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Moving with Cats: Easing a Move for You and Your Cat

You can ease a move with your cat.

If you have a cat and are facing a move, you're probably a little nervous. After all, cats can be finicky. You might be worried that yours will cry or, worse, vomit in the car all the way to the new place. You could have concerns that your cat will get stressed out and urinate or scratch inappropriately at your new home.

Your fears are not totally unfounded. Cats don't always love change, and they are territorial creatures, so yours probably wouldn't want to move if she had a vote. Along with the above issues, other problems that sometimes emerge when cats are moved include aggression, escape attempts, and hiding once you arrive at the new place.

Don't worry, though. We have some tips to make the moving process as easy as possible for your cat, so you can relax and experience less stress, too.

Preparing for the Move

The first step in creating a low-stress move for your cat is to do some pre-move preparation.

  1. The safest way for your cat to travel in a car (and the only way to go by plane) is in a carrier. So, before the move, be sure you spend some time getting your cat used to hers if she isn't already a fan. Start by leaving the carrier out, open, and putting a soft bed and some treats inside. You could also start feeding your cat in her carrier, with the door open. This process may take some time, depending on the cat, but you should eventually be able to close the carrier door and move the carrier without too much objection. You can find in-depth instructions for acclimating your cat to the carrier here: "How Do I Get My Cat into a Carrier?"
  2. If you will be riding in a car on moving day, you can also get your cat used to that once she will calmly ride in her carrier. Take her on short jaunts around town to get her used to it before the big day.
  3. Get the moving boxes out a week or more before you start packing. That way, your cat can get used to their presence, investigate them, and put her scent on them. After all, cats love boxes. Note: if movers or other strangers to your cat are going to be actually packing the boxes, consider keeping your cat in her carrier or an enclosed room while they work.
  4. If your cat doesn't already have a microchip, consider getting one before the move. Cats are great escape artists when they're scared, and you'll want to be sure you have every base covered for getting her back if you need to. Get her a breakaway collar and visible ID tags, as well.
  5. Note: Cats pick up on their humans' emotions easily. Do the best you can to be calm about the move yourself, so your cat will have less reason to get stressed about it, too.

    If your cat goes outside, begin keeping her inside for at least a couple of weeks before the move and definitely once you begin to pack. All of the hub-bub can cause a cat with access to the outdoors to take off.
  6. Keep your cat's schedule as normal as possible during the pre-move goings-on. Continue feeding her, playing with her, and taking care of her litter box at the same times. This will help your cat feel less stress from wondering if she's going to be cared for.
  7. If you will need to switch veterinary clinics after you move, be sure you have your cat's records with you, so you can quickly get established at a new clinic upon arrival. If you are traveling to a different state, you may need a health certificate signed by your veterinarian, which requires an examination for your cat, so find out what you'll need and when, and schedule this ahead of time.

A note about sedatives: Never give your cat any medications without speaking to your veterinarian first. Sedatives and anti-anxiety medications can have unwanted side-effects and can be even more dangerous for a cat that is already stressed. Speak with your veterinarian if you feel your cat may need sedatives for travel.

On Moving Day

It's best to have your cat safely confined while boxes are being closed up and moved out of your home. This eliminates the chance that your cat may hide in one of the boxes or escape out the door and run away.

You can keep your cat in an otherwise empty room, with a litter box, food and water, a cat bed, and a scratching post (to help your cat let out any stress she's feeling). To be extra safe, put a sign on the door to advise movers and friends not to open it.

When you're almost ready to leave the house, enter the room carefully and close the door behind you. Load your cat into her carrier before opening the door.

Use Feliway spray in your cat's carrier before you put her in, to help her stay calm.

In the New Home

Before you let your cat out of her carrier in the new place, set up a "safe room" for her. This space should be as quiet as possible and house your cat's food, water, beds, litter box, and scratching posts. You can also use a Feliway diffuser in the safe room to help keep your cat calm.

This safe room is where your cat should spend the majority of her time for the first few days after your move. This will be less overwhelming to your cat than having the whole house open to her, and she will find it easier to explore the rest of the house over time from there if she has the safe room to return to.

Note: If your cat previously went outdoors, don't let her out immediately upon arriving at the new home. She will not have a territorial connection to the new place, so she may not be able to find her way home. Alternatively, she may decide to take off due to stress.

Before you allow your cat out of the safe room, put an additional litter box, food, and water in the spots you'd eventually like to keep them, so your cat can find them there and start to recognize where they'll be.

Keep the safe room set up as long as your cat shows any anxiety about the rest of the house.

You can use play to help your cat adjust to new rooms in the house. Get a good wand toy and play with your cat while she's out exploring the new space.

With some preparation and consideration for your cat's concerns, you can ease the move for both of you.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Traveling With Your Cat

Car Sickness in Cats

Choosing A Cat Carrier

Reduce Pet Scratching Damage While Traveling

Car Sickness in Cats

What Is the Best Cat Scratching Post for Your Cat?

How to Decide on an Indoor or Outdoor Lifestyle for Your Cat

Feliway - A Useful Tool to Help Treat Stress in Cats

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