As we recently reported, moving house is a stressful experience. In fact, more than two thirds of us rate it as the most stressful experience of all – more so even than a job change, a divorce – or even a bereavement! With so much to think about and stay on top of, and so much that can potentially go wrong, it’s perhaps unsurprising that we consider moving so stressful. But for pet-owners, the matter is complicated still further – as we must consider how to make the transition comfortable for both owner and pet.
If moving house is stressful for humans, who are at least roughly aware of what’s going on and why, then think how much more stressful it might be for a cat or a dog. Without warning, your life is dismantled; all of the furniture is suddenly removed, and you’re forced to occupy a small crate for hours on end before eventually emerging into a new and entirely alien environment.
Fortunately, moving house with one’s pets is a task that’s often performed (to varying degrees of success), and so there’s a sizeable body of wisdom about how best to go about it. In this article, we’ll examine the task in greater detail, discovering the problems that might arise along the way, and offering potential solutions.
Tips for Moving Pets to a New House
Animals are particularly sensitive to changes in their environment. Where possible, then, you’ll want to ensure that the move takes place as gradually as possible. Do a little bit of packing every night for several weeks, and start with rooms that your pet doesn’t normally spend any time in.
Just as you’ll need to register yourself with a new GP near your new home, you’ll also need to get yourself acquainted with a local vet. If your pet should be stricken by a sudden medical emergency, then you won’t want to waste any time researching where to go. Ask your existing vet if they’ve any recommendations, and ensure that any necessary medical procedures are brought forward to before the move. If your pet is due a vaccination, for example, then get it taken care of before you start packing.
One problem you’ll certainly want to avoid during the trip is the animal soiling itself in its container. This is an unpleasant experience, both for you and for your pet, and especially so if the trip is going to be a long one. In order to avoid this, take note of your pet’s routine in the weeks leading up to the move. If they eat at certain times of day, then try to slowly adjust theses times in order that feeding time comes at roughly the point you’re due to arrive.
Moving house with a dog
Dogs are particularly sensitive to the emotional states of their owners – they’re often more so, in fact, than other humans! It follows, then, that if you’re stressed out, your dog will become similarly so. For this reason, it’s especially important that you remember to keep your cool – if not for your sake, then for your pets! Here are some tips for getting organised and reducing your dog’s stress during a move:
- Keep your dogs in a familiar, safe room whilst you move furniture
- Pack the dog’s belongings like toys, bedding and water bowl last
- Plan your journey and schedule breaks
- Prepare new identification tags
- Update microchip details
The stress of the move can be compounded if a dog is left on its own shortly afterwards. This can in turn result in destructive behaviour and toilet trouble. If you’re unable to personally watch your dog for the first few days after a move, then try to get someone to pop in a check on them for a few hours in order to ease their anxiety.
Moving house with a cat
Many cats will be unfamiliar with their travel-cage, and so wary of it. And those who are familiar will associate the cage with unpleasant trips to the vet and the cattery, and so may be unwilling to venture inside it. If you anticipate these sorts of problems, then you’ll want to get your cat used to the cage long before the move – this will help them to avoid unnecessary stress during the move. Place it in areas they’re used to occupying – you might even leave a few treats in there.
Another problem might come after the move. Cats are natural explorers. But in the days and weeks following a move, you’ll want to curtail those instincts by keeping external doors closed, in order to give your cat a chance to learn where its new home is. Allow them a chance to look around their new lodgings, and acclimatise themselves to the new sights, sounds and smells. It’s during this time that your cat is at the greatest risk of getting lost, so be sure that they’re chipped – and, ideally, wearing a collar.
Moving house with fish
Thus far we’ve discussed how to move an animal that walks on land and breathes air. But what about pets that don’t?
Fish are perhaps the most challenging of all animals to move. Of course, moving your entire aquarium while it’s still filled with water is next to impossible – and attempting to do so will almost certainly damage the tank. You’ll instead want to place your fish in smaller containers, drain the tank, and then refill it at the other end before replacing the fish.
During this time, your fish will need to survive in small bags, which can be bought from any pet shop or specialist fish shop. The greatest danger to them at this time is not, as you might expect, starvation, but waste contamination; just a small amount of waste can be deadly in a small space like a bag. You’ll therefore want to avoid feeding your fish for at least twenty-four hours before the move.
You’ll need to ensure that your fish are able to breathe, while ensuring that leaks are impossible. This means securing the tops of your bags with rubber bands, and filling your bags just a third of the way up. If there isn’t enough air in the bags, then the water will not be properly oxygenated, and your fish will suffocate.
When moving, pack your bags in tightly – this will help to keep them from moving around during the trip. Place any spiny or carnivorous fish in plastic buckets in order to prevent them from piercing their bags.
What about the fish tank?
As well as transporting the fish themselves, we’ll also need to worry about the tank – without which they’ll be unable to survive in their new home. You’ll also want to keep the majority of the water you have stored in your tank – as its rich in the nutrients that your fish need to survive.
Suffice to say, moving an entire aquarium from one place to another is a considerable undertaking. If possible, you’ll want to perform this move separately from your main move. Be sure to leave breaking down the tank until the last possible moment, in order to minimise the time your fish spend in their bags.
Carefully skim around four-fifths of the water in the tank, and reserve it. The remaining fifth should be the water at the very bottom: remove this, as it’ll be full of waste. Then give the tank a thorough clean, keeping the ornaments preserved to one side in order to preserve the helpful bacteria that might have grown on them.
Moving considerations for other pets
Thus far, we’ve covered some of the more common pets. But what about the more exotic ones? Let’s consider a few of them.
Moving house with birds
Moving birds from one area to another involves much the same process as moving fish – except that it’s much easier, because you don’t have to worry about the possibility of your animals suffocating, or bringing an enormous body of water along for the ride.
Place your birds in individual, smaller cages if necessary. Be sure that they travel on an empty stomach, and that the cages are tightly packed so that they don’t rattle around.
Moving house with a rabbit or Guinea pig
Rabbits and guinea pigs are among the easiest pets to transport. If you have one of either species, then you may be tempted to bundle them into the same container – particularly if the trip is a short one. This, however, would be a mistake – as the RSPCA explain, rabbits and guinea pigs make poor neighbours, with the former having a tendency to bully or accidentally injure the latter.
Moving house with reptiles
One of the biggest concerns when moving a reptile is balancing the need for airflow with the need to keep the container secure – snakes in particular are extremely capable escape artists, and can easily remove themselves from their containers.
Reptiles are especially sensitive to heat, and so should ideally be transported while the weather is mild. Some, however, will require a warm environment at all times – if you’re moving house with a bearded dragon or other lizard, then try to keep the enclosure as warm as possible with the help of heat packs.
As stressful as moving can be – both for you and your pets – the experience can be made more bearable with some foresight, planning, and research. It should be noted that all pets are different, and some will be able to adjust themselves more quickly than others. As such, you’ll want to consult your vet about any issues that your pet might be particularly vulnerable to.