Both cats and dogs are creatures of habit. Their lives are usually built around routine and often times a change in this routine can be stressful or upsetting for your pet. Moving house with pets can definitely be a stressful experience - but it doesn't have to be! With a few simple strategies and some careful pre-planning, you can have a safe and smooth move, allowing you both the chance to enjoy your new home. Here are our top tips for achieving a stress-free house move with your cat or dog.
Consider your options
For cats, most people will choose to have their cat away from the home just before and during the move. Whether this means boarding them in a cattery, having them stay with a trusted friend or family member or even booking them into a luxurious cat hotel - most people will choose to have their feline friend safely away from the home. However, these options won't be right for everyone. It is important to think about your own cats personal needs and what you think they would be most comfortable with.
The same goes for your dog. Although dogs will generally cope better with being around during the move, it is also worth considering whether your dog would be happier in a kennel or staying with a friend or family member. If you have multiple pets we think boarding them is generally the best option.
For both cats and dogs, a good strategy is to allocate a room in both houses which can be cleared of furniture and assigned as their safe space. You should start this process around a week or 2 before the moving date. Ideally, this will be a room where your cat or dog usually sleeps or eats and should be kept as undisturbed as possible. Gradually begin to move your pet's belongings in there, adding in their bedding, food bowls, toys, litter tray etc. Begin feeding them there so they see the area as theirs. The night before your moving date, close your pet in their room so you know where they are and that they are safe. For dogs, we also recommend thoroughly checking the garden of your new house to make sure it is safe and secure for your dog to be let into when you make it there.
Spend some time with your pet in their room before the mayhem of moving starts. Play with them, feed them and change their water bowl and litter tray for cats. Once you have done this, close the door behind you. Make sure that everyone knows that the room is out of bounds, a sign on the door is a helpful reminder for everyone. When you are ready to leave, load your pet's belongings into the car, pop them in their carrier or secure them safely and you’re ready to go. We recommend packing their belongings last as it will make them feel more at ease to have their things around them. If your pet doesn't travel well, we recommend talking to your vet about anti-nausea or anti-anxiety medication.
At Your New Home
When you arrive, take your pet to the designated safe room. Bring in their belongings straight away, give them fresh food and water and for cats add a box or two for hiding in. A room with a high point, such as a cupboard is perfect as cats are known to climb high in order to feel secure. It can also be comforting to add in something with your scent so your pet feels more at home.
For dogs, scent is incredibly important and is a key part of the way they identify an area as safe. Making sure to bring in blankets and cushions that smell like home will really help your dog settle in. Rubbing a soft cloth around your dog’s face, and then onto furnishings and corners at their nose level will help spread their scent around the house and make them feel safer.
Once you have moved, it is important to help your pet settle in. For cats, it might be a good idea to keep them in the assigned room for a few days until they feel a little safer. Allow them to get familiar with the house at their own pace. If possible, let them explore certain areas first, so that they can navigate their way and mark their scent. The biggest worry for most cat owners moving homes is allowing their cat outdoors. The key is to be patient - do not to rush the process. Your cat needs to be happy in their new indoor surroundings before they are allowed outside. Three to four weeks is generally considered a good timeframe as this allows them to build up a scent profile so they can track their way back.
When the house is secure, allow your dog to explore the new environment in their own time. Many dogs find it reassuring to have their owner close by, so leading your dog around the house can often be a good option. Even the best behaved dog may have a toilet accident as they get used to their new home, so always be patient with your dog and don’t tell them off.
For both dogs and cats - make sure to register with a new vet and change your microchip details!
Just remember, the move is just as stressful for your pet as it is for you, so try to be as patient with them as you can as they don't understand what is happening. If you need more advice, Vets4Pets has some helpful guides on traveling with your cat, traveling with your dog and much more.