Moving with Cats

By Leeann Berry, Cat Safari Ranger

Over the last few months I have had to move a couple of times, once with one cat and just recently with two. The specific circumstances are complicated and boring to say the least, so I will skip over why it has happened this way. However, I have gleaned some insight into how to make moving with cats easier for you and your furry friend.
Start packing well enough in advance so moving boxes can be out and about for your cat to investigate. You can actually make the packing process kind of fun if the cat can enjoy playing in empty boxes for a couple of weeks.
If your cat reacts negatively to unfamiliar scents, spray the corners of the moving boxes with Feliway. This is a product that contains synthetic feline facial pheromones (scent chemicals). The facial pheromones are associated with security and comfort for a cat, so moving, whether across the country or locally, will be easier on him. Feliway is available at your local pet product store and online.

If your cat is allowed outdoors, start keeping him indoors at least a week before the move. With all the packing and commotion associated with moving, it’s not unusual for a cat to get nervous and disappear while outside.
Have the cat’s new ID ready well in advance of the move so you’ll be able to attach it to his collar on moving day (if he wears a collar). For added safety, make sure the cat’s identification contains your cell phone number and not a land-line number since you’ll be moving that number. Make sure your cat also has a micro-chip.

Cats don’t like change, and moving is a huge adjustment. They’re also territorial, so imagine how they must feel when they suddenly find themselves in a totally unfamiliar location. Moving is stressful for humans, so you can certainly understand how unhappy the whole thing makes the family cat.

Even though a certain amount of stress will undoubtedly be involved when moving with cats to a new home, there are things you can do to make the transition a little easier on both of you.

If your cat doesn’t like being in a carrier, spend time getting him comfortable with the process. Since moving will likely involve either car or air travel, your cat will endure much less anxiety if he views the carrier as a safe place. Begin by feeding your cat near the open carrier, and then work your way toward being able to put his meals in the carrier itself. You can also use treats and offer a special treat in front of, next to, on top of, and then inside the carrier.

During the packing stage, make sure your cat’s schedule stays as normal as possible. It will only add to his anxiety if meals are late or he doesn’t receive the usual amount of attention from his family. In fact, incorporate some extra interactive play sessions to help with any increase in anxiety he may be experiencing during the packing stage.
If you’re moving far enough away with your cats that you’ll be switching veterinary hospitals, plan to have any records forwarded ahead of time or get a copy to keep with you! When you get to your new location, be sure you know the location of the nearest pet emergency clinic just in case something unexpected happens in the middle of the night during your first few days in your new home.

Prepare a lost cat file that contains your cat’s information and picture, as well as the names and numbers of shelters and veterinary clinics in your old and new locations. This way, you’ll be prepared just in case your cat gets out the door during the move – either at the old house or the new house. Even though you’ll be taking every precaution while moving with your cats, if something tragic happens you want to be prepared with a picture so you can begin posting notices and contacting shelters immediately.

The Day of the Move

To make sure your cat stays safe and doesn’t bolt out the front door while you or the movers are carting boxes and furniture out of the house, keep your cat in a separate room. You can either empty the contents of that room ahead of time and just have his carrier in there and a couple of empty boxes (as extra hiding places) and his litter box, or make that the last room the movers will enter (you’ll put kitty in his carrier beforehand). Instruct everyone involved with the move where the cat is located and as an extra precaution, post a sign on the closed door as an extra precaution. If you’re concerned that someone might still open the door, keep the cat inside the carrier during the moving process.
If the moving process will totally freak your cat out, it is probably be best to have him lodge at overnight facility such as San Francisco’s Pet Camp Cat Safari when packing begins in earnest and through moving day. For your cats and yourself, the peace of mind is worth it.

Do you have any moving tips to share?  In my next post I’ll be discussing acclimating your cat to your new home.

Thanks for reading!