If you have cats, you may be dreading your move more than most people. Cats can be finicky, live by routine, and unaccepting of change. Everything about a move can stress a cat out, and cats who are stressed can experience both behavioral and health problems.
While cats may enjoy the sudden appearance of lots of boxes to hide in, dismantling their favority areas will be hard on them. Wait as long as possible for disassembling any shelving that they hang out on, and be sure to keep their feeding area, litter box, scratching post, and sleeping areas unchanged until the last possible moment.
Be sure to check boxes before sealing them, as cats love to hop in boxes as soon as your back is turned. Packing away from their favorite areas may be easier for you, since cats who get curious about what’s going on can be a handful. As the boxes stack up, allow your cat to explore and scent mark through rubbing.
The first rule of moving with cats is to keep them in a closed area on moving day. This will prevent them from getting underfoot, or from bolting out the door as the movers go in and out. It will also help keep them calm. A bathroom or empty bedroom is a good choice. Be sure they have food, water, a litter box, and something comforting, like a bed, blanket or favorite rug. They may find the noise of the move irritating. If you won’t have an area that can be completely sealed off, put them in carriers and set the carriers in the bathtub while the movers do their work.
Once the movers are done, let the cats out so they can explore the empty home while you finish up any last minute tasks.
If you’re moving locally, you may want to board your cat on moving day. That way you can introduce them to the new house once the furniture is in place, which will help it feel like their territory immediately.
Traveling with Cats
If you’re flying, you’ll want a carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you. Talk to your vet about how to make this less distressing for them; your vet may recommend tranquilizers. Put something in their carrier smells of you; this will help reassure them. And be sure that your cat has a collar and tag with your contact information, as well as that the carrier has a label. You may need to take your cat out of the carrier to get through airport security; in this case, a harness and leash may be a good idea, in case the cat decides to try and bolt
Driving may be harder on your cat than flying, especially if you have a multi-day drive with overnight stops. Keep cats in carriers while in the car; this will help protect them in case of a car accident, and also prevent them from getting under the driver’s feet, or using their leg as a scratching post. Position carriers where they can see people. Cats may get car sick, so it’s a good idea not to let them eat after midnight the day before you travel. And cats are sensitive to noise, so keep the radio volume low during the drive.
Adjusting to the New House
Start small. Set them up in a room for a day or two. Then leave the door open and let them come out and explore on their own terms. They’ll use the room as a safe base to explore from. A cat will find an empty home alarming, so if it’s a few days until the truck arrives, set an empty box in the corner of a room or two, providing more cover. Pick them up and place them in their litterbox, but they’ll find their food in short order.
Once your belongings are in the house, a box in a corner gives your cat a safe vantage point to watch the unpacking. Before taking boxes full of paper or other packing material out for the trash, make sure your cat has not burrowed in and gone to sleep.
On a final note, watch for loss of appetite and behavior changes like an affectionate cat becoming withdrawn, as these are signs that your cat may not be recovering from the stress of moving. Consult a vet immediately if you see any urinary changes, as this can be a sign of a urinary blockage, which is a serious condition that is fatal if not treated.