The move to a new home can be stressful – and not just for you. Your cat can experience it as a time of heightened anxiety, because our feline friends don’t take kindly to big changes. It is up to you to make the period of the move as stress-free as possible for your cat. Here we suggest some simple steps that will help you to achieve this.
Before the move
If you haven’t done so already, have your cat microchipped and registered. That way, if they happen to get lost during the move – for example, if a door is left open and they run away – there’s a much better chance they will be returned to you quickly.
If you have an outdoor cat, don’t let them outside the day before the move. This can be a bit stressful, but it’s better than running the risk that your four-legged friend won’t come back on moving day.
During preparations for the move, try not to change at least one room in the home for as long as possible, so your cat can continue to use it as a retreat. For example, don’t store any boxes in this room, and don’t dismantle any furniture. Also, make sure your cat is accustomed to a carrier well in advance of the move. A carrier will be needed to transport them safely to the new home.
On moving day
Moving day is usually very unsettling, with lots of activity and upheaval. You have two options to help manage your cat’s stress levels:
Option 1: Your cat stays in the old home until the end, in a safe room where they can relax while the boxes and furniture are removed from the other rooms. Provide them with their usual bed, scratching post, toys, litter tray, and food and water. A carrier will give your cat an additional place to retreat to. Make sure the room is kept closed at all times, and if other people are helping you move, put a note on the door.
Option 2: Place your cat in a carrier inside the car or van. It is often quieter there. Your feline friend won’t be able to run away, and you and your removal team will have unrestricted access to every room in the home. If you choose this option, make sure the temperature inside the vehicle is comfortable (not too cold or too warm).
- Once you have arrived at your new home, the first thing you should do is set up a retreat for your cat. Leave them in the carrier while you’re doing this. A room where there won’t be a lot of furniture or boxes, such as a bathroom or guest room, may be a good choice as a retreat room. There will be fewer comings and goings to disturb your cat.
- Once you have set up the room with the items that your cat needs and is familiar with, you can open the carrier so they can begin to explore. You should keep the room’s door, windows and all other escape routes closed. Your cat should stay in this retreat room while the move continues in the rest of the home. Only let them out once the removal team has finished, the van has been emptied and all the furniture has been put in the right rooms.
- It’s best if your cat explores the new home gradually, room by room. Some cats are more adventurous than others. Don’t be discouraged if they lie under the bed for a few days. However, do make sure your pet continues to eat. Refusing food for a few days can be dangerous for cats, and you should consult a vet if you’re concerned about this.
Outdoor cats after the move
Once your outdoor cat has got used to their new home, you can consider letting them outside. As a rule of thumb, this should be after about two weeks in the new environment. If your cat was very territorial in the old home, is very timid or doesn’t yet seem comfortable in the new home, then you could delay letting them outdoors for a little longer.
Extra help needed?
If your cat seems very unsettled during the preparations for the move, you might think about getting some extra help. Consider whether your cat can stay with friends temporarily, or in a well-run boarding kennel or shelter. There, your feline friend will be spared all the disruption of moving. You might also consider using pheromone spray. This can have a calming effect on cats. It can be used before, during and after the move.
The disruption is only temporary
One of the positive aspects of moving is that the stress is usually short-lived. Your cat will survive this period of change. The key point is to make sure they have a comfortable place to retreat.