Kirsty McLuckie: moving home can cause anxiety for pets

Moving house is stressful enough for humans, but for our pets it can be confusing and anxiety inducing.

But there are tried and tested methods for making it easier, including slowly preparing your pet for the house move over time. The earlier you start, the more time they will have to adjust.

Dog behaviour and training specialist, Sue Ketland, working with property company Essential Living, says moving a dog can be an easier experience compared to cats, as canines tend to form stronger bonds with their owners rather than being attached to a specific place.

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However, she says the disruption of a move can still be stressful, as dogs thrive on routine.

Acclimatising your pooch to boxes being packed in your current home is a good idea ahead of time, Sue suggests, as is a walk or two around the new neighbourhood.

On moving day, Sue says the best plan is to arrange for your dog to stay with a trusted friend or family member while the house is being loaded and unloaded. This will reduce the risk of your dog straying or getting scared by unfamiliar people, such as removal employees.

Once ensconced in the new house, she says keeping your pet to their usual routine of meal and bed times will help with the settling-in process.

And Sue advises owners to bring some things that will remind their pets of their old environment. Avoid washing bedding ahead of the move, as their scent will help both dogs and cats to settle in faster.

Edinburgh-based expert, Pamela Moffat of Dog Training by Design, adds that checking new garden fences and gates are high enough – and secure – in the new place is vital.

Getting your pooch used to boxes being packed before a move is made is recommended by pet experts. Picture: AdobeStockGetting your pooch used to boxes being packed before a move is made is recommended by pet experts. Picture: AdobeStock
Getting your pooch used to boxes being packed before a move is made is recommended by pet experts. Picture: AdobeStock

She says: “Some dogs might look for an easy escape route to new adventures, and you don’t want to discover that the neighbour’s pet can easily access your garden.”

Inside the home, Pamela advises: “A change of floor surface might cause dog issues, such as slippy laminate and stairs, which can be an issue if they’re not used to them – or could be really problematic if they’re metal, spiral or open risers.”

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She recommends that owners think about all changes in the environment from the pet’s point of view. “For dogs, things like new neighbourhood noises need to be taken into consideration – a nearby glass recycling bin, or neighbours with noisy children, animals, or vehicles – many things can affect how easily a dog will settle into their new home.”

The advice is different for dogs’ traditional adversaries, according to charity Cats Protection. For an indoor feline, restricting them to one room for a few days before letting them explore the rest of the place will help prevent them becoming overwhelmed with too many new sights and smells.

The charity says that for outdoor cats it is important to keep them indoors for around three to four weeks after you move, otherwise they may get confused and go missing. And, when you do let your cat out for the first time at a new address, you should do so before a meal – as a hungry cat is less likely to stray.

For all pets, movers should register with a local vet ahead of time and update microchip details.

It might even be wise to take a few days off work to settle them in too. Denise Monteiro of law firm Richard Nelson, says: “Pawternity leave, or pet leave, has become increasingly popular since the pandemic, as employers recognise the growing role our pets play in our day-to-day lives.”​

- Kirsty McLuckie is property editor at The Scotsman

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