Moving homes with a cat shouldn’t be hard, or, at least not something to stress about. Of course, you might be worried that your cat won’t handle it well or won’t become accustomed to the new place comfortably, but instead, his distress might manifest itself into aggression, urine spraying, litter box avoidance or other stress-related behavior.
Fortunately, if you consider in advance your cat’s needs during the move, you both will be fine. In this article, you will find advice to make changing homes with a cat as smooth and painless as possible.
- Think about where your cat would stay during the move. If you have the ability to house your cat somewhere nice(er) during the moving process–definitely do it. Do it even if you can board your cat for only one part of the process, that is, the move-out or move-in only. While it’s not always an option, especially if you move to Far Far Away, there is no equal stress relief during the process of packing, loading, unloading and unpacking your stuff. Setting up a layover for your cat will reduce his stress and the time it will require to adapt to the new house.
- Retain your cat’s routine, at least as much as possible. You do know that cats love things the way they are. Honestly, that’s one among the few things humans and cats have in common–we too love predictability. The biggest difference, though, is that humans have foresight, which means we can acknowledge when changes, though stressful, will benefit us in the long run. Cats, on the other hand, know nothing about changes for the better; they don’t even know what is going to happen. All they know is that if things start to change well before the move, this will result in ultimate change in absolutely everything. To minimize this effect, you should, at the very least, maintain consistency with respect to your cat’s feeding regime, as well as the amount of play and one-on-one bonding time regardless of how busy you are with planning, packing or showing your home to buyers.
Keep your cat’s old stuff. It’s a warm thought: A new house means new furniture, new tableware, new litter box, new cat… what? We humans might be excited by the idea of having a new WC seat, but our cats aren’t. There are several reasons why cats are better off with their old stuff. First, things covered with their own smell is a comfort for them. Second, some items, such as litter boxes or scratching posts, have a specific smell cats expect them to possess. Third, cats, in general, are obstinate. Bring your cat’s old cat tree, food bowl and toys to the new house, and your cat will assume that the new home is genuinely his.
- Get your cat’s old medical records before the move. Also, it’s good if you can gather information in advance about veterinarians in your new area. Once your cat is completely accustomed to the new house, go make an introductory visit. Visits can not only help discover potential or unnoticed health problems early, but they also teach a cat that not all visits end badly, with something (possibly sharp) being forced into one end or the other.
- Update your cat’s identification. That is, if your cat’s ID tag has a home address and landline number on it. Don’t forget that the information is also registered with your cat’s microchip number, which, of course, must be updated. If your cat is not chipped, it’s a good idea to sort it out now, because most of recent cat and owner reunification stories are a result of people microchipping their pets.
Be calm and casual about the move yourself. If you want your cat to calm down, you must do it first. Owners’ stress easily transfers to their pets, and many people get more stressed over moving than their cats. Don’t let that happen. It’s just a home move; set that into your mind, and you will both be fine. What’s the worst that could happen? Don’t answer that if you can.
- Stop allowing your cat outdoors for at least several days before the move. Though we’d said earlier to change your cat’s daily rhythm as little as you can, it does not apply to going outside. You can’t gurantee that your cat will be nearby on moving day. You might think you know your cat well, and that he will be hanging around somewhere close by, as usual, but moving day is highly different. A stressed cat may hide and not respond to you calling. No biggie if you’re moving over to the next street, but if you must catch a plane to another continent, your cat stays here.
- Get your cat to a secure area on moving day before all hell breaks loose. In other words, put your cat in a closed room, which can be cleared of anything in advance or left until the very last. Good candidates are bedrooms as they are distant and no one needs them during the day, but also bathrooms because they have very little in the way of moveable items to begin with. The room must be rendered safe for a cat, and at minimum, must contain a litter box and water bowl. Of course, a cat tree, bed, empty box, scratcher and some toys are nice too.
Put your cat inside a carrier once everything is done. Learn to put your cat inside a carrier here. First, a carrier is the safest way for a cat to travel. Second, it’s the safest place for your cat while you finish loading. Do this as late in the process as you can to reduce the time your cat spends confined. Pack the stuff from the last room, and off you go. Make easily accessible the items your cat will need in the new home. We don’t want to sound overly caring cat people here, but your cat will be among the first “things” you will deal with when arriving to your new home. Even if you also have a dog.
- Set up the “cat’s room” in your new house. That is, preparing a room in which he will reside during the move-in and likely for some time during the adjustment process. Similar to when moving out, this could be a secluded room which you do not need to occupy initially. Bring your cat’s stuff inside, and place the litter box, food and water, and favorite toys, as well as several familiar items, such as beds, blankets, or your shirt around the room. When ready, bring the cat carrier in, open its gate, and, without further disturbance, leave the room closing the door behind you. Of course, you can stay if you have nothing else to do, which is unlikely.
- Check on your cat as much as needed. You can talk to your cat, play with or pet him, or simply check to be sure he isn’t getting into trouble. There is no general guideline for how much and how often to check, as it depends on your relationship and how he or she adapts to the new home. For most cats, you can’t do it too much, while at the same time, there are cats who prefer to be left alone. You likely know your cat well enough to recognize if he needs more or less of you at the specific moment.
- Turn your new home into a cat paradise. Setting up an empty house is the perfect moment to incorporate cat-friendly items into the interior. There are no well-defined strategies when catifying a house, but the single most important factor is providing the means to climb. Simply, employ as much structure as you can, even if it means several cat trees and shelves in each room. Also, the amount and location of litter boxes, scratching surfaces and water bowls should be given serious consideration. If you have a bigger house now, you will need more of these than you’d had before.
- Let your cat explore the new home gradually and on his own terms. Open the door to the “cat’s room” only when you are all set in. Do not force your cat to come out; just open the door. The rate at which cats explore their new homes is individual and can also depend on external factors. Some may chase all the mice back to their caves within hours, while some may not come out of the room for weeks. The important thing is that your cat makes this decision.
When should you let your cat outdoors? You should wait for at least month, though this number isn’t set in stone. Often it’s better to wait even longer for several good reasons. First, your cat must be completely accustomed to his new home before exploring further. Second, time is needed to discourage your cat from venturing away. While you might think your cat may just head to the old house and eventually make the news, this rarely is the case. With 10 million pets getting lost every year in the US alone, we should expect one-in-a-million reunion stories almost monthly. Since we don’t, odds are probably even less. Third, remember that your garden does not become your cat’s territory as you move in. It is likely controlled by rival cats who won’t treat the “intruder” lightly. Of course, your presence may drive them away, but it takes time. Last note, since you will need to keep your cat inside for a prolonged time, this is a good time to consider converting your cat exclusively as an indoor pet.
- If you have more than one cat, things were not complicated enough thus far. Much depends on how your cats get along. From this, you either treat your cats as one cat (one room, one carrier, one litter box and bed) or as two individual cats. Or even three. Remember that even formerly amiable cats can become hostile to each other when things change abruptly. If you are careful and prevent anything from escalating, all should be back to normal once you all settle in. If necessary, you can separate the cats, let them adjust to the new setting independently, and then re-introduce them as if they had never met before. You might also be interested in our tips for owners of more than one cat. At the same time, it’s also very likely for two cats to comfort each other during the move.
Are you ready for the move? Despite the length of the above text, it shouldn’t be too difficult, as we’d promised in the beginning. With the amount of information you now have on hand, it should prove a flawless transition of living accommodations for you and your cat.