Cats need extra care when moving home
Moving house is always a stressful time, but it can be much tougher for pets.
Jo Suen's two-cat family became a four-cat family when she moved in with her new husband. 'Moving home with cats was absolutely a terrifying job for us,' Suen says.
Cocoa, the eldest among the four felines, is very sensitive and introverted. Although each cat suffered some anxiety when moving, Cocoa was the worst.
'She refused to eat or drink, and she was so thin, we could barely see her belly,' Suen says. 'We had to take her to the vet, who told us she was stressed and suffering from depression.'
Pets are sensitive to change as they have no clue as to what is going on around them. 'Some dogs and cats can behave like the end of the world is upon them,' says Paul Essey, managing director of Hong Kong Vet Services.
Fear-based house soiling, excessive meowing and crying, hiding, attempts to escape and aggression are common behaviour traits in fretful cats, Essey says.
Dogs may become clingy or behave out of character, such as 'not eating, not wanting to go for walks and experiencing toilet accidents', says Sally Andersen, founder of Hong Kong Dog Rescue.
Family is everything to a dog and it is reassuring for them to be with people or dogs they know. As long as the family is around, the dog will be fine and will quickly settle, she adds.
Stretching moving time helps ease pets' tension. Essey recommends owners bring in boxes and start packing early, so that pets get used to the idea of moving.
Adjusting to a new environment is a challenging task for pets, and owners are advised to take their animals to explore their new home before the move takes place.
'We paid extra attention to our cats when moving home, especially with Cocoa,' Suen says.
In order to get Cocoa familiar with the new environment, Suen and Cocoa moved into their new home a week before moving day.
'My husband travelled back and forth between the two homes to help with the moving and took care of the other three cats,' Suen says.
Confining pets to a quiet room with some of their familiar belongings helps increase feelings of security and minimises stress when settling into a new home.
Essey says keeping bedding and favourite toys unwashed for a couple of weeks after the move helps 'so that [the pets] will have something familiar smelling in their new house'.
Once the animal starts to settle down, owners can let them have access to other rooms, one or two at a time.
Another simple and useful trick to settle cats into a new home is to 'rub a warm, damp towel over the body, especially around the face, then rub the towel onto prominent surfaces around the house', Essey says.
'This works because there are pheromones on a cat's body, especially around its face, and these have been proven to be an effective control settling cats in unknown or stressful environments.'
No matter whether pets are dogs, cats, hamsters, birds or any other animal, it is important for owners to be attentive and patient.
'The principles are the same: get your animals used to the idea of moving beforehand, stick to the normal routines as much as possible, and slowly introduce them to the new home, and keep noise and stress to a minimum,' Essey says.