Summer is the time of year when families pack it in, hustling to clear out of the old place and settle into a new one before the school year begins.
Moving is tough on families, pets included. Animals always know when something's amiss, even if they can't understand exactly what's changing, or why.
The key to moving pets is to keep them secure before and during the move, and settle them safely and quickly into a routine after. Start by ordering ID tags with the new address and phone number, so you'll have them securely attached to all collars when moving day arrives.
Cats are a particular worry at moving time because they form a bond not only with the people in a home but also with the home itself. Because of their mobility, it can be hard to keep them around the new home long enough to realize that this is where the people they love will now stay.
The family dog is a bit easier to deal with: Put his leash on and drive him to his new address. Show him his new, warm home and the securely fenced back yard. Unless the dog is a high-jumper of Olympic caliber, he'll stay put while he adjusts.
Not so with free-roaming cats. The cases of cats returning to their previous homes aren't at all rare for people who move short distances, and the instances of cats disappearing forever are just as common for families moving a great distance.
Confinement is essential when moving cats, keeping them safe while they become used to their new territory and make it their own. Bring your cat inside, if he's not already an indoor cat, before the movers arrive. Set him up in a "safe room" -- a spare bathroom is ideal -- and leave him be with food and water, his bed, a scratching post, litter box and a couple of favorite toys while the packing and moving is under way.
The cat's ride to the new home is best undertaken in a carrier, especially for the animal who rarely sees the inside of a car. (If you don't have a carrier, buy one: They're inexpensive and keep your cat safe in any unusual circumstances.)
At the new home, work the "leaving home" procedure in reverse: Put the cat into a "safe room" for a few days -- until the movers are gone, the furniture arranged and most of the dust settled -- and then allow him to explore on his own terms after things calm down a bit.
Quickly re-establish a routine; pick a time and a place for feeding, and stick to it -- for all pets. Spreading extra litter boxes around the house is a good way to prevent problems; you can gradually reduce the number of boxes after you're sure your cat isn't picking unapproved places to go.
If you've been thinking about converting your free-roaming cat to a house-dweller for his health and safety, moving to a new home is the perfect time to accomplish this. In your old home, you'd be constantly listening to your cat demanding to be let out into the rest of his territory. In a new home, he hasn't established any territory of his own yet, and you can make the new home his only turf by keeping him inside from day one.
If you don't want to convert him, keep him inside for a couple of weeks, until he seems relaxed. You can introduce your cat to the new yard by accompanying him on short tours with a harness and a leash, but in the end, you'll have to take your chances, open the door and hope for the best.
PET TIP: If your new home was previously occupied by a family with pets, spray the premises for fleas before you move in -- you'll never have a better chance to get into every nook and cranny.
CYBERLINKS: The Veterinary Information Network's KidZoo page (http://www.vetinfonet.com/kidzoo/) is geared to educating children of all ages about exotic animals. The site has animal sounds for downloading, from crickets to velociraptors, and a quiz matching paw prints to the animals to which they belong. There are also links to some of the best zoological sites on the Web, including the home pages of the San Diego Zoo, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.
Gina Spadafori, the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," is affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international on-line service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or e-mail to Giori(at)aol.com.
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