A guide to moving house with a pet

Moving house is complicated enough, without trying to explain what’s going on to a confused cat or perplexed pooch.

Disruption is never a good thing for animals – they love routine and their home is a haven for them, filled with familiar smells and noises, where they can curl up and hide if it all gets too much.  

Thankfully, there are some tried-and-tested tricks you can use to help your pet make the move to a new house, smoothly and with little fuss. Read on with our handy checklist:

Feline friends 

Cats moving home is always a worry because, unless you have a fully indoor pet, there’s always the worry they’re going to make off back to their old stomping ground the first chance they get.

Despite news stories of kitties travelling hundreds of miles on their own initiative, if you follow a few simple steps, you should be able to avoid this – making sure your cat gets used to their new surroundings and, soon, sees it as home.  

On moving day, put your cat and all their belongings including a litter tray (particularly if they’ve been used to going outdoors) into a single, quiet room in your old house. 

It is because they are very territorial that moving a cat can be tricky – so make sure it has familiar smells such as a favourite blanket. It may want the security of this environment in the new place, so make sure it can get into this room (e.g. your bedroom) in the new house, too.  

Put a big sign (or even a temporary lock) on the door, to keep everyone including the removals professionals out. Only remove your cat when you’re ready to travel – with it in its cat box. You won’t be upsetting the removals firm at all.  

Don’t let the cat travel in the removals van or free in your car – always inside the cat box in your car. Driving with cats can be difficult if it’s a long journey; offer a little food and water, and never leave a cat in the car while you go for rest stops. 

When you arrive, make sure the room that was your cat’s safe haven in the old house is unpacked and set up first. Shut the cat in again with all its favourite things, as well as food, water, bedding and litter tray, until the removals people have finished. You can sit with it if you want to and are free.  

Then, let the cat out to explore – making sure all windows and doors are closed. Cats should be kept indoors for a minimum of two weeks after your move. Once they are allowed out, make sure they can be identified via a collar and tag – and, ideally, a microchip with your new details (you don’t need a new chip, you can just contact the database and update it with your new address).  

If there are other cats visiting your garden, don’t make friends. Shoo them away to show your cat that this is their territory.

If you can, fit a cat flap so they can retreat indoors whenever they want to. Many modern cat flaps feature microchip recognition, meaning the flap only works for your cat, and can be closed when you don’t want it leaving the house. 

Cats can try to travel back to their old house, particularly if it’s nearby. Warn the new owners that this might happen and discourage them from petting or feeding it. You might have to fetch it back a few times before it gets the message.  

Canine companions 

Some of the same principles of keeping cats safe during a move also apply to dogs. On moving day, put them in a calm, safe, secure place in the house while all the toing and froing goes on. Unlike cats, though, you can’t just leave them; dogs will need a walk and a loo break. 

Leave in charge a single person with whom your dog is very comfortable. Dogs are social animals and feel safe around respected members of their ‘pack’, canine or human. Get that person to be in charge of walkies and the toilet – so you know how often the dog has gone. Temporarily suspend all the moving activity as the dog comes and goes, so it doesn’t get anxious about what’s going on.  

Keep the dog’s belongings with them as you travel and put them into the new house in a secure, dog-friendly area, so they can settle. It might help to gently rub a towel over your dog and wipe it along walls and corners, to help cancel out all the strange new smells and make the place a little more familiar.  

Let your dog explore their new home little by little, keeping all exits firmly closed. If you have a garden, check it over.

You’ll be used to all potential escape routes in your old place, but it might not have occurred to you during viewings that the secure iron fence is just perfectly spaced to let your pooch squeeze through. Take steps to plug any gaps before letting your dog roam your new property fully.  

Dogs don’t have to wait indoors like cats; most of the time this is because they’re walked on a lead. Take them for frequent walks, so they get out and about, and used to their new environment. Try to keep away from other, unfamiliar dogs which could be aggressive. 

Maintain the usual routines, but pay your dog a little more attention than you perhaps might normally – so they associate extra treats, walks, play and grooming with the new place, and so feel happier there.

It makes them much less likely to try to get ‘home’. Identification is still very important, though, so a collar with a tag is vital, as is an up-to-date microchip. 

Remember, these are actually legal requirements.

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