Cats are nothing if not creatures of habit–most prefer the same food, the same napping spot, and the same litter box location every day. Moving a cat to a new home disrupts their routine, throwing them into unfamiliar surroundings. Even worse, moving to a new home usually involves a trip in the car–an undeniable horror for the majority of housecats, particularly those usually kept indoors. While moving house may not be unavoidable, it is possible for pet owners to minimize the stress of the experience for their feline companions. Consider the following pre-move, move and post-move suggestions.
Pre-move: prepare for the experience
Reacquaint your cat with the pet carrier. Leave it sitting out so she can explore it at her leisure. Put a cozy blanket and a few treats inside for discovery. You can even begin feeding your cat inside the carrier. If she’s reluctant to go in, begin by placing her dish near the carrier door. After a couple of days, place the dish at the opening of the carrier. The next night, place it within the carrier.
Allow your cat to explore the moving boxes as you pack. Many cats enjoy playing in boxes and may even occupy themselves with rubbing the scent from their chins upon them. If your cat appears very nervous, confine her to a quiet room away from all the activity and noise. If your cat is a box lover, carefully inspect each one before sealing it up.
Maintain your cat’s daily routine. Continue to feed and play with her at the regular time. Continuing the routine once the move is complete will help to reestablish a sense of sameness. If your cat seems very stressed and nervous, and is having difficulty eating, sleeping or playing as a result, talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication that may make the transition easier for her.
During the move: safety first
If possible, make your cat’s relocation the first step of the process. Set up a room (spare bathroom, bedroom or office) in your new home with her favorite bed, toys, food, water and a litter box. Once she’s safely transported, shut the door and open the carrier. Spend some time soothing her as she explores. Once she seems calm, place a sign on the door asking everyone to keep it shut and get on with the move.
Feed her a very small breakfast the morning of the move to reduce the chance of carsickness or nervous upset stomach. When traveling with a cat, do not open the carrier door to soothe her. A nervous cat loose in the car may attempt to dash out.
Post-move: getting back to normal
It may be advisable to keep your cat in the secure room for her first few days in the new house. This will keep her from feeling overwhelmed while you’re unpacking boxes and getting the house in order. Not all cats require this, so use your own judgment based on her stress level. If she appears quite calm, you may let her out to explore her new indoor domain.
Place litter boxes in the areas you intend to keep them permanently as soon as possible. Once your cat begins to use them regularly, you can remove the one from the secure room.
Spend lots of time with your cat whether in the secure room or throughout the house. Offer plenty of attention and treats. Play can be a welcome distraction from the stress of adjusting to a new environment.
Above all, be patient with your pet before, during and after the move. Your new place will quickly feel like home, and you’ll both be back to your old routines before you know it–your bond may even be stronger for your shared experience.
Did you ever move with a cat? Share any tips you may have in the comments!