Moving can be stressful for your family — and that includes your pets. Change is especially difficult for cats, who are big on predictability. Even small changes can cause big stress for cats, which can appear in behaviors like going to the bathroom outside the litterbox, fleeing, hiding, or even aggression. Fortunately, some simple planning can help keep your cat — and your move — calm and peaceful.
Prepare Your Cat Ahead of Time
Before moving day arrives, ensure that your cat has proper identification in case she is lost. Make sure her ID tag has your cell phone number on it so that you can be reached if she goes missing during the move. Optimally, cats should be microchipped to better their chances of being reunited with their owner. Also check that all vaccinations and parasite control are up-to-date.
Prepare your cat for the move by teaching her to use her crate. A hard-sided crate is often the safest, as it can’t be compressed and risk harming your cat during transport. But you may need a soft-sided carrier if your cat is going to fly with you and will be riding underneath the seat on the plane. No matter which type of carrier you are using, bring it into the house several weeks before your move and leave it out for your cat to explore. Cover it with a blanket or towel to create a safe hideaway for your cat. Feed her meals inside the crate and place treats randomly in this area throughout the day.
Once your cat is comfortable in her crate, put the crate in your car for brief periods each day, without driving, to get her ready for the trip to her new home. Each time you do this, give her a tasty treat. Once your cat becomes accustomed to sitting in the car, take her for short rides, such as around the block; pair these rides with a palatable reward. Gradually introduce slightly longer car rides with the paired reward.
Keep Her Safe — and Calm — on Moving Day
Piles of boxes and the flurry of people in and out of the house on moving day can be stressful for your cat. In addition, moving day commotion can increase the risk of your cat accidentally being let out and can cause her to be afraid to come back even if she normally ventures outside. Protect your cat by setting up a cat-proofed room in your house during the weeks leading up to the move. Keep essential items in the cat room: litterbox, toys, food, water and resting areas. Maintain your cat's routine schedule of play, feeding and interaction to keep change minimal.
If your cat still seems stressed out, feline pheromones are calming for many cats and can be sprayed in the cat room as well as used during the car ride and in your new home during transition.
On moving day, secure your cat in her cat-proofed room. Make sure she has everything she needs — bed, litterbox, scratching post, food, water and toys. Post a sign on the door warning everyone not to let the cat out, and inform your movers that they are not responsible for anything in that particular room. This should minimize the chances that your cat will be accidentally let out of her safe space.
Help Her Feel at Home in Your New Home
Your cat will need help adjusting to her new home. Create a cat-proofed room with all the essentials of the kitty room at the house you have left. Place your cat’s carrier on the floor in the new room and let her come out and explore on her own. A trail of catnip and treats leading from inside the crate out into the room can entice her out. If you have multiple cats, ensure that they have multiple resting, perching, eating and litterbox areas within the room.
As your cat becomes comfortable and confident in her new space, you can gradually open up the house, either one room at a time or with short supervised times to explore at will. Either way, help your cat to feel at home in her new house by offering treats and favorite play toys when she is exploring. Keep your cat safe by blocking any potentially dangerous places she may hide, such as underneath the oven or stove. Instead, provide hiding and resting areas that you can easily recover your cat from, such as cat tunnels and cat trees.
Aid your cat in claiming the new home as her territory by rubbing a glove over her cheek glands while you pet her and then rubbing the scented glove on items in the house at her nose level. Resist the temptation to buy new things, such as beds and scratching posts, for your cat; opt instead to keep the ones your cat is used to, which already have a familiar scent and markings.
Moving to a new home is also the perfect time to transition an indoor/outdoor cat to the indoors only, as the only territory she will know in the new home is the inside environment. If you want your cat to enjoy the outdoors, do so with a cat-proofed enclosure that will safely contain your cat and protect her from predators, cars or being lost, and will additionally protect the wildlife population in your yard and neighborhood.