Guide to Moving House with Cats or Dogs – Tips & Checklists

30th April 2018
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Moving house is stressful for cats and dogs. Both cats and dogs enjoy familiar environments, so moving means losing the comforts they know and love. It’s natural to worry over how your pet will cope, but there are steps you can take to make the whole process go smoothly – the earlier you start, the better.

Here’s what you need to know to keep your pet feeling calm and secure during the moving process.



Moving House with Cats


The weeks before moving day

1. In the weeks before the big move, the most important thing you can do for your cat is stay calm. Cats are very intuitive and can sense your stress, so staying relaxed will give your cat security. Keeping a sense of normalcy around the house will help you, too!


2. Don’t disturb your cat’s usual routine. While you may be extremely busy, it’s important to keep to feeding schedules and avoid moving litter trays away. Take the same time over your cat as you usually do. Keep all disruption at this stage to a minimum. Leave your cat’s toys, treats and accessories where they are for now – the less change your cat experiences at this point, the better.


3. In the week or two before the moving date, place some of your cat’s blankets and toys inside the pet carrier you’ll be using to take it to your new home. Let your cat get used to the carrier. Let it explore the space without feeling trapped or pressured. Your cat won’t be so frightened of the carrier on move day if it seems non-threatening. It will simply feel like another familiar – and safe – space.


4. Make sure you buy a pet carrier – if you don’t already have one – that’s easy to clean in case of accidents during the journey. Avoid cardboard boxes for transporting your pet – this will turn soggy and be less stable if your cat spills water or urinates. Stick to wire, plastic, wicker basket or mesh. So long as it’s big enough to fit the cat, it doesn’t have to be too large – cats enjoy smaller spaces.


5. It’s important that you pack rooms slowly. Work around the rooms one at a time so your cat has time to adjust to the boxes and empty spaces. Rushing to pack everything up all at once is very stressful for your cat.


6. Cats crave security and safe spots where they can relax. They get anxious, just like we do. Make sure that your cat can still get inside its favourite room(s) while you’re packing. Try not to block favourite spots in rooms with boxes or packing, either – for example, napping places – and don’t pressure your cat to leave a room before it’s ready.  


The moving day

1. It’s now time to start removing your cat from the home with as little shock as possible. Put your cat in a room, preferably a favoured room, while all the moving and handling is taking place.


2. Make sure all the doors and windows are locked and secured. This not only keeps your cat out of harm’s way, but it saves you the stress of worrying where it’s gotten to – and it limits your cat’s exposure to all the change outside. Make sure to put your cat in a room where it will not be disturbed. Put a ‘do not disturb’ sign of some kind on the door so that removal men do not enter the room – even lock the door if possible. Let the removal team know that there is a cat in the house and you would like it to be undisturbed, just in case.


3. You should make sure your cat has access to a food bowl, water and its litter tray, but avoid feeding your cat if possible.


4. Have an anxious cat? Spraying some soft, calming pheromones around the room may help ease its nerves.


Moving your cat

1. The most important thing you can do is talk to your cat. Your voice is familiar and reassuring, and even if they can’t see you all the time, the cat will be comforted to know that you are there. Make sure you or another family member close to the cat is always talking to it.


2. Place your cat in the carrier, which it should be familiar with by now. Make sure favourite blankets, toys or other accessories are also in the carrier to give your cat some reassurance.


3. When storing the carrier for the journey, use a seatbelt if possible and wedge the carrier between soft spaces, for example between piles of clothes. Avoid storing the carrier in the boot, as it may move around or get jostled, and frighten your cat.


4. Don’t let the cat out of the carrier during the journey. Watch for any attempts to escape! Your cat will be under enough stress without stumbling around a car or van, and your panic will only distress them further.


5. Make sure your cat has access to water and a litter tray, although it’s likely they will not be interested. The option, however, is reassuring.


6. Open a window a crack if the vehicle is stationary so your cat gets some air, and never leave your cat inside a parked vehicle on a hot day.


7. Your cat may not want to, but you should try playing with it to keep it calm. Even if your cat is not interested, it will be reassured to see you acting relaxed and normal.


8. Sedating your cat is a last resort and should only be considered if your cat would truly be a danger to itself or others during the journey. If your cat is particularly anxious, consult your vet who can advise whether this is a suitable option.


Introducing the cat to its new home

1. As soon as you arrive at the house, pick a quiet room for your cat to stay in while the upheaval begins again.


2. Same as before, put a sign up advising the room should not be disturbed, and keep the door locked if possible.


3. Make sure all windows are secured so there’s no chance of your cat escaping and causing itself an injury – or running back home!


4. Place food, bedding, water, toys and a litter tray inside the room so your cat will see familiar things when the carrier door opens.


5. Don’t force your cat to come out the carrier until it’s ready. Open the door and use your voice again to reassure it.


6. Once the cat does emerge, play with it and stroke it to make sure it’s calm and not under too much stress. Stay with the cat until it becomes calmer if it seems jumpy or anxious.


7. Most importantly, let your cat explore the room so it gets familiar with the new environment.


Settling in

1. It may be difficult, but you should spend as much time as possible with your cat over the next few days or weeks to give it comfort and reassurance.


2. Don’t be alarmed if your cat hasn’t settled in quickly. Cats, just like us, have different temperaments, and some may take months to adjust to a new environment.


3. Give them time, make sure you’re also calm, and the cat will get there. You never know, your cat might be curled up in their favourite chair again within a few days!


4. If your cat is struggling with nerves, synthetic pheromones can help reassure it.


5. While your own routine might have changed, it’s important to keep your cat’s routine the same as it was before. Try to stick to familiar feeding times so your cat has a sense of normalcy.


6. Your cat will rub itself against as many surfaces as possible. This is totally normal, and you should let it do this.


When to let your cat outside

1. This depends entirely on the individual cat. You’ll have to trust your instincts here.


2. A top tip is to keep your cat inside until it seems completely at home with its new environment. You don’t want it running back to its old haunts and getting lost!


3. While you’re waiting for your cat to be comfortable enough to go outside, update its address collar and microchip so you can find it again if it does get lost.


When your cat goes outside for the first time

1. Firstly, make sure there are no other cats around, as far as you can tell. This will be stressful enough for your cat without confrontations with local cats!


2. Go outside with your cat, at least for this first time, so it doesn’t feel overwhelmed. Encourage it to explore, though, so it gets used to the environment.


3. Don’t let your cat wander beyond the garden on its first outing. Make sure there are no obvious places for it to escape, such as holes in the fence, and stay with it to check it doesn’t try to leap over the fence.


4. Don’t let your cat stay outside for any longer than fifteen minutes or so the first time. Any longer might be overwhelming.


5. To make sure your cat comes back inside, try to let it out around feeding time. Even better, if your cat associates rustling bags or bowls with feeding time, make sure to carry on with this routine to coax it back inside.


6. Once the first time is over with, it’s all down to the individual cat – use your instinct to decide how long to let it out for at a time, and when to let it out for longer.


7. If your cat is not already microchipped, make sure to get this done before letting your cat outside in case it escapes.


8. Don’t use a cat flap until you’re sure your cat will come back inside!


Preventing your cat from returning to its old home

1. If your new home is close to your old one, don’t be surprised if your cat tries to return. It’s going to take time before your cat adjusts to its new home, so it may be worth making the new owners aware that they may get an unexpected visitor!


2. If your cat does go back to its old home, be sure and let the new owners – and neighbours – know not to feed it or encourage it. If possible, make sure your old cat flap is closed so your cat can’t get back into the old home.


3. Ask neighbours and the new occupiers to let you know if the cat comes by, but not to panic the cat by trying to corner it or pick it up.


4. Keep your cat in the house until you’re completely sure it has bonded well with its new home. If you’re unsure, or if your cat does try to go back to the old home, keep it inside for a while until you feel you can try again.


5. To make sure your cat can find its way home in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, place things in the garden with its scent, such as toys and even litter samples. Your cat will return to what feels familiar and secure.


6. Try to let your cat out when it’s likely to be hungry so it has an extra incentive to return home.


7. There is always the possibility that, if you stay close to your old home, your cat will never be able to let it go. If your cat is not settling in the new house and continues to return to the old, you may consider asking the new owners about possible adoption. This would of course be extremely difficult, but it may be best for the cat in the long run.


Moving House with Dogs


Dogs generally adapt better to a new environment than cats, but not always! There are still things you should bear in mind to make the process easier. Here are some tips to consider.


Moving day

1. Put your dog in a secure room with the doors and windows closed to minimise its distress. If your dog has a favourite room, try to choose this room if possible.


2. Avoid letting the removal men into the room with your dog, so that it is undisturbed. Keep the door locked if possible, or otherwise put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign. Remember, not everyone is fond of dogs, either – and your dog will sense the additional unease. Keeping your dog secured so it cannot roam around the house is best for everyone.


3. Give your dog familiar things such as toys and blankets to reassure it. Even better, nominate someone to look after your dog during the upheaval. Some company will make your dog feel much more comfortable while still being in the home.


4. You should still feed your dog as normal and keep as much routine as possible – but try to keep track of when it last went to the toilet!


Introducing your dog to your new home

1. Keep your dog in a room with the doors secured and the windows locked until the removal team have finished. Make sure your dog has access to food and water, and familiar bedding, blankets and toys.


2. Try not to throw any old bedding away, as this gives your dog something familiar and comforting while it’s settling into a new home. Put paper or something similar down in case of any accidents.


3. Once the house is empty, take your dog outside into the garden so it can do the toilet, as it’ll be nervous and restless.


4. Take your dog around the house with the lead still on so it does not get too excited, and let it gently explore the new surroundings.


Settling your dog into its new home

1. Although you can buy scents to help your dog feel more at home, it’s best to use the dog’s own scent to make it comfortable. You can run a cloth around its face area, and then rub this cloth on things which are nose-height for the dog. It will then feel more comfortable and familiar in its surroundings.


2. Be aware your dog’s toilet habits may well be disturbed for a few weeks, so check to make sure it goes outside instead of accidents inside.


3. You can let your dog go outside right away, but it may be worth keeping it on the lead for a few times until the dog is more settled. Accompany your dog outside on the first few excursions into the garden, and make sure there are no weaknesses in the fencing or walls which may make it easy to escape.


4. Keep the same feeding, walking and playtime patterns as before so your dog doesn’t have to adjust to an entirely new routine.


5. Be sure to give your dog as much attention as possible in the first few weeks to make it feel more secure.


How long for my dog to settle into a new home?

1. Keeping your dog occupied and feeling loved will help it adjust quicker. But, just like cats, all dogs have different natures, and it will take some longer than others to be comfortable in the new home.


2. Unless soiled, keep all old toys, bedding and blankets to give your dog comfort in the familiar.


3. Regular walks and playtime will help your dog focus and distract it from any feelings of unease. Your dog will relax as it senses you too are acting normal.


4. Your dog may well take time to adjust, but if your dog is still struggling after a few weeks, it’s worth seeking your vet’s advice in case there are any unrelated medical issues.


By following these simple steps, you’re well on your way to making the moving process as relaxing and stress-free as possible for your animal. Want to make sure you remember everything? Check out our handy checklists and glance over them as you go.


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