How to keep pets safe when moving house

Moving house is a big deal. It’s exciting, yes, but it can be stressful too. And it’s not just the human members of the family that feel the effects of changing address - our pets feel it too. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a plan in place to ensure the transition is smooth for everyone. Here’s some expert advice to make your move a breeze.

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The first steps

Once you start packing, your pets will notice the changes happening around them. “Pets are often aware there’s something out of the ordinary occurring when people pack up their house,” says Mathew Churchill of Penrith Vet Hospital. “This is when some pets can become anxious.”

Keeping an eye out for a change in your pet’s behaviour is important in the early stages of packing up your home. If you notice they’re withdrawn or out of character, there are a couple of ways you can help. “When you’re packing, ensure there’s a ‘safe’ space in your home with your pet’s toys and bedding,” says Dr Rachel Kurtz of Quakers Hill Vet Hospital. Plus, maintaining your usual feeding and walking routines (for dogs) will help ease pets through the process.

Some pets won’t cope very well with the shift and may require a different tact. “If your pet is struggling, consider putting them in a boarding kennel or pet day care so they can enjoy attention and socialisation in a low-stress environment,” says Kurtz. “This is most useful with pets that have never displayed previous anxiety.” From packing, to moving day, to settling-in, anxious pets may benefit from additional help. “There are pheromone diffusers or collars on the market that help to minimise anxiety – Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats.”

The big day

Your home is packed and the removalists are ready, but should your pet be there on moving day? “The short answer is no,” says Kurtz. “Moving days are always stressful and pets pick up on this. Have your pet stay with a trusted friend or in boarding.” Remember the front door will stay open for packing the truck and many new faces will move through the house – it’s not an ideal situation for pets. “It’s often easier to move them in once you’re settled, both logistically and for ease of transition,” says Churchill. This is the same for small animals, as loud noises and movement may scare them. Having your pets stay somewhere else will give you one less thing to worry about on moving day.


Settling in

Just as you did pre-move, designating a ‘safe’ space for your pets in their new home is a good idea. Here they can have familiar things around them to help them adjust. Avoid washing their bedding until after a few weeks so the familiar scents stay strong. If your pet has been staying elsewhere for the move, why not give yourself a day or two to make headway unpacking? Your pet will feel more comfortable if they recognise the furniture.

During the early days in your new home, you may notice an ‘accident’ or two from your pet, which is normal behaviour. “Expect an adjustment period of two to four weeks,” says Kurtz. “Don’t punish accidents in the house during the adjustment period. These are very likely stress-induced and will resolve with time and patience.” Showing your pet that you are relaxed in your home will help them settle in.

When cats move house, it’s advised that they stay indoors for two weeks to help them adjust. Keep them in their designated space then slowly open up the rest of the house to them. Small animals should be kept in a quiet space so they are away from the hustle and bustle of unpacking. Dogs should stick to their usual walking routine, but be sure you don’t overload them. “Take things slowly,” says Churchill. “Your pets don’t understand why change is occurring, so don’t try and force them into new rooms or to meet new people.” Once you’ve made your first steps out together, introducing your dog to new people, places and pets slowly will be your best bet. Keep your dog on a leash for the first week while they become confident in their new surrounds. “Increase the duration of introductions over a period of weeks, you want to avoid ‘flooding’ the animal with too much too quickly,” says Kurtz.

Moving house with pets doesn’t have to be a worry, as long as you keep a close eye on their behaviour and make a plan of attack. In no time at all, your pet will love your new home as much as you do.

Don’t forget to…

  • Update your pet’s identity tags and microchip information with your new address.
  • Research your new vet’s location before your arrive.
  • Check the boundaries of your new home to ensure there are no spots for pets to escape.
  • Ensure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date.
  • Buy a suitable pet carrier if you’re travelling with your pet.