Although you can’t explain your move to your pet, in many ways the principles are similar to preparing children for a house move. You need to ensure they feel safe and supported before, during and after the move; and once you’re in your new home, you’ll need to take time to help them settle in. And just like a child, every animal is different – so make sure you’re ready for their specific needs.
It’s vital that you make specific plans based on the type of pet you own. However, there are a few general principles for moving with pets:
Inform your vet. Switching vets in good time should ensure that records are sent across before the big move.
Check local laws. Moving across state or national borders? You may need specific paperwork for your pet.
Be calm and prepared. Most animals recognise changes in routine; keep the atmosphere calm to reassure them.
Consider carriers. Compare your options and buy early to give your pets time to get used to their new mode of transport.
Dogs, in particular, may benefit from early excursions to the new area, to get them used to the different sights, sounds and smells. Both cats and dogs value having familiar items with them too – so don’t ‘declutter’ their favourite toys when you relocate.
If your move is going to be hectic, it may be wise to send your pet to a kennel or to friends or family for a couple of nights. Once they move in, make sure there's a room with plenty of familiar toys and scents. You could even try a pheromone diffuser to help them relax. Remember, cats will need to stay indoors for a few days to acclimatise.
Moving with pets in self-contained cages presents a different set of problems. Although they remain in their ‘homes’, the stress of moving is often felt more acutely by small animals, which can be prone to heart problems. Each creature will experience stress in different ways, so it’s wise to seek specialist advice. However, tips for common household pets include:
Fish Try to transport fish in a bag of their current tank water rather than ‘clean’ water: chemical changes can exacerbate stress.
Rodents Warm, comfortable, small and dark carriers help rodents feel safe during a move.
Birds Like cats, birds need time to acclimatise and should be kept in their cage during and immediately after a move.
If you own larger animals like horses, the key is getting those moving essentials sorted early. Consider your neighbours at the other end, too – introduce yourself before you move to broach the subject of a larger pet and casually share the basics about how to behave around them.
Once you’re fully moved in, horses will need extra care and support. Spend more time with them than usual, but still try to stick to normal routines when it comes to feeding, grooming and riding.
The key thing when moving with pets is to treat them as you would a stressed-out friend: with patience, kindness and understanding. Acclimatising will take time, but follow expert advice, persevere and they’ll grow to love their new home as much as you do.