Moving House with Pets

It’s difficult moving house. The packing, cleaning, huffing and puffing and then the unpacking and associated dramas at your new home are as stressful for you as they are for your pets.

For us, there’s a bit of fun involved and happy expectations of a new life beginning. For pets is often not that much fun because cats and dogs are territorial beasts and the re-establishment of new territories can be complex and ‘worrying’ for them.

What Problems Will You Face?

The problems your pets may face are:-

  • Conflict with other pets in the new territory
  • Escaping and roaming
  • Establishing new toileting routines
  • Separation-related issues

Conflict with other pets in the new territory

You are likely to be moving into an area where the neighbours already have established pets.

That means your pets are going to be the ‘new kids on the block’.

Watch for any conflict at the fence-line such as excessive barking and ‘fence running’. Introducing your dog to the neighbour’s dog is a good idea and it’s often best to do that in a ‘neutral’ territory such as the street.

If you have cats, they will need to be confined to your new home until they have settled in (many permanently confine their cats indoors) but even if they are confined indoors, watch for conflict at the windows if your neighbour’s have cats that are allowed to roam because those cats may already ‘own’ your backyard as their territory if the previous owners did not have cats.

More information:

Escaping and roaming

One of the most dangerous problem you will face is that your dog or cat will escape from your new house and become lost as it is not familiar with your new surroundings.

For dogs, this means that you must examine the fences of your new home in detail to ensure they are dog proof. Any deficiencies should be repaired.

If you need to construct a fence, a chain mesh and pipe fence is the standard type of dog fence, and is probably the cheapest. A picket fence makes a good dog enclosure, however, dogs often get their paws lodged between the pickets at the top of the fence. This is very dangerous but can be easily prevented by covering the gap between the top of each picket with a horizontal paling, running the entire length of the fence.

The best dog fence by far is a solid wooden fence. Just make sure the horizontal beams do not become a ladder to help the dog climb the fence.

Stopping your cat from roaming through your fences after the move is more difficult. Cat enclosures can be constructed and are available commercially.

Alternatively, keep your cat inside the house and endeavour to ensure it is totally familiar with its new territory. This can take from a few days to a few weeks.

The priority for most cats is to eat and sleep, so work on these aspects of your cat’s new lifestyle first. On the cuisine side, feed the cat small tasty meals four to five times daily. This will give it a ‘fun focus’ associated with its new eating spot. Let the cat hunt for its food by leaving small amounts of cat food in several locations or by scattering dry food over the floor in the laundry or a secure deck.

On the boudoir side, take some familiar article of bedding from your old home, complete with daggy bits of cat hair, and leave that in what you feel is likely to be the cat’s favourite resting spot. Let your cat set the location and place the bedding in that area.

Allow your cat to perch on furniture near an outside window so that it can view its new territory, without getting out just yet.

1.Establishing new toileting routines

For dogs, the routine is a three-step process:-

2.Establish a toilet spot
Make this in a convenient spot in the garden but not too far from the back door at first – a garden bed is often ideal.

3.Make it smell a little like a dog’s toilet
If you can collect your dog’s faeces and if possible its urine and ‘stock’ the new toilet spot with those odours, the odours will give a clearer message that this is the spot to use. However you don’t want a foetid mass of muck so have a ’24 hour’ replacement cycle.

Then train your dogs to use that ordained toilet spot
That’s achieved by taking the dog to the toilet spot many times per day using a command such as ‘Do Wee’ to indicate the action needed. Reward any response.

For cats, the routine is:-

  1. Establish litters trays in pairs – one of those pairs should be in your preferred location.
  2. Have pairs of trays in at least three locations
  3. Test two different litters – one in each tray (don’t presume you know which litter your cat prefers)
  4. Eventually move the trays to your preferred location

Separation-related issues

When dogs move to a new home with their owners separation-related issues are quite common. Us humans usually take a week or two away from work to make the move easier and commotion of that period is really confusing for pets but very full and mind-blowing.

Then you back to the 12 hour grindstone and the pet is home-alone, anxious and worried.

That’s when howling, escaping and destructive behaviour often occur.

Solving separation anxiety is complex and there’s more information on the link below but a summary is:-

  • Provide a comforting Den – dogs sleep at least 50% of the time
  • Provide a boredom relief and enrichment
  • Use pheromone therapy – Adaptil for dog and Feliway for cats (see below)
  • If the anxiety is profound see your veterinarian – homeopathic preparations or medications may be needed

Settling Pets into Your New Home

There are several things you can do to settle your pets into their new home and that includes:

  • Making you home ‘smell like home’
  • Using pheromones
  • Strategies for allowing the pets outside
  • What to do if your are not moving far

Making Your Home Smell Like Home

To settle cats into the home, try rubbing a warm damp towel over your cat’s body and especially around its face to remove some of your cat’s scent.

Then rub the towel with the scent onto prominent surfaces around the house such as on corners of furniture and on doorways. This marks the new house with the cat’s scent and helps the cat to realise that your new house is its home as well.

That process is not so important for dogs.

Pheromone Fun

For dogs, the Dog Appeasing Pheromone (Adaptil) and for cats the pheromone Feliway, are an easy way of making the transition. Pheromones are scents released from animals that travel through the air and have dramatic effects on the behaviour of other animals of the same species.

Adaptil and Feliway are now produced synthetically and the joy is they come as: plug-in diffusers that are so easy to use; for dogs, as a collar containing the Adaptil Pheromone; and for cats, a spray.

The use of pheromones can quickly settle cats and dogs into new homes and is one of the prime reasons for implementing pheromone therapy.


Releasing the Pets

Releasing dogs into the garden is easy but cats are more difficult. One method is to place puss in a cage of some type in the garden. A cat transport cage is suitable but a dog crate is better.

Place the cage or crate in a shaded spot of the garden and let the cat view its surrounds. Don’t leave it unattended though.

If this is done for a few minutes daily for several days, the cat can get its bearings more easily. The same can be achieved by placing your cat in a harness and walking it around the yard.

To prepare puss for its release, train it to ‘come’ for its meal. At dinner time, bang a cat food can or your cat’s food bowl with a spoon as you call your cat’s name. Then, when you plan to release your cat, do so just before dinner time. If the cat slinks off, it is more likely to return when you bang the food bowl and call its name.

In case they stray, be sure you have name tags on your pet’s collar before they are released and of course, your cat and dog should be micropchipped.

Moving Near

If you are moving only a short distance away, rather than across town, you can have additional problems with your dog and especially your cat. It is common for dogs and cats to return to their old home if they escape.

Securely confining your cat or dog is one way around this problem.

However, for added security confuse your pet by taking it to a boarding kennel or cattery, some distance away, for a week or so. When your pet is then taken to your new home, it will hopefully be disorientated enough to not try to get back to your old abode.

Lastly, if you are moving into a new area, you need to know about local dangers.

Visit your local vet and ask if snakes, ticks, fleas, toads and worms are common in your area. Also ask if the viral diseases parvovirus and canine cough are seen regularly.

After that, sit down with a cuppa and a pet or two and enjoy your new home – you deserve it!