Moving Pets to New Homes

Moving can be a stressful time for us — and for our four-legged friends. Being in an unfamiliar environment may cause anxiety for your cat or dog, and they will likely need some time to adjust to the new house.

Fortunately, there are several ways to ease the transition when moving pets to a new home. Here are some expert tips from Dr. Terri Bright, Director of Behavior Services at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA)-Angell in Boston.

  • 1. Keep old routines.

    Before even moving to your new house, take note of your pet’s routine so that you can replicate it in your new home. What time does your pet eat? When do you take your dog out for a walk? Do you have a scheduled play time? “These kinds of routines can really help your pets adjust. They’ll think, ‘Oh, I don’t know where I am, but here’s my food, just on time.’ And that’s really good for them,” says Bright. 

  • 2. Keep familiar items close.

    Cats and dogs use smell and hearing to know they’re in familiar territory. A new home will smell and sound entirely different from a pet’s old environment, which can be quite upsetting for the animal. That’s why it’s important that you bring that fur-covered bed when moving with a dog, or the cat’s old scratching post, or your pet’s favorite chew toy (which may or may not be torn to shreds) — at least until they get used to the new house. These familiar items will help reduce your pets’ anxiety in their new home, says Bright.

  • 3. Give your pets a tour.

    Just like you do a walkthrough before closing, take your pets for a quick visit before you actually move into the new home. Once you move in, walk around with your cat and dog and allow your pet to explore the house again. “With your cat, you’re probably going to want to keep them confined in a room (where their litter box is) for periods of time. This shows your cat that ‘this is your territory,’” says Bright. Try to spend as much time as possible around the house and when you’re there, stay close to your pets in the first few weeks. You’ll also want to pay special attention if you have male cats and dogs who will want to mark their territory.

  • 4. Stay vigilant for issues adapting.

    So, how long will it take for your pet to adjust to its new home? Keep following these tips until the animal’s behavior is predictable and it’s no longer showing signs of fear. This could take weeks or even a couple months, says Bright. But the most important thing to remember is to be patient with your pets and let them adjust at their own speed.

  • 5. Seek professional help if needed.

    Be on the lookout for fearful behaviors in your pets. For instance, if their ears are back, their eyes are wide, they’re staying low to the ground, they’re trying to hide or they’re shaking, they may be scared. If that’s the case, says Bright, stay with them as much as possible; reassure them with love and attention; give them lots of food, treats, and toys; and make sure to play with them. “This shows your pets that this new house is a really fun place to be, despite it being a new environment,” adds Bright.

  • 6. Be patient during the adjustment phase.

    If you’ve taken all the steps to try and help your cat or dog adjust to a new home — but they continue to show signs of fear or anxiety — a veterinarian may be able to help give your pet relief by offering an anxiety-reducing medication.

Pet-Friendly Homes at Meritage

Many of our communities offer pet-friendly features and amenities, such as easy access to community dog parks, outdoor areas or walking trails. And new Meritage floorplans commonly include a drop zone or extra space in the laundry room — an ideal spot for a pet bed and plenty of nap time. Some of our homes also include a half-lite door that allows for easy installation of a doggy door.