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Moving house with a pet? Minimise the stress now

Moving house with a pet now or in the near future? It’s always better to be prepared.

moving with a pet sydney

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler

Even the most well adjusted family pet can have difficulty coping with the idea of moving. Cats, dogs and pocket pets seem to have an innate ability to pick up on change in the air. While you deal with boxes, bags, issues with the kids, shifting between properties and the issues like cleaning and yard work, the last thing you need on top is a stressed, unhappy pet.

That’s why we’ve put together our top tips for moving house with a pet with the least amount of stress

Getting ready before moving day

Moving house with a pet is a process that begins well before moving day. Your family pet is pretty intuitive. Once you start moving things into boxes and off to the council pick up and charity store piles, they’re likely to start feeling vulnerable and even worried. There are also a few pet related things to consider that might need special attention along the way.

Here are some of the ways you can reduce the stress on you and your pet as you get prepared to move house:

  • Keep routine as usual as possible. This means walks, feeding times and set times that you play and exercise should be made a priority during the moving period
  • Add extra cuddles and pats to the equation. The more affection you give, the less stress you’ll both experience
  • Ensure your vet work is pre-prepared. A visit to your existing vet is incredibly helpful. It means you can check on vaccinations to make sure your pet isn’t at risk at the new place and/or ensure that kennel cough vaccinations are up to date if they have to board for a period of time.
  • Preparing to travel a large distance? If you are changing cities or state, it also helps to have all your pet’s records ready for the next vet to take over. You may also want to talk about medication such as sedatives to help reduce the potential for stress and/or car sickness support. If you are flying, you may also need to provide documentation that your family pet is healthy and vaccinated to the airlines ahead of time. All of this should be discussed with your vet well before moving day
  • Keep your pets things in full view. It’s OK to pack summer items if you are moving in winter or vice versa. But please be mindful that if you pack up your family pet’s favourite outfits, bedding and toys too quickly, it may add to their stress
  • Make sure your pet’s ID and microchip are up to date. Some family pets can become disorientated and run away during a move. Like us, they have the urge to take flight when under stress. So ensuring your phone number is on their collar and that you can be contacted if they are picked up by a vet or shelter that scans their microchip is super important
  • Ensure any temporary accommodation is pet friendly. You might need to stay with friends, family or at a hotel between moving out and receiving the keys to your new place. Always make sure you check their policy about pets before you arrive. That way, if you need to organise to board your pet instead, you have the appropriate time to arrange something suitable

The more you stick to routine and offer comfort, the less stressed your pet will be.

Be compassionate towards odd behaviour

Moving brings out the stress in anyone, including our furry and feathered friends. Moving house with a pet is twice as stressful as the pet will feel your stress and will be stressed for their own reasons too.

When our family pets are stressed, sometimes they do strange things. You might find the cat is sitting on a piece of furniture or on an item it thinks you won’t leave without. Or that the dog is acting up more than usual. Some pets even regress a small amount to unwanted behaviours.

While this might be frustrating to us, it shows that your pet is under stress. They are making sure you don’t leave them behind or expressing their feelings.

Exercising patience and positive affirmations for the desired behaviour and ignoring the undesired habits will help during this time.

To us, we’re moving house. We know where we will end up. But to your family pet, it looks like their safe space is changing and shrinking without a reason. And they won’t know about their nice new home until they get there. So a little “walk a mile in their paws” goes a long way.

Things to remember on moving day

Moving day can be especially stressful for your family pet. It can also become problematic because a lot of pets will want to stick close to their owner and get under foot. Or they may take the opportunity to run away from all the stress, potentially getting lost in the process.

Here are a few things you can do to reduce the stress and potential for accidents and straying on moving day: 

  • Introduce your pet to the new property before moving day. If you get the keys on Friday, pop over that night with your dog on leash to show them the new home. You may also try this with cats in their cat carrier. It came help them see where things have gone and relieve some of the stress. Judge the situation based on your pet’s personality
  • Consider leaving your pet with a trusted family member or sitter. Moving with a pet doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be there for the entire event. If you can place your family pet in familiar surroundings with a pet pal they know and love, they’ll be none the wiser until the work is done. If you are moving during the week, it might be a good time to book them into Fox Valley Animal Hospital for some doggy daycare!
  • If your pet is with you during a move, place them and their bedding and water and food in a closed room. That way, your family pet is safely housed in a room and unable to get under foot or make a run for it. You can also include their travel carrier in the room so they are used to it for transport
  • Move their things last. This goes for the pet as well as their toys, bedding, outdoor enclosure and other belongings. You can even leave these items in the room with them as you move so they know where their things are

Transportation for pets

On moving day, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when transporting your pet.

  • Make sure any pet transportation is pet friendly. Never assume that transport is pet friendly in Australia. Most of the time, it isn’t. So if your pet is not travelling with you in the family car, you’ll need to book them into a proper pet transport company. Airlines require paperwork and road transport should be pet specific to ensure their safety
  • Avoid travel sickness. Moving house with a pet can cause sickness in even the most travel savvy pet. If you have been given medication to sedate your pet or treat nausea, follow the instructions given. Also skip any morning meal and feed your pet 12 hours prior to the time they will be moved
  • Use appropriate means to transport your pet safely. House cats and pocket pets in approved pet carriers. Use dog seatbelts to transport dogs (you can buy them from Fox Valley Animal Hospital)
  • Lots of treats and lots of praise. Travel is stressful on any family pet. So make sure you have plenty of treats and positive things to say at the ready
  • Ensure frequency toilet and water breaks. Family pets have delicate tummies and the stress may make them want to go to the toilet more than they usually would. They may also pant due to stress or excitement. So if you are travelling for an extended period, make sure you carry water and a bowl with you for easy access. And offer them water as soon as you arrive

Getting your pet ready for arrival at a new home

Your family pet will take time to adjust to new surroundings. You’ll need to judge their recent behaviour and stress levels against what would make your pet happy when considering their personality.

We’ve written about this before for holiday destinations, so make sure you read the pet relocation and adjustment advice included in that blog.

Also remember that your pet may take time to feel like the new home is actually home. So setting up their bed and safe spaces straight away can help. So too can treats, pats and praise. Be mindful they may attempt to test boundaries and escape, so keep a watchful eye and contain particularly nervous pets to specific areas of the house until they settle.

Need more advice when moving with pets? Whether you’re moving away from Wahroonga and Sydney or you’re soon to be part of the neighbourhood, Fox Valley Animal Hospital is happy to help! You can call on us when you’re moving with a pet during every stage of the journey.

Give us a call on (02) 9489 4805 – and if you need to stock up on treats, transportation items and advice, drop in to see us. We’re located at 107 Fox Valley Way Wahroonga.

About the Author

Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.