Tips for moving house with your pet

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Moving house can be a stressful event with so many things to coordinate as well as getting used to a new space as your home. For your pet, this may feel disorienting and confusing, moving away from an environment that has been so familiar to them, their ‘space’ or ‘territory.’ Moving can lead to pets going missing, searching for their previous home territory, or they could exhibit behavioural changes. Here are some tips to help make the transition to a new home smoother for your pet.

Before the move

  • Suitability of new home. Check that the new home allows pets, that it is secure and has areas so that your pet can stay secure and won’t be able to escape. See whether there are safe areas for your pet to exercise. It might also be worth checking to see what dog walking parks, veterinarians and other dog-friendly areas are around in the local area where you intend to move.
  • Packing. Our pets are very good at picking up on changes in their environment, so try to keep their routine as normal as possible and try to leave packing their things until moving day. Keep some of their existing toys that will help provide a sense of comfort as they move into the new surroundings.
  • Introduce your pet to the new area. Before the move, you could start exercising your dog in the area.
  • Stay calm. Pets can detect stress and then become stressed themselves. If you stay calm, this may help your pet to also feel calm in the preparation for the move and beyond.
  • Travel to the new home. If there is a long trip to the new area of your home, ensure you have a travel carrier and get them used to this at least a few weeks before the trip. You can implement a positive reward-based training program whereby you gradually introduce them to the carrier and get them comfortable being inside.
  • New identification tag. Organise an identification tag with your new address, attach this to your pet’s collar before you move, and notify the relevant Animal Registry to update your pet’s microchip details.
  • Visit your veterinarian. If your pet has any health or behavioural issues, meet with your vet a couple of weeks before moving to discuss the move.

During the move

Keeping your pet with you during a move may help them adjust because they have you by their side. When removalists are onsite, keep your pet in a quiet room or crate, with ready access to water, so they can feel more secure and check in on them to ensure they are feeling ok.

If they’re not trained to stay in a crate, you may wish to leave your pet with trusted friends, family or a pet sitter for the day, or book them in at a pet hotel, kennel or cattery. This can limit stress for both you and your pet.

Remember to take familiar toys and bedding for your pet over to the new home.

Pack your pet’s belongings last. Do not wash bedding until a couple of weeks after the move, so they have something familiar smelling in the new house.

After the move

Unpack the essentials first, so when your pet first goes in, they can see familiar items in the unfamiliar home. To help your pets get used to their new environment, take them to each room to explore, one by one. Let them go at their own pace, making sure any potential escape routes have been blocked. Providing treats once they arrive may help to ease some anxiety and familiarise your pet with their new home.

Tips for cat owners

This process needs to be taken more slowly with cats, who are strongly territorial and likely to find any move quite stressful. Keep them confined for the first couple of days to one room filled with their familiar bedding, food and water bowls, litter tray and toys. After this, you can then introduce them to the rest of the house gradually, room by room.

Allow them to go outside for short periods of time to start with, and Greencross Vets says a good tip is to not feed them prior to letting them out so they will more readily come in for their food. Access to an outdoor escape-proof enclosure (a.k.a. "catio") is highly recommended for more opportunities for activity and stimulation for contained cats.

If your cat escapes your property during these early days of moving in, there is a chance they may become lost or get injured. Therefore it’s extra important to have their microchip details updated and be vigilant about not leaving doors open.

Tips for dog owners

You can let dogs explore the new property at their own pace, as long as no other animals or little humans are close by. Make sure the backyard fences are high enough, so they can’t jump over, are solid enough at the base so they are unable to dig underneath and are well maintained so they can’t break through. Supervise your dog at all times until you’re both comfortable with your new surroundings.

Final word

Spend as much time as possible with your pet to reassure them that you are not going to leave them alone in this new unfamiliar space to start with.

Try not to leave your pet alone in the new house for the first few days. Gradually build up to longer lengths of time alone, starting with small trips, allowing them a week to adjust.

In the meantime, here are some extra tips for a safe and smooth move.

  • Don’t let your pet outdoors without a leash until they’ve adapted to their new surroundings.
  • Try to keep the same routine as before and let them know where in the new home you want them to sleep, eat and toilet.
  • If it’s not too far, consider taking your dog to some of their favourite places after the move so they don’t feel like everything is different.
  • Vet Voice advises that if you’re moving into an apartment with a balcony, ensure there are no railing gaps that your pet could squeeze through, and closely supervise them while they spend time on the balcony. Pets can suffer catastrophic ‘high-rise syndrome’ injuries from falling off balconies, as they don’t always realise that there isn’t solid ground on the other side of the railing.
  • Update your address and contact information with your new council and pet registry.
  • If you have any concerns about your pet’s safety or behaviour during or after a move, contact your local veterinarian to discuss.

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