Colorado State Offers Advice to Clinton and Bush Families on Ways to Help Their Pets Overcome Moving Anxiety

President Clinton and President-elect Bush may be able to speak to the fears of a nervous nation, but what about the emotional anxiety experienced by the presidential pets during the move to and from the White House?

Dr. Julia Brannan, veterinarian with the Argus Institute’s Animal Behavior Wellness Program at Colorado State University, has some advice for both families on the best ways to minimize the trauma of moving experienced by family pets.

"Any time an animal experiences changes in home life, the family can expect a certain amount of stress and anxiety," Brannan said. "This can manifest itself in a variety of ways: excessive grooming, a change in appetite, a change in behavior. A change in behavior could mean expressions of fearfulness, aggression or the inability to stay still."

Pets will be much more needy at this time. Once the family begins to pack boxes and bags, see strangers such as movers come in, anxiety levels rise.

If the pet is traveling in an unfamiliar manner, this too will elevate stress.

"If the pet is accustomed to car or air travel, this won’t be a serious problem," Brannan said. "But if this is the first time the animal has flown or spent long periods in a car, it would be good to consult with the family veterinarian and ask about medical management for stress and anxiety."

Once the pet arrives in their new home, it is important to confine them to one area of the new house, such as a bedroom or a kitchen for a couple of days, which will give them a feeling of safety.

"This is especially true for cats," Brannan stressed. "Provide them with food, water and a clean litterbox and keep them in the bedroom or the bathroom, allowing them time to get used to the new smells, the new space and allow time for furniture and routines to become a little more settled." Over the next few days, they can be allowed into an increasingly expanded area until they have become accustomed to their new home.

"Give them the benefit of time and a little leeway for ‘accidents.’" Brannan said.

"Even the best-behaved pet may experience a mistake here and there, and the family should be a little more understanding with the pet for a few days."

For these accident situations, Brannan recommends that the housekeeping staff at 16 Pennsylvania Avenue become familiar with special enzymatic cleaners.