Helping Your Cat Adjust to a New Home Thursday 28 August 2014 @ 16:58

Moving can be a stressful process, but it can be even more stressful if the family cat goes missing. Cats aren’t likely to get excited by the added features in your new home, as they’re territorial creatures who will have formed strong bonds with your current home. Cats need special attention during the moving process to help them feel safe in their new environment. However, despite the horror stories, it is possible to move a cat safely if you take a few precautionary measures.

Preparing to move

Cats notice when their environment begins to change, so simply filling boxes and moving furniture can be enough to get them to go walkabout at this time. It’s best to contain them in one room while you’re doing this. You don’t want your cat to leave without you, and you don’t want them wandering into a packing box either.

Prepare a safe room for them with a litter tray, bedding, and food and water bowls. Close the windows and put a sign on the door to warn removalists not to let the cat out. Let the furniture from this room be the last furniture to go into the truck.

If you have a particularly nervous cat, you may want to put them in a cattery for a few days while you pack. You can then collect your cat when you’ve settled into the new home.

Transporting your cat

You’ll need a secure cat carrier to transport your cat. Even the most temperate of felines can get upset during a car journey, and may attempt to escape. It can be tempting to put two friendly cats in the same carrier, but we all react differently under stress so avoid any risk and get a cat carrier for each cat. Nervous cats may also need a blanket over the carrier.

The removal van or the boot of your car is not suitable for your cat. Allow them to travel in the cabin of the vehicle with the rest of the family, and secure the carrier with a seatbelt. On long journeys you will need to offer your cat water and supervised access to the litter tray. In hot weather, ensure the car is well ventilated and do not leave them in a locked car. If you are staying overnight in a motel, make sure you find a pet-friendly one.

New home

When you arrive at your new home, wait until all the removalists have left and the house is quiet before releasing your cat. Make sure all the windows and doors are closed, and any fireplaces are screened.

Dedicate one room with a closable door to your cat for the first few days. Ideally this room will have some of the same furniture that was in your previous home. Provide a litter tray, bed, and food and water bowls. It’s a good idea to have a family member sit with your cat while they explore the new room.

When you think your cat is ready, sit with them in another room of the house and allow them to explore the new territory, visiting each corner and rubbing  against the furniture. You can then allow them to visit other rooms when their anxiety levels seem to have settled. But you should keep an eye on them when they visit rooms with small spaces, as you don’t want them getting stuck behind an appliance.

Outside cats

If you have an outside cat, sit with them in an enclosed outside space for short periods during the first few weeks. It may take a few more weeks for you to feel confident about letting your cat explore the wider neighbourhood.

If you have ever thought about keeping your cat indoors, moving house is a good opportunity to try it. Indoor cats are generally healthier and live longer lives than outdoor cats. The RSPCA recommends that cats are kept indoors from dusk until dawn.

If your cat returns to your old home

When you first move, you should warn the new residents that your cat may return and ask them to contact you rather than feed it. However, sometimes a cat will keep the bonds they have with the original home no matter what you do. If you live in a built-up area and your cat keeps negotiating busy roads to return to your previous address, the kindest and safest solution could be to ask a former neighbour or the new residents to adopt your cat.