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Moving house with a cat: keeping your pet safe and happy

Cat on a sofa with boxes ready for a move advice

How to keep your cat safe and happy while moving houses.

© Shutterstock

Moving house can be extremely stressful for cats. Indeed, these little felines are very territorial, so they can feel completely disoriented when they are taken away from their routine and usual sights and smells.

By Justine Seraphin

As a responsible pet owner, it is your job to make sure you make the move as stress-free as possible for your feline friend.

Before the move

There are a few things you need to think about at least a few weeks before moving with your cat.

Firstly, your cat needs to be used to his cat carrier, as this is most likely what he will be transported in when you relocate. To make sure your cat is comfortable in the carrier, leave it open and on the ground, giving your pet free access to it 24/7. You can encourage your pet to use it by placing treats or even a food bowl near or inside the carrier.

Secondly, you must make sure that you are prepared in even the worst-case scenarios. Cats that are stressed or afraid may try to escape. And with doors likely being open during the move, this can happen in the blink of an eye. Ensure that your cat’s microchip and collar tag are up-to-date with the details of your new address.

If you know your cat struggles with anxiety, and that the move will be particularly stressful for him, you may need to opt for a trusted cat-sitter or a cattery during this time. If this is the case, you should think to book in advance so you don’t have to deal with any last-minute surprises just days before the move. If you are worried about your cat’s stress but would rather keep him with you, you can also talk to your vet, who may be able to prescribe calming medication for your animal if he deems it necessary.

Ginger cat in a box
Someone is excited to discover his new house! ©Shutterstock

During the move

On the day of the move, you should confine your pet to a single room, like the bathroom, for instance. This will keep him safe and calm during all the coming and going from the house. Remove all the contents of the room first, then place your cat’s bed, carrier, litter box, food and water bowls in there. You can add his toys and cat tree if you want to make him feel extra comfortable. Once his room is ready, put your cat inside and close the door for the whole duration of the move. Place a note on the door to warn movers and family members that the cat is inside, and that the door needs to stay closed.

You should feed your cat a smaller portion of food than usual on moving day, and well before you actually leave. Stress can cause stomach upsets, so by feeding him less, you are less likely to end up with a nauseous or sick cat.

Only place your cat in his carrier right before you are ready to leave to minimize confinement and stress.

After the move

Similarly to what was done prior to the move, you should confine your cat to a single room in the new house at first. This will enable you to move boxes and furniture freely without worrying about your cat getting in the way, or slipping out the front door. Most importantly, it will guarantee that your cat doesn’t feel too overwhelmed, and will encourage him to slowly accustom himself to his new environment. Make sure your cat has everything he needs in this room, and spend time with him in it. Try to create positive associations with the new environment by having playtime and cuddle time in this room. Try not to break his routine too much; for example, make sure to continue feeding him at his regular times.

woman and cat moving houses
Welcome to your new home little one ©Shutterstock

Start to get the house ready for your cat. Cats mark their territory by rubbing against surfaces and depositing their personal scent profile on them. You can help your cat feel at home in the new house by gently rubbing a cloth on his face and neck when you are spending time with him. Over the next few days, dab this cloth at cat height all around the house. This will help your cat feel less estranged when he first leaves his room.

Once the hustle and bustle of the move is over and most of your things have taken their place in the house, you can let your cat out of his room. However, its best to only give him access to a couple of rooms at first, and gradually increase his access to the rest of the house over time, once he starts to feel more confident. You can place a litter box in a different part of the house, but should still keep one in his room, so your cat doesn’t get confused.

Your cat shouldn’t be let outside at first, and until he truly sees the house as his new territory. Indeed, your little feline should be confined to the house for at least 2 weeks, or an extended amount of time if he is particularly nervous. During this time, be very careful to keep all cat flaps, doors, and windows closed. When you do decide to let your cat explore the outdoors for the first time, don’t force him into it. Simply open the door and let him go outside if he chooses to. Whenever your cat comes back into the house, make sure to reward him with a tasty treat.

A move can be a stressful time for both humans and pets in the household. But by preparing in advance, you can make sure the move is both successful and stress-free for everyone!