There are plenty of jobs to do before moving day and if you’re at the stage where you’ve agreed a sale and/or purchase you’ll probably already have a long ‘to do’ list. (If not, we have a useful moving house checklist
you could use.)
Some of the jobs on your list can be ticked off days or even weeks in advance, such as decluttering, booking a removals company, and starting to pack. There are some jobs you might not be able to do until the day of the move itself - such as packing up your small pets’ cages and tanks - but you can take a lot of stress out of those jobs by preparing in advance.
If you own small or exotic pets, such as rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds and reptiles, you may not be able to physically transport them from your old house to your new home until moving day. However, it’s important that you plan ahead so you know how to move your little furry, scaly or feathery family members safely and with as little stress (for them and you) as possible.
A special note on small and exotic pets
As a responsible owner, you’ll be very mindful of your pets’ emotional wellbeing as well as their physical care during your house move. The tips below will hopefully help you to ensure that your pets get through the moving day unscathed.
The major difference in caring for a small/exotic pet and a cat or dog is that many species can’t vocalise distress. This makes it especially important that you keep a close eye on their behaviours to monitor them for signs of stress, which can occur however careful you are and however mindful of their needs you are on moving day. If you think your pet is stressed before, during or after the move, please see your vet as soon as possible for expert advice.
Before the move
- Book an appointment with your normal vet for a health check for your exotic pet. Ask for any specific advice that might apply to your pet given their medical history, age and state of health. Ask whether your pet is best transported in the light or dark, and plan the time of your journey (or cover the transport tank/cage with material) accordingly.
- Do some research and find a specialist vet near your new home, or ask your vet if they can recommend someone. Not all vets know how to care for reptiles, and if something were to happen during the move or soon afterwards, you need to know where to go for help.
- If you don’t already have one, purchase a travel cage/tank for your reptile for safe transportation. Make sure it’s ventilated yet secure!
- Heat lamps aren’t designed to be powered by the socket in your car, but you can buy heat packs to plug into your car for the journey.
- Birds are very sensitive to changes in their environment. Try to keep changes to a minimum in the room where your bird normally lives, until the last minute.
- If you notice a change in their behaviour (such as increased aggression, or feather plucking) when you’re packing or organising the house for the move, ask your vet for advice on how to minimise your bird’s stress.
- Buy a smaller cage or travel carrier for your bird. The size and design of these will depend on your bird’s species and size. If in doubt, ask your vet for advice.
- Help your bird get used to their travel case or cage by letting them spend some time in it, and put their favourite food or toy inside. When they’re familiar with it, you could try taking them for short journeys in the car to help them to get used to the noise and vibration of the vehicle (remove any toys to minimise risk of injury on the journey).
- As with reptiles, find a vet who specialises in birds in your new area, and keep their details handy in case of emergencies during the move.
- Buy a suitable pet carrier for the journey and allow your small pet to get used to it - place it inside their existing cage, with the door open, and let them explore.
- When they’re happy with their travel cage/carrier, use it to take them out for a few short drives in your car. Put one of their favourite toys, and familiar bedding in it to ease anxiety.
On moving day
For all types of exotic and small pets, it is important not to put their carrier on the front seat if the airbag is enabled. If there is a collision, the impact from an airbag could easily damage the carrier and harm or kill your pet.
- Make their travel cage/tank comfortable with fresh substrate and (non-live) food. If it’s going to be a long journey, ensure you build in time for breaks where you can offer your reptile water.
- Keep an eye on the temperature within their travel cage/tank - you can use the thermometer you normally keep in their main tank.
- Clean, dismantle and pack up their main tank to avoid any damages en route. Make sure it’s clearly labelled, or that you know exactly where it is in the moving van, so that you can find it quickly and set it up as soon as you arrive in your new home.
- When everything is being packed into the moving van, keep your bird’s cage somewhere quiet and out of the way of all the hustle and bustle for as long as possible.
- When you’re ready to move your bird, however harassed and stressed you might be feeling, give them plenty of time to get into their pet carrier. Don’t put anything else in there with them as toys etc may cause injury. Take them into the car (making sure the temperature is suitable inside the car) and then clean, dismantle and pack their main cage. Don’t do that in front of them, they will be distressed at seeing their ‘house’ destroyed!
- Rather than providing water, ensure that your bird has plenty of water-rich food to eat. If it’s a particularly long journey or your vet advises, take water with you to offer during rest breaks.
- Birds usually enjoy the scenery from the windows when travelling, but ensure that your bird is not exposed to long periods in direct sunlight.
- Ensure the ambient temperature in the car is comfortable for your bird.
- When the rest of your things are packed into the moving van, it’s time to move your little furry friend. Move them into their travel cage along with some fresh bedding and dried food. If they’re accustomed to drinking from a bottle, attach this to the side of their travel cage. Alternatively, give them plenty of fruit with a high water content for a relatively short journey, or build in rest breaks to offer water when the vehicle is stationnary.
- Cover the travel cage with a lightweight fabric to keep it relatively dark and calm, but ensure that there is still plenty of ventilation. Keep the temperature in the car at a pleasant level, just as it would be at home.
Settling into your new home
You’ll have a million and one things to do when you get to your new home - there might be some cleaning to do, and you’ll have a van load of belongings to unpack. If you have small or exotic pets, though, your priority will have to be setting up their permanent home before you do anything else.
Unpack their cage or tank and, if you haven’t already done so, give it a good clean. Fill it with their familiar belongings and bedding/substrate, fresh water and favourite food. They might like to watch you doing this, so place their travel cage/tank nearby.
As soon as their normal habitat is set up, place their travel cage/tank inside it and allow them to come out in their own time. Try to seem calm and relaxed, as they will pick up on your body language and tone of voice - they’re in a new environment and may feel anxious or stressed, so do what you can to reassure them with a calming presence.
Over the coming days and weeks, continue to keep an eye on their behaviour and appetite, and consult with your new vet if you have any concerns.
Self storage and moving with exotic or small pets
We can help you in many ways when moving house, but we can’t store living creatures in any of our units!
To take some of the strain off moving day, you could consider moving non-essentials into a self storage unit a few days or weeks before the move, so that you have fewer things to transport on the day. You could also choose to move all or most of your belongings into your unit on moving day, rather than into your new home, if you need some time and space to decorate or renovate your new home.
Using a self storage unit in this way could alleviate some stress on the day, and give you more time and headspace to concentrate on making moving day a smoother transition for your whole family.