For anyone who has ever endured it, moving house definitely has its stresses and your pet is no exception. A new house with new smells in a new place is enough to send even the most laid back dog into a spin. But how can we make moving easier on our pets?
On the move
Moving house can be a big deal for cats – much of their feeling of security and ability to relax comes from being surrounded by the familiar sights, sounds and scents of their own territory. It is also very stressful for humans too, so some thought and careful planning will ensure it’s a smooth move for everyone.
There are two options for moving day: booking your cat into a cattery or taking them with you as you move. Which one you choose depends on your own personal preference and your cat’s character, as every cat is different.
Booking your cat into a boarding cattery
If you book your cat into a boarding cattery for a few days, you won’t have to worry about them while you move. This may be the easiest solution for both of you, but you will need to organise it well in advance and make sure your cat’s vaccinations are up to date prior to moving.
Keeping your cat with you
This option requires a bit more planning. What follows is just a guide and, as everyone’s circumstances are different, you may need to alter parts of it to fit your own situation and your cat’s character. First, allocate a room in your home that can be cleared of furniture a week or two before the move. At the same time, decide on a room in the new home where you can put your cat when you get there. Ideally, both rooms should be out of the way so your cat can be left undisturbed for as much of the move as possible. About a week before the big day, start getting your cat used to ‘their’ room. Pop an additional sleeping place, litter tray, cat carrier and blanket in there. You could begin feeding them here too so they become really familiar with their ‘safe place’.
On the evening before the move, move their scratching post, toys and water bowl into the room and shut them in to make sure they don’t go missing. If you have more than one cat, make sure they have separate resources if possible, to help prevent further stress or any toilet accidents. If you know your cats don’t enjoy each other’s company, it may be better to give them separate ‘safe rooms’.
If you are taking your cat to a cattery, do this the day before if possible, so they are away from all the commotion. If they are staying at home, keep them in their room, feed them a small meal, make sure they have fresh water, clean the litter tray and shut the door. Once you are ready to leave, you can put them into their carrier and load them into the car along with all of their belongings. Your cat may be less anxious if the carrier is sprayed with the synthetic facial pheromones a few minutes before placing your cat in the carrier. If they are prone to travel sickness it is worth withholding food for three to four hours before the journey.
Once you have arrived at your new home, take them to their secure room with all their familiar bits and pieces. You might also like to give them something that smells of you, like an unwashed item of clothing, to help them settle. Provide them with something to eat, a box or something to hide in, and make sure they have a litter tray. Then close the door and leave your cat alone for a while – tell the removal staff and the rest of the family which room your cat is in so they don’t disturb them or accidentally let them out. You may also want to tack a sign on the door.
It is a good idea to keep your cat in their new room for a few days; it can be overwhelming to have access to the whole of the house straight away. Most cats will let you know when they are ready to venture further and it very much depends on your cat’s individual character. However, when you let them see the rest of the house, make sure that all doors, windows and cat flaps are closed – they’re not ready for the outside world yet! Make sure they always have access to their ‘safe room’ in case they feel the need to retreat.
It’s important that your cat feels relaxed and secure in their new house before exploring the great outdoors, if they are an outdoor cat. Some cats go missing shortly after moving house because owners have let their cats go outside too soon. These cats sometimes find their way back to their old houses. Cats should be kept indoors for at least three weeks to allow them time to regard the new house as a secure place and to build up a scent profile to help them find their way back.
If you do let them out:
• Do it just before a mealtime when they are hungry so you can call them back with their favourite food
• Open the door and step outside encouraging your cat to go with you
• Don’t pick them up – let them make the decision to go outside themselves
• Leave the door open so they can run back into the house if they feel insecure
• Only let them out for short periods at first – you can gradually build up the time they are out until you are confident they can come and go as they please
Before letting your cat out, make sure they are microchipped so if they wander off they can be traced easily. If they are already microchipped, don’t forget to change your address details on the central database when you move. Also, don’t forget to register with a new vet, who is likely to request your cat’s veterinary history from your previous practice. If your cat has existing health issues, you may wish to organise this before you move.
One thing that will ease the stress of moving for your dog is if you stay calm. Dogs are so in tune with their owner’s feelings they often pick up on our moods. So even if the removal truck hasn’t arrived yet if you’re antsy, there is a high chance they are too. In these situations, as hard is it may be, you need to keep calm not only for your own sanity, but your pet too. If you stay calm they will also feel calm. If your dog is comfortable at a friend or family members and has been there before, letting your dog spend time away from the stress of moving can help. If you don’t have a suitable babysitter for your dog, taking them for a long walk can relieve the stress of both you and them.
Sticking to Your Usual Routine
As you go about your day to day events, you will have an established routine that you will go about without even realising. Even though you’re moving and keeping a routine is the last thing on your mind, doing this will really help your dog feel more at ease. If possible, try to still find the time to feed your pet and walk them at the same times.
Dogs are really routine animals that feel most comfortable when the same events happen at the same sort of time each day. Keeping your pets in this habit before moving and then continuing it once you have moved will make the transition a lot more bearable for your pet. If you suddenly change the routine your pet could start to fret that something is wrong which can cause anxiety.
When Moving Day Finally Arrives
So now that the packing is complete and you are ready to start the task of unpacking in your new home, it’s time to take the journey with your pet. In advance, you need to have organised transport for your pet if you are unable to transport them with you. Then you need to decide if a travel crate or other equipment are needed. If the journey is long, make sure the route is planned out and you stop to offer your dog water and to stretch his legs and relieve himself if needed. Once you arrive at your new home, allow your dog time to settle and become accustomed to the surroundings before moving them straight in. Put their bed and toys in a quiet corner so they can have the familiar scent of their old home. Settle back in the routine as much as you can so your dog starts to feel at ease. Reassure them as much as possible.
Try not to leave your dog for too long on their own until they are fully settled as this can cause anxiety. Be aware that when some dogs become stressed from moving they can urinate to mark their territory and some will chew furniture or carpets. Keep an eye on your dog and their behaviour if you are worried about your dog chewing allow them to have a quiet corner and limit the furniture in that room. Provide your dog with lots of things that it can chew such as bones and toys. Keeping items of familiar scent close to your dog can also deter marking their territory.
Getting External Help if You Need It
If you have moved your dog before and you are really concerned, speak to your vet who may be able to discuss medical options to help ease the stress for your dog over this time. The pet market is full of items that claim to help reduce stress in your dog. Like anything, the results vary from pet to pet, but look at reviews and speak to other people who have had experience with these products, as some work for some dogs where as they don’t for others. There are certain anxiety drops, sprays and even diffusers that you can start to use a few weeks before you move with your pet.
No Matter What Any Type of Change Takes Time
Remember that for you, settling in can take a huge amount of time. Even you will find you keep switching the wrong switch for the lights or opening the wrong cupboards; adjusting to new surroundings doesn’t happen overnight. For your pet, the change is so much bigger and so much scarier. Allow your pet time to settle and understand that they may become quiet or not act quite like themselves. Just follow your routine, give them space and offer reassurance to help them settle in. Allow everything to happen slowly and allow your pet time to adjust and take everything at his pace.
If your pet becomes excessively subdued and doesn’t perk up after a few days speak to your vet or other professional to check your them if needed. Moving is ranked one of the most stressful events in our lives, so it’s no wonder that after that rollercoaster you and your pet might feel slightly out of sorts. The most important this is to stay relaxed and in your routine. Some pets need space, where as some like extra attention; following their lead is best and once you have all settled in, you will be happy families again!