Growing up, I was no stranger to moving around. Though I was practically born and raised in Aiken, SC, our family lived a short time in Colorado and Washington State and has lived in over nine different houses, apartments and townhomes. Since the time I moved out of my parents’ house, I’ve personally moved nine times between my time in Aiken, Charleston, and finally, back to Aiken. This brings my grand total to a whopping eighteen moves in 27 years.

This most recent move, my husband and I moved out of our first home and into our (hopefully) forever home – YAY – but this time, moving was particularly exhausting. Between sorting through your life’s things, collecting boxes, packing, taking off work, moving, unpacking, and getting used to your new space, moving is a stressful (yet exciting) time. Throw two cats and a dog into the mix and you have yourself anything but a fun time.

Our eldest “child,” Anakin, has been with me through seven of my personal moves, so he knew the drill from the first time I brought boxes home, but Luna and Ozzy have only known my husband’s and my first home. Luna is already a skittish kitty and Ozzy is an 80-pound, separation-anxiety mess already, so we knew we had to take extra precautions to make them feel safe and give them time to acclimate to our new home.

During our first few days in the house, the cats would only come out from under our bed at night to eat and Ozzy peed on our new living room rug, as well as cried every time we went outside without him. After about a week of giving them time and space, I’m happy to say they have made themselves right at home (meaning pet hair on every square inch of our new home). However, this whole situation had me thinking of all of the animals that come to the shelter because their owner is moving or because the animals exhibited destructive stress behaviors after a move.

Though we love our companions, the stress of moving can take our attention away from them. It’s important that if you are moving or are considering moving, that you plan ahead and keep your furry friends feeling confident. Here are some tips to help keep you and your companions as stress-free as possible during the big move:

First, I’ll give you some insight into Logan’s and my plan, which we based on our own research. A few weeks before the move, we started bringing boxes home and packing leisurely. This helped the animals get acclimated to the idea of there being boxes around and living in a changing space. Before we packed the majority of our stuff and moved, we took Ozzy to be boarded at a familiar place so he wasn’t involved in the hustle and bustle.

The day of the move, we kept the cats in our basement, a quiet space with familiar smells, so they couldn’t escape while we were going in and out. After taking our two truckloads of stuff to the new house, we set up a good bit of our belongings so there wouldn’t be too much chaos when the animals arrived. We brought the cats over first and let them explore the space for the whole night, before bringing Ozzy home the next day. This gave the animals time and quiet to understand their new space separately.

We made sure to take enough time off of work to be with the animals their first few days and my husband and I took turns running errands so they were never home alone. Though we didn’t move with much of our old furniture, we tried to keep as much of our old stuff that held familiar smells to place all around the house, which provides amazing comfort for your companion. We also let all contractors that needed to do last minute projects know to make sure we were home before they came by and we established a new routine as quickly as possible.

Between keeping our animals in a calm environment during the move, keeping familiar smells, limiting strangers coming in and out and establishing a routine, we were able to keep the transition as smooth as possible. However, there are many other amazing tips that can help your own pets during their transition:

Prior to moving, make sure your pet’s microchip and I.D. tag are up-to-date with the new address in case they get lost or escape. Keep your pet’s stuff in the same spot until the last minute and pack them up last. Give your animals extra love and comfort during the process. Get them used to their carrier before moving. Spend time on the floor with your pets, so your smell can be sensed on their level. Talk to your vet about anti-anxiety meds. And, remember, our companions feed off of our energy. Be sure to keep your own calm (or fake it till you make it).

If there’s one way to wrap this all up, it’s this: Plan ahead. Be patient. Give them time. It’ll all be worth it as you embark on this new journey with your loving companion by your side.

An Aiken native and self-proclaimed cat lady, Claire Roberson is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Communications Director, working in marketing, grant writing and media correspondence. She attended College of Charleston, where she graduated with a degree in Nonprofit Business and interned with Charleston Animal Society, the leader in No-Kill South Carolina. When not working, you can find Claire hanging out with her 18-pound Maine Coon mix, Anakin.