Cats are clever creatures, especially if they are outdoor cats who still always find their way home ready for their dinner and cuddles.
They soon learn all about their environment, and how to get themselves home if they want to explore. So having to move house and bringing them into a new environment can potentially be a big upheaval.
Even indoor cats can become a bit spooked by the smells, layout and sounds in their new environment, and the hubbub of the move. Cats, in general, get a lot of comfort from being surrounded by familiarity so when this changes, they can have difficulty adapting.
Cats often struggle more with a move than other pets. So doing all of it correctly requires a bit of forward-planning, and also possibly adapting the move to put your feline first.
Either way, you will likely need a cat carrier or something similar.
To board or not to board?
Before the big move starts, decide whether you think it is easier to pop your cat into a cattery for a few days (or even just overnight), or whether to make them part of the move.
Your decision will ultimately depend on your cat and their behaviour, as well as whether you think it will be easier to have one less thing on your mind on the big day. You may also want to factor in how far you are moving and if you have any time constraints.
If they are in the house, they could become stressed and agitated at the sight of boxes being packed up and you loading up the van before you bundle them into a carrier. But some cats may similarly find the whole experience of going into a cattery stressful.
If you want to cause little stress for your feline, a cattery could come in handy. They’re secure, and there’s someone to keep an eye on them at all times with food, water and litter.
Everybody knows that trying to find and grab a hold of an outdoor cat before they need to go into a carrier can be a hard job, so you may want to extend their stay at the cattery for a few days either side of the big move and take things slowly so there’s no rushing. Just ensure their vaccinations are all up to date before they go.
It is also worth thinking about creating a ‘safe space’ for them when they return. Read below for a bit more information about designated rooms.
- Staying At Home
Should you think they’re okay staying at home or are worried that they won’t like being away from home, pack everything up slowly over time and room by room, leaving where your cat is most comfortable until last. Try to keep them securely in the room so they can’t get outside in case they’re scared and can’t find their way back.
When in your new house, allocate an empty secure room where they can go and be left in peace with all of their favourite bedding, toys and play centres (and food, drink and litter of course). This will have to be secure so they can’t get out unsupervised.
If you have the option to get them used to this new room before the big day for a few hours, it could be beneficial. Taking their blankets and other comforting items such as human clothing with you could help the room to pick up your scent, and a calming plug-in or artificial pheromone spray could help their nerves for a few hours.
The journey to your new home
You may be moving across town, or across the country. Either way, ensure that they have a comfortable carrier which they are used to. A cat backpack may be best for some cats who don’t like carriers, or even a harness if they’re going for a short walk or in the car.
Ensure your method of carrying your cat is suitable for your mode of transportation. Think to fasten the carriers securely to cars using seatbelts, or airline guidelines if you will be flying.
If they’re prone to travel sickness, you may wish to give them some medication. Or don’t feed them for a few hours beforehand to reduce the risk. It could be a good idea for their favourite human to keep them company so they feel reassured.
Settling into your new home
Keep your cat inside for a few days until they are used to the new house. You may want to keep them in their room from the move if you feel that they could become overwhelmed with having a whole house to explore immediately.
Most cats will let you know when they’re ready to explore that bit further. Try to keep everything pretty similar to the old house too – if they slept at the foot of your bed on their blanket, don’t force them to lie on a bed in the hallway.
When it comes to a full house exploration, keep all windows and doors locked. Remember to check the catflap too. Try and keep their ‘safe room’ as it was when they moved in case they need to retreat into safety.
Going outside for the first time
Unless they’re a house cat, they’ll need to explore outside. There are a few tips on how best to do this:
- Take your time. Some charities recommend you keep them indoors for 6-8 weeks, as though you had a kitten
- Do it when they are hungry before regular mealtimes so you can call them back home for food
- Never pick them up and force them outside – let them control the event
- Go outside and walk around with them so they know it is safe to do so
- Leave the door open so they can come in when they please
- Only leave them out for short times until you are confident they know what they’re doing
You may also want to buy a harness and get them accustomed to walking on a lead. While you may never want to walk them to the park or beach in future, it could be a great way for you to keep an eye on the cat and help them explore quite a while away so you feel safe letting them out.
It is worth remembering that you should not let them out:
- When it is dark and they could be disorientated by sights
- If there are fireworks or other noises
- When there is a storm as they could become scared
- If it has been raining – natural smells can be masked so they find it harder to trace them
Your old house
Moving just around the corner? Your cat could already know the area, but this isn’t always as positive as it sounds.
Cats have been known to return to their old stomping ground after a house move. Even if they have had to travel miles to get there. You may wish to keep them inside for a little bit longer until they know that this is where you are all staying now and they’re not just on a week-long Airbnb break.
Also, have a word with the new tenants of your old home to explain the situation and ask them to keep an eye out in case they do see your cat. Hand over some emergency contact details so they can ring you even before you’ve noticed Socks has gone.
Remember that if you had a microchip catflap, you will need to change their collar or the catflap settings before you move. They don’t want to find an unknown cat on their bed.
Microchipping and collars
Ensure they are microchipped, and that the contact details are updated as soon as you move. Register with a local vet if you’re moving towns or too far away to remain at the existing practice, and ensure you have their up-to-date records to hand from their old vet.
Ensure they have a suitable cat collar on, with an ID tag. This won’t only allow anyone who finds them to contact you, but will also let your new neighbours know that this cat they have never seen before does actually have an owner.