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Helping pets settle in

The anxiety and confusion pets go through when their family shifts base to a new home; and how one can help them get over the fear

Helping pets settle in
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Some adopted, some bought; most of us have our own walking ball of fur – it can be a dog or a cat – most people go for them.

Nevertheless, the people who are lucky enough to choose a relative in the form of a loyal dog/cat, should know about their physical and mental health. We love to see our cute little companions in a cheerful state – excited to see you, food, any other person, or for no reason at all. They don't leave any chance to show their love for their human; dogs wagging tales, hugging and licking your face and cats meowing with their tails straightened up in the air, hugging the legs of their owners.

Over time, they become our family and we cannot spend a day without looking at their adorable face. We know they love us undoubtedly. You can see it in their smile. You can see it in their eyes. And you can see it in their tail-wags.

But do you know that our little four-legged friends can also go through fear, anxiety and depression? We keep our pets at home and when we go out for a few days, we either just leave them at a relatives' place or at a veterinary place where they take care of the pets till the time we come and take them home. Dogs and cats are a lot like humans, they also feel abandoned and lonely.

Just like children, our pets also dislike certain things and one of them is moving to a new home. Usually, our animal companions become familiar with the old house, the people in that locality, and the smell of that home and hence, moving on to a new home can be traumatising for some. Of course, this is not true for every dog and cat. Dogs love routine and are very protective about their territory.

Nothing shakes them up more than shifting base. Moving can have negative effect on a dog, whose happiness is dependent on a consistent lifestyle; the same goes for cats. A cat running away to the same old house again and again, even if the family has shifted to a new place is a common story that we have heard from many cat owners.

And who says money can't buy happiness? These tiny sniffing animals are the only true happiness that can be bought with money. Studies have proved that dogs are the only species that when frightened, worried, or anxious, run to their humans for comfort, just like children do. They are also the only species that seek eye-contact with their humans. Certainly we humans can take care of them in return of such selfless love when they are frightened or depressed.

Can we not? Moving from one place to another can up the anxiety levels of dogs and cats alike. If you think about it, there are many questions that arise about the effects of moving pets and how to take care of them.

"Moving to a new place is disturbing for most pets. They miss their old place, the area and their belongings," says Dr RT Sharma, President, Pet Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). He further clarifies some basic queries that would be helpful for any owner while moving to a new place with their pets and making the move as painless as possible for them.

Effects of moving pets

Fear and confusion: Moving to a completely new neighbourhood and a new home can cause confusion and fear among dogs and cats. Especially, those who are used to a constant routine. They miss their old routine, the same old smell of the house, furniture, surroundings and their belongings. They don't like such major changes. And if their human is busy somewhere else, they feel abandoned and confused about what to do in a completely new place. This shoots up their anxiety levels which might even make them aggressive.

Perplexed about surroundings: A new place makes them disoriented about their surroundings. They freak out in a new place and hence they sometimes choose to just sit in one corner. Like small children, they need all the care and introduction to the new things. As earlier mentioned, dogs are territorial, they like to live in their marked territory, changing that makes them confused about how to react and what to do. And the same goes for cats, they don't like changes, they will keep running back to their old comfortable home.

Problems in adjusting to a new lifestyle: Dogs face the major problems in adjusting to a new schedule and lifestyle. It is proven in studies that dogs react the way their owners react to certain situations. If you react all confused, they will also react the same. It takes them a lot of time to adjust according to the new routine. So, if your work shift is different from before or if you are not able to give the little fur balls some time, they will have anxiety issues in the new home.

Unfazed ones: While most dogs and cats face anxiety issues, some of them are unpurturbed by moving. Some are just happy to be with their family ie their owners.


Ways to help a pet transition to a new home

Be consistent: Keep your routine schedule for feeding them, taking them out for walks, playtime, cuddling and bedtime. Try not to change much. Being conistent with them will help them adapt faster to a new home or new people around them.

Bring favorites: You may be tempted to get your pet new accoutrements, but this is not a good time to introduce new items. Instead, bring your pet's favorite bed, crate, toys, food and water dishes, treats and other familiar items. Put them in similar places as they were in your previous home. Favorites will help your pet feel comfortable and at-home more quickly.

Minimise anxiety: Think of ways to ease your pet's transition. Some animals will feel best being near you no matter what you're doing. Others will do better in a crate away from the moving madness.

Pet them: Give your dog or cat the attention they are used to. Cuddle with them, feed them, take them out on walks and play with them as much as you can. If you spend time with them, they will instantly forget that they are in a new place.

Be patient: Allow your pets to take their time sniffing around their new digs. Don't rush them. Don' t force them to play with you if they don't feel like it, it can make them aggressive.

"Of course there are other ways also to calm them down if they get too aggressive in a new home. You can take them to veterinary doctors in that locality where they will be given some injections. These injections will bring down their anxiety by stabilising their hormonal levels," says Dr RT Sharma.

How to introduce them to any new pet or family member at home:

Give them time to settle in first. Once they are familiar and comfortable in the new home, then take them out to introduce to new people. Or just leave them with your relatives till you settle your stuff in the new place then bring them to their new home and gradually introduce them to new pets, persons or children in the family.

How long does it take for a dog/cat to adjust to a move:

It varies from one animal to another. For some it is just a matter of a couple of weeks but for others it can take upto 8 weeks. Let them take their own time to familiarise with the new stuff and soon they will come back to their normal tongue-out-smiling-self.

things one should keep in mind while going long distances along with their pet:

Let us not make a fuss about it. Dogs and cats are just like children, hence they need supervision and care.


While travelling with them, there are only a few basic things that you should keep in mind:

Book a room at a pet-friendly hotel:
Some hotels have a policy against keeping pets (dogs and cats) in the premises. So plan in advance, and search for a hotel which ensures the right treatement for your little compadre.

Plan your trip in advance: Pack snacks for your pet and yourself. Long travel hours will surely make your pet hungry and all the pet owners know that we cannot just feed them anything. So think about the travel time in advance and pack your stuff accordingly.

Keep food away the day you are leaving: You don't want them dirtying up your seat, right? So, the day you are leaving, don't feed anything to your cat or dog at least three-four hours before departure.

Cover seat with plastic wrap: While travelling by car, cover the back seat with plastic sheets so they don't harm the material with their nails or by any other means.

So, the next time you have to shift to a new place, don't fret about the most integral member of your family. Try and understand their needs as an individual because no one can love you like your four-legged friend and because an average pet is a nicer companion than an average person.
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