Moving to a new home is certainly exciting, but it’s also a major source of stress — for everyone in the family, including pets! If you have a cat, you should take extra care to prepare him or her for the move. Cats are strongly bonded with their environments, and relocating can be extremely scary to them. The good news is that with a bit of advance planning, cat owners can reduce their pet’s anxiety and discomfort during the moving process.
Begin with a visit to the vet. Yes, it’s yet another task to add to your growing “moving list.” But a quick trip to the vet can assess your cat’s current health and any concerns that might cause issues during the move. Some cats are not advised to fly or go on long drives; your veterinarian can discuss the best method of transport for your individual pet. If you have a particularly sensitive kitty, his or her vet may even suggest a mild sedative for moving day.
Pull out the carrier, early on. Yes, we know: Most cats dread a ride in a carrier. It generally signifies something unpleasant to them (such as a visit to the vet!). However, you will most likely have to use one during your move, so the best plan of attack is to get your cat used to it in advance.
You can achieve this by placing the carrier in the cat’s favorite area some weeks before moving day, leaving the carrier door open for self-entry. Make sure it has his or her favorite toys and bedding inside. Then start feeding your cat inside the carrier. If he or she refuses to eat in the carrier, begin the process by feeding right outside the carrier, gradually moving it to the door, then right inside, then all the way to the back of the carrier. Occasionally, place a special treat in there!
Keep your cat on a regular schedule prior to moving day. Although it is natural for you to be very busy in the weeks and days leading up to your move, make it a priority to feed the cat at the same time every day. If you play or cuddle with your cat around a certain time most days (such as when you come home from work), be sure to keep that in the schedule as well, even if you are busy.
When packing up the house, confine your cat to one room. The bedroom is a good bet, provided he or she is used to it. Leave whatever room you choose for the cat as the last one to be dismantled. Then shut the door and put a note on it that informs movers, family or friends that your kitty is inside and should not be let out.
Don’t open the carrier in transit. It’s only natural to want to comfort your cat during the move, especially if you are worried he or she is scared. However, it’s best to keep the carrier shut. Opening it up — even just to give a reassuring pat on the head — may result in the cat darting out.
Cat-proof your new home. Before transporting your cat to the new place — or, at the very least, before letting him out of his carrier — check for any hazards, especially places where a frightened cat might be able to squeeze out, such as a screenless window.
When you are ready to let him out of the carrier, confine him to one room again. Set the room up with his things (feeding bowls, litter box, etc.) and allow him to get used to the new room. This will serve two purposes: First, it will keep your cat from getting further stressed by the unpacking process, and second, it will let him gradually acclimate to the new space without being overwhelmed. Keep him in the room for several days, and be sure to spend time with him in there. Once he is used to that room, you can let him explore other rooms, one by one, until he has the entire space mapped out.
If you allow your cat outdoors, keep him inside for a couple weeks in order for him to get used to the indoor environment first.
Although it may take anywhere from a few days to several weeks before your furry friend is settled, you can rest assured that with extra love and care, he or she will be feeling right at home in your brand new space.