrier, choose a litter box with a lid. Use an odor-control litter that’s low-dust and scoopable. 

Doggy details.

Pit stops. Your dog needs a 15-30 minute break at least every couple of hours. Check your route for parks, dog-friendly restaurants and other places to stop so everyone has a chance to walk or stretch their legs. Offer water at each stop, but talk with your vet about a feeding schedule. Timing for food will depend on your pet’s needs and inclination for motion sickness.

Pet-friendly hotels. If you’re staying at a hotel or motel, it’s best to ask specifically about your dog so there are no last-minute surprises. If your dog tends to be vocal, a vacation rental with more privacy may be a better choice than a hotel room.

Maintain calm. A tired dog is usually a quiet dog, so consider taking them on a long walk before you head into the room. Try not to leave them alone in the room for too long. If you need to leave, keep them crated so they don’t cause any damage or escape when you return. You can also cover their crate to simulate nighttime darkness, or leave them with a treat or toy that will engage them for a while.

Stress signals. Amping up play and exercise can help relieve anxiety. Also, give your pet a familiar bed, toy or blanket to help provide comfort. During the moving process, keep an eye on your dog for these common signs of stress:

  • Digestive issues
  • Increased aggression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased sleeping
  • Reduced interest in playing

Welcome home.

Once you’re in your new home, here are some suggestions to help your dog or cat adjust to their new surroundings. 

Be patient. Allow your pets to take their time sniffing around their new home. Let them explore — and if they decide to hide for a while, that’s OK as long as they know where the food and litter box is. Allow them to come out when they’re ready. 

Show them love. Give your pet the attention they are used to. A bit of extra loving will go a long way as they come to feel at home in their new surroundings. Remember that difficult behaviors are a result of their discomfort with the change and a sense of not feeling in control. 

Welcome home kitty. Your cat will pick up on your mood, so be sure to follow your normal routine and reassure them that everything is back to normal. Don’t be surprised if your cat “disappears” to their cat carrier, a closet or underneath a bed for a few days. Normally eager eaters may need coaxing to finish a meal. Others may seem a little moody and “forgetful” when it comes to the litter box. They may even try to escape out the front door, in hopes of finding familiar surroundings.

You may want to choose a special room that will be their private refuge with their food and water bowls, bed, scratching post, and litter box. Once they settle in there, they will begin to explore the rest of the house when they’re ready. And once they realize there’s nothing to be afraid of in your new home, they’ll be back to their adorable, lovable self!

Welcoming your dog. Let your dog make the rounds inside and outside the house. Walk them on a leash during this initial introduction so they feel safe and secure by your side. The sooner they get used to the new smells, the sooner they’ll feel at home. Like cats, dogs will appreciate getting back to the established routine as soon as possible. Taking walks at your usual time and sticking to the same route for several days will help your dog adjust.

Vet wanted. If you’ve moved a long distance, now is the perfect time to ask your new neighbors to recommend a new veterinarian. Schedule a “get to know you” visit for your pets as soon as possible so you have a vet in the event of an emergency.

Furry family members welcome.

At Eagle Senior Living, we recognize the many benefits of having a pet and the joy pets bring to the lives of seniors. That’s we have a variety of pet-friendly senior living communities across the nation and have experience helping seniors who are moving with pets. To find an Eagle Senior Living community near you, call us at 734-418-9027 or use our community locater.