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Moving house with your pet

Moving house can be a stressful time for all of us, but for pets, who don’t understand what is going on, it can be traumatic. When Battersea Dogs and Cats Home carried out a survey* of over 1,100 pet owners, nearly half admitted that their biggest concern about moving house was how their pets would react – that’s more than double the number of people who were worried about forgetting their new keys!

Here are some helpful tips on how you can minimise your pet’s house-moving stress.

  1. It may be best for your pet if it is confined to one room during the packing stage: allowing it the run of your home when there is so much upheaval might make it even more anxious. Conversely, animals can sense something is happening and might be tempted to run and hide in a favourite spot in the garden or at a neighbour’s.
  2. Make sure your pet has all its favourite toys and bedding and, once you have moved, don’t wash its bedding for a little while, so that it has some familiar smells to go with the unfamiliar, new ones. If your pet is not used to travelling in a carrier, put the carrier in its living area for a few days before you go so it becomes more familiar to your pet.
  3. One of your pet’s fears will be that it isn’t coming with you, so give it plenty of attention and reassurance before, during and after the move.
  4. Both dogs and cats may try to return to their original home following a move. To prevent that happening, it may be necessary to keep them inside, or under supervision if outside, for a few weeks once you’re in your new home. It’s probably best not to let them go outside unaccompanied for at least a week, and at the very least, make sure they are wearing an up-to-date identity collar with your name and new address and phone number on. If your cat doesn’t protest too much, putting it on a specially designed cat lead while it gets to know its new outdoor surroundings is a good idea.
  5. On moving day, do not feed your pet for at least three hours before leaving the house. This will help with any unpleasant accidents in the carrier during the move!
  6. If you’re really concerned about your pet during all the disruption of packing up your home, you could consider putting it into a kennel or cattery for a few days, particularly if it’s been there before (when you’ve been on holiday, for example) and was happy there. Bear in mind that you’ll have to book your pet in some time in advance and you’ll need to make sure that all its vaccinations are up to date, as reputable establishments will ask to see a vaccination certificate.
  7. Cats especially do not enjoy being sedated as the lack of control makes them feel anxious. However, if your vet is convinced that that is the best course of action for your particular pet, the vet may prescribe a mild sedative for your pet.
  8. Dogs and cats (in particular) are territorial animals and moving into a new home will require your cat to mark out its territory. This can lead to conflict with other cats, which, for the most part, you should probably allow to take place. If you think your cat is getting into fights, check it on a regular basis for wounds.
  9. Pets like familiar routines, so try to stick to your normal routine for as long as possible in the lead-up to the move and then get back into it as quickly as you can in your new home, especially in terms of when they are fed and/or taken for a walk.

* Conducted by Tickbox.net on behalf of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, November 2005