Have you heard the phrase “COVID pet?” Those are the animals—mostly dogs—that many families brought into their homes during the pandemic.

It’s been interesting visiting homes for move estimates and to hear about owners’ COVID pets; I totally get it. I lost my Yorkie during the pandemic and considered adding another furry friend during that period myself, but decided the timing was not right for me. However, that was not the case for many people in NJ and NY, and we’ve been working on helping put pets on the move locally and regionally.

Furry friends and stress

I was talking recently with one of my customers, Nancy, who is moving again. She had her pup in a crate during my visit. I told her I am perfectly fine with dogs, but her answer was that he is a COVID dog and lacks social skills. Although very friendly, Nancy said, he gets anxious, jumps, and is very loud. I get that, too. Many of these animals only socialized with their families during the past two years, with little exchange with others (both two-legged and four-legged).

The anxiety, jumping, and barking—that’s how dogs often behave when they know something is going on—like when a move is happening. They get stressed, just as people do. They show other signs when they’re distressed as well, including:

  • withdrawn behavior
  • tucked tail
  • lethargy
  • excessive licking or drooling
  • biting
  • shaking

Moving stress and pets

Moving represents a major change for everyone in the family, including our beloved pets. It helps to prepare the entire family to minimize the stress that moving can create by making the right preparations. Pets can sense something is going on as their familiar settings are being disrupted with boxes and miscellaneous items throughout the house. My dog used to know something was up when she saw a suitcase. In addition, dogs are thinking, “who are all these strangers coming into my house?”

Keeping pets calm during the process

Animals are very dependent on routine and become anxious and insecure when their routine is interrupted. It’s best to maintain a semblance of normalcy during the move process by feeding and walking them at their usual times. However, you can start to make small incremental changes by changing the location of their food, bed, or litter box before the move. Their territory surrounds these areas and slight movements get them used to change (just make sure their favorite toys are around for comfort).

If you are moving your dog to a home close by, take a walk in the new neighborhood. if you are traveling to your new home a distance by car, take your bud with you on some short drives.

Moving day tactics

We recommend that during the move, you designate a room for your pet with all their familiar toys, water bowl, food, etc. Many cat owners use a bathroom for this purpose. This keeps everyone safe and calm. After all, you do not want animals walking around during the chaos; there’s too much going on with doors open, strange people and noises; this adds undue stress to your pet and creates safety concerns for both the pets and the movers. If possible, ask a friend or family member to watch your pet on moving day.

Getting them accustomed to their new home

Whew! The move is over and you are now in your new home!! Here are some suggestions for making your pets feel at home:

  • Unpack your cat’s or dog’s belongings first. Since they are territorial, setting out their familiar items provides them with a comfort zone and will speed up the adjustment process.
  • It is wise to pet-proof your new home, inside and out.
  • You may want to keep your pets inside the home as much as possible during the first week as they adapt to their new surroundings. This is especially true for inside/outside cats who have been known to travel back to their previous home. They will soon figure out that this is their new permanent home and get settled in.
  • Of course, lots of patience, love, and treats help!