How to move house with a cat
Reading time: 8 minutes | Posted: 11th Feb 2021
Moving house is a stressful time for everyone, and that includes the small and furry members of the family. For cats, in particular, leaving their familiar home for a new environment that feels and smells completely different can be confusing and even traumatic. Fortunately, there are plenty of things that you can do to make your move much easier on your cat, helping them to settle in quicker and feel more at home. Here is everything you need to know about how to move house with a cat.
The process of helping your cat adjust begins before the moving van has even arrived. It’s recommended to start your preparations about a week before your moving date. This will help to prepare your cat and lessen the stress of the whole process.
Set up a quiet spot (an entire room is best if you can manage it) filled with your cats favourite and familiar things. Include everything from their food and drink bowls, litter tray and bed to their scratching post and most used toys. Encourage your cat to use this area in the days leading up to the move. When the time comes, it will be where you can leave your cat undisturbed, out of the way of movers and all the commotion of getting your items out of your home.
Cats will sometimes try to make their way back to their old home following a move. While these tips will help you to avoid this situation, it’s important that you make sure your cat’s microchip details are up to date just in case. You can easily check and update your contact details by searching an online database like this one. You will need your cat’s ID number to be able to check, so if you can’t find any record of it you can get your cat scanned at the vets.
If you are only moving a couple of miles away from your old house, it’s a good idea to alert the new residents that your cat may pay them a visit and to give them your contact details. That way they won’t inadvertently encourage the cat without realising that it simply thinks it’s going home.
Once things start being moved around, your cat will instantly sense that there is something strange going on and may begin to show signs of stress. Keeping your cat in their dedicated safe space will go a long way in helping this, but there are a couple of other things you can do to keep their worries at bay.
Pheromones are a type of chemical signal that cats use to communicate with one another and interact with the world around them. Many of the glands that release pheromones are found on your cat’s face, which is why you will often find them rubbing their heads on different objects in the house.
There are plenty of pheromone products on the market that are specifically designed to reduce stress and anxiety in cats by signalling a safe and familiar territory. You can get sprays, diffusers or even plug-ins to help calm your pet’s nerves. Alternatively, you can use your cat's natural pheromones by gently wiping a cloth on their face and then over objects at floor-level in the room. You can carry this technique over to your new house to make your cat feel more at home.
Make sure to use a car-safe carrier to take your car to your new home - as they will already be anxious it’s important that it’s extra secure. Make sure to feed them at least 3 hours before the journey to help minimise the risk of travel sickness. If you have a long way to travel or you have a particularly nervous cat, you may even want to consider using a mild sedative that your vet will be able to prescribe.
As with the lead up to your move, you want to find a quiet room where your cat can spend the first day while the move is being completed (make sure that the doors and windows all close securely to avoid an escapee situation). As before, you want to set the room up with all of their things.
This time, you can also add in a few boxes or other places where your cat can hide away. You may even want to leave a piece of your clothing in the room - the familiar smells of you and your old house can be a real source of comfort. However, if you aren’t moving too far away and you have a confident cat that will get bored in one room, you might prefer to board them at a cattery for a few days instead until the moving process is over.
Once you are in your new house, there are still a few steps you will need to take to help your cat adjust. They won’t understand what’s going on and a completely new environment is a lot to take in. However, take good care at this stage and after just a few weeks they will be feeling right at home.
Moving is a big change, so it’s important to keep up a regular routine to lessen the stress on your cat. Feeding your cat at the same times and in the same place is a great start. To begin with, try small meals at regular intervals - this will allow for a little more interaction that will help to reassure your pet. Try to avoid anything too out of the ordinary at this stage like starting to decorate or any other kind of DIY work. The noise and commotion will add to the strangeness of the new situation and may make it harder for your cat to relax.
You’ll no doubt have a lot going on, but if you usually spend time relaxing with your cat in the evening or playing with them in the morning before work, try to keep this up in the days following your move. This will work wonders in assuring them that there’s nothing for them to worry about.
Just like humans, it will take cats a little while to settle into a new home. Slowly introducing the other rooms in the house one at a time will prevent your cat from feeling too overwhelmed. Don’t try and carry your cat into another room, but simply leave the door of their ‘introduction room’ and one other room open. It helps if you are doing something low key in the new room, like watching TV or reading a book.
When your cat starts to explore, offer up some reassuring words or a tasty treat and allow them to have a look around in their own time. Make sure there are places where your cat can hide as well as high surfaces that they can climb and look down from. Having these options available will make the experience less intimidating. At this stage, make sure the windows are closed to make sure they don’t head outside.
If yours is an outdoor cat, it’s a good idea not to let them out for the first 2 weeks at least. The first time you let them venture outside, it’s best to do it just before their usual dinner time as this will give them a good incentive to return. If you open the door and they don’t want to leave, simply give it a go at a later date when they are feeling a bit more confident.
Sprinkling some of their used litter around the perimeter of the garden can make them feel more comfortable going outside. Having hiding spots near the door like large plant pots or garden furniture will also help them feel more secure. Start off by letting them out for short stretches and slowly building up time spent outside until you’re happy that they’re properly bonded to your home.
However,all cats are different so if you feel yours is confident enough and getting frustrated with being indoors, you can consider letting them out a couple of days earlier than the 2 week recommendation. Similarly, if your cat is particularly nervous you may want to hold off. Whatever you decide, the key is to let them venture out in their own time.
Moving house is well known as being one of the most stressful life events, but taking your cat with you doesn’t need to make things any harder. With just a little time and preparation, you can make your move as easy as possible for your feline family member. Just follow these tips and it won’t be long until your cat is feeling safe and happy in your new home.Share this: