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How to move with pets

By George Hadgelias

Amid the chaos of moving house, it’s easy to forget relocating can also be stressful for pets.

RSPCA Victoria chief executive officer Dr Liz Walker shares some tips for successfully moving pets. Walker says ensuring an animal’s new home is “pet-ready” is vital.

“An anxious animal is more likely to try to escape. That’s why it’s important to make sure their new home is safe and secure, regardless of whether your pet is a dog, cat, bird, rabbit or fish,” she says.

“Be sure to update your dog or cat’s council registration, so if they do escape and go missing, you will be quickly reunited,” Walker says.

Update identification tags with any new details, too, she adds.

It’s also important to update the contact details attached to the pet’s microchip. The easiest way is to use

Walker says managing change with pets requires patience and differing approaches are needed for cats and dogs.

Moving with cats

Cats are territorial and can find moving house particularly stressful.

Move them in a cat carrier, with familiar smelling bedding.

Only release them from their carrier once the new home is quiet and calm.

Confine them to one room, with their familiar bed and toys.

Allow them to explore at their own pace. Hide small amounts of dry food around, to encourage them to explore. Over the first few days, make more rooms available to them, one by one.

RSPCA Victoria encourages owners to keep their cat indoors, but if owners choose to let them outside, do so very slowly, to lessen the risk of them becoming lost or running away.

Only take them into an enclosed, safe area of the yard, allowing them to run back inside if they want to.

Only let them outside for a few minutes at a time initially. Supervise closely until it’s clear they are comfortable.

Moving with dogs

Keep the dog’s routine as normal as possible. Keep up a good exercise routine.

Give them a safe place to go if they are stressed, such as a crate.

Set up the house so they know where all of their things are, such as their bed, toys and water.

If they are stressed during the initial move and are unwilling to eat, hand feed a few pieces of dry food, then offer the rest in a bowl.

Positive reinforcement is the key. For the first few weeks at the new house, give the dog lots of treats. Make them feel happy about their new environment. Use food treats, lots of play and even new toys.

Set the rules early on in the new house, so there is no confusion. Show them where they are and are not allowed, where they eat and sleep, etc.

Visit their favourite places more often during the first few weeks of settling into a new home. Go to the park and make it an enjoyable experience coming home to the new house.

In some cases, Walker says, anxiety in pets can be severe.

“If you are concerned, it is best to consult a veterinarian for advice. A vet may suggest pheromone products such as Adaptil or Fel-o-way, which can be useful in managing stress when moving house, or the use of a ThunderShirt (an animal anxiety vest) to provide comfort,” she says.

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