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Settling Your Pets into Their New Home

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 10 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Moving Pets Into New Home Settling Pets

When we move from a familiar home into a new house it’s important for us to adjust our bearings and it can sometimes feel quite strange and even discomforting until we’ve got used to our new surroundings. Likewise, ‘free-roaming’ pets such as cats and dogs are no different in this regard and they can also show behavioural signs that indicate a sense of fretfulness and an initial unease at their new surroundings. This is due to the fact that they are very territorial creatures and their sense of belonging and comfort are explicitly related to their ability to relate to the place in which they live. However, there are steps we can take to help them adjust more quickly.


Although cats are more self-reliant than dogs, they are also usually more deeply affected by a change of environment. One of the best things you can do is to let them adjust to their new home gradually. Place the cat’s bed, litter tray, food and water in one specific room. It will usually gravitate towards this room as a place of refuge where it feels most safe as its belongings will emit a scent which the cat is familiar with. This will then enable your cat to also get used to all of the other unfamiliar smells and sounds that will seem strange to it at first. Put any toys and blankets in or close to its bed as well as this will re-inforce its sense of home.

Unlike a dog, if you’re cat is very nervous and upset by its new surroundings, it may try to jump out of a window or escape through an open door so make sure you keep all exterior doors and any accessible windows closed in the early days at least. Don’t worry if your cat decides that it wants to seek refuge in another place, e.g. under the bed is a favourite place – it will come out as soon as it feels safe. Some cats are quite happy to stay indoors or, at the most, only roam around the garden but if yours is one that likes to roam freely, keep it indoors for the first couple of weeks so that it can get used to its immediate surroundings first.

After about a fortnight, introduce it to the outdoors gradually, say for 10 minutes each day then increase this time bit by bit until you feel more sure that your cat feels more confident, safe and a bit more familiar with its new territory. Also, make sure that it’s tagged with your new address and contact number.


Dogs can usually adapt to a new environment far more quickly than cats but they, too, can sometimes need time to adjust, particularly if your new home has a much different layout or is smaller than your previous home. This is because a dog’s happiness is often connected to its ability to roam around the house freely and has ample space for its size so a larger dog in much more cramped accommodation will often become fretful.

When you move in, makes sure that its basket, food and water bowls are in a place where you intend to keep them. Moving a dog’s bed and bowls around constantly can make it feel very insecure. When you take your dog out for a walk from your new home for the first time, make sure you keep it on a lead, even if it’s been trained to walk off one. Take your dog on different walks so that they can explore different areas and become more familiar with the surroundings. At this stage, don’t be tempted to take him to a park to run after a ball but let him get familiarised with all the various routes first. He’s bound to encounter other strange dogs that he’s never seen before and that might seem quite stressful at first or he may act very defensively and be more protective of you initially which, though this might seem to contradict his usual demeanour and the way he’d usually react to other dogs or dog owners, is perfectly natural until he familiarises himself with his new surroundings.

It’s not just outside, however, where things might seem strange to your dog. Inside the house too, your presence will be his source of comfort so you might also find that where he’d be fine in your old place if you needed to go out for a few hours or when you had to go to work, he may react quite differently when you carry out those same routines in your new house. Therefore, if there’s any possibility of you taking some time off work to help him get used to the adjustments, it will often help him settle down more quickly. Alternatively, try to get someone to be present in the house with him constantly over the first few days until he adjusts. In fact, there are several dog walker and dog sitting services available these days which will make sure your dog has some company and a chance to go out more, if you’re unable to spare the extra time he might need to get used to his new environment.

The fact is that you’re likely to know your pet better than anyone. You’ll understand his temperament – whether he’s shy or social, confident or nervous etc and your understanding of his moods will help you make the necessary adjustments to help him settle into his new home as quickly as possible. And, if you have other pets besides cats and dogs which also seem unable to settle, the best thing is to have a word with your vet.

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