Blog / Moving Home

Moving Home with Pets: Cats & Dogs

By Matt Wallace

30 May, 20245 mins read

Moving to a new home can be stressful, not just for you but for your pets as well!

While you’re worrying about everything on your moving home checklist, pets (especially cats and dogs) can find the bustle of moving and the unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells of a new environment very overwhelming — not to mention their strong attachment to familiar surroundings.

But moving doesn’t have to stress out your pets. With the right tips and techniques, you can give your furry friends a smooth move and help them settle into your new home quickly and comfortably. From preparing them for the journey to helping them adjust to new surroundings, this guide covers everything you need to know about moving home with a cat or dog.

Preparing for the Move

Use Pheromones

🐱Cats

Cats naturally produce a pheromone when they feel secure, which they spread by rubbing their faces on surfaces to help mark their territory and feel at home. To mimic this comforting effect, you can use synthetic pheromone diffusers or sprays to help them feel calm and at ease.

It’s a good idea to set up a diffuser at least one day before you start packing or making changes to the home. By doing this, you help maintain a calm atmosphere, reducing the risk of stress during the move.

🐶Dogs

Dogs also benefit from pheromone products, particularly dog appeasing pheromones (DAP), which are what female dogs produce to keep their newborn puppies feeling safe and secure.

You can buy sprays and collars that are infused with these soothing scents, and similar to the feline pheromones they should be used in the days building up to the move — though you can also use them during the drive to your new home. This is particularly useful if your dog shows signs of stress such as excessive barking, panting or pacing.

Keep a Routine

🐱Cats

As creatures of habit, cats thrive on routine as it provides them with a sense of security and predictability. They generally know when to expect food, when to play and when to sleep, and disrupting this routine can lead to anxiety.

As you prepare for the move, try to keep your cat’s daily schedule as consistent as possible. Continue feeding them at the usual times, play with them regularly and ensure they have their usual downtime. This consistency will help them feel more secure amidst all the changes happening around them.

🐶Dogs

Dogs also take a lot of comfort in having a consistent routine. Keeping their meals, walks and rest periods consistent can help them feel safe and in control of their environment.

As you begin packing and preparing for the move, try to maintain your dog’s usual routine. Continue with their regular walking schedule, feed them at the same times and let them snooze as they usually would. By keeping things running like clockwork, your dog is likely to feel calmer and be in a better place to cope with the upcoming move.

Pro Tip (for Cats & Dogs):

If you’re putting anything in self-storage, you might consider keeping as many of your pet’s belongings as possible, or at least their favourite items — especially if you’ll be living in temporary accommodation before moving to your new home.

Check Your New Home is Pet-Safe

🐱Cats

For cats, particularly those that venture outdoors, it’s important to be aware of potential hazards in and around your new home. While you can’t control where they roam, it’s worth making a note of any busy roads and other nearby risks, as well as ensuring that all windows and balconies are secure to prevent accidental falls.

🐶Dogs

For dogs, a thorough inspection of your new home and garden is essential to ensure their safety. Check the garden for possible escape routes, such as holes in your fence and be sure to remove any poisonous plants before letting your dog explore. If you don’t have time to fix these issues straight away, keep your dog in safe and secure areas of the house where they can’t get into trouble.

Pro Tip (for Cats & Dogs):

Some plants and flowers, such as lilies, can be extremely toxic to both cats and dogs. A quick Google search before accepting any housewarming gifts is a great way to keep your pets safe from poisonous plants — we’re sure the gift-giver will understand!

Travel Prep

🐱Cats

If your cat hates getting in its carrier, it’s probably because it knows what’s coming: a claustrophobic car journey (probably to the vets). This will likely make the process of getting them into the carrier stressful and difficult for both you and them. 

To make this easier on both of you, it’s worth getting your cat used to the carrier long before the actual move as a way of removing any negative associations they may have. To do this, keep the carrier out in the open and make it cosy by placing a comfy blanket inside as well as treats and toys.

Encourage your cat to explore the carrier on their own terms, rewarding them with treats and praise when they do. You could also use a pheromone spray inside the carrier to help reduce anxiety while travelling.

🐶Dogs

For dogs, ensuring a safe and comfortable travel setup is crucial. If your dog isn’t accustomed to car travel, take them on short trips to get them used to what it’s like on the road, and be sure to use a secure crate or a dog seatbelt to keep them safe.

You can also bring their favourite blanket or toy to give them comfort and a sense of familiarity. Plan for regular stops during long trips to allow your dog to stretch their legs, go to the toilet and drink some water.

Register with a New Vet

🐱🐶Cats & Dogs

One of the first things you should do after moving to a new area is register your pets with a local vet. This is crucial for both cats and dogs, as it ensures you have access to medical care in case of emergencies and routine check-ups. Here’s how:

  • Find a Vet: Look for veterinary clinics close to your new address and read reviews to find one that suits your needs. You might want to consider things like:
    • How close they are to your home
    • Their opening hours
    • The services they offer

Pro Tip: Personal recommendations from new neighbours can also be helpful.

  • Schedule a Check-Up: Once you’ve chosen a vet, it’s worth booking your pets in for a routine check-up.
  • Transfer Medical Records: Contact your previous vet and arrange for your pet’s medical records to be transferred to the new surgery. Having complete medical histories will help the new vet provide the best care for your pets.
  • Emergency Protocols: Familiarise yourself with the emergency procedures at the new vets. You should also make a note of their after-hours contact information and the nearest emergency clinic.

While it’s easy to put this step off when you already have a long to-do list, it’s much better to register your pets at a clinic when you first move rather than wait until they need medical attention. This way, you can ensure that your pets receive the best care when they need it.

Update Their Microchip

🐱🐶Cats & Dogs

In the UK, it has been a legal requirement that all dogs have a microchip since 2016 and, as of 10th June 2024, the law now applies to cats as well. However, it’s important to remember that the chip isn’t a tracking device, it’s more like a scannable USB stick that holds basic information about your pet, including their home address.

Keeping this information up to date is crucial when moving home as it will ensure that if they get lost, they can be returned home swiftly and safely. All you have to do is contact your microchip database provider to update your address and contact information. This can usually be done online or over the phone and should be done a day or two before you move.

Pro Tip: During your initial health check-up with your new vet, ask them to scan your pet’s microchip to ensure it’s working and that the information is accurate. Keeping microchip details up to date is a simple yet vital step in keeping your pets safe.

Clean Your New Home

🐱🐶Cats & Dogs

Dogs have about 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses (compared to about 6 million in humans) while cats ‘only’ have around 200 million, which means our pets are much more sensitive to smells than we are.

With that in mind, it’s important to give your new home a thorough clean before moving in — especially if the previous owners had pets. This helps remove any lingering scents from previous occupants and will help your pets feel more comfortable in their new environment.

Pro Tip for Dogs: Clean at “dog height” by wiping down walls, skirting boards and other areas your dog can reach. This helps eliminate any lingering scents from previous pets. If possible, clean the house before bringing your dog in, which can help your dog adjust quickly, reducing anxiety and the likelihood of them trying to mark their territory (if you catch our drift).

Moving Day

Routine

🐱Cats

Try to keep things as normal as possible for your cat on moving day. Feed them at their usual times with their regular food and try to spend some one-on-one time with them. The closer you stick to their daily routine, the less stressed they’ll be about all the changes going on around them.

🐶Dogs

Just like cats, dogs will feel a lot less stressed by the move if you’re able to stick to their routine, at least with the things that matter most (like walks and meal times). Creating a sense of normalcy will help distract them from everything else that’s going on.

Pro Tip (for Cats & Dogs):

Staying calm will help too. Cats and dogs are very good at picking up on human emotions and will feel more at ease if you’re relaxed. In other words, looking after yourself on moving day is a good way to look after your pets as well.

Travelling

🐱Cats

When travelling with your cat, always use a secure, enclosed carrier to keep them safe and comfortable. Ensure the carrier is well-ventilated and positioned securely in the car, either wedged in place or strapped down with seat belts and try to keep it out of direct sunlight.

To help them through the drive, you can reassure your cat with a calm voice and ensure they have regular access to water. If your cat is prone to travel sickness, consider withholding food for 3-4 hours before the trip to help prevent nausea.

🐶Dogs

Travelling with your dog requires a bit more preparation. Use a car harness or a secured crate to keep them safe during the journey. This not only protects your dog but also prevents them from becoming a distraction while you drive. If your dog is prone to motion sickness, give them anti-nausea medication (after consulting your vet) before the trip starts and try to feed them several hours in advance.

Pro Tip (for Cats & Dogs):

Firstly, never leave pets alone in the car — even if your car is parked in the shade on a cold day. If you have a long journey, we suggest planning regular pit stops so your pet can relieve themselves, have some water and stretch their legs.

Day Care

🐱🐶Cats & Dogs

Consider arranging for your pets to stay at a cattery, kennel or with a friend on moving day. This keeps them safe and stress-free while allowing you to focus on the move. Bringing your pets into the new home after the initial chaos has subsided can help them feel more relaxed and secure.

Both cats and dogs take emotional cues from their humans, so introducing them to a new environment that’s already calm and organised (where you can relax as well) will help reassure them that it’s a safe place.

Creating a Safe Zone

🐱🐶Cats & Dogs

If leaving your pets in a cattery, kennel or with a friend isn’t an option, designate a specific room or area in your home where they will feel safe and comfortable during the move. Try to set up the safe space gradually while trying to have it ready for your pet at least one week before the big move.

This safe zone should include their food, water, bedding and favourite toys, creating a familiar environment where they can relax. Keeping your pets in this area saves you from having to monitor them, provides them with a stress-free space and reduces the risk of accidents (or from running out the front door).

Pro Tip: Pack your pet’s belongings last to avoid making them feel like their possessions are being taken away. Then, when you move, set up a similar safe space in your new home as well.

Unpacking

🐱🐶Cats & Dogs

When unpacking in your new home, prioritise your pet’s essential belongings — bed, food, water, toys etc. — before your own and try giving them a dedicated quiet space where you can keep them safely out of the way. This can prevent stress and anxiety, making the transition smoother for both you and your pets.

By creating a familiar environment with their favourite things, you’ll be able to help them better adjust to the new surroundings.

Pro Tip: If you have a lot of stuff to unpack, you might consider keeping less important items in a self storage unit and moving them into your house gradually. This way, you’ll be able to move in at your own pace while keeping your new home relatively tidy, making the transition easier on your pets. For more information, check out our guide on how to find the best storage facility.

Scent Swapping

🐱🐶Cats & Dogs

With their keen sense of smell, scent is crucial for both cats and dogs as it helps them identify an area as safe and familiar. To help your pets settle into your new home, bring rugs, cushions, duvets and anything that’s likely to carry the scent of your old home. Even if there’s a tatty old blanket that you plan on throwing away, it could help your pets become more adjusted to their new home.

You can also rub a soft cloth around your pet’s face and then onto furnishings and the corners of walls (at your pet’s height) to spread their scent. This technique may seem a little strange, but it can help a lot in making your pets feel more at home.

Exploring

🐱Cats

Once you’ve set up a cosy room with all your cat’s essentials and some comforting items like a familiar pillow or a jumper that smells of you, let your cat out of their carrier to explore.

Give them the time they need to investigate their new space quietly and at their own pace. Some cats might appreciate having you nearby for reassurance, while others may prefer to wander on their own. Make sure their favourite food, litter box and fresh water are available to help them feel at home.

🐶Dogs

When the house is secured, let your dog embark on a tour of their new territory. Walking through the new home with them can provide the reassurance they need, especially if they’re feeling anxious.

If you can’t secure the entire house, use a lead to give them some freedom while keeping them safe — this way, they can explore without any risks. Having their favourite toys and bedding set up can also help them settle in comfortably.

Settling In

Accidents May Happen

🐱Cats

With the stress that comes with moving even the best-behaved cats might have a toilet accident as they adjust to their new environment, especially if they’re used to going outside. Be patient with your cat and try to avoid scolding them, as this will only add to their stress and anxiety. Instead, gently guide them to where you want them to use the litter tray.

Remember, cats don’t like using a messy litter tray any more than you like cleaning one, so be sure to clean their litter tray regularly as this will help ensure they actually use it every time they need to.

Pro Tip: If you’re moving into a house much larger than your last, consider getting a second or third litter tray so that your cat always has somewhere to go.

🐶Dogs

Adjusting to a new home can be just as tough on dogs and even well-trained dogs might have an accident as they settle in. Just as with cats, it’s important to be patient and remember that telling them off is more likely to add to their stress than it is to solve the problem.

If they have regular indoor accidents, show them where to go to the bathroom and reward them with praise and treats when they go in the right place.

Re-establishing their routine is crucial, so take them out frequently and at times they’re used to. If accidents happen, calmly clean up without making a fuss. If they need help getting back on track, you might use some of the initial toilet training techniques you used to help reinforce good habits.

Heading “Home”

🐱Cats

Cats can be quite determined to return to familiar territory, especially if you haven’t moved far from your old home. With this in mind, it’s worth sharing your contact details with the new owners of your old home, just in case your cat makes its way back.

You can help your cat settle into their new home by creating positive associations with the new space, such as grooming them, feeding them their favourite foods and establishing a consistent routine. The quicker your cat associates the new house with positive experiences, the sooner they’ll see it as the centre of their new territory.

🐶Dogs

While dogs may not have the same homing instinct as cats, they can still be tempted to revisit their old home— especially if the move wasn’t far. Leave your contact information with the new owners of your previous home just in case your dog decides to drop by.

Similarly to cats, you can help your dog settle in by creating positive experiences in the new house, such as playing their favourite games, giving them lots of treats and sticking to a consistent meal and walk schedule. The faster you establish a new routine, the sooner your dog will forget about the old place and start to love their new home.

Expanding Territory (for Cats)

Helping your cat adjust to a new home and eventually, the great outdoors, will take some patience and careful planning. Firstly, it’s important to let your cat explore the new house, one room at a time while keeping other doors (and especially windows) closed. Then, as time goes on you can gradually increase the space they can access.

It’s best to keep your cat indoors for at least three weeks to give them time to adjust, mark their scent and recognise the new house as their home. It won’t be easy to keep outdoor cats cooped up for that long, but it’s important to hold firm and keep them inside to ensure they don’t get lost.

When it’s finally time to let your cat outside, do it just before their usual mealtime. This way, they’re more likely to come back when they hear their food rustling. If they hesitate then simply try again another day.

Start with short trips outside and gradually let them stay out longer as they become more comfortable and confident. Soon enough, they’ll be happily coming and going as they please.

Pro Tip: To help your cat get used to the new garden, sprinkle some used litter around the perimeter. This not only makes the garden smell familiar but also signals to other local cats that there’s a new kitty on the block.

FAQs:

How long does it take for a cat to get used to a new home?

Every cat is different, some may feel comfortable within a few days, while others can take weeks, or even months, to feel fully settled. It’s important to be patient with your cat and don’t let them outside for at least three weeks after moving.

Is it OK to move a cat to a new house?

Yes, it’s perfectly fine to move a cat to a new house. Just be sure to prepare in advance and create a comfortable and familiar environment for them to help ease the transition.

How long does it take for a dog to get used to a new home?

The adjustment period for dogs can vary greatly. Some dogs may start to feel comfortable within a few days, while others might take several weeks to a few months to feel at home. Maintaining a consistent routine can help them adjust.

How to settle an old dog into a new home?

Older dogs may take a bit longer to adjust to a new environment. Keep their routine as consistent as possible and make sure they have familiar items around them. To help them feel comfortable in their new home, be patient and give them plenty of love and reassurance.

Matt Wallace

Matt Wallace

Matt is a Director of Pay Less for Storage. He blogs tips for storage customers and helps them navigate self storage.

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