How to Plan A Pet Move And Create a Pet-Friendly Arrival Experience in Your New Place
Published on 2023-10-31
A guide to making your new home welcoming for your furry family members.
Moving house is ranked in the top three most stressful life events we go through – only divorce and the death of a loved one are ranked more stressful. That stress isn’t just felt by humans but also by pets. At least we know what is going on and why. For dogs and cats, the whole experience and upheaval is confusing. Getting through the moving process and then growing accustomed to a new home is always going to be a challenge, but if you follow these tips, the stress will be kept to a minimum for all concerned.
Ensure all vaccinations are up to date. Also, update your pet’s microchip details with the new address. This is usually a straightforward task that can be completed online or over the phone. There might be an administrative fee for making the change, it varies from one pet database to another.
If possible, it is strongly recommended that you book your pet into a boarding kennel or cattery for the day of the move. Getting all your belongings loaded onto the truck and then unloading and reassembling furniture at your new home is stressful enough without also having to worry about where the dog or cat is. Book them in for two nights, dropping them off the day before the move and picking them up the day after.
Of course, this is only really practical if you are moving a relatively short distance – perhaps up to 150 miles. Any further, and you will not want to have to make another round trip to collect your pets, so they will have to travel with you. Going forward, we will assume this is the case and the pets are moving with you on moving day.
If you have a cat or cats, shut them inside the house the day before and keep them in. Take this precaution even if your cat “always” turns up in the kitchen for breakfast each morning. Your home will be in a state of upheaval ready for the move and the cat will sense something is in the air and might well decide to stay out of the way even if it means foregoing breakfast!
Pack an essential moving kit
Prepare a kit of pet essentials ready for the move. For dogs, it is quite easy, you’ll just need to have food and water at the ready. For your cat, place familiar bedding and toys in the pet carrier. Your cat won’t be in any mood to play, but the familiarity of the items will be of comfort.
If your journey will take several hours, you can get a cat travel crate that incorporates a litter tray. These are still surprisingly compact and will sit easily on the back seat of a car, with loops for the seat belt to hold them in place.
Other transportation considerations
Whether you opt for a carrier with an “en suite” or just a regular one, make certain your cat is secured inside it and cannot get out. Don’t be tempted to let the cat roam free in the car while you are driving. Many have done so and gone on to regret it. Here’s what usually happens. It all starts out fine with the cat on the passenger’s lap. Then the cat goes to explore and ends up under one of the front seats. It’s impossible to retrieve without opening a door to get down on your hands and knees – and you can guess the rest. Don’t risk the sight of Kitty disappearing across a parking lot at a service area never to be seen again. Keep him or her well secured until you reach the safety of your new home.
Transportation considerations are usually easier with dogs. If they are already accustomed to riding in the car or truck, the move will be just another adventure and they will be happy to be part of it. Having said that, not all dogs are seasoned travelers, and if this applies to yours, invest in a good quality crate or harness so that Pooch stays put and does not run riot in the car – not what you need when you are driving a fully laden vehicle along the interstate.
On moving day
Clear a room of all furniture so there is no reason for removals people to go in there and shut your pets in. If the room is lockable, all the better, if not, stick a big sign on the door reading “DO NOT OPEN DOOR. DOG / CAT INSIDE.” Make sure everyone knows not to open the door, especially children. Ensure the pets have fresh water to drink, and if you have a cat leave a litter tray in there.
Even if your dog is friendly, it is best to follow the above precaution. Moving heavy furniture out of a house and onto a truck can be awkward at the best of times, without the addition of a well-meaning dog trying to help by getting under everyone’s feet.
Creating a Pet-Friendly Arrival Experience
Your pets need to be the last out of the old house and the first into the new. Follow the same process of nominating one room as a secure area. Again, if this is a room that you can lock, then all the better, but if not, make sure everyone knows not to open the door, and put up your trusty sign again.
This will be a little more stressful for your pets, as it will be unfamiliar. Make sure they have familiar bedding and toys, and don’t forget the cat’s litter tray. Even if you bought a carry case with a litter tray, the chances are high that it’s still spotlessly clean and your cat “held it in” for the entire journey.
As long as they have food and water, there is no rush to let them out. Dogs typically settle in new places more easily, but nevertheless, help them to do so by keeping to a normal routine regarding walks and mealtimes as much as possible.
Getting your cat settled in its new home
As we mentioned, dogs are quite easy, and as long as they are around you and have familiar things like bedding and toys, they will usually settle quickly into their new home. Cats are a different matter as they are highly territorial. Initially, all they will be thinking about is how to get “home.”
Having said that, the presence of familiar things such as bedding, toys, the furniture you brought with you and of course familiar people being around will help the cat to settle in. Once the chaos of moving day is complete, furniture is in place and boxes are unpacked, you can think about letting your cat explore beyond the “safe room.” Keep all windows and external doors closed, and make sure all family members are on alert to keep them that way and to be careful when coming in or going out.
Your cat should not go outside until he or she is completely at ease in the new home. You will be able to judge this for yourself by the cat’s behavior, but it typically takes about two weeks. The objective is that when the cat first goes out to explore the garden, it will think of the house behind it as its safe place. If a car suddenly backfires or a dog starts barking behind the fence, we want the cat to turn and dash back indoors, not run off in the opposite direction searching for your old home.
Socializing with your dog
Speaking of dogs behind fences, your pets will need to get familiar with the new neighbors just like you will. Ideally, this should take place under controlled conditions, at least as far as your dog is concerned. On-leash is the order of the day.
Even if your dog is completely friendly with other dogs and cats, you have no way of knowing if they are equally placid and welcoming to a new face from out of town. If you can engage in social activities such as group walks to the park where dogs can run loose together that would be perfect. It will be an opportunity to get to know some of the human neighbors too.
A few words about smaller pets
If you have hamsters, gerbils or mice, you can usually move them without having to take them out of their indoor cages, so they will be less aware of the change in surroundings. The move itself can still be stressful, though. Make sure they have access to water and be mindful about temperature. For example, if it is very warm, be sure they have some shade and never leave them unattended in the car, they could get overheated quickly, just like a dog or cat.
Pets like rabbits and guinea pigs are a little more work. They will need a special carrier, a little like the cat ones we mentioned earlier. Don’t be tempted to move them in their hutch. That should be packed and moved separately. When you arrive at your new home, find a location for it that is as similar as possible to the old one – for example, if it was outside against a south-facing wall, try to place it in a similar place so your pets get the same amount of sunlight they are accustomed to.
Moving with fish
Fish are among the easiest pets to take care of but the most difficult to move! We could easily dedicate a whole article to moving with fish, but in brief, here are the points you need to remember:
- Never try to simply move the tank with the fish inside it.
- You need to move the fish, the tank, the water and the gravel from the base separately
- Do not feed the fish for 24 hours prior to the move. This reduces the likelihood of them regurgitating due to stress
- Transfer your fish into fish bags with tank water. Ensure you leave an air pocket above the water and ideally, double-bag to guard against leaks.
- Transport the sealed bags in a polystyrene fish transporting box.
- If the bags are big enough, different fish of the same species can be transported in the same bag.
- Decant as much of the remaining water from the tank as possible into clean containers with sealed lids.
- Similarly, scoop out as much of the gravel as possible into another container.
- Take the opportunity to give the empty tank a good clean using the dregs of the tank water.
- On arrival, reverse the removal process. Replace the gravel, then the water. As soon as any dust has settled, the fish can return to their home.
- Keep a close eye on them for a few days. It is best to restrict feeding to every two days until you are certain they are settled.
Make a plan and stick to it
Whatever kind of pet you have, moving house can be a stressful experience. However, if you plan ahead and follow the tips outlined above, you will go a long way towards keeping the stress levels at a minimum, both for you and your furry – or even your fishy – friends.
Make a plan well in advance of moving day, write it down and make sure the whole family knows about it – especially when it comes to things like keeping doors shut and restricting pets to safe rooms. Good luck!