PCSing with pets adds additional choices, decisions and responsibilities to an already hectic time. During a move, it’s easy for pets to become disoriented, lost or stressed. A little upfront preparation can help give your pet a safe and smooth PCS.
Before Your Move
Cats often struggle when the family moves partially because they are much less socialized than dogs. Starting months before your move, take time to get your cat accustomed to a carrier. Place an article of your clothing in the carrier, give out treats inside it and try to make it as comfortable and appealing as possible for your feline friend. By creating a comfort zone in the carrier, your cat is more likely to run and hide in the carrier rather than darting out into the street. In the same vein, if your dog associates car trips with unpleasant visits to the vet or groomers, now is a great opportunity to foster some positive association with the car – this is especially important if you will be driving to your next duty station. While these preparations may seem trivial, they will help contribute to a less stressful move for you and your pets.
As you decide what to pack in the car for the trip, don’t forget to include a bag of comfort and convenience items for your pet and make sure it’s accessible. A leash, food and water dish, bottled water, pet first aid kit, disposable litterbox (for a cat), and some towels should be a good starting point. If you will be crossing state lines, check with your vet before you leave to get a health certificate. You could be pulled over and may have to provide one if taking a pet from one state to another.
Be sure your cat and/or dog has identification tags with correct contact information or microchip records are up to date.
Strangers in your home, belongings moving around, open doors, and general confusion make packing day a tough one for pets. Before the packers arrive, make sure that your pets are secure and relaxed. You might want to board them for the day (or couple of days), or be crated in a room where there is less activity.
On the Road
If you’ve spent some time getting your pets used to the car, you’ll have a pretty good idea what it takes to keep them calm on the road. Make sure they are secured and safe while moving – loose pets in the car are vulnerable in accidents and can cause distracted driving. Dogs should be in crates or restrained with a safety harness. Cats should be in a carrier. Covering the carrier for the first few hours on the road can help to calm anxious cats.
Remember, dogs will need to get out at regular intervals just like we do. During pit stops, be mindful that this is the most likely point for your pet to escape and run while disoriented. When you stop, give clear instructions to children to not open any car doors until your pet is on a leash! Temporary tags with your cell phone number can be added to their collar for extra protection.
If you have TDY enroute orders or have multiple pets like birds, horses or very large dogs, it might be more feasible to find a professional carrier for your pets. Transport companies will handle the details of getting your pet from one place to another, a convenience that may be worth paying for if you have young children or will be stuck in a hotel while looking for your home and waiting for household goods. If you are considering a transport company, begin looking and interviewing at least 30 days in advance — more if possible to give you time to find the best fit.
Planning a hotel stay on your trip? Plan ahead of time how far you will travel and locate a pet friendly hotel. When it comes to pet policies, online or corporate policies are not enough. Call the specific location and check the pet policy. Many hotels limit access to dogs over 30 lbs, birds, exotic pets and sometimes cats. Hotels can also charge an additional fee per pet, so that should be built into your budget. Scout out pet friendly hotels online with PetsWelcome.com.
Hotels are a vulnerable time for pets on the move as it is easy for a freaked out escape to happen when the door opens or while moving between the room and the car. Cats in particular will find new and creative hiding places. Utilize carriers and other restraints especially if you leave the room for any reason.
Still looking for a new home? Sometimes pets can make finding a rental challenging. Start by building a Pet Resume that can be provided to property managers showing that your pet will be a good tenant. Once you are in your home, there are simple ways to make sure your pet gets a good review from your property manager.
Help your pet get settled fast by returning to a normal routine as soon as possible. Try to keep their things in the same location – if the litter box was in the laundry room before, put it there again. Before you let your pets run loose in the new home, do a thorough walk through and pet proofing.
As you get settled, it is important to quickly locate the necessary services for you and your pet – a veterinarian, a boarding facility or pet sitter, pet stores and a great walking route for dogs!