How Moving Affects Our Pets

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, more American families relocate than at any other time of the year. If you’re currently in the middle of a move, you don’t need me to tell you that moving is stressful. Having recently done it myself, I can relate. When our closing date was moved up a week, the stress escalated to borderline panic.

There are always moments of sadness that accompany a move. Sometimes they set upon us while we’re packing up mementos, handing over the keys, or saying goodbye to what is now technically, someone else’s house. For us, the saddest moment came early in the move, when our younger dog, Zohan, stared pitifully at us from the empty corner that used to house his toybox and his bed.

Moving puts a lot of stress on families - especially those members of our families that have four legs and fur. Here are some ways to make moving less harrowing for our pets. (Yes, I know you’re busy packing and you’ve got a million things to do and you’re freaking out. I’ll keep this one short. I promise. Put that box down. Breathe. That’s better.)

Try to stick to your pet’s normal routine.

The operative word here is try. When you’re showing your home, clutter is the devil. Prospective buyers want to be able to visualize themselves living their lives in your home. If their lives do not include pets, “pet stuff” could interfere with that process. We had a great realtor. Prior to listing, she walked through our house. While she’s also animal lover, and has dogs of her own, she cringed when she got to the den. The doggie blankets, doggie beds, doggie toys - it all had to go someplace else. It was our turn to cringe, but we knew she was right. It all went into the first box we packed. Hence the sad Zohan face two weeks into the process.

My advice? Don’t do what we did. While clutter is a no-no, it’s really only a deal-breaker in certain parts of the house. When we expressed concern about our train wreck of a home office, our realtor shrugged it off. “An office is an office is an office. Nobody cares.” What we should have done, was move all of the “pet stuff” to the office. The dogs would have found it, and it would have likely minimized the sense that their entire world was being turned upside down. Figure out your house’s “nobody cares” zone and move your pet’s belongings there. It’s still a change, but bigger changes are coming, so why not start with baby steps? Feed and walk your pets at the usual times, and don’t skip playtimes and cuddle times because you need to start packing. No, I haven’t forgotten that you’re busy and freaking out. But a brisk walk with the dog, or a play session with the cat can go a long way towards helping you relax a little. And when we calm down, they calm down. Everybody wins.

Don’t mess with litter boxes.

It makes perfect sense that a litter box could be potentially off-putting to a buyer. That being said, I would not recommend moving litter boxes. Cats generally do not like change, and can be picky about litter box locations as it is. While moving the box to the garage or laundry room may sound like a great idea, these locations tend to be noisy and hot. Just the stress of a move can trigger cystitis or urinary tract infections in an anxious kitty. Moving the litter box to an unfamiliar or unpleasant place could set her up for failure. And if she starts choosing other places in your home to answer nature’s call, you’ll have a much bigger problem than clutter. The smell of pet waste inside the house is a much bigger turn-off to potential buyers than the sight of a clean litter box.

Use sound judgement when moving things intended to keep your pet safe and secure. A baby gate or a kitty condo may be the only things keeping a frightened pet from bolting out the door. We were okay with stashing the beds and toys, but we drew the line at the baby gates. We figured any buyer that would judge the house by a baby gate would like tank the sale down the road over something entirely different. Do what you must to sell your house, but do it within reason.

Consider boarding, especially for cats.

If you’re hosting an open house, or have multiple showings within a few days’ time, consider the possibility that your pet may be happier elsewhere. Buyers will want to see everything, so locking the cat in the spare room or stashing the dog in the garage isn’t going to fly. Strangers will be walking through your pet’s perceived territory, and said strangers may or may not close doors behind them. A panicked cat might make a break for it. An anxious dog may revert to aggressive behaviors. A boarding facility or the home of a trusted friend may be better places for your pets (and you!) during such hectic times. Most importantly…

Don’t make yourself crazy.

We looked at about a dozen houses, most of which we walked away from figuring we could make it work. They were all nice, but our hearts were not singing. Our realtor urged us to keep looking. “When you find your house, you’ll know,” she told us. “Buyers always know.”

The next day we looked at a house that was tenant occupied. To put it mildly, it had not been dressed up for a sale! We stepped in dog poop on the way inside. The tenants were in the process of packing and were dancing around us, understandably annoyed by our constantly being in the way. The den was piled from floor to ceiling with packed boxes. A black Lab barked incessantly in the yard, while the resident toy poodle charged us. It was cluttered, dusty, noisy, and thanks to us, it smelled like dog poop. It was chaos. And it was perfect. The look on my wife’s face reflected what what I felt the minute we crossed the threshold: this was our house. We knew. Apparently, buyers always do.

While it’s never a bad idea to snazz up a property you’re selling, don’t do so at the expense of your pet’s safety or sense of security. Serious buyers will overlook a litter box or a Kong toy if their hearts are singing. And why wouldn’t they? There’s something magical about finding home, and knowing where you’re meant to be.

Just like us, when buyers know, they know.

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