On the Move

The mayhem of moving is a hectic time for all. There are a zillion and one decisions to make, strategies to coordinate and timetables to follow and your poor pet won’t have a clue what’s going on.

Some pets cope well – others find moving house very disturbing. How are you going to make the move easier for pooch or puss or any other pet you may have?

'The Move'  

If you are driving to a far-off destination, then you may be considering taking the pet in the car with you. While that may be the cheapest method of moving your pet, it’s not always the best and you should be properly prepared if this is your choice.

Dogs will often tolerate long car journeys well. Cats are usually not so tolerant, although there are exceptions, and birds vary considerably in their ability to cope.

The most significant decision is what you are going to do with your pet at night or during the rest stops?

Don't assume that all motels or camping grounds will happily accept your dog. To find those that will, the book 'Holidaying with Dogs' lists camping grounds and accommodation where your pet may be accepted.

Air transport is commonly used to transport pets. This is certainly the quickest way. You may need to organise boarding of your pet at either end if you are travelling by car or if you need time to move into your new house without the padding of little paws being a distraction.

In either case, if your pet is likely to be nervous during travel, there are a few things you can do to ease the stress.

Firstly, it is a good idea to condition the pet to its transport cage long before the trip. Make the cage more like a Den than a jail. 

This can be achieved if you put your pet in the cage for a few minutes each time you feed it. Start this routine two weeks prior to the move and use favoured food rewards such as bones or pigs' ears to create a happy link with the Den.

Also, placing your pet's favourite bedding in the Den will help but don't wash the bedding before the trip as the smell will give your pet comfort. Pheromones can also help - spraying Feliway spray onto your cat's bedding and the cage itself daily will have a calming effect. For dogs, Adpatil spray on the cage and bedding and also onto a scarf tied around the collar is recommended. Practise leaving your pet in the cage for gradually increasing times when you are at home, and even take the pet on car trips to get the pooch or puss-cat used to the cage. This will help even if you are travelling by air.

If your pet is likely to get overly stressed by transport, then a sedative, anti-anxiety medication or anti-motion sickness medication may help. However, see your veterinarian for details and for further advice as to whether medication is necessary and what type. (Hint – giving a dog a Pig’s Ear to chew as you are travelling will often settle is quickly and reduced travel sickness).

If all this seems too difficult, you can always leave the details to the experts. There are several animal transport companies that specialise in the transport of pets and who know all the tricks of the trade.

After 'The Move' 

What will happen to your pets when they get to their new home? Dogs and cats (especially) are territorial creatures and they will want to quickly claim their plot of turf. This can be a difficult period as your pets may have aggressive encounters with other pets that have already established their territories in your new neighbourhood.

With dogs, the situation is easier. All you have to do is to ensure that they are responsibly confined to your new property and that the fences are adequate to prevent Rover from roaming.

With puss, things are more difficult. It is best to confine your cat to the new house for a few days to a week or two so it can get accustomed to the new layout and territory. To reduce anxiety, use a Feliway plug-in Diffuser in the house (usually living room or where the cat spends most of its time) which lasts for one month. Another useful trick is to rub 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. You can also do this with Feliway Spray.

When taking it into the garden, use a harness for a while so the cat can view the garden and can get used to this new territory without running off. Place puss in a shaded cage temporarily on the back lawn during the day so it can view the vista but if you prefer, it is quite possible to keep your cat totally confined. Permanent garden cat enclosures can be constructed and are available commercially. 

Pets are resilient creatures. Mostly, they cope with the move very easily – but some planning and thought will make life easier for all.

By Dr Cam Day BVSc - Last updated 12 November 2013

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