Moving house, going on holiday, or even weekends away with your pet can be heaven or hell depending on how much preparation you’ve done and how portable your pet is.
So before you transport the tortoise, or pack the parakeet, lets take a look at some of the things that can go right or wrong when moving with animals.
Before you take any animal anywhere, consider life from their point of view.
There they are living life happily in surroundings they know when suddenly they are whisked up and transported to a place they’ve never been before, with strange smells and scary sights.
Dogs usually cope much better than cats, as all they need to make them relaxed is happy pack leaders. This can cause problems during house moves when pack leaders are usually stressed and tired, and far from happy.
Putting dogs into kennels, or leaving them with friends for a few days, can be a good option if this description sounds familiar.
Cats take house moves, and any type of move that involves leaving their familiar territory behind, very badly. For these solitary hunters, territory equals safety and a food supply, even though you feed them every day.
Separate a cat from its home range, and you cause them all sorts of worries.
This is why it is best to leave them behind on weekend trips, and even on longer holidays, if you can ensure that someone responsible will look in on them daily.
Failing that, a good cattery will keep them safe until you return.
Good catteries and kennels get booked up early, so planning in advance is the key to a contented pet if they are not coming with you.
If you plan to take a dog or cat on a journey in the car, the secret to successful travel is to prepare them for the excursion in advance.
Bundling them into the car, and setting off without getting them used to it, may allow you to find out very suddenly how messy, noisy and destructive they can be.
If you add to this a car full of children, buckets and spades, suitcases and sandwiches, the resulting picture is not very pleasant.
Taking them on little journeys well in advance will help them to get used to the noise and motion of the car.
If you begin this process early and then find that your dog turns into a barking, manic beast in the car that cannot be controlled, you still have time to seek professional help.
Confining cats to a secure carrier will prevent them getting out and running off, if you have to open car doors in an emergency.
Providing a non-slip surface for a dog to sit on will help it cope with corners, but don’t forget to take them gently to avoid plastering your pooch against the sides as you turn.
There have been lots of warnings about
animals left in hot cars,
Planning your journey to take account of any animals you are transporting, will help you to make allowances for extremes of temperature, but don’t forget to take some water and a dish, and perhaps some food, for essential maintenance of furry friends on long journeys.
Transporting small animals is usually easier because you can take their little world with them. Small pets or birds in cages transport well providing the cage is secure and not likely to fall apart and release its occupant.
If you remove anything loose, it will be less likely to roll or fall down and squash your pet.
As a University student, I would regularly take my small tank of goldfish home for holidays, leaning over to steady it with one hand while driving round corners with the other. It wasn’t very safe, but when you’re young you don’t think about tanks springing a leak or an accident that leaves the fish stranded and flipping on the carpet. Putting fish in plastic bags with a little air pocket and packing them in special polystyrene pots from the pet shop makes the process much easier and safer.
And finally, don’t forget that exited, stressed animals need to go the toilet often.
Taking plenty of cleaning materials for inevitable little accidents can help to ensure you have a clean and comfortable trip. Good luck!
For information on taking your pet abroad, call the Pet Travel Scheme Helpline on 0870 241 1710 or visit www.defra.gov.uk
‘Pets Welcome’ lists hundreds of hotels where your pet can go too or visit www.pets-on-holiday.com
For a leaflet on moving house with cats send a s.a.e. and a donation to The Blue Cross, Shilton Road, Burford, Oxon OX18 4PF
Also see Gwen Bailey's