Of course you take good care of your precious possessions, but no matter how carefully you wrap, pad and pack them, there’s one that will require planning and extra-special attention: your pet. You’ll need to plan in advance to make sure your pet does not suffer undue stress or health risks before, during and after your move.

Do your research well before your move.
If you are moving to a new state, check into its regulations about pet entry, licensing, and health certificates. Even smaller municipalities may have laws and restrictions you should be aware of. It’s possible that you’ll need to fill out some forms and get a pet license in advance of your move.

While you’re at it, get a recommendation or locate a reputable animal hospital or veterinarian convenient to your new home.

Plan for your pet’s transportation.
If your move is long-distance, how will your pet travel? Some pets cannot tolerate car trips without sedation, or there may not be enough room for them. Pets will not be allowed on moving vans. Air freight or air express may be less expensive than you think, and a safe alternative. There are businesses that specialize in pet transport and are worth looking into. In any case, don’t leave these decisions until the last minute. Birds and small caged pets usually travel in their regular cages or habitats. Tropical fish require special packing and handling. They can all be moved by air express, or by automobile, with special attention to each type’s needs.

Get your pet a health check-up.
Plan a visit to the veterinarian a few weeks before moving day to keep your pet’s inoculations up to date and obtain any health certificates you may need for transportation or boarding of your pet. Make sure your pet has plenty of identification—not only its rabies tag and permanent ID, but also a temporary ID with cell phone numbers of friends who might help out if you’re unavailable. Consider an electronic chip ID for your pet—this would be a good time to do it.

Pack with your pet in mind.
From the time the first packing box arrives, your dog or cat will sense that something odd is happening, and may begin to act stressed. So don’t pack, or leave out until the last minute, those objects that are your pet’s favorites — not only the dog’s bed and the cat’s toys, but also, for example, their favorite chair, rug or cushion, table or shelf. Try, if possible, to leave your pet’s favorite corner undisturbed for as long as possible. Create a special “Pet’s Box” of toys, familiar objects, medical necessities and treats; items that should not be packed up and may travel with your pet.

Pets should be out of the house on moving day.
Arrange for a friend or neighbor to take your dogs or cats on the day of the move. If necessary, arrange a “day-care” visit for your pets. It’s as much for the welfare of the movers as for your pets’ own security and your peace of mind. And if you haven’t already relocated your tropical fish tank or reptile habitat, consider doing it before moving day to avoid accidents.

Upon arriving at the new home, different pets will have different needs.
If you have a dog, walk it around the neighborhood right away and let it get familiar with the new landscape and territory. Take the time to establish boundaries and teach them to your dog — do this as soon as you can. Never let your dog off the leash until you are sure it understands those boundaries.

If you have a cat, keep it indoors, and confine it to a couple of rooms for a time. Let it explore the new home gradually, to reduce stress. Make sure familiar items are in your cat’s area. Try to keep important items, such as the food dish and litter box, in the same place as the old home. You may need to actually walk your cat over to the litter box and dish, to show the cat where they are. It’s important not to let your cat go outside for some time after your move. Even an “outdoors” cat runs a high risk of running away or getting lost when removed from its familiar territory.

Your pet may need a long time to adjust to its new home. During that time, make sure that its environment is safe and secure. Pay special attention to open windows and cage doors to prevent runaways. If your pet exhibits stress by compulsive behavior, acting out or having accidents, consult your new veterinarian.

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