Cats and dogs are creatures of habit, so whilst you find moving house stressful, it’s doubly so for them. With a little preparation beforehand, however, you can minimise their upset. Here are a few tips:
Preparing to Move
1. Don’t break with routine if you can possibly help it. For instance, keep to the same walk and feeding times so that even if other household activities change, the most important things in their lives stay the same.
2. Most cats hate their carriers, baskets, or crates as they usually mean a trip to the vet. Making the carrier a part of everyday life instead of a hidden instrument of torment can help. Do this by getting it out a couple of weeks before the move. Put familiar bedding inside and cover it with a cloth or towel to disguise its shape. Tasty treats just inside will also encourage your cat to venture in on its own; some advise putting the cat’s feeding bowl in there, but that’s up to you. The idea is to reduce carrier-induced stress so you don’t have a fight when it’s time to leave the house for the last time.
3. Introduce packing boxes early on, and pack gradually if possible so there’s no complete upheaval all at once through the house. Cats and dogs pick up on human stress, so taking things calmly and slowly keeps you relaxed and prevents pets picking up on your stress. As cats tend to enjoy playing in boxes, they’ll probably think you’re doing it just for them.
• Update ID tags and microchip details with the new address.
• Get up to date photos of pets just in case they go missing
• Ask your vet about anti-sickness pills if your pet gets travel sick and you’re moving some distance
• Take cats for short drives in the carrier if they’re not used to travelling
• For very nervous cats, consider a stay in a boarding kennel for a few days while you move.
Is there a neighbour or family member who could look after pets? Cats tend to make themselves scarce whenever there’s lots of bustling activity, and moving furniture and boxes definitely counts in that category. If you can get someone to look after the cat while you’re attending to loading the removal van, you won’t have to worry about his or her whereabouts.
If this isn’t possible, put the carrier (which should now be a familiar friend rather than an object of terror), along with food, water, litter tray and the cat into a quiet room and close the door. You could choose the bathroom or any other room that’s already empty. It might be an idea to put a notice on the door to stop people going in and accidentally freeing the cat.
Dogs tend to be more tolerant as long as they can see their owners, although if your dog is excitable or prone to running into the road you should take precautions to keep them safe. Pause now and then to reassure the dog with petting or a quick game. They’ll know something is afoot, and may not be too happy, so you may wish to take similar precautions to those taken with a cat. Some dogs, however, get anxious if left in a room on their own, especially if they can hear lots of activity and voices from the other side of the door.
The New House
Both cats and dogs need extra time to get used to new surroundings. With cats, do the same as when you were leaving the old house by locking them in a room on their own while you’re unloading the removal van. You can either leave them in the closed carrier or open the carrier door to let them explore the new room, but be extra vigilant that no one lets them out. You’ll need to keep them indoors and under supervision for a week or so while they settle in. If you let them outside too early, they may run away to try and find their old home.
Dogs too will feel unsettled for a few days. But as they take more of a cue from their owners on how they should be feeling, if you stay calm and maintain their regular routine as much as possible, you’ll help them settle in faster. The first few nights may be a challenge when the dog is away from you (assuming it sleeps in a room on its own), but familiar bedding will help soothe anxieties.
As a final word, forgive any ‘bad’ behaviour or accidents without scolding. Moving house is an upheaval pets just don’t understand, so give them extra attention and reassurance, and all should be well in your new home.