Moving house is a stressful time for the best of us so no wonder pets can find it incredibly confusing. Most people have experienced their dog watching them forlornly with sad puppy dog eyes as you pack a suit case or your cat giving your movers resting bitch face as they attempt to slide past in the hallway. If you’re like my family growing up you’ll forget the cat and Dad will have to go back and get her, sans carry cage and deliver her to the new house covered in scratches and requiring a cold beer and first aid kit. So how can you make it less stressful for both of you? We’ve got some top tips for you!
Before you start packing up…
Consider whether your pet should be home for the packing process. For some pets even the packing of boxes is stressful and they might feel more secure at a friend’s house or a boarding facility. On top of that movers are likely to leave doors and gates open so you don’t want Fluffy escaping just before go time. If you think moving week will be all too much for your pet consider housing them elsewhere for the duration of the move. Collect them once you are settled into your new place and most of the boxes are packed away.
If you are concerned about your pet’s stress levels for the move please seek further advice from your vet as there are additional medications and behavioural modifications that may suit your pet.
Pheromone therapy is a brilliant natural way to reassure your pet. For cats, Feliway comes in a spray (for spraying in their carrier or bed) and diffuser (that plugs in to a powerpoint) and for dogs Adaptil comes in a spray, diffuser or collar (that lasts a month). With no side effects you’ve got nothing to lose and it’s a great simple way to help put your pets at ease. I recommend you start using the pheromones before the boxes come out and continue it until they are settled in at the new place.
As much as you think your kitty might happily sit on your lap in the car, they won’t. My Dad has the scars to prove it. Cats should ALWAYS be transported in a good quality cat carrier. Now here’s our most important tip: make sure the carrier is introduced well before the date of transport. Leave it in the main space they live in and frequently toss treats or even feed your cat in it. Put a nice snuggly towel in there so they feel comfortable and use a Feliway Spray if you have it. This will ensure they are not frightened of the carrier and instead associate it with positive things such as food. On moving day, ensure your cat is locked inside the night before transport is required and confined to a single room with no escape routes. Hopefully then you’ll have no trouble at all popping them in the cat carrier.
Make sure all pets are secured comfortably in the car. Use seatbelts and harnesses where necessary. When you get to the new place ensure your pet is secured before letting them out of the car (i.e. cats in carriers, dogs on lead). Reassure them as you enter the house.
Long haul trips
Long car trips can mean vomiting dogs or howling cats. Plane rides can also be stressful and sedation isn’t necessarily the answer as it can alter their equilibrium and have cardiovascular effects which are increased at higher altitudes. For all of these issues your vet can help! Medications are available to reduce stress and nausea and a stress-free travel plan can be implemented to ensure your four-legged friend arrives in one piece.
Create a secure environment
Great you’ve got them to the new place, so now what? Ensure the house (or yard) is secure and release your pet. Allow cats to come out of their carrier in their own time. Give them plenty of time to explore, sniff, wee etc whilst they get used to their new surroundings and reassure them if they need it.
Dogs are excellent at finding the one escape route your backyard has. Be sure to check it thoroughly before their arrival and even then supervise them closely as much as possible once they arrive. We often have stray dogs come in within 48 hours of moving house because they’ve taken it upon themselves to explore the new neighbourhood. So escape-proof that fence!
Keep your cat indoors full time for the first few weeks as they become accustomed to their surroundings. Consider the risks of letting them out at your new home. Is there main roads nearby? Are there lots of stray cats around? Are they likely to kill an abundance of wildlife?
If you’re moving to a smaller place your cat may need to get used to living indoors or your dog may need to get used to a smaller yard to play in or even a patch of artificial turf on an apartment balcony for doing their business. Never fear, they DO get used to it. This is where Pheromone therapy and persistence pays off. Your cat might sing you a terrible tune at 3am in the hope you’ll set him free into the big wide world but stay strong!
Don’t forget their microchip details
The overwhelming majority of pets that come through our doors as strays have out-of-date microchip information. It is essential, BEFORE you move that you contact the NSW Pet Registry to update your pet’s details. There is even a section for comments so you can make a temporary note about moving house. This way if your pet does escape, they hopefully can make it back to you fast.
Visit the Vet
If you’ve moved to a whole new area you’ll likely need a new vet. Get your pet’s full medical history transferred over from your previous vet and drop in to the new vet to fill out a new client form and get your pets on record. The staff should also be able to advise you on any additional issues that might be of concern in the area such as paralysis ticks. This is a great opportunity to sus them out, see what they stock and what their staff are like. Hopefully you’re impressed.