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Moving house with your pets

Going to a new home in another location, for a new job, to reduce expenses, by inheritance, or investment, or any other reason, means preparing for the move of our pets as well. However, this is a process that requires special attention and Mr. Isac explains some of the main considerations and tips. Let’s go!

Where are you moving to?

The first major factor is the destination. If the new residence remains on the Portuguese mainland, the ideal is to prepare for the move 15 days in advance.

If it is an international relocation (to another country, the Azores or Madeira) you should plan 50 days ahead of moving, as some veterinary procedures can take up to 40 days to complete. Emigration also implies obtaining a health certification or passport for your pet and we suggest that you read the DGAV recommendations on this matter. When the new location is in Europe there is a set of well-established requirements that your veterinarian will be aware of.

The vehicle is another important factor. Air travel requires specific procedures both at the departure and arrival airports. A trip on a tourist bus will have another set of restrictions and obligations. If you travel in your own vehicle with your dog or cat, remember to save space for the carrier, or, if necessary, get a car harness that serves as a seat belt for your pet.

The period before moving

You’ve already defined when you’re going to move and you’ve already informed Mr. Isac of the dates and that you have pet(s), now the preparation begins.

During this period, a consultation with your current veterinarian is advised; the search for a new veterinarian near the new housing (see the list of OMV members here); updating CHIP’s registration, which is currently mandatory in Portugal; update vaccination and deworming if necessary.

Keep some fabrics that your pet has more contact with, such as blankets or pillows, and either keep them in a sealed bag so they don’t lose scent or take them ahead of the moving due date to the new home – but not everything! In a room that you can keep closed, place water, food, sleeping pillow/bed and some fabrics that your animal has daily contact with. This room will be your pet’s refuge on the day(s) when you are actively moving, and your pet will be placed there while Mr. Isac and his movers are in the house (they will not enter this room to make this process as least traumatic and stressful as possible for your pet). This room is very important and preparing it 15 days in advance allows your pet to get used to it and feel safe inside it.

Some animals respond well to soothing pheromones, which are commercially available in sprays and diffusers. Talk to your veterinarian and, if recommended, use it in the refuge room, as well as in the carrier, leash and in the new home. By the way, there are also some pet foods designed for this purpose. It is key that throughout the process you do not wash the fabrics that are usually in contact with your animal, be it bedding, blankets, pillows or even sweaters and toys. That smell is familiar to them and, in the whirl of relocating, it will be in the familiar odors and favorite objects that he will find comfort. Furniture or other objects that are in the refuge room and need to go to the new home must be removed calmly and spaced out: the intention is to disturb this space as little as possible until the time to take your dear pet.

A few days before the scheduled moving date take your dog to the new house for a short visit of 10 to 15 minutes and present to him the streets outside where he will stroll in the future. He will encounter familiar odours, as you have already placed some of his fabrics here. Hence, the impact of the change will be more bearable, and acceptance will be faster.

On the moving day

Take your dog outside, according to your usual routine. Be sure to give him some treats, but not too many, after all they will be good allies in the new home. Leave your cat’s litter box in the refuge room until the last minute and try to stick to routines such as meal time, walks or treats. Keep your pet in the refuge room minutes before the movers arrive.

Upon the arrival of Mr. Isac and the team, inform which is the refuge room, so everyone is alert, and will not mistakenly enter. Noise close to the door will also be avoided so that your pet is undisturbed. Keeping him in this room, while packing and loading are carried out is the safer option, also to prevent accidental runaways.

Ideally, when all your belongings have been removed and Mr. Isac’s team is no longer on site, your pets can be let loose and taken to the new house. Line the bottom of the carrier box with a blanket or bed lining and leave some treats at the bottom for your cat to enjoy. When transporting your dog, don’t forget to wear a collar and/or leash, it is common, due to stress and disorientation, for dogs to run away – stay alert.

We've arrived, now what?

When you arrive at the new home, place your cat’s carrier in the new refuge room (inform Mr. Isac’s team in advance about this room so that they can move all the belongings inside at the beginning, and they won’t be disturbed it any further when your pet arrives). Prepare your pet’s spot with all the care: fresh water, fresh food, litter box and bed or blankets and some hidden treats. Only open the carrier door when the essentials for your domestic animal are ready. If you can get a high spot (like a closet or bookcase) where your cat can climb up to, the better, cats feel safe in high places. Do not force your cat out, leave the door open and he will come out when he feels ready.

With your dog, you should take a short walk around the new home, calmly enough for him to relieve himself if necessary and only then enter the house. Take the dog to the new refuge room where fresh water, food, bed or blankets, toys and some hidden treats await him. Let him smell and examine the new space, remove unusual leashes or collars and, after some pampering, he can be left in the room.

Try not to disturb your pet’s space until Mr. Isac’s team has left. The first 5 to 10 days will be spent getting to know the new space, give your pet lots of treats hiding them in different places every day so that they feel motivated to investigate the house. Some carelessness in the first days is normal, it is not necessary to take any action unless it becomes recurrent. If you opted for calming pheromones, keep them for the first 2 to 3 days. Avoid parties and visits in the first few days too – it will be too stressful for your pet.

These suggestions are generally applicable to dogs, cats, ferrets and small rodents. If you have a guiding dog, birds, reptiles, other domestic species or even exotics, you should get the best recommendations from your vet and don’t forget to let Mr. Isac know any special requirements you may have.