Tips for Moving with Cats

We love our cats and when we move, we want them to be as happy with their new home as we are. Cats, of course, have their own opinion. They’re territorial, which means they prefer staying put. They like stability and routine. It makes them feel safe, so it’s no surprise moving is very stressful for them. Obviously, no owner wants to make their cat unhappy, but change is inevitable sometimes. Fortunately, there are ways to help your feline through the process. If you're moving with cats, following these tips will not only lessen their anxiety, but protect them and allow them to transition peacefully into their new home.

Cat sitting in empty moving box

Get Them Comfortable with Their Carrier

Whether you’re flying or driving, when you’re moving with cats, a good carrier is essential. Cats feel safe in small spaces, where they can curl up and sleep without anyone noticing them, so get one that’s cozy, but large enough for them to stand, sit, and turn around. If you’re traveling for more than a few hours, it should also be large enough to accommodate food, water, and a litter box.

Cats spend a lot of time in their carrier during a move, so you want them to be as comfortable with it as possible. Most cats have already been in a carrier at least once or twice for trips to the vet, in which case they probably don’t like them very much. To help form positive associations, place their food and water near the entrance, then move the bowls a little further inside each day.

Putting your cat's favorite toy or blanket inside will help too. Leave the door open, so they can enter and exit freely. You want them to think of it as their den, someplace safe where they can relax. If they still won't go near it, try spraying the carrier with pheromones.

Visit the Vet

To protect your cat from disease, make sure they’re up to date on their shots. While you’re there, ask the vet for copies of your cat’s medical records. You’ll need them to license your pet in another state. If your cat’s a nervous traveler, your vet may be able to prescribe feline anxiety medication to help settle them down.

Update Their Identification

Anyone who’s lived with a cat knows they have a talent for disappearing. Because you can’t watch your cat twenty-four hours a day, identification tags have traditionally been the best way to prevent them from getting lost. Because tags are sometimes lost or damaged, however, many owners are switching over to microchips instead. They’re permanent, unobtrusive, and can be read by practically every veterinarian and animal shelter in the country, which makes them a great way to safeguard your cat. Whichever method you choose, make sure to update the home address. If your cat wanders off, you want it quickly returned to your new residence, not your old one.

Stick to a Routine

Cats are creatures of habit. In the wild, they go through a daily cycle of hunt, catch, eat, groom, and sleep. Routines mimic this natural rhythm. Knowing what to expect makes cats feel secure, while disruptions make them fearful. Nothing wrecks routines like moving. Carpets get rolled up, furniture gets dismantled, and all the familiar odds and ends disappear into boxes.

To help your cats adjust, stick to their normal schedule as closely as possible. Do your best to put out food, play with them, and clean their litter box at the same time every day. It’s the most effective way to alleviate stress. However, some disruption is inevitable in the run up to the big day, so keep in mind that food is the most important part of your cat’s daily routine and should never be neglected. If you want your cat to be happy, feed them at the same time every morning and evening, no matter what.

Let Them Explore Your Moving Boxes

All animals are sensitive to changes in their environment. A set of cardboard boxes might not seem like a big deal to you, but for a cat they can be upsetting. So before you start packing, give your cat a chance to investigate them. Once they’ve poked around a little, they won’t be bothered when boxes start piling up in every room. Play normally speeds the process. Drag a chase toy through a box maze or spread a little catnip around them. Keep in mind that cats tend to bite and claw when exposed to catnip, so be careful your boxes don't get shredded.

Set Up a Safe Room

Cats generally don’t enjoy moving day at all. To spare them the commotion, choose one room to use as a safe space. Do your best to move everything out first, then lock them inside with their food, water, toys, and litter box. Once you’ve got them tucked away, place a sign on the door, so everyone knows the room is off limits. While this is bound to upset your cat, it’s the best way to keep them safe. The last thing you want is for them to get injured underfoot or bolt outside through an open door.

Plan Ahead for the Trip

Though it's possible to fly with cats, most homeowners prefer to drive instead. Secure the carrier with a seatbelt to keep it from shifting during the trip. Line the bottom with a blanket, towel, or pillow. Unless you’re moving locally, place some food and water inside, along with a toy to keep them amused.

Cats can go about six hours without a bathroom break. If you’re going to be on the road for longer, put a disposable litter box inside as well. Most cats prefer to curl up at the back of the carrier, so put the box near the front. It’s not unusual for cats to whine during the trip. Owners are often tempted to open the doors and comfort them, but it’s a bad idea. Once a cat gets out, it’s hard to get it back in.

In the unlikely event you do need to open the carrier, double check the car doors and make sure they’re firmly closed. Pets lost along the highway are rarely found again. Most of all, do your best to stay positive. Though most people believe cats aren’t social animals, in reality cats are almost always attentive to their owner’s mood. So if you’re tense, they’re tense.

Introduce Them To Their New Home

Although you might be tempted, you shouldn’t let your cat out of their carrier as soon as you arrive at your new place. Instead, bring them inside and wait until you’ve gotten one of your rooms set up (your bedroom is often the best choice). This will be their safe room while the rest of your belongings are moved inside. Leave the door closed, but the carrier open. When introducing a cat to a new environment, it’s best to let them explore at their own pace. Set up their food, water, and litter box, along with a few toys. Familiar objects will help make them feel more at home.

After everything’s been brought indoors, it’ll be safe to let your cat wander through the rest of the house. Remember that cats are territorial, so be patient as it will be a while before they settle into their new surroundings. Two weeks is the average, but the process can take several months. Some cats prefer staying indoors. Others prefer going outdoors. If your cat is allowed outside where you live, it’s always a good idea to wait a few weeks before letting them go explore their new neighborhood.

When they do finally go out, it should only be for 10-15 minutes at a time. Accompany your cat on their first few walks around the neighborhood as well, until you're sure your cat identifies your new home as their primary source of food and shelter. If you’re worried about them running away, don’t feed them before letting them out. It makes it easier to call them back.

North American Moving Services

Whether you’re moving with cats, dogs, or goldfish, relocating your household is an arduous task. North American is a full service moving company with the skills, resources, and experience to tackle any project. Moving with pets is stressful enough. While you take care of them, let us take care of you. We handle everything, from packing to shipping to final delivery and setup. So contact us today for a free quote!