What are “normal” signs of stress associated with my pet’s travel?

Do you know the signs of stress for your pet? Even more so than humans, our pets are often set off-balance when it comes time for a major life change such as a move. During conversation, pet parents often tell us, “It’s like they know we’re moving!” Well, as much as I hate to break it to you – they DO know it!

While we have many different dimensions to our lives, our pets’ lives are pretty one-dimensional and revolve, literally, around us. We have a million things to think about and to occupy our time. We work hard at our jobs, have children, school, friends, hobbies, etc. Meanwhile, our pets have but one concern in life: Us. They spend their days watching our behavior, know our moods and habits, and chances are they sensed the change in YOU the moment you learned of the upcoming move.

This being said, it shouldn’t come as any surprise if your pet starts acting “strange” before you even begin packing boxes or put the house on the market. Whether the upcoming changes are the result of positive or negative events in your life, there is always stress. That tension is immediately evident to your pet. As soon as they sense something is changing, their own stress may begin manifesting in a variety of ways.

So what are “normal” signs of stress?

Again, like people, this will vary from one pet to another. If you have multiple pets who normally get along and are best friends, they may suddenly start “picking” on one another and fighting. They may become clingy and needy – requiring extra time and attention from you during this time. You may notice a withdrawn or depressed pet, or a pet whose “waste elimination habits” suddenly change. Increased fur loss is also a normal sign of stress for many animals, as is a loss of appetite.

On the flip side of that coin are the stories we hear from pet parents who had negative experiences the last time their pets were transported by a “professional” pet transport company. “Last time, she got so upset she ‘messed’ herself!” Dogs and cats do NOT like sitting in their own excrement and will do everything in their power to avoid sharing their own space with their waste. A pet who is provided the proper opportunities to eliminate waste during travel will NOT soil themselves. They may still refuse to use the litter box or take advantage of potty breaks, but soiling themselves is a sign of DISTRESS, not stress – and is a very good indicator of a poor caretaker. If someone presents this as “normal,” be VERY leery of entrusting your pet to their care! Something is seriously amiss!!

Additionally, extreme lethargy is another indicator that your pet is not receiving proper care.

During pet transport, the number one cause of lethargy is poor temperature control – pets left in a hot vehicle. While those lacking knowledge of proper pet care may think your pets will be okay “for a few minutes” while they leave them in the vehicle to run a personal errand or take a meal in a restaurant, the fact is that our pets are extremely delicate and fragile and extreme temperatures can put them into a state of life-threatening distress in a very short time. Often a matter of just a few short moments.

In summary: Yes, pets get carsick. They may refuse to eat. Yes, they get cranky and snap at one another. You may notice more fur than usual is being shed. Yes, they may refuse to take advantage of potty breaks/opportunities. But a healthy animal who is given proper opportunity to eliminate waste will NOT typically soil themselves. A healthy pet may get bored during travel but will perk up when they see their parents again. Lethargy is a warning sign that your pet is in distress – not normal stress. Heed the warning – your pet’s life may depend on it.



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