LIFESTYLE

How to Move with a Cat: A Seamless Transition

how to move with a cat
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

Moving from one location to the other is usually very stressful for even humans. Considering how stressed cats can get from the smallest happenings, one can then only wonder how much your cat will be affected by the big move. So that you have a full grasp of everything you need to do when this situation presents itself, we have developed a guide on how to move with a cat.

If you follow the proper procedures when it comes to moving with a cat, it will make the transition much less stressful and more seamless not just for your cat, but for you as well. There are ways to make your cat feel less nervous about all the hustle and bustle of a move, so she will be quiet, and you can focus on wrapping things up quickly.

Starting from the few weeks and days before the move to the day of the move, we have got you covered. As a plus, we have also included tips on getting your cat settled into her new home. If you are ready to give your cat the smoothest transition ever, here are the things you need to know.

Preparations to Make Before the Move

In the weeks leading to your eventual move, these are the things you should do. We used the word ‘weeks’ for a reason. In as little as seven days to the moving date, you won’t be able to get to achieving half of these pre-move preparations. Thus, plan your activity calendar well.

#1: Carrier Training

white cat in a carrier

This is especially required if you had not trained your cat to get used to being in a carrier. It is very likely that your move involves the cat being in a car or an air carrier for longer periods of time. So, you will want to make sure she is comfortable in that environment.

  • You can start by feeding the cat very close to her carrier. By so doing, she starts acknowledging the sight of the carrier as a less strange piece of equipment till she gets used to seeing it around.

  • Then, you should put her food inside the carrier itself. That would get the cat to go in on her own terms, then start associating with the environment.

  • Place treats around/on the carrier and make your cat go get them there. Knowing the scents of every nook and cranny of her soon-to-be carrier box will make staying in one on the moving date easier for the both of you.

See Also: DIY Cat Carrier

#2: Keep Her Indoors

About a week before the move, you will want to start keeping your cat indoors most of the time. This week is sure to be the time when the hustle and bustle of packing is at its highest.

If the cat sees her environment changing more rapidly than she can process, she will start to get very nervous. A nervous cat is not one that you want roaming the streets as she could either get lost or worse, killed.

#3: Moving Boxes

black cat exploring moving boxes

Moving boxes are an unfamiliar sight in your home, so we don’t need to tell you that they could freak your cat out. One way to get the cat used to these boxes is to leave a couple of them out for her to explore. She will be able to pick up the scents of the box and work up the courage (and curiosity) to finally go check it out for herself.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, some cats will still be put off by the scent of these boxes. For this, you need to find a workaround.

The ideal thing is to spray the corners of these boxes with Feliway. Largely available at local pet stores, Feliway replicates the scent of feline facial pheromones, helping the cat associate the boxes with safety and comfort.

If all goes well, packing would be a very fun time for you and your cat since she would also like to be around you and the boxes, even playing in them on occasions.

#4: Daily Routine

Try to make sure the cat’s daily routine does not change. It is nerve-wracking enough to see you darting back and forth, pulling all the cat has associated with the house into some brown cartons. Adding a change in her daily routine will stress your cat out.

Stick to the usual feeding schedule and don’t stop grooming her. Whatever activity you have set up for your cat at designated times, make sure not to skip it.

If it helps, add some extra hours of play to the cat’s plate. That assures her in a way that even while everything else is changing, her beloved parent is still as loving and devoted as ever.

#5: Visit the Vet

cat visiting a vet

Not necessary because anything is wrong with your little friend, but just to have a check-up to ensure everything is well and good with your cat. Let the vet know that you’ll be moving with the cat soon so that they can give you recommendations based on what they know about your cat.

If your cat has the tendency to become overly anxious, ask if your vet can prescribe some mild anti-anxiety medications to help her cope with the move.

Also, you don’t want to take your cat somewhere and not have a vet ready for them. Considering the unpacking that will eat up most of your time, it might take a while to find a new vet in the new location if you didn’t attend to this matter earlier.

Since professionals are usually in one association or the other, ask your vet if they could recommend someone for you. If you’ve got some personal contacts in the region you are relocating to, ask them for referrals.

#6: Prepare an ID

We never wish for you to lose your cat but in cases like this, we have to consider every possible scenario. We are assuming your cat has been trained to wear a collar. If not, it doesn’t take much to help cats get used to one.

Make sure this collar you’ve prepared contains your contact information—updated cell phone numbers and addresses for example. Also, get pictures of the cat that can be used to identify her easily.

See Also: How to Find a Missing Cat

#7: Pack Familiar Items

kitten's favourite toy

There will be some items that your cat spends time with. It could be her bedding or some toy she loves a lot. These items will have a smell that the cat recognizes as hers.

In the midst of all the confusion, putting something like this in the carrier with your cat could go a long way to keep her calm. Don’t forget to pack that in an easily-accessible bag!

#8: Speak to Everyone Who Will be Accommodating Your Cat During the Move

For example, if you would have to stay in a hotel while moving with your cat, you will want to make sure they are a pet-friendly establishment. That will help prevent issues from coming up when you get there

If you are moving by air, get on the phone and speak with a representative. Let them know you will be boarding a pet too so that they can make necessary provisions.

Also, they will be able to educate you on what would be required of you. The proper documentation, information guide, and such other resources will be provided to you.

Moving the Cat

cat sleeping in moving box

So, you have done all you can to make sure the move will be as smooth for the cat as possible. Don’t be surprised if, after doing everything, your cat is still a little bit off. Be thankful that you have had the foresight to take a lot of the edge off before the D-day.

Now that we are here, how can you make the move itself subtle on your buddy?

#1: Moving Boxes

When movers arrive on the moving day, make sure your cat is not around to witness all that ‘commotion.’ She might not be comfortable with seeing that many strange faces in her house at the same time.

What to do? Put your cat in an empty room and secure the door behind yourself. You can also put in some familiar items so that the room is not just empty. Things like a carrier box, feeding and drinking bowls, and some toys can be used to keep the cat company while the movers do their thing.

#2: Boarding the Cat

cat in a car

Your cat should be the last ‘package’ that gets loaded into your car. It is advisable that you get into the car at the same time with the cat. Of course, the cat should have been put in her carrier by this time.

One thing you should NEVER do is travel with your cat in the storage area of your car. You must always ensure the cat rides with you in the car. In fact, we recommend that she rides in the front seat.

That being said, avoid opening the cat’s carrier under any circumstances, unless utterly warranted. If you would, do so in a controlled environment. It is not uncommon for cats to bolt and run away mid-journey if you carelessly open their carriages.

#3: Observe the Cat

This is one of the reasons why the cat should ride with you in front. Most cats will start meowing loudly when the journey starts. This can range anywhere from a few minutes to close to an hour. As soon as the cat settles into the trip well, they’ll stop being so vocal.

One thing you should look out for is when your cat starts panting. Lacking the ability to perspire, panting is your cat’s way of registering an elevated heartbeat. You might want to pull over for a few and call your vet for advice.

See Also: How to Travel with a Cat

#4: Food and Water

cat lying near the bowl full of food

It is advised that you leave food and water in the carrier with your cat. If the journey runs for several hours, that might affect your cat’s feeding schedule adversely.

Get a carrier big enough to hold food bowls and water. One with a no-slip base is highly recommended so that nothing spills during the journey. Finally, you’ll want to make sure the carrier allows you refill the food and water bowls from the outside.

#5: Reduce Noise

Yes, we know you love your rock music, and your favorite band just put out a new album. But, for the sake of the cat, hold off from blasting all that music from your car’s stereos. If you’ve got some gentle, soothing music, play that instead.

Some people swear that leaving the stereos off and letting the dull highway sounds in lull their cats to sleep. Choose whichever works best for your pet.

Finally, you shouldn’t leave your cat alone in the car. When taking stops, take her with you. This is not just because she might be edgy by not seeing you. It is because the inside of a car can get heated up in a few minutes.

With no guarantee as to how long you’ll be gone, the cat will be safer taking stops and breaks with you.

Housebreaking the Cat

housebreaking a cat

After several weeks of planning—for yourself and the cat—you are finally at the new home. Guess what? You need to help your cat settle down in the new house as well. Here’s how to go about doing that:

#1: Set Up a Safe Zone

Your cat will want to know that she is safe in her new territory, so setting up a safe zone for her might not be a bad idea. Before you start unpacking and moving all the other items, put your cat in an empty room.

Let your cat have access to her carrier and food and water bowls in this place. Some toys won’t hurt, and things that smell familiar (a sweatshirt, their bedding, etc.) will go a long way to make the sanctuary feel like home.

#2: Cat-Proofing

orange cat and electrical cord

While your feline friend is adapting to life in the single room, cat-proof all the other places in the house. Being empty, this would be the best time to do this.

  • Check for possible places where the cat might get stuck.

  • Look out for those window screens that don’t look secure enough.

  • Remove all houseplants that could be harmful to your cat’s health.

  • Tuck away the electrical plugs.

  • If there are pest controls appliances or traps in the area, look for them and remove everything.

#3: Visit the Cat

Take some time out to visit your cat in her safe zone. If you’ll be playing with her, don’t start at the top of the activity zone. Rather, start slowly and work up the ladder. That will start making the new location feel more like home for your cat.

#4: Indoor Exploration

kitten exploring new home

Part of the idea of giving your cat a room to stay in is so that she won’t get overwhelmed by the large new space. However, the cat will start feeling more at home and will gradually start exploring every other part of the house.

Don’t expect it to happen all at once, and you must definitely not try to force it. Let your cat see the space for herself and move at her own pace.

It is recommended that you start getting involved in her explorations when you have finished unpacking and setting up the house. The environment is now static again, so to speak, so no further stress will be added when she sees big changes in a room she was just in last night.

#5: Use Scents

After introducing your cat to the rooms in her new house, you will want the cat to get comfortable. A good way to make this happen is to use pheromones (such as the commonplace Feliway).

Cats give off pheromones when they rub against something, helping them feel safe and secure around such things. That is why your cat likes to bump her head against you or rub her face against yours.

These synthetic alternatives (available in stores) should be sprayed at the cat’s nose level. Doing that will make the cat feel like she had been there before and as such, need not fear anything.

You can spray the pheromone substitutes on doorposts, legs of furniture in the house, and other pieces of décor that your cat can access.

#6: Outdoor Explorations

orange cat exploring new outdoors

Resist the urge to allow your cat outdoors. At least, make sure the cat is kept indoors for the first 2 – 4 weeks after moving. Such a wide margin is needed because different cats adapt at different rates.

A few days before the cat is allowed outside for the first time, you should:

  • Check to see that she has her collar on and is comfortable wearing it.

  • Check that the contact information in the collar is accurate.

  • Sprinkle some of your cat’s litter in the garden around to create a ‘familiar’ scent for her when she starts roaming.

  • Make sure that your cat is not showing signs of nervousness.

  • Get your cat a microchip, if possible.

The big day should be one when you’ll be around to supervise the cat. Before she feeds, allow her to go out. Don’t try to pick up the cat and dictate how the exploration should go. Let her roam about at her own pace instead.

While timid cats will take time adjusting to their new outdoor environments, confident cats can take to the new location much faster. So fast that they could even scale your fence into the next compound or something like that.

When that happens, don’t try to give chase just yet. Keep an eye on the cat and watch her movements. More often than not, the cat will return by herself after a few minutes. When the confident cat gets back or the timid cat retreats, offer her a tasty treat while taking her back inside.

Wrap Up

calico cat sitting in a box

Moving with cats is never easy due to their sensitive nature, but no one said it had to be difficult. If you follow all of the above tips, you will find it much easier to move with your cat than if you had just left things to chance.

If you’ve got any questions, comments, or some more suggestions on how to move with a cat, please let us know in the comments section. You may also find our article on how to introduce a cat to a new home informative.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.

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