How to Move with Cats
Cats are creatures of habit. They prefer a consistent environment and are not keen on abrupt changes. When moving, you will be exposing your cat to a lot of new stimuli. These changes can be very stressful for your cat and could lead to more aggressive behavior, soiling, hiding, and attempts to escape your home. The best way to move with a cat is to slowly acclimate them to the different aspects of the move. By slowly introducing things like moving boxes, their travel crate, and rooms in your new home, your cat will be able to process the move in their own time. Preparing to move with a cat should start well before you begin to pack and will end a few weeks after moving into your new home.
Preparing before you move
- Starting at least one week before you plan to pack, start to slowly place boxes around the house. Continue to add more boxes each day up until the day you actually start packing. This will help your cat slowly become accustomed to the presence of boxes in your home.
- Make sure your cat has a collar with your information on it, preferably with your mobile number. If they have not been microchipped, now may also be a good time to have that done. While they will not be likely to run away if you follow the proper protocol, it is better to be safe rather than sorry. The changing environment and high stress of the move will make your cat more likely to try to escape.
- When you do start packing, plan to completely pack up one room first. Use this room as a safe space for your cat during all of the chaos of packing and moving. When things start to get crazy and overwhelming, move your cat into this room. Set up a water dish, bed, litterbox, and food so that your cat will feel comfortable in their new room.
- In your cat’s new room, you should place whichever crate you plan to place them in when you move. Place bedding and a few treats inside of the carrier to encourage your cat to go inside and get used to it. Starting about a week out from your move, place your cat’s food dish outside of the carrier. Every day move the food dish farther inside of the carrier. Aim to have the food dish at the back of the carrier a few days before your official move. This will help them get used to being completely inside of the carrier. Take your cat on a few short drives in the carrier before the move to get them fully accustomed to the experience. Reward them with treats so that they have a positive association of being in the crate.
- Even the small change of moving into a new room will seem stressful to your cat. Make sure to still routinely go into their new room and spend time with them, even if it’s just to watch TV or read a book. If your cat is particularly anxious, it may be beneficial to visit the vet to see if you can get a prescription for anti-anxiety medication for your cat during this time. While there, ask your veterinarian for your cat’s medical records so that you will have them if you plan to switch vets.
- If you will be moving cross-country with a cat, do your research and find a hotel that is cat-friendly. You will likely stay the night somewhere, and you will want to make sure that you know ahead of time which places will allow you to stay there with a pet. Once you find a pet-friendly hotel, confirm that cats are accepted, as some do not allow them.
During your move
- As you begin to move things out of your house, keep your cat in their room. If not, there is a chance they could slip through the door when people are moving things out. If you hire movers, place a sign on the door of the room to let them know not to open it. Place your cat in their carrier at the very end of packing to give them as much freedom as possible before the ride to your new home. Place a few treats in the carrier to relieve the stress of the trip ahead.
- Your cat may cry out during the trip. Do your best to resist opening the carrier to comfort them. They may see the carrier being open as a chance to get out and may dash out. This could cause a huge safety risk for everyone in the car. If you feel the need to open the carrier, do so when the car is stopped at a rest stop. Make sure all door and windows are closed before opening the crate.
- If it will be a long trip to your new home, feed your cat a smaller breakfast. This will help reduce the likelihood of an upset stomach and car sickness.
After the move
- Once in your new home, take the time to determine a quiet room, just like at your old home. Make sure the room is completely cat proof and doesn’t contain any pest traps, exposed electrical wire, or other unsafe items that could harm your cat. Unpack their food, water, litterbox, and bed and place it in the room. Scatter some treats around the room to encourage them to wander and explore their new space. As you are unpacking your home, make sure to take breaks to spend time with your cat in their new room. They will likely be overwhelmed by the changes and your presence will help comfort them.
- Keep your cat in their specific room for at least a week to let them become accustomed to the new environment. Once they seem at home, begin to let them explore their new home. Let them wander one room at a time to make sure they don’t get lost or overwhelmed. Just like you did in their room, place treats around the new rooms to encourage exploration. If you plan to move their litterbox to a new location, slowly move it away from the cat’s room each day, making sure it is still close enough that they do not lose sight of it and are able to find it easily.
- Your cat may be tempted to mark their territory in your new home. To avoid them scratching at anything valuable, place a few scratching posts around your home. This will allow them to mark their new home without ruining your furniture and walls.
It may take a little while for your cat to grow fully accustomed to your new home. Rest assured they will eventually be just as comfortable there as your old home. Stick to schedules, give your cat attention, and go as slowly as you need to in order to make the process as smooth as possible. For more tips on moving, sign up for our monthly blog newsletter.