The Residential

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Smart ways to help your pet move home

Words by Claire Coleman

Moving home can be stressful for the whole family, including our pets.

Unfamiliar surroundings, a different routine and the sudden appearance of strangers can unsettle dogs and cats, making them restless and anxious.

‘Moving house is quite an upheaval and can affect pets in a negative way,’ says Edward Church of Strutt & Parker’s Canterbury office. ‘That’s why it’s worth having a plan for your pets – not just as you prepare for the move, but also for the weeks afterwards as they settle into their new home.’

Research carried out by Strutt & Parker found that 43% of pet owners already update their animal’s microchip ID information when they move home, and around 20% register in advance with a new vet.

However, according to Clare Williams, CEO of the National Animal Welfare Trust, there are extra steps we can take to keep our pets happy and safe.

‘Unfortunately, there’s a higher risk of escape when you’re moving house,’ she explains. ‘Removal men will be coming and going, and the garden in your new property might not be as secure, so it makes sense to plan for the worst.

‘Changing addresses on ID tags and microchips is one thing you can do, but you should also take photos of your pet – so if the unthinkable happens and your pet goes missing, you have up-to-date images in order to make a poster.

‘It’s also worth making sure you have the numbers of your current vet, the new vet and dog wardens for both areas. It might seem over the top, but it means that if disaster strikes, you have the information you need at your fingertips.’

How do people prepare when moving home with Pets? 43% update microchip information, 20% register with a new vet, 15% update pet passport, 10% book a kennel or cattery for the move

When it comes to the practicalities of moving, Clare suggests not washing your dog or cat’s bedding before the move. ‘That way, they will have some familiarity and security in their new home,’ she says. ‘Otherwise, there’s a risk they will try to create stuff that smells of them by weeing, drooling and chewing.’

Of course, different pets react in different ways. With cats, Dr Jane Tyson, the RSPCA’s Scientific Officer, advises that you clear one room in your current house a week before the move and make this your pet’s space.

‘Place all your cat’s important things in this room – food, water, comfortable bed, toys, litter tray, scratching post and anything else they love,’ she says. ‘You don’t need to shut them in, but feed them their meals in there so they become familiar with the space.

‘Then, on the evening before the move, feed your cat their dinner in the room and shut them in – this will make sure your cat doesn’t go missing during the commotion taking place the next day. As they’ve become familiar with the room prior to being shut in, they shouldn’t be too upset about it.’

She also suggests leaving the cat carrier out, filled with a comfortable blanket and occasionally some tasty treats, so your cat is less stressed when they have to be put in it.

Clare believes that putting dogs in kennels or cats in a cattery might be worth considering. ‘It can be a good idea to put them in a day or two before the move and leave them there for a few days afterwards,’ she says, ‘so the house is a bit more organised and has had the family living in it, creating familiar smells for your pet.’

Once you’ve got your pet in the new home, it’s about making it feel like theirs, too. ‘Speak to your vet about artificial pheromone products – for example, Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs – which may help to make your pet feel more secure and settled in their new home,’ suggests Dr Tyson.

For cats, create a special room in the new house for them with all the items from their previous room, and something like an unwashed jumper that smells of you to make it feel familiar.

‘If the rest of the house is secure, let your cat into it but keep them inside for two to three weeks,’ says Dr Tyson. ‘When you first let them out, make sure it’s before their meal time – if they’re hungry, you should be able to call them back for their favourite food.’

If you’ve not moved far from your old house, it’s worth ensuring that the new owners have your details and recognise your cat so they can let you know if it returns to its previous home.

As for dogs, Clare suggests keeping to your old walking routine if possible and doing the same walking route for a few days to get them used to the area. It’s also a good idea to put the housewarming party on hold.

‘Your animals will already have experienced quite a lot of change, so filling this new environment with a lot of people might be a bit too much,’ she says. ‘Give it a few weeks.’

But sometimes, even the most carefully planned house move can need some creative rethinking, as Edward knows only too well.

‘When people are moving into temporary rental accommodation, or to places where they can’t take pets, we can be asked to negotiate all sorts of strange requests,’ he says. ‘I remember asking one buyer if they might offer temporary board and lodging to the seller’s dog until the owner had settled into their new property.’

Edward also recalls a seller who wanted to take a duck house with them, but not the ducks. ‘In the end, the deal was that the duck house and ducks came as a package, but it was a bit of a fraught negotiation,’ he says. ‘It’s surprising how important animals can be when it comes to moving home.’

Research based on a OnePoll survey of 2,000 pet owners who plan to move home in the next five years, carried out between 23 April and 8 May 2018


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