Moving home is a stressful experience for your beloved pets. Picture a bunch of strange furniture removal people in your home packing your entire world up into boxes, then getting packed into a crate yourself and travelling for hours surrounded by yet more strangers only to arrive at a brand new place full of unfamiliar sites sounds and smells. As a loving pet owner you obviously want the best for your fur children and that comes with good planning and preparation.
Step 1: Considerations
Before you even begin to prepare for the move, you will need to consider several factors to ensure your pets wellbeing:
- How far will you be going? The further away you move from your current home, the more drawn out the moving experience will become for you animals. Young dogs and cats are relatively resilient to change and generally cope well, even during an international move. However, older animals, or those with medical conditions, may take more strain. Small animals such as fish or guinea pigs are highly susceptible to being jostled around and may even die in transit.
- Where will you be moving to? Your name home needs to be safe and comfortable for you pets. When searching for your new home ask yourself questions such as the following:
- Is there enough garden space for my boisterous pup?
- Will my cat become and indoor cat and if so, what can I do to give her vertical space (note – cats like to be high up)?
- Is there enough space for the bird cage, is the area draft free and will he have enough stimulation while we’re not home?
If you are moving to another country then you will need to conduct careful research their requirements around animals, especially if you have a more unusual species such as a rodent, reptile or bird. Some countries may not allow certain types of animals or only allow specific breeds. Further to this, all countries will have regulations regarding vaccinations and may have quarantine requirements. Gather as much information as you can, so you don’t miss out on any important details and risk drawing out the moving process. Good resources include:
- Your pet relocation agency
- The consulate of the country you are moving to
- What are the costs involved? If you’re only moving locally, then you’ll probably be packing your pets in the car with you, but if you’re planning to move to another city or country, making use of a pet moving company will be your best bet. Their skills and professionalism will go a long way in making the move as relaxing as possible for your beloved furry. Most moving companies will offer a pet moving service or will be able to put you in touch with a reputable company.
Other costs to consider are:
- Vaccinations and blood tests, especially when moving internationally
- Purchase of a suitable pet carrier
- Quarantine and/or boarding fees
Step 2: Preparation
There are several things that should be done in advance to get your pet ready for moving day to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible.
- Have your pet microchipped: Although we take great care to ensure the safety of our animals, the risk of them making a break for it on moving day or even some time after is quite high, so it’s a good idea to have them fitted with an ISO microchip if you haven’t already done so. An ISO microchip is the world standard and is an essential requirement when moving internationally.
- Get their vaccinations up to date: If you’re moving overseas then getting your pets vaccinated will be an essential part of the process, but even if you’re only planning a local move, why put your pet through the extra stress of a trip to the vet after they’ve already had to cope with so much.
If you’re moving from South Africa to another country, then here’s some basics you need to know:
- If your pet isn’t microchipped, then you need to get them microchipped before or on the same day that they get their rabies vaccination in order for the vaccine to be valid.
- The rabies vaccine must be administered a minimum of 30 days but a maximum of 12 months before your pet travels and MUST be shown in their vet book.
- If your pet’s rabies vaccine has expired and a rabies test (RNATT) is required for your destination, then the blood for the test can only be drawn 30 days after the vaccination date to ensure you get clearance from the State Vet. If you are moving to an EU country, then your pet may only enter that country 90 days after the blood was drawn for the RNATT.
- Dogs must have their 5-in-1 and cats must have their 3-in-1 inoculations done a minimum of 30 days but a maximum of 12 months before they travel, and it MUST be recorded in their vet book.
- Ask your vet about any other vaccinations, such as the kennel cough vaccination, that he might recommend your pet get before they travel.
- Acclimatise your pet to their carrier: Get your pet used to their carrier as soon as possible. Many animals may initially be wary of their carrier, but if you take the time to introduce them carefully and help them develop a positive association to the carrier then it can become a great comfort to them on moving day.
- Allow your pet to sniff and explore the carrier in their own time.
- Feed treats and meals around and eventually inside the carrier.
- Gradually introduce a blanket and some of their favourite toys as well.
- Close the door and calmly sit with them while they spend some time in the carrier.
- Once they are used to the carrier, go on short trips around the neighbourhood and then on longer ones.
- Ensure that all experiences your pet has with his carrier are positive and rewarding.
Step 3: Moving Day
Moving day will be the most stressful day for all involved, with the furniture removal company doing their thing and family members pulling you in a million different directions, it will be up to you to ensure your animals stay as calm and relaxed as possible.
- Prepare an overnight bag for your pet: Pack pet food, grooming tools, kitty litter, a favourite toy and anything else you may need in an easily accessible bag to get your pet through the first few days of unpacking at your new home.
- Keep them away from the action: Change can be especially traumatic for cats and skittish dogs, so begin packing boxes early on, only tackling a few a day, rather than packing up the whole house in one go. On moving day it’s best to keep your pets closed up in one familiar room that you plan to pack up last or, better yet, keep them at a boarding kennel, the vet or a friend’s house for the day.
- Stick to their routine: Wherever possible, try to stick to your pets regular feeding, walk and play times. If you are moving overseas, then re-introduce these routines as soon as possible to help them adjust to their new environment with familiar experiences.
- Feeding & Medication: Try to feed your animal several hours before you move them, to reduce the chance of them getting car sick or messing in their box. Animals habitually like a clean space and they will feel much more comfortable in their carrier remains clean. If you are taking a longer road trip with your pet, remember to keep their leashes handy so that you can stop for regular water and toilet breaks.
Professional pet moving companies specifically warn against sedating your animal for moving and will usually refuse to move an animal that has been tranquilised as it greatly increases the chance of them dying. If you are concerned about keeping your animal calm during the move, consult your vet about the use of natural remedies that may help without the negative effects of tranquilizers.
Step 4: Settling In
Finally you’ve arrived at your new home, but it doesn’t stop there, you need to help your pet adjust to their new environment. Remember, everything will be different for them and it will be up to you to make them feel comfortable in their new home.
- Have your pet arrive last: Try to get as much of the move done as possible before your pet arrives to ensure a more peaceful environment.
- Give them time to adjust: Although you may be tempted to let your pet out immediately to explore their new home, don’t do it. Rather set up a room for them and keep them confined while they adjust to their new surroundings. Provide them with familiar blankets and toys as soon as possible and reassure them by spending lots of time with them. As your pet gains in confidence you can gradually increase the size of their environment by opening doors to other rooms. If your pet is still very anxious, then lock them in their room or carrier when you leave the house.
- Pet proof your home: Make sure that your new home is safe for your pets:
- Ensure that there aren’t any gaps in the fencing and that all doors and windows close securely to prevent any Houdini escapes.
- Tuck away electrical cords.
- Close off any nooks your pet could crawl into and get stuck
- Look for any pest control poison or other unsafe chemicals that may be lying around
- Remove any poisonous plants that your pet might try to chew
4. Update your info: Update the address and telephone numbers on you pets microchip as soon as possible after arriving at your new home.
5. Walk around the neighbourhood: Introduce your dog to the neighbourhood by taking him for walks around the area, allowing him to sniff and explore his new home range.