How Do I Move With A Cat?
Moving into a new home is a big change for everyone and it’s no secret that cats absolutely hate change. When moving to a new home we know you’re going to be worried about packing boxes, taking beds apart, and essentially organizing the next phase in your life.
But what about your cat? “How do I move with a cat” isn’t exactly on all pet owners’ minds, but it’s not as simple as putting them in a pet carrier and driving them to the new place.
Don’t worry and don’t feel helpless. We’re going to guide you through the steps you need to take before, during, and after your move to ensure your cat has as smooth of a transition as possible.
Obviously this depends a lot on your cat’s breed and their personality. Some cats are going to take it much better than others will. Even though it may not seem like it, cats are always VERY aware of their surroundings and will actually start noticing changes before it’s time to move.
Your cat is going to know if you’re running around frantically trying to get everything in order for moving day. Your cat is going to know that you’re packing away dishes in boxes. Your cat is going to know you’ve taken all of the clothes out of your closet.
All of this seems innocent but it might actually affect your cat more than you think. Give your cat plenty of affection (if they accept it from you!) to show them that everything will be okay.
How can you expect your cat’s behavior to change because of the new move?
Meowing & Vocalizing
One obvious way that cats show signs of anxiety or displeasure is by meowing or being more vocal than normal. Be patient with your cat if they’re meowing a lot, especially at night. They’re likely anxious or scared and this is just one of the ways they express that.
Hiding & Acting Shy
Cats feel safe when they’ve got a nice and secure place to hide in. Your cat is going to be scared of their new home for a little while, especially while you’re running around and unpacking, adjusting furniture, etc.. Make sure they’ve got a safe place that they can go hide in. You can get them a fancy enclosed bed or you can put some blankets in a cardboard box. Be sure to use blankets that smell like you and/or your cat!
Your cat might also be shy and not just around strangers coming to check out the new house. Your cat might be shy around you, they might even act as shy as they did the first day you brought them home. This is normal and they just need you to reassure them and be patient with them.
Your cat might also become EXTREMELY CLINGY! This is simply how your cat is handling the stress of the move. If your cat is acting clingy then please give them as much attention as they desire. They’re coming to you because you are what makes them feel comfortable.
This is probably the most common change that most cat owners will experience during their move. Your cat will be in a new environment with new smells and it can be overwhelming for them at times.
It’s perfectly normal for your cat to eat more or less food per feeding and it’s perfectly normal for them to eat more or less frequently. This behavior usually subsides within a few weeks so if it persists for a month or two after moving then you should consult your vet to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
BEFORE: How Do I Move With A Cat?
In an ideal world you’ll have time to start preparing your cat well before the moving day. Again, cats are very aware of everything that’s going on around them, they’re going to pick up on tiny little changes in their surroundings, and preparing early is the best way to help them have an easy transition.
PATIENCE IS KEY! The most important part of moving with a cat starts with you, their owner. Being patient with your cat is an absolute must and is the single-best thing you can do to ensure things go smoothly!
1. Get Empty Boxes Out Early
Your cat will be anxious if you bring in a bunch of boxes and start packing stuff up. Instead, you should set out the empty cardboard boxes a few days before it’s time to pack. Cats love boxes and it’s a great idea to let them explore them before they’re packed full.
As you start packing be sure to leave out a few empty boxes around for the cat to play in and/or have somewhere to hide! This helps the cat get used to the fact that there will be some cardboard boxes both at their old home and their new home for the coming weeks.
2. Get Comfortable With The Cat Carrier
Remember that cat carrier we told you to get in our New Kitten Checklist? It’s time to get it out and let your cat start getting comfortable with it. Put some of their favorite toys or their favorite blanket in the carrier. Use treats to encourage them to go sit in the carrier. This will ensure your cat doesn’t have an anxious car ride from one house to another.
Doing this is especially important if your cat will need to spend some time in their carrier while you leave doors wide open to move furniture in and out of the old and new homes.
3. Maintain A Routine
As you get ready to move you’re going to be a very busy person. It can be easy to get lost in the commotion which will cause some changes in your daily routine.
Even though you’re going to be busy, try and be mindful of your cat’s routine. Make sure they’re still eating at the same time, make sure you still spend time with them, help your cat feel comfortable with the changes that are about to be made in their life.
4. Vet & Microchip
Before moving you’re going to want to update your cat’s microchip with your new contact information and address. Even if you have an indoor-only cat this is still a good idea.
It’s also a good idea to talk to your vet if you have a cat that’s more anxious than usual. Too much anxiety in cats can actually cause physical distress and for overly-anxious cats vets may want to prescribe something to help them stay calm during the move.
DURING: How Do I Move With A Cat?
Alright so you’ve prepared as much as you can before the move, but how do you handle moving day itself? Before we get started just remember that your cat is going to be scared and anxious but you’re doing everything you can to make it easy for them. This anxiety and distress they’re likely to show is only temporary, everything will go back to normal in your new home in no time!
1. Affection & Reassurance
This isn’t just a one-time step. All throughout moving day you’re going to want to check in on your cat and give them as much affection as they’ll let you. Pet them, talk to them, hold them, brush them, let them know that you’re close by and there’s nothing to worry about.
2. Feed Them A Small Meal
The anxiety and distress of a car ride and a new place may make your cat’s stomach upset. Because of this you’ll want to make sure they have some food in their belly, but not too much!
A few hours before it’s time to load them up in the carrier, see if you can get them to eat a little bit. If your cat has digestive issues then talk to your vet beforehand about doing this in case they have any motion sickness from the car ride.
3. Keep Them Safely Contained
Doors are going to be left wide open as you move objects out of your old home and onto the moving truck, there will be a lot of commotion going on in the home. Designate a small room to be the cat’s room during a majority of the moving process.
- Designate a small ‘cat room’ during the move
- Put your cat’s litterbox, bed, blanket, favorite toys, and a treat in there
- Make a sign “DO NOT OPEN, CAT INSIDE” and tape it to the door
By putting your cat in an enclosed room with all of their favorite and familiar objects will both ease their distress and prevent them from running outside.
Throughout the moving process go into the room, check on your cat, and give them some more affection and reassurance!
4. Load Up The Cat Carrier
This should be the very last step. Do not load your cat into their cat carrier or pet taxi until right before you’re ready to walk out of the door. Locking your cat in their carrier too early on can make them feel anxious and restless.
During the drive to the new home your cat is going to meow and want to be let out. Don’t cave in. Leave them in there, talk to them so they can hear your voice, reassure them as best as you can.
If you absolutely must let your cat out of the carrier, make sure they’re wearing a well-fitted harness!
AFTER: How Do I Move With A Cat?
Congratulations, the hardest part is over! You’ve safely made it to your new home! What next? You’ve still got some work ahead of you as far as your cat is concerned, so hang in there for just a little while longer.
Keep in mind that your cat is now going to be inundated with new smells and sights and sounds. For most cats this is going to be nothing short of overwhelming.
1. Patience Is Still Key
It can take a couple of weeks (or more!) for your cat to truly feel comfortable in their new home. Your cat might meow a lot, it might keep you up at night, it might be extremely clingy, it might act like an entirely different cat.
Rather than feel annoyed, you should feel LUCKY. Your cat is trying to tell you that you are their only source for comfort. They go to you to feel safe. Embrace that and help them feel safe.
Remember, cats notice EVERYTHING. Your cat can read your body language, it can tell the different tones of your voice, it can tell when you’re stressed. Remain calm and patient and let your cat pick up on the cues you give them so that they can see everything is going to be okay!
2. Safe Space / Safe Room
Remember when you set your cat up their own little safe space before the move? Go ahead and designate a safe space or safe room at your new home. Set it up exactly the same with your cat’s favorite and most familiar items.
Your cat is in a new place and a new environment. They’re going to be extremely sensitive to the changes around them. Set up a space for them that brings back the familiarity of their old home.
3. Slow Room Introductions
There will be so many rooms and nooks and crannies at the new home for your cat to explore and it can be a bit overwhelming. At the same time, however, your cat will also want to explore.
Slowly introduce one new room at a time with your cat. Accompany them as you go and explore each room. If you’re not able to be home then place familiar items in the different rooms so that your cat can learn his new home is safe!
4. Familiar Routines
Cats crave routine. Try and stay on the same exact routine that your cat had at the old home. Feed them at the same time(s), play with them at the same time(s), brush them at the same time(s), this will help ease their anxiety.
You can also use this to help introduce your cat to different areas of the new home. If you feed your cat at the same times every day, then put their food bowl in a different room. They’ll be used to eating at that time and placing it in a different room helps them acclimate to their new surroundings.
5. Keep Them Inside
At CatsOnly.org we don’t recommend house cats being outdoor cats at all, except in very specific circumstances. (ex: you adopted a barn cat who only knows how to live outside) BUT we also understand that many cat owners feel comfortable letting their cat outdoors.
Wait at least a month before letting your cat check out new outdoor surroundings. It normally takes about 3-4 weeks for cats to completely familiarize themselves with their new home’s smells and sights.
On your cat’s first few visits outside, be sure to make them pretty brief. Don’t forget to check the new surroundings for any dangers, such as poisonous plants.
Adjusting To A New Home
The difficulty that cats face when trying to adjust to a new home is something that we humans will simply never be able to understand. So much of a cat’s existence is built on familiarity with their environment. In the very early stages your cat’s only instinct might be to either hide or try and run.
Cats thrive on predictability and a new home completely destroys any predictability that they once had. This can cause your cat’s behavior to change. Your cat might also display aggressive behavior, they might meow a lot, they might even avoid using their own litter box.
I know we’ve mentioned this multiple times throughout this article but it really needs to be drilled into ever cat owner’s head when moving: YOU MUST BE PATIENT WITH YOUR CAT! Over the coming weeks your cat should return to its normal self!
Moving into an apartment? Check out our guide on living with a cat in an apartment!