Moving house with pets

by PDSA | 30 September 2022 #Lifestyle

With all the planning, packing and a sense of the unknown, moving house is stressful enough for us humans - so just imagine how confusing it is for our pets, who are unable to understand why all these changes are happening!

Carefully planning your pet’s move will help to make the process as smooth as possible, with less stress for both of you. If you’re getting ready to move home with your pet, here are some helpful tips you can follow before and during moving day and as you settle in.


Before you move

Create a dedicated space for your pet

Ahead of moving day, choose one room that can be cleared beforehand and dedicated to your pet on moving day. For dogs, make sure that it’s close to an enclosed outside space so you can take them out for regular toilet breaks.

When preparing the room, empty it completely and move all the packed boxes to another area in the home. Then place your pet’s food and water bowls, toys, beds and any litter trays into that space. Let your pet get used to being in that room beforehand so they don’t feel unsettled when they go in there on moving day. As this room will already be empty, the removal team won’t need to disturb your pet throughout the day, which will help to keep them calm.

Consider alternative arrangements

If your pet is afraid of loud noises and strangers or finds it hard to cope with change, it may be a good idea to arrange for a trusted family member or friend to look after your pet whilst the move is taking place. This way, your pet will be in the company of a familiar face and won’t feel stressed out by all the commotion that’s taking place in their old home.

If family or friends aren’t an option, consider using a pet sitter for the day or booking a kennel or cattery. Give yourself enough time to research, visit, and book a pet sitter, cattery or kennel that you like and trust. You should also check with your vet that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date in plenty of time before they go.

Be equipped to travel by car

If you plan to move your pet on the day, make sure you have everything needed for safe car travel. To comply with The Highway Code, your pet needs to be safely restrained in the car, so you’ll need a doggy seatbelt or a secure, vet-approved pet carrier to transport your four-legged friend. If you’re travelling long distances or on a hot summer day, you’ll also need a collapsible travel bowl, their food, and plenty of cool water for those all-important rest breaks.

For more information, read our guide on safe car travel for pets.

Walk around your new neighbourhood together

If you’re moving somewhere not too far away from your current home (i.e. a short driving distance), try taking your dog on a few walks around the new area in the lead-up to the move. This will allow your precious pooch to familiarise themselves with a new setting (and a new walkies route!) so there are fewer things for them to get used to in the future.


On moving day

Use pheromone diffusers

On moving day, there will be plenty of bumping and banging going on and many strangers roaming around the house, which can bother even the calmest of pets. To help your pet relax, use a pheromone diffuser, ideally in the room they will be secured in. Undetectable to humans, pheromone diffusers contain natural scents that help calm the nerves of anxious or stressed pets.

Keep checking in

Naturally, your pet will sense that something strange is going on and may become more anxious if they’re left alone for long periods. If you plan to cordon off your pet in a separate room whilst the removal team’s at work, check in on them regularly so they know you’re still nearby. Bear in mind that your pet, cats especially, may panic and try to bolt out of the room, so secure any doors and windows behind you just in case.

As well as giving them lots of attention, make sure they have plenty of fresh water and toys designed to keep them relaxed or entertained for longer periods; a puzzle feeder is great for dogs while a scratching post will allow cats to relieve any stress (just make sure it’s tall enough for them!).

Plan their meals carefully

Avoid feeding pets within two hours of travelling as this could worsen travel sickness. Instead of feeding them large meals, offer them small amounts of their usual food throughout the day. This will distract them, give them something to do while you’re busy, and be gentler on their tummy if they do feel anxious.

Top tip: Instead of their usual kibble or wet food, a small portion of their daily food intake can be replaced by treats to reward any positive or calm behaviour they show throughout the day.

Leave your pet until last

Ideally, you should not move your pet until all the boxes, furniture, and removal people have gone and the house is quiet. Your pet can then be calmly moved from one location to the next, without too much worry. Dogs will benefit from going for a good walk to settle them down and tire them out before they go to their new home; this will help stop your pet from becoming over-excited once they arrive.

Make it homely

Before your pet arrives, prepare a room for them by unpacking their bedding, bowls, and toys and setting everything up. Though they will initially feel a little disorientated and on edge, seeing all their belongings will help them settle in from the get-go. Don’t forget, pheromone diffusers will also help them relax in their new environment.

Top tip: For anxious pets, a piece of clothing that smells of you will comfort them whenever they’re feeling a little stressed.


Settling into your new home

Update their details

Should the worst happen and your pet runs off, you’re much more likely to be reunited with them if they’re microchipped. As soon as you move in, make sure you inform the microchip company of your new address and contact details. You should also notify your pet insurance company of your new address and update the ID tag on your dog’s collar too.

Be patient

Allow your pet to roam around and explore each room on their terms and at their pace. There will be lots of new sights and sounds for your pet to get used to, so it’s especially important that you’re patient and never force them to do anything that they’re uncomfortable with.

For example, if you’ve moved from a single-storey property (such as a bungalow or high-rise flat) into a two-storey house, your pet may be hesitant to go up or down the stairs at first - especially if they’ve not done this before. Do not force them to do so. Instead, use reward-based training to praise any progress they make over time.

Check for dangers

Before allowing pets to explore, you must always check that each room is safe and secure. If you are renovating or decorating any rooms, make sure any doors to that room are kept closed at all times. This will prevent any curious pets from investigating dangerous supplies or sharp tools that could seriously harm them. Only allow your pets into the room once the work is finished, all equipment has been removed, and the area is safe for delicate paws.

Explore the garden together

The same rule applies to the outdoors as it does indoors - ensure your new garden is pet-friendly, fully secured and free from any poisonous plants before your four-legged friend goes outside. Walk your dog around the garden on a lead at first, allowing them to explore at their pace; they’ll feel safe knowing you’re there to give any reassurance as they go.

Read our advice on how to make your garden pet-friendly.

Keep cats indoors

Cats are naturally territorial and should be kept indoors for a few weeks to help them get used to their new environment. When your feline friend does eventually venture out, leave something that looks or smells familiar to them in the garden (e.g. your wellies or some garden pots from your old home) so they can recognise their home from their scent, which should lead them back safely.

Spend quality time together

Last (but certainly not least!) make sure you spend quality time with your pet to make them feel at ease. From unpacking boxes to endless organising, there’ll be plenty of tasks on your ‘to-do’ list, but it’s essential you still make lots of time for your pet. Dogs, in particular, can be extremely sensitive so try not to leave them alone in your new home during the first days or weeks of moving.  

Top tip: Get back into your pet’s normal routine as soon as possible by enjoying your usual walks, feeding schedule, playtime, and snuggles together!


To learn more on how to make your home pet-friendly, read about the ideal environment for cats or the ideal environment for dogs.

Share this article on:  PDSA | 30 September 2022


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