Moving house and keeping critterz cool in amongst the chaos
To say the last few weeks have been stressful would be the understatement of the century!
A few months ago my landlord decided to put the house on the market which meant weekly house inspections that were promptly nicknamed "home invasions". I am a very private person and rarely have visitors- my home is my sanctuary- so this was very invasive for me.
Luckily I had a very understanding real estate agent in charge of marketing the house and we worked well together coordinating inspection times so that I was present to manage my animals.
I regularly explain to my training clients how important it is to be your dogs' advocate when out walking or in the home. Be bold and communicate politely and firmly with others as to what you want them to do ie; Hand up- STOP my dog is nervous with other dogs, just wait a min while we move etc.
Or how to manage appropriate greetings by guests in your home.
So this concept isn't foreign to me however having inspections regularly by people I didn't know or even want there made me anxious and eventually annoyed.
So mainly it came down to environmental management, enrichment and strict instructions to people entering.
Phatso is crate trained so I would put a bandana with adaptil on him and pop him in a crate with a frozen enrichment toy. *Crates are great!!!!
Banana is not a fan of new people and will choose to run and hide but we needed doors open as people came in and out. Thankfully I spent the time getting her used to wearing a harness so she had her harness on attached to a latch in the wall and popped into the toilet with the door closed.(who wants to look at a loo anyway right?) So really the harness was a back up security measure in case someone ignored my instructions not to open the toilet door.
The birds were a totally different matter. Birds are prey animals and flight is their first option but they are in cages.
I know my birds well enough to know enrichment won't help when a potential threat is near (new people) so I was very clear when I greeted people - My dog is in his crate please don't go near him, My cat is in the toilet and very scared so don't open the door and DON’T go near the bird cages or stick your fingers in or you will lose them!!
Eventually the house was taken off the market and I decided to move - oh crap now there is rental inspections!!!!
Well at least I had a routine now but my animals were very over having strange people in the house.
Oh wait I have all this stuff I don't need- I will sell it on market place...
Oh wow that meant more people coming to the house so in the end I met people elsewhere with items small enough to fit in the car.
Bear in mind for 6 years I lived in the same house have and had very few people over so this few months was a total overdose on people for my critterz. We were all over threshold!
Cue the boxes... Yep the cat loved that!!
Banana was in her element sitting in this box and that box and oh look I can chew this one!!
The day I got the keys I took Phatso over to the new house and let him sniff around as I have always done when we moved- I knew there was two dogs and a cat there previously and in one sniff so did he!!
There were stairs and he needed to learn to negotiate the turn in the middle which he has now mastered.
As I did loads I took Phatso with me and he got the idea- oh look my toys are here!
During this time I was also spraying adaptil in the house and on his bandana.
The weekend of the move was also the weekend of the Paws and Relax Pet Services awards night in which I was a finalist.
So I went from moving boxes in trackies and runners (so many stairs!!) to stilettos and looking glam in a little black dress...What an amazing night with so many amazing businesses being recognised for the brilliant work they are doing to improve the lives of animals in Brisbane.
To say I was over threshold was again an understatement so Vodka (my version of human adaptil! :) was in order celebrating with good friends.
Up and at em again the next day lugging boxes and prepping the birds for their move.
My friend Lis from the Naughty Puppy Ranch arrived with her Ute to help me move the bird cages.
This was strategic as I didn't want the birds moving the same day as the removalists were there so I got them to the new place and spent the night on a blow up mattress with them. (thanks for the loan Rill)
Phatso thought that was his bed!!
It took a solid 5 min "mat training" session for Phatso to work out his bed was next to mine!
I just love the basics of training- they are the foundation of everything and so easy to go back to.
Moving Day (the big and heavy stuff-yep I have way too much stuff)
I sorted the birds breakfast and enrichment and went to meet the movers- The birds didn't touch a thing but they weren't screaming so that was a plus-or was it?
Phatso was really easy to manage on the day-again an enrichment toy and treats in his crate and regular on lead toilet breaks and the kid was sorted.
But I had nowhere to pop him at the other end for unloading so I had to leave him locked in the empty house by himself while we unloaded- again dap and enrichment -a loaded Tug-A-Jug, but I knew he would be stressed.
I had the world's most wonderful neighbours and I asked if they would mind popping in and checking in on him for me.
They sent me selfies and photos playing tug of war with him!
I checked on Banana in the ensuite and I had expanded her area to the walk in robe too. I had her food bowl and the Mouse foraging toy with her and gave her some food in both but she was too stressed to eat.
I sprayed some Feliway around and sat with her.
When we had stressed cats in shelter going off their food sometimes company was the necessary ingredient and indeed it worked for her. We spent time patting and slowly she went over to her mouse and batted it around.
Interesting she chose the mouse and not the bowl.
This was her turning point and slowly she got back to her "I'm taking over the world" normal self.
Now, even though she has the run of the house, my bedroom, robe and ensuite are her domain...she just allows me to share space with her!
I love that the foraging mouse has brought her so much joy and helped her adjust so quickly- She has a high reinforcement history with this toy and she frequently leads me to it and even dropped it next to me one day :)
To be honest she was the one I was most worried about and she needed the least management and bounced back in fine style!
On Day 3 in the new place I had the words of my friend Domineque of The Dog Brigade ringing in my ears -"Behaviour is Information..."
The birds weren't eating or foraging!!
Mainly Polly which caught me off guard as she is such a bold little parrot.
On this day I opened the curtains to the window Polly was in front of, to see a juvenile magpie sitting on the chair singing out and knocking on the chair...and two butcher birds on the clothes line!!!!
Oh crap the last people must have been feeding them!
Behaviour is information right!?!
I know my birds won't forage when stressed and now I know a big part of that stressor!
I swapped the cages so Mikey was at the window -worried how that would go but he seemed fine.
I haven't fed the wild birds and whilst I can hear the magpie I haven't seen him in our yard again. (environmental management - a little harder when its wild animals? not really...they will do what works and if calling for food in our yard doesn't work even with a high reinforcement history they will find their food elsewhere)
So easy enrichment..I made the baffle cages super easy but still Polly wouldn't touch them.
We went to egg cartons open with all her favourites and that seemed to be her turning point- back to basics!
Now she is using her baffle cage each day and is boldly exploring as before.
Mikey on the other hand...I accidentally created a separation issue...
I was so worried about him screaming and making noise during the move and in the first few days I would run to the cage when he screamed and do some targeting and basic training-rewarding with seeds and nuts...oh dear!
Rookie mistake Seven!
If I left the room he would scream, If I went upstairs he would scream but interestingly if I went into the garage to leave he was quiet..why? Because I never came back in when I left through that door so he knew it didn't work- animals do what works remember Seven?!
I spoke with my neighbours who all haven't heard him at all..ok I need to fix this.
I stopped coming back into the room and reinforcing the screaming and instead waited for moments of quiet.
Well this got very intense and I had a very noisy screaming cockatoo on my hands-the intensity was like a screaming toddler on the ground rolling kicking and thrashing around but louder!!
I tried giving a nut to break into as I left but that very quickly was thrown to the bottom of the cage and became an indicator I was leaving so we scrapped that!
Giving him enrichment and treats right then was not going to work because what he wanted was me!
For a solid few days I waited for 10 sec of quiet before reentering and now its a min of 20 seconds quiet required for me to come back into the room.
But it worked!!!
I can now go upstairs and have minimal fuss..why? Because it doesn't work anymore! Contrary to popular belief birds don't scream cause they like the sound of their own voice-it's actually really tiring for them.
While we have a way to go we are definitely turning corners and I am seeing more relaxed behaviours in the birds- using more enrichment, flying more confidently and exploring on the ground again.
What has been my common denominator across all the animals during this very stressful time?
Yep you guessed it.. ENRICHMENT!
But remember Behaviour is information and I had to monitor all of my animals and adjust their enrichment to meet them where they were at.
Enrichment isn't a set and forget and it should never always be easy or hard..
We need to adjust and monitor their enjoyment and ability to use the enrichment.
This will always change and can be indicators for us for other things- Phatso can no longer enjoy using his harder puzzle feeding plates as he is arthritic and it is too frustrating for him so the Slo-dog is perfect for him now in his older years.
This is why we recommend with all of our toys to monitor how your animals use them.
I have to say I really don't like moving but it has been an interesting experience all round.
Having 4 different personalities to manage (3 different species) has been a good challenge and I am glad mostly for the trust my animals have in me to keep them safe after years of positive reinforcement based training methods and having friends to gently remind me of blatantly obvious stuff you forget when you are stressed!
A special thanks to Lynne Falconer - our friend and vet from the Crazy Critterz Vet Corner who reminded me "They will be fine if you are calm Seven"
Easier said than done sometimes but she was right!
Moving is stressful but I am sure you all have some great tips and tricks you have used with your animals and we are keen to hear about them!!
Share some of them with us on our socials and remember to always stay at least a little Crazy!!!