Top tips for moving house with a cat or dog

Moving home can be an incredibly difficult time – and if you add a cat or a dog into the mix then things become even more challenging.

It’s often stressful enough when you understand what’s going on, so imagine how it must be for your pet, who has no comprehension of what the upheaval is all about.

Their home is being emptied, there are strange noises, unusual smells and new people entering and leaving – and that’s all before you’ve actually moved.

However, there are various ways to help minimise the stress of moving house for your pet. Here are Petplan’s top tips to do just that…

Moving house with cats

* Firstly, you should ensure your cat is microchipped and has a ‘quick release’ collar with identification tag. This will help to ensure you are reunited with your pet should the worst happen and they get lost. Remember that once you have moved you need to let your microchip supplier know that you have changed address. There are many instances of cats getting lost and vets being unable to contact the owners because, in the stress of moving home, the details haven’t been updated.

* On the day of the move it’s a good idea to confine your cat to one room to minimise stress. If you have removal people, let them know that they’re in there so their disruption can be kept to a minimum.

Keeping your cat in one room also has the added bonus of allowing your pet to become more familiar with the furniture in there. Empty this room last and put the familiar furniture in your new home first – your cat will then view the space where this furniture is placed as a safe haven in a new home.

For the journey to your new home, cats will need to be transported in a pet carrier to stay safe and secure and, if you stop for breaks, don’t leave them alone in the car.

* Once you arrive at the new home, It’s a good idea to plug in a synthetic cat pheromone diffuser. These work in the same way as plug-in air fresheners and are a replication of the pheromone cats leave naturally when they are feeling comfortable in their environment. Every time a cat rub’s its nose against objects in the home, it leaves behind this pheromone to mark its territory. Even small changes in your home can upset your cat and prevent them from leaving this pheromone, which in turn makes them feel less secure and increases their stress. Synthetic cat pheromone diffusers may help calm your cat and prevent it from displaying unwanted stress related behaviours such as urine spraying or scratching the walls or furniture.

A soon as possible, confine your cat to one room with their bed, litter tray, toys, some food and water and keep them in there while the disruption is still going on. If possible it can be beneficial to have a member of the family in with them or visit them regularly.

When the move is complete, make sure the house is secured and then let your cat out of the room to explore. Keep a close eye on them during this period to reassure them if they display signs of stress.

* It’s advisable to keep cats inside for at least two weeks to become familiar with their new home. Only then should you gradually introduce them to the outdoors by opening the back door and going out together. Always leave the door open initially so that if something scares them they can run back inside.

* If your new place is only a few miles away from your old home then you may have problems with your four-legged companion attempting to go back. This is more common in cats than dogs, as they may encounter familiar routes which might lead them back to their old home. If you are moving nearby then let the new occupiers know that your cat may return and ask them to not encourage your pet in any way, as this would be confusing for them. They shouldn’t feed them, pet them or let them inside. They should simply call you so that you can come and pick them up.

* There’s not much you can do to prevent cats returning to their old home. This may go on for quite some time, but if you keep picking them up and taking them to their new home, then eventually they should settle in and this behaviour should stop.

Moving house with dogs

Dogs are usually simpler than cats during moving, as they see you as the alpha of their pack and will generally go along with whatever you do. However, there are things to bear in mind:

* As with cats, make sure your dog is tagged and microchipped.

* On the day of the move, confine your dog to one room. This will keep them stay safe whilst heavy objects are being moved and stop them from getting under your feet and causing harm to themselves or others.

* If possible, it may also be a good idea to have a familiar person (such as their dog walker or close relative) to take them out of the house during the packing process to minimise the distress.

* Once you’ve arrived at the new house, again it’s a good idea to keep your dog in one room to help acclimatise them to the new smell of the house. Leave them with some food, water, plus their bed and some toys which will offer some familiarity and smell of the old house.

* There are several things you can do for the first few days to help them acclimatise to their new surroundings. Take your dog outside regularly so they learn where the bathroom is. Dogs can be quite specific about where they relieve themselves so make a few extra bathroom trips a day and give them plenty of time to find places they are comfortable in.

* You should initially keep a close eye on your dog and try to accompany them around the house until they become used to their new surroundings. This will help keep them calm and reduce coping behaviours such as chewing.

* Choose your dog’s feeding and sleeping areas carefully and make sure you stick with them – dogs are creatures of habit and getting them into a routine as early as possible is important.

* During the first few weeks at your new place, keep them on a lead when going out for walks and, as soon as they build up confidence, you can let them run around local parks or other safe places.

* Although the risk is small, your dog may attempt to run away back to your old home. Let the new occupiers know that your dog may come back and, as with cats, instruct them to not encourage your dog.

Of course, the best way to ensure any pet feels comfortable in their new home is to treat them with all the love and care you normally do and create lots of fantastic new memories for your pet in their new surroundings.

Have you moved home with a cat or dog? What are your top tips to ensure a smooth transition? Let us know below…