Mere domestic animals to some, an integral part of the family to others – when it comes to security and comfort, there is no place like home for your pets. This is why changes to unfamiliar environments are traumatic for our furry friends. Colleen Clackworthy from Pet Travel, South Africa, shares some useful hints on alleviating the stress levels of all parties concerned.
Any pet owner can vouch for the marked change in pet behaviour at the outset of a planned move. Who said pets can’t sulk? Disruptions in a pet’s normal environment start from the moment the suitcases are strewn around the house, and continue through to the actual day of the move, when all the activity, movement, noise and smells of having strangers on the property, leave a pet in a state of confusion and anxiety. Even owner’s behaviour changes, making matters worse! An individual pet’s temperament will affect how it travels. A carefully planned pet move will ensure that your precious pet arrives at its new home without any physical or emotional harm:
- Consider the temperament, specific illnesses and physical impairments of each pet prior to moving and devise strategies that will ease the process. Pets should have all necessary vaccinations and be in good health prior to travel.
- It is advisable to place a pet with a kennels, cattery or pet carer prior to the day of the move. This will also help you to focus on organising the final details of the move.
- Pets have been known to execute a great escape during these stressful times, so consider proper security facilities when organising alternate accommodation for your pet. Caregivers should be able to meet the pet’s specific needs (food, medical, bedding etc). Remember that while families and friends are always willing to help out, they might not have the necessary secure facilities for “escape artists”, or the required experience to care for a stressed pet!
- Cats should be secured in a warm, safe room prior to transporting.
- Travelling is not only stressful, but can also upset your pet’s stomach! Don’t feed your pets two to three hours prior to road travel and four to six hours prior to air travel. There are various homeopathic remedies that will calm a pet when stressed – tranquilisers are not recommended. Rescue tablets can be given to your pet a few days prior to the move.
- Secure pet travel boxes (approved by the International Air Travel Association) are recommended for road and air travel. The container should be clean and allow enough room for the pet to stand up and turn around. Water should be provided at all times. Travel boxes should not be oversized either; this could lead to injury and provide a less secure environment. Spacer bars should be provided to allow maximum ventilation through the air holes.
- Familiar objects, such as a small blanket or owner’s shirt, can be included to provide a comforting scent.
- Pets should be transported in specific vehicles that allow for efficient loading, safe travel compartments, sufficient airflow and even air-conditioning, where necessary. Drivers should be experienced with pet handling and be able to supervise pets while en route to their destination. The playing of classical music has proven to help reduce stress levels in animals.
- Do not allow pets to travel in the same vehicle as your furniture. The pet will be traumatised by exposure to excessive noise, heat, lack of ventilation, falling objects and a lack of adult supervision. Open vehicles are just as dangerous, as pets are at risk of falling out at high speed. Pets can also be injured by flying debris, or become ill by having cold air forced into their lungs.
- Once you have arrived at your new home, try to get your pets settled into their new environment as soon as possible.