Military pet owners have more than road trip pit stops on their mind during PCS season. AHRN.com has put together some of our favorite resources for a Pet PCS!
PCSing with pets can add an additional layer of choices, decisions and responsibilities to an already hectic time. During the confusion of moving it’s easy for pets to become disoriented, lost or stressed. A little preparation can go a long way towards giving your a pet a safe and smooth PCS.
Before Your Move
Cats often struggle when the family moves partially because they are much less socialized than our dogs. Take the time starting months before your move to get your cat accustomed to a carrier. Place an article of your clothing in the carrier, give out treats to the pet inside it and try to make it as comfortable and appealing as possible for your feline friend. By creating a level of comfort, your cat is more likely to run and hide in the carrier than trying to dart out into the street. In the same vein, if your pup associates the car with trips to the vet or groomers than now is a great opportunity to foster some positive association with the car – especially important if you will be driving to your next duty station. While this might not seem important, it will contribute to a much less stressful move for you if your pets are not experiencing anxiety.
As you decide what belongings will travel with you in the car, put together 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 in case of accidents should be a good starting point. If you will be crossing state lines, see your vet before you leave to get a health certificate. You can be pulled over and asked for one if taking a pet from one state to another.
Strangers in your home, belongings moving around, open doors, and general confusion make packing day a tough one for your pets. Make sure before the packers arrive that your pets are secure and relaxed. You might want to board them for the day (or couple of days), let them hang out a friend’s, or be crated in a room where there is less activity.
On the Move
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 and happy on the road. Make sure that 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 that dogs will need to get out at regular intervals like a toddler to pee and relax. During pit stops, be mindful that this is the most likely point for your pet to escape and run while disoriented. Temporary tags with your cell phone number can be added to their collar for a little 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 — and more if possible to give you time to find the best possible fit.
Planning a hotel stay on your trip? Decide 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 Pets Welcome.
Hotels are a vulnerable time for our pets on the move as it is too 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? If you are concerned that your pets will make finding a rental a challenge, start by building a Pet Resume to communicate to property managers 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 sticking to the same routine. 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 place, give it a very thorough once over and pet proofing. Know that you keeping calm and letting your pet’s behavior indicate what they need is the best bet as they make the transition to their new home.
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!