Several big events have happened lately that have affected my dog and cat. First, my husband and I hosted his family for dinner on Christmas. Then, we road tripped to Kentucky to visit some extended family. Finally, we moved to a new apartment.
All this happened in the span of three weeks! That’s a lot of chaos to deal with. And as a pet parent, it was my job to help my furbabies through those moments of interruption.
Tip 1 – Remove pets from the situation
When we had about 15 people over on Christmas, the living room and kitchen were very cozy. Both kids were curious and wanted to know what was up, but they handled the situation in very different ways. Murphy was an intensely excited ball of fur and wanted to jump and play with everyone, no matter the age. He tried to herd people by nipping at their ankles and pants, forgetting every ounce of manners I’d drilled into him thus far and completely ignoring any commands I gave. When the youngest child in the family arrived, Murphy rushed at him to say hi, getting his wet nose right up in that poor kid’s face, and that was when I decided this was too much for Murphy (and me). It was great that he wasn’t stressed and anxious because that could be dangerous, especially with kids around, but his excited behavior was on the opposite extreme of the behavioral spectrum and he could easily hurt himself or someone else with his happiness. Murphy was crated in another room while food was out and presents were unwrapped, giving him time to calm down and the humans space to enjoy the holiday.
The cat, on the other hand, did not handle this situation very well. She was curious about everything and everyone, but instead of selecting a perch out of the way to observe her domain, she chose to sit in the middle of the chaos on a dining chair. She swiped at anyone who tried to touch or move her and may have even hissed a time or two, which is definitely not normal behavior for her. I rescued the family from her more than once, taking her to her kitty tower, where she would promptly jump back down. Animals really don’t know what’s good for them, and it’s our job to help them. As much as she wanted to know what was going on, she wasn’t happy about it, so I also moved her to another room with some toys that she likes to play with on her own.
Tip 2 – Know your pet’s limits
The following weekend we spent in Kentucky with my side of the family. Murphy is a trooper on roadtrips, so he happily came along and got to play with his doggie cousins for a few days. When he plays with Pepper, she knows when to stop playing and how to get Murphy to leave her alone. Unfortunately, these other dogs couldn’t get Murphy to leave them alone; he would keep trying to tease them into playing. This meant a lot of time on a leash so we could control him and calm him down when the other dogs were tired.
To make up for that, we did not sleep at the family member’s house where all the dogs were staying. Instead, we rented an Airbnb house nearby. Not only did Murphy have plenty of space to run out his extra energy and sprawl around with his favorite chew toys for a bit, but we also got some much needed quiet time to recharge for another day of family socializing (we love it, but it can be exhausting!).
Tip 3 – Enlist help
Sometimes you just can’t be there for your pets, and when that happens you need a backup plan. We realized on a Friday that we needed to move that weekend and suddenly we had boxes everywhere, a U-Haul truck rented, and professional movers contracted. Hubs and I were both focused on packing quickly and moving things around, and when the movers came doors would be open for long periods of time as they carried out furniture. It was just not a good time or place to have pets around trying to play in the boxes or run through doors.
Luckily, we have several people nearby who are familiar with our pets’ needs! I always check with them prior to hiring a petsitter service or using a daycare, which could lead to a different kind of stressful situation. Our roommate had no problem keeping Pepper in her room for a few hours, but if she took on Murphy, he would still want to come out and be with us and need walks, putting him in the way of the movers again. So I called up my parents and they were willing to babysit him at their place for the day. This worked out great: Zach and I didn’t have to worry about a stranger taking good care of the very needy puppy, we could leave the doors open without fear of a cat escaping, and not having to keep Murphy engaged allowed us to pack up more quickly and get the job done in a few hours instead of a few days!
Now, having people who know your pets and what they need requires them spending time with your pets beforehand. So while we asked for help short-notice, we had already introduced our pets to them and let them spend shorter amounts of time together before asking for full days of babysitting. We also live close to family and have a roommate, which many people don’t, so if you need to hire a service, do your research and find someone with good ratings, happy previous clients you can talk to, and pets of their own. Take the time to get to know them and for them to know you and your expectations regarding the care of your four-legged kids, so that when you do need someone short notice, you won’t have to worry!