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Preparing Your Pets For The Move Into Senior Living

senior man cuddles his cat on the couch of his senior living apartment

Tips for how to move a dog or cat to a new home

If you’re like most people, you’d do just about anything for your pet. So, if you’ve decided to make the move to a pet-friendly senior living community, you’re probably interested in ideas for how to make moving with pets a smoother, easier transition. After all, moving is a big deal for humans, so it only stands to reason that pets have their own feelings on the matter. With a little advance planning and good preparation, you can help make the transition as stress-free as possible — for yourself and your pet.

Before you move

There are a few ways to prepare your pet for a move, but the key is to stay calm. Your pet feeds off of your energy so, if you’re stressed, they’ll notice and react accordingly. Try to keep your pet on the same schedule with feeding and walks occuring at the same time they normally do. Also, if possible, begin packing for the move in small increments well in advance, so your pet won’t be surrounded by a flurry of activity and thrown off by a sudden change in their environment. By making changes slowly over time, you’ll lessen the shock to your pet, and they’ll likely remain calmer in the days leading up to the move.If you’re moving a dog to a new home and the community is nearby, begin acclimating your dog by going there for walks. Since dogs rely so heavily on their sense of smell, introducing the scents of a new neighborhood before you actually move, and allowing your dog to become comfortable in their new environment, will make the transition easier.Both cats and dogs should be crate-trained and introduced to riding in the car before the day of the move, if they aren’t already. By desensitizing your pet to the crate, when moving day comes, they’ll already know the drill and feel more comfortable.

Moving day

Make plans for your pet to be somewhere else on moving day — both for their safety and your peace of mind. If your pet is roaming free around the house while people are moving in and out, they could be stepped on, injured or even choose to slip out the door to get away from what they perceive as chaos. To keep their stress levels down, you may consider containing them in a room or a fenced backyard. If you think your pet will still be agitated or stressed by all the commotion, consider boarding them at a kennel or vet’s office, or have a familiar friend pet-sit for the day. If you have multiple pets that are comfortable with being separated, it’s a good idea to do this so they won’t make each other even more anxious.

Traveling with your pets

No matter how you’re traveling, your pet will most likely need to be crated, which is why it’s a good idea to crate-train and desensitize them early. And whether you’re driving or flying, you’ll need to consider and plan for their needs in advance.


It’s always a good idea to keep your pet in its crate while you’re driving. While it’s difficult to secure a moving animal, you can secure a crate housing that animal. When you’re traveling at high speed on an interstate, you don’t want to risk a dog or cat attempting to crawl into your lap for a cuddle session — or worse, an agitated pet trying to get out. If possible, position the crate in your vehicle in such a way that your pet can see you. This will help them feel safe and remain calmer.Plan to stop for bathroom breaks at regular intervals to avoid pet potty accidents. These stops are also a good way to break up the trip and let everyone, including your pet, relax, stretch their legs, eat and hydrate.


If your new community is a long distance away, you may need to make arrangements to fly with your pet. Since policies on pets vary among different airlines, it’s important to do your research beforehand to ensure a smooth boarding process.Some airlines allow smaller cats and dogs to fly with you for a fee if they can comfortably fit in a crate under the seat in front of you. However, larger pets will almost always have to ride in the cargo hold for a higher fee. There are usually different regulations for certified service animals — another reason to check with your airline and make your plans early.It’s also important to note that you should not drug your pet before a flight. Most airlines will not allow drugged animals on board, due to serious health risks to the animal.

When you arrive at your new home

It’s no secret that cats and dogs are completely different animals with vastly different behaviors and personalities, so it probably comes as no surprise that they will have different reactions to a change in scenery. Here are some things to consider when moving with a dog or cat:


  • Dogs tend to acclimate to new environments more quickly. When you first arrive at your new home, give your dog a tour of the inside and outside while on a leash. Exploring with you by their side will give them a sense of security and confidence. Remember that dogs may try to “mark” their new territory, so keep an eye on them and make sure they have regular bathroom breaks.
  • While your furniture and boxes are being moved in, either keep your dog crated or tucked away in a quiet room where they can decipher the smells of their new environment.
  • Dogs often express anxiety through their eating and digestive habits, which makes this one of the best ways to monitor how they’re handling the stress of the move. If your dog suddenly has unusual symptoms, a veterinarian can guide you on the best techniques or medications to help them.
  • Try to remain close to home and with your dog for the first few days while you get settled. You can then begin leaving your dog alone for short lengths of time, increasing your time apart gradually as they become more comfortable.


  • As most cat parents know, cats can be more on the temperamental side. Cats will often try to disappear for the first few days, scoping out and sticking to the darkest, most private hiding places.
  • If possible, designate a room entirely for your cat and fill it with everything they need, like food, water, a litter box, toys and a scratching post. As your cat feels more comfortable and begins to leave the room, make sure you have another litter box in a permanent place for them to explore and become familiar with.
  • Many cats will eat very little during the transition and will avoid using the litter box. But rest assured, they will return to normal as they become familiar to their new home.
  • Just as with dogs, try to stay with your cat as much as possible for the first few days, and avoid visitors. Gradually lengthen the amount of time you are away, so your cat will become comfortable being alone in the new environment.

While moving with pets can be daunting, with love and support, your pet is sure to do just fine in their new home. At Freedom Village, we care about your comfort as well as your pet’s, which is why our pet- friendly senior living community will help make the transition as seamless as possible. With spacious apartments, beautiful grounds and scenic beaches nearby for leisurely walks with your best friend, we’re confident you’ll both feel right at home in no time.

To learn more about our pet-friendly senior living community in Holland, Michigan  — including independent living options and our variety of floor plans, simply call us at 616-422-7618.