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What to Do With Pets When Moving House

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 5 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
What To Do With Pets When Moving House

Moving house can be a stressful time for all – and pets are no exception. All the noise, confusion and upheaval, not to mention the presence of strange removal men and big removal trucks, can cause even the calmest dog or cat to panic and possibly injure themselves in their efforts to escape.

Even if your pets are not bothered by the disturbances, they may inadvertently get in the way of the movers and become a danger to themselves or others.

So for the safety of all concerned, make sure that you have thought out a plan of action before moving house which includes safe containment of your pets.

Safety First – Removing Your Pets From Danger

The safest thing to do with pets when moving house is to remove them to somewhere safe during the move. This is important for a number of reasons: first, some nervous cats or dogs may be severely traumatised by the noise and upheaval associated with most house moves, as well as by the presence of many strangers moving through their territory.

This may contribute adversely to any anxiety or behavioural problems they may already have and continue to have a lasting effect, long after the move has been completed – leading to additional stress and costs for the owner in treating this problem.

Secondly, pets can become easily frightened by all the noises and disturbances they do not understand and upon panicking, may bolt and try to escape. In the case of a cat or a dog, this could result in a traffic accident or in your pet getting lost – or becoming trapped inside or under pieces of furniture or appliances; in the case of birds and other small animals, this could result in serious injury and even death as they are usually unable to fend for themselves if lost.

Thirdly, some pets – even if not frightened by the disturbances – may become overly curious. Young cats, in particular, are prone to this trait. And in their attempts to “get involved” and find out more about proceedings, they could inadvertently hinder the movers and become a danger to themselves and others, for example, by getting underfoot and tripping people carrying heavy items or by becoming trapped and requiring rescue, thereby slowing down the work of moving house.

In addition, pets that are kept in cages, such as birds and small mammals – even if securely contained - may be accidentally knocked over and/or let loose in the general confusion and then you will have to suffer the additional stress of looking for them and recapturing them, not to mention valuable time lost from the move.

For all these reasons, it is best to move your pets to somewhere safe a few days before your house move and then to retrieve them once you have completely settled in your new house.

Where Can I Keep my Pets During the Move?

If your dog or cat is used to boarding kennels and catteries, then these are a good option. You know that they will be securely contained in a hygienic, disease-free location, well-fed and exercised, with professional care and possibly the company of other pets as well, depending on the policies of the establishment.

If your dog or cat has never been boarded and you have several months of advance preparation for your move, then you may want to consider boarding your pet on a trial basis (e.g., for one night), so that they can become accustomed to the idea and understand that you will return for them.

This way, when they are boarded during the move, this will not be a novel experience and will not come as a shock to them – on top of all the other disturbances associated with moving to a new home.

For birds and small mammals, enquire at your local pet stores as some may be willing to board your pets for a fee on a short-term basis. It may even just be a case of them looking after your pets overnight or during the day, while the move is going on, and you will pick them up at the end of the day to take them to their new home.

Alternatively, if you have trusted friends or family with the appropriate space and living arrangements, you may like to ask them to look after your pets for the duration of your move. This may have the added bonus of your pets being familiar with their carer, therefore making the temporary stay less stressful for them.

If you cannot remove your pets to another place altogether for whatever reason, then at the very least, have them securely contained and taken to a quiet spot away from the main areas of removal. Smaller dogs and cats can be securely contained in crates or cages, similarly birds and small rodents.

Large dogs may have to be safely tethered. All animals should only be left in the shade, with adequate water and shelter, and remain under supervision the entire time.

Preparation Before Moving House

Before the move, make sure that you have updated your dog or cat’s name tag (and any microchip details) with the new address and an up-to-date contact number. Make sure also that you have an up-to-date, clear photograph of your pet – in the event that it gets lost and you need to set up a search. In addition, have your veterinarian’s number handy in case of any accidents or emergencies.

Prepare all your pet’s equipment in a bag, ready for easy transport and also so that you can find things easily, should you suddenly need to use his leash or water bowl, for example. Have a small supply of its usual food and treats readily accessible, so that you can easily feed your pet during or after the move, when you’re settling into our new home.

If your pet is not used to being contained in a cage or crate, take some time in the weeks before the move to get him/her used to the situation. Use positive reinforcement (such as feeding your pet’s meals in the cage, giving it treats and food rewards when it enters voluntarily and stroking or praising your pet when it is spending time inside the cage) to teach it to associate the cage with good things and gradually build up the time it has to spend in the cage, starting from a few minutes and working up to a few hours. If in doubt, consult a professional trainer.

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