Many of our clients end up hiring us more than once for help with moving their pets. Due to a particular job or just a love for adventure, they find themselves needing to relocate every few years and, of course, need to bring their pets along with them.
Mac and Bubba are getting ready to move for the second time with us (they've lived in Michigan, Mexico, and now they're off to Japan), and their owners have been amazing about passing along fun and informative pet travel details. We couldn't let such great info go unshared, so we asked them to divulge a few particularly helpful tips and stories to the rest of the pet travel community.
There is some truly top-notch advice here about how to settle in with pets in a new country and how to prep your pets for a relocation. Read on to hear all about Mac and Bubba's globetrotting adventures!
What are your tips for helping your pets prepare for and recover from a big move?
At this point, both Mac and Bub are pretty seasoned travelers.
I've had Bubba (an 8-year-old tabby cat) with me long enough now that when boxes arrive at the house, he knows what's up. I can't say he's a fan of the whole process, but I can say he's all the better about it because I calmly keep him in the loop.
What I'm saying here is that I talk to my pets. Don't pretend you don't do this too. If you care enough about them to look into a pet relocation service, you almost certainly have assigned a voice to them in your head with which they respond back in your conversations. Bubba has always sounded a bit pompous and pious; so entitled about his automatic litter box that you almost want to pinch his cheeks at how adorably wrong he is.
Point being, your pets know your voice: it's common and familiar to them. This proved crucial on our way to Mexico, particularly as there were a few things I was unprepared for in taking Bubs as my carry on.
I had to take him out of his carrier and carry him through TSA, and they asked me to take his collar off as well. He had no identification on his neck for a few minutes. I tried not to act scared as I clutched him like a bear-trap. As we traveled through the Detroit airport, we passed through the "Whale-Song" tunnel. If you're not familiar, it's an art installation between two gates that features a light show and whale-song recording. This, for a cat, is TERRIFYING. When we landed, the quick pressure change resulted in Bub's immediately emptying his entire bowel... from both ends*... I had to rinse him out in the airport bathroom sink before we went through customs, because of the stink.
The notable and important part of all of that was that talking to Bubba through all of it not only kept him calm(er) because I'm familiar and he trusts me, but it helped me keep my head on straight, too. And in a few of those instances, he relied on my soothing, cooing voice to calm him enough so as not to dig his tiny dagger-like cat claws into my shoulders and leave permanent nerve damage, thus forever ruining my killer tennis game.**
*While I felt bad for the people who were seated near us because... holy smell, Batman -- I can say it made going through customs REALLY easy because... holy smell, Batman. They didn't want to deal with him so I got buzzed through pretty quickly.
**I'm really bad at tennis, but you get the point.
Obviously, talking to your dog is a great idea too (Mac, the 5-year-old Dober-mutt, has an inner monologue that sounds quite a bit like Dug from Up). Dogs love the attention, and they want constant reassurance that they get to come along for the ride. I've never seen Mac happier than when PetRelocation brought him to our front door in Mexico, he saw my face and realized HE GOT TO COME ALONG!
What I recommend most about dogs in particular is teaching your dog some cues in the native language. Here's the thing; Mac is a ridiculously silly, snuggly dog. But he's also rather gigantic, and his Doberman genes are pretty visible in those waggly eyebrows of his. A large portion of our Mexican friends were legitimately frightened of our dog and his breed's stereotypes. But it was really fun to see that melt away as soon as we'd say "Mac, Dame Cinco!" Showing your new Spanish-speaking amigos how they can ask your dog for a high-five in a way they understand. Now he's learning Japanese for the same reason. (In case you were curious- high five: "O-Te", or "hand, please.")
Above and beyond all of that, the number one thing I recommend before your move, is to learn about the culture you're going to and what that means for your pets. Find a RELIABLE SOURCE for this information -- I can't tell you how many Americans very confidently informed me that my dog was going to be abducted and turned into tacos... and now how many tell me Bubs will become sushi. Which... I mean come on, it's not only ignorant, it's just plain offensive (I will also confidently report that you absolutely CAN drink the water in Mexico).
Mexican and Japanese people keep pets, and those pets are well loved, just in a different cultural understanding. Within the industrial city of Mexico where we stayed, if you keep a dog, it is almost certainly purebred. It usually lives outside, and it's fairly uncommon to teach them any tricks or take them for walks. Cats are pets that no one really go out to purposely adopt, but happen in a more "a stray cat had kittens in my yard. Now I have cats." Again, this doesn't mean they're unloved. I've seen Mexican friends frantically drive to a market to find kitten-milk in the middle of the night because the kittens in their garage needed it.
Anytime I walked Mac somewhere, someone would enthusiastically show me a cellphone selfie of them and their dog. Bubba ended up with his own celebrity status among the housekeeping staff at a hotel we stayed in because he looked like Garfield and he's friendly. More than once I'd come back to the room after working out to find six or seven housekeepers cooing over him or playing with the feather wand.
Point being, once I knew where our friend's thoughts on pets and expectations started, it was a lot easier for me to assuage misconceptions and let them know just how Mac and Bub were a little bit different.
What are the biggest misconceptions about relocating with a pet?
The biggest misconception is relocating with a pet is not doable. It TOTALLY IS doable, and it's totally worth it. Help is recommended: PetRelocation (specifically the ever-lovely Sarah) has helped me with 1.5 moves now (next move in January is already underway with preparations), and she was kind enough not only to help me get the boys from point A to point B, but also helped with finding pet care resources like veterinarians, where to buy the right brand of dog/cat food, and there have even been a few times where she's helped me translate the names of vaccines or flea-preventatives. I probably could have stumbled through some of that with my limited Spanish skills, but there's something to be said about the extra confidence boost a level of expertise will give you as you pave your way in a new country.
Your pets are so beyond happy for the opportunity to stay with you, because you're who they know and love, you're who adopted them and took on the responsibility of taking care of them, and you're what give your pets a sense of home. Critters are remarkably adaptive to environment, but they are loyal to their people. And let's be honest, I wouldn't be able to call anywhere home without them.
In conclusion; keep in mind that no one is going to abduct or eat your pets, in any form of regional culinary delicacy. Try the tacos and the sushi, the curry and the papusas, because none of them are made out of Fluffy or Fido, and it's going to be the most delicious thing you've ever put in your face.
Thanks to Mac and Bubba's owner for this insightful (and entertaining) information! No one said it was easy to be a devoted pet parent, but clearly it's a lifestyle that has its rewards.
One last thing: Here's a video of Mac -- it's the first in the "Mac Does Something Awesome" series (here is a link to the others). What a cool pet family!