Whether because of a weather emergency, damage to your home or some other reason, a sudden relocation can be a stressful time for any family. It’s even more so when you are also factoring in your pet’s wellbeing! We’ve outlined a few tips for pet families to help answer some questions when relocating during emergencies.
If possible, plan ahead
Is your temporary relocation planned? If so, a vet visit prior to your stay is a great way to ensure your pet is feeling well, up to date on all their vaccines, and is ready for travel (be sure to get a health certificate if crossing state lines). The visit is also a great opportunity to discuss any potential issues such as anxiety that may arise with your pet during your stay.
If your pet isn’t already microchipped, your veterinarian can also help with that – or double check the chip already in place. Even the most well-behaved dog or cat can become stressed in a new environment, slip out of an open door and become lost. Before your stay, ensure your pet’s microchip is registered and all your contact information is up to date!
Additionally, if the time before relocation allows, begin a training program to acclimate your pets to any of the tools you will be utilizing during your stay. This could include a being comfortable in a crate or pen while you are away, walking (and toileting) on leash, and riding in an elevator.
Many communities have pet-friendly shops that are great places to take your pets for practice being out and about to experience new locations. If you know the location you will be staying in, they may also be able to accommodate some training time for your pet prior to your stay.
But you can’t always plan ahead, so be ready for the unexpected
Having a pet travel kit with all your pet’s necessities is an important part of being ready for an evacuation or sudden move.
Ideally, your kit should include food, medications, bowls, waste disposal bags, litter and a litter box, pet-friendly cleaning supplies and a copy of your pet’s medical records (especially their vaccine records and rabies certificate). If you are able, it is a good idea to bring extra food and medications, just in case your stay is longer than anticipated.
Also, don’t forget to include your pet’s collar and leash (and a spare leash just in case you need it) for restroom and exercise breaks. A crate or exercise pen can also be helpful in creating a dedicated quiet space for your pet and prevent accidental room escapes.
Find more tips and downloadable planning tools here.
Once you’ve reached your destination, re-establish a schedule
Pets, just like humans, thrive on schedules. One way to help your dog or cat adjust to a sudden relocation is to re-establish a schedule – preferably as similar to their old schedule as possible. This can help them settle into the ‘new normal’ of the environment and allow them to adjust faster. While setting up the schedule, be sure to include plenty of exercise and extra one-on-one time with your pets – it’s a great way for both of you to destress!
Create a calm environment
Pets, when in new or unfamiliar environments, may be more vocal, anxious, or nervous in response to what is happening around them, especially if this is the first time they are staying in a hotel-type environment. But don’t worry, there are several ways you can use sensory inputs to help create a calming environment to sooth your worried pet!
- Audio: Worried that hallway and other unfamiliar noises will lead to a flustered pup or kitten? Classical music, white noise or even leaving the television or radio on in the room can help minimize noises from outside of the room. Just be sure to set the volume so it won’t disturb other guests. Also, many streaming music apps now have channels dedicated to music that is calming for pets! These are great ways to promote relaxation for your pets during stressful periods.
- Olfactory: Sometimes, just having the scent of their pet parents can ease a pet during a stressful situation. Leaving a worn shirt or pants with them to snuggle with may be what they need. But other scents can also help! Pheromones-mimicking scents, for example similar to the scent mothers produce to calm their young, are available to help alleviate stress. These come in various formats, including sprays, diffusers or collars. They can help in stressful situations, but they often require longer periods of time to see results, so you may want to pair them with another calming aid in the beginning.
- Visual: Pets that are nervous may also be easily over-stimulated. To help them, set up a small area just for them that they can retreat to! The best area to create their space has lower foot traffic and, for some pets, a place to hide. Dimming the light entering the room can also help create a calmer environment for your pet!
- Oral: Calming chews that contain Thiamine, L-Theanine, hydrolyzed milk protein, L-Tryptophan, chamomile or lavender (or combinations of these) can help promote calming behavior. Many types of chews are available from local retailers and are given as tasty treats. However, if your pet is already highly anxious or nervous, they may be past the point of taking treats. If this is the case, try one of the other methods to help them relax to start or speak with your veterinarian for extra support.
Offer familiar objects
Did you have a security blanket as a child or a toy you took everywhere with you? Pets, just like us, may find comfort in having a familiar object with the scent of home on them. Beds, dishes, or toys from home can all help to ease the transition into new housing. If that is not possible, purchasing a toy or two or bedding like their favorites is a great way to bring a sense of normalcy back into their life.
Study up on stress signals
Pets will ‘tell’ us they are experiencing stress in different ways…including some of the same physical symptoms that humans experience, which can include inconsistent appetite, vomiting, or stool changes. Pets may also show anxiety through behaviors like excessive licking, which can lead to sores.
Daily health checks can help you monitor your dog’s or cat’s body condition and look for any changes in their skin and coat. If you notice any sores forming, you can try to limit your pet’s access to lick that area by using an Elizabethan Collar, but you will want to speak with a veterinarian to treat any potential infections.
Noting any changes in their appetite, drinking, as well as monitoring their urine and stool output is also important during periods of stress. If their stools become softer, you can try adding a small amount of pumpkin to their diet or slowly transition to a bland diet like Royal Canin Gastrointestinal. However, if they begin to have diarrhea, bloody stool or vomit more than once, we recommend you speak with a veterinarian.
Keep an eye out for illnesses
Illness can occur at any time, but the additional stress of a temporary relocation can increase your worry over your beloved pet. If an emergency has occurred for the local area, check to see if your veterinarian’s office is available. If so, they know your pet best and can provide the most tailored guidance for your pet.
If not, many animal hospitals and emergency clinics are familiar with assisting families who are away from home. Our Pet Expert team is happy to assist you with finding veterinary resources as needed, and this article can help you identify emergency situations.