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Moving house with a cat

The essentials

  • Schedule a veterinarian visit in advance to update your new information — It’s a good idea to go in for a check-up and update your cat’s microchip or collar information well beforehand to ensure your new address is on record.
  • Familiarize your kitty with the carrier you’re going to use for the move — Make sure your cat has a safe and comfortable carrier ahead of time, especially if you’re traveling long distance, and make sure they’re as used to it as possible before traveling in it.
  • Prioritize maintaining your cat’s usual schedule and routine, both before and after the move — Keep feeding and play times consistent so that they’ll know what to expect and have something to feel familiar with in their new environment.

Moving with a cat starts before moving day

When the time comes to embark on a new adventure in a different home, your cat’s health, comfort, and sense of security are as crucial as the logistics of the move itself. Moving with pets will naturally present some challenges, but you can significantly reduce your feline friend’s stress by planning every step from your current abode to the new location, starting with the pre-move preparations needed to help your cat acclimate to their new surroundings.

Proper preparation is key

Preparing for a moving process for your cat, especially if it’s the first time, is a delicate process that should begin long before the boxes are packed. We recommend starting with a visit to your vet to ensure your cat’s health records are current, to update their microchip information if they have one, and to make sure you have any health certification paperwork that may be needed for interstate or international travel, depending on location regulations.

Your vet may also suggest taking early measures like pinpointing familiar scents to bring into your new home and finding a comforting toy or blanket to help soothe your cat during the transition.

Have the carrier ready to go

Introduce your cat to their cat carrier as a safe space well ahead of moving day. It’s usually recommended to leave the carrier out in the open in a common area with treats inside to create positive associations for your pet. That way, especially when traveling long distances, they’ll feel less stressed in the car or on a plane.

Consider the temporary safe space strategy

A lot of experts will recommend designating a “safe room” for your cat in both your current home and new home, especially if you have an older cat. This creates a sanctuary amid the hustle and bustle of moving activities and gives your cat a sense of security, whether you’re moving out or moving in. That way, on the day of the move, you can keep your cat secure in their safe room with the door closed until it’s time to travel and mellow when you first arrive at your new place.

Traveling with your cat

Cats are creatures of habit, which means long-distance travel is not something they’re usually familiar with or used to. The comfort of your cat is the most important element here, especially if a long drive is involved.

Make sure your cat’s carrier is well-ventilated and secured in the car, and plan for regular breaks to keep the cat’s daily routine as normal as possible. You can even set up a litter box and cat bed in your car if you have the space. Or, if you have an outdoor cat, try taking them outside on a cat harness for some fresh air throughout the ride.

Air travel with cats also presents unique challenges, so the more planning ahead of time, the better. While it’s faster than driving, it can be more stressful due to the unfamiliar sounds and handling by strangers. For some, pet transportation services offer a specialized option, though it’s crucial to weigh the potential stress or risk for your cat against the convenience.

How to introduce a cat to a new home when moving

Introducing your cat to a new space for the first time can be a smooth process with the right approach, including plenty of time to plan the introduction to a new environment. Build on the safe room strategy by gradually expanding your cat’s access to the rest of the house or home. Again, their safe place should be a small, quiet space that they can easily retreat to with all their essentials: a litter box, full food dish, water, familiar toys, and any other comfort objects with familiar scents.

It’s best to initially confine your cat to this space to allow them time to adjust to the new smells and sounds. Spending as much time as you can with them in this area will provide comfort and relief. Cats also find reassurance in the familiar, so it’s important to maintain their normal routine as much as possible by keeping feeding and play times consistent.

After your cat seems comfortable in their new home, gradually introduce them to other areas of the home. Supervise these initial explorations to ensure they feel safe and can return to their sanctuary space if overwhelmed.

Positive reinforcement like treats and affection will help associate the new environment with positive experiences. Be patient, as some cats may take several weeks to fully adjust. Throughout this period, ensure that all doors and windows are securely closed to prevent escapes, and consider using pheromone diffusers to help soothe their anxiety.

Signs of stress in cats

Cats can exhibit stress in various ways, so being able to recognize these signs is key to ensuring their well-being. Physical symptoms may include:

  • Excessing meowing or yowling
  • Over-grooming
  • Panting
  • Changes in eating or drinking habits
  • An increase or decrease in sleep
  • Becoming more withdrawn or aggressive
  • Changes in litter box habits, like going outside the box
  • Decrease in playfulness and overall activity
  • Sudden disinterest in interacting with humans or other pets
  • Development of compulsive behaviors like pacing

Stress can manifest through changes in body language, too. A stressed cat might hold its ears flat against the head, have dilated pupils, or a tucked tail. They may also engage in displacement behaviors, such as excessive licking of lips, yawning, or shaking their head. It’s important to monitor for these signs and consult with a veterinarian if stress-related behaviors persist, as they can also indicate underlying health issues.

We also have a few resources for if your cat is showing signs of stress:

Bonus tips to make moving with a cat less stressful

  • Pheromone-based products to create a calming environment
  • Consulting with a vet about anxiety medication or mild sedative if necessary
  • Spending quality time with your cat to reassure them
  • Keeping bonded cats together during the move, if safe to do so

Moving with a cat involves careful preparation, understanding their needs, and being patient as they adjust. With the right approach, you can make moving a positive experience for your feline friend.

Frequently asked questions

Is moving with a cat hard?

Difficulty levels when moving will depend on the cat. However,for the most part, it can potentially present some challenges, so it’s always best to keep an eye on your cat for signs of stress before, during, and after moving homes.

What’s the best way to travel with a cat?

Regardless if you’re flying or driving, having a comfortable cat carrier that your furry friend feels comfortable in is the most important aspect to traveling with them.

How can I make moving with my cat more comfortable for them?

Keeping your kitty on a regular feeding and playtime schedule can go a long way! Maintaining consistent structure in their day-to-days before and after the move can really help keep away a lot of stress.

How long does it take for a cat to adjust to a new home when moving?

Cats can take several weeks to adjust to a new home. It’s important to maintain their routine and provide a safe, comforting environment to help them settle.

What should I do if my cat is not eating after moving?

Cats may not eat due to stress. If your cat is not eating for more than 24-48 hours, consult your vet. Ensure they have familiar items and a quiet space which may help.