The family pet. Arguably our most precious cargo – other than the kids – when we have to move home. So how can you make sure you get your furry, feathery or scaly friends from one location to another safely, securely, and with the least amount of stress for you and them…
Start with the basics
Elizabeth Boyes started her dog training business, Canine Concept Cadets, in Stafford and often gives advice to other military spouses on how to help dogs learn to be calm, which is essential for travel.
“I have my own Cocker Spaniel, Gwen, who has had at least eight moves in her lifetime. In my experience, you have to start from the basics in every new environment, I’ve often found my dog has lost the ability to recall for example.”
Planning in advance, especially with a nervous dog, is key.
“Decide on how you’re going to move your pet, and if you’re using a cage and your dog is afraid of it, now is the time to teach them that it’s a safe place – don’t leave it until the week you’re moving,” adds Elizabeth. “If your pet gets car sick, take them out on short journeys and gradually build up the duration.
“For small rodents, keep things as normal as possible, I use pool noodles with my mouse as small critters stress very easily. Guinea pigs and rabbits should be in suitable carriers with plenty of enrichment.
“Dogs can take up to 72 hours to destress so it’s a good idea to allow them a settling in period before taking them out on walks. Stuffed Kongs, chews, brain games and scent work are a few ways to help your dog relax in their new surroundings.”
The best laid plans…
During their time in Germany, Kayleigh and her family had built up a friendship with Sven, who lived locally, and he kindly looked after their three cats while the family stayed in a hotel during their move from Sennelager to the UK.
“On the final day we turned up to collect the cats and say our goodbyes,” explains Kayleigh, “but we could only find two of them. They were not allowed to go outside and Sven was adamant he’d never let them out. We had the ferry booked and so little time, but we searched everywhere.
“Then, when we looked outside, the door slammed behind us and we were all locked out. Sven didn’t have a spare key, so we had to ask the neighbours to help kick open the heavy fire door. I heard a faint cry and there was our cat, Pooie, stuck inside the sofa. The bill for a replacement door was £2,000!”
Kimberly also found having a feline in the forces can be an expensive business. She spent a small fortune taking her beloved cat out to East Africa, and is likely to face an even heftier bill when it’s time to return to the UK.
“Getting all vaccines, rabies and COVID-19 test, plus the flight with the cat in hand luggage, cost us about £450,” Kimberly says. “It was complicated and stressful as everything dovetails just as you are leaving the country.
“The rules are different to import her back as she has to go in the hold. I’m expecting a bill of around £2,000.”
Handle with care
Liz Ellwood is no stranger to moving with pets, but when she received an unexpected overseas posting to the United States, she had to move her chickens to her friend’s house in Bulford, who stepped in to take care of them.
“It was the shortest distance but the hardest of all our moves. My top tip would be to handle your chickens regularly before you try and do it on moving day – it was chaos!”
In another move from Bulford to Uxbridge, Liz says it was tricky taking dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits and fish in one go:
“With so many fish in fish-travel-bags – who knew there was such a thing – an M25 traffic jam on a warm summer’s day has never been so stressful.
“My top tip is to beg, borrow or buy proper fish transportation bags from a pet shop as ziplocks and freezer bags can leak.
“Flying two dogs from Uxbridge to Canada was probably the easiest of all the moves so far.”
If you are moving soon, check out our top tips for moving your pets, from army spouse Lisa Rogerson, founder of Help for Movers. Click here to read more.