I have moved with my cat Larm Larm 6 times in the past 14 years. And that includes two international travels from Hong Kong to Paris, and Paris to Dublin. Altogether, we have travelled over 10,000 km together. So I think I know quite a bit about moving with cats.
Today, I am going to share with you some tips on how to make the moving process a bit easier for you human, your cat and everyone else involved (e.g. movers, other family members, etc).
Cats are territorial animals and they don’t like changes, so moving is something they hate in their nature. The different sound and smell make them very anxious. In order to make the transition a little bit easier, we can try to make the changes in a gradual manner as much as possible. It will involve some planning, but it will make the moving day and the first few days after moving a bit easier for everyone.
Plan ahead! If you have access to the new house in advance, prepare a ‘cat room’. This should be a room where it is away from the noise and fuss during the move. A lot of people use the spare bedroom. Put in food bowls, water bowls, cat litter, cat beds, etc. You might want to prepare a few items that are familiar to your cats. If you can move part of the cat furniture in advance to the new house, then set up the cat room in the new place. The idea is, we want the cat to have at least some familiar sight and smell on the arrival to the new place. STICK A BIG SIGN ON THE CAT ROOM DOOR THAT SAYS…
DO NOT OPEN THIS DOOR!
So that the movers or other family members might not accidentally open this door and let the cat out during the chaos of moving. This is extremely important! I have known people lost their cats this way and I can’t emphasize how important it is to make sure cats are closed in one room and a big sign on the door to warn people not to open the door. Telling them not to open is NOT enough. People can’t remember during the chaos of the move!
In the old house, you will want to prepare a similar room if you plan to move the cat the last. They can stay in the cat room in the old house until all the furniture has been moved and they can leave with you. It is not a good idea to put your cat in the back of the moving van with the rest of the furniture. They would much prefer to stay with you as you can at least give them some reassurance. This might sound obvious but DO NOT PUT THE CAT IN THE BOOT OF THE CAR!
If you have a very nervous cat and they might accidentally urinate during the car journey, you might want to use some plastic liner to protect your car. Cutting up some big bin bags can do the job pretty well unless you want to invest in one of those car seat covers.
Another very important tip, if you cannot set up the cat room in the new place in advance, if you are doing international travel for example, make sure to pack your cat stuff in an accessible place! Don’t leave your cat bowls in the check in luggage! I made that mistake when I travelled from Hong Kong to Paris! When I had 8 hours transit in Seoul, I end up having to use the saucer from the tea cup in the hotel room to give Larm Larm some water! If I were to do another international travel again and expecting a long transit in a hotel, I would also bring a small litter tray with me with small amount of cat litter.
PUTTING CAT IN CARRIER! (OMG!)
A lot of people face a big big problem when it comes to the last moment to put the cat into the carrier. Desensitizing a cat to the carrier will need a separate post in itself! And this should be ideally done since day one when your cat comes into your life! But if you are reading this, you might be moving soon so you might not have enough time to do the full thing. In this case, try to do at least the following in the coming days:
- Leave the carrier out for a while before moving. If the lid is possible to be taken off, take it off as use it as a ‘bed’ for a few days
- Put the lid back on and use it as a ‘cat cave’ for a few days
- Close the door when the cat is in, do nothing, then leave the door open again after a few minutes. Give treats. Do that for a few days.
Consider to get professional help! If your cat is particularly difficult and you can see he/she is freaking out after you try to close the door of the carrier. Or that your moving date is dead set, the movers will be waiting, there is no space for mistake, you are better off to have professional help. If you are in Dublin, consider using my Cat Catcher service. To be honest, even with an easy cat, putting a cat into a carrier is a two-person job at best of times. One person is holding the cat, another person is dealing with the carrier and the door. With a difficult cat, no chance it can be done with one person! We also work with local vets for extra support if your cat is really nervous and is in need for sedative.
Make sure the carrier is comfortable. Having smell that are familiar to your cat will have a calming effect. A cat blanket that they use or an older unwashed T-shirt from you could be a good option. You might want to consider using a Feliway Spray.
Feliway Classic is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone (odourless to people and other animals) that cats leave behind when they rub their faces on the furniture, doorways, people’s legs and other objects in the home. It is clinically proven to support cats during stressful situations. So by spraying it on the carrier, it will help to lower their anxiety level. Spray generous on the carrier and the blankets.
Always wait about 15 minutes before letting your cat near any sprayed area.
If you travel on a hot day, you might want to factor in a few breaks so that you can make sure your cat drinks some water.
If you are travelling on a long journey that involve an overnight stay on the road, make sure to plan ahead to check that your accommodation is cat friendly. You don’t want to end up leaving your cat in the vehicle overnight.
As I mentioned earlier, if you were to take a transit overnight, please make sure your cat stuff are accessible. Don’t put them at the very top of the van! Cat bowls, small amount of cat food, litter tray and small amount of cat litter are all essential. I said small amount of food as you might not want to give them to much food. Stress might give them upset stomach so keep it light!
When you arrive to your new place, a lot of people make the mistake of opening the carrier and just the cat run free. They imagine the cats will be as excited as we are and will run around exploring their new homes. Nope…this Hollywood happy scene doesn’t actually happen. It’s more likely that your cat takes one cautious step out of the carrier and sniff around and might even go hiding under the sofa. Cats are predators and they are also preys. Being in a new environment full of new smell and new objects don’t excite them, it freaks them out! So please don’t do that to them.
Remember the ‘cat room’ I mentioned earlier? Keep them in there until they calm down and want to explore. They will usually let you know. Plus, the movers might still doing their jobs to move the last bits of things around, all the noise and fuss will stress out the cats. So keeping them away from it all as much as possible is a good idea. And trust me, movers are not going to be careful with the front door, they just want to move the stuff out of the van and into your house as quickly as possible. Leaving the front door open is a risk for your cat. Your cat can make a mad dash out the front door! So please keep them in one room to let them settle down. I can’t emphasise this enough. PLEASE PUT A BIG SIGN ON THE CAT ROOM DOOR THAT SAYS…
DO NOT OPEN THIS DOOR!
It is NOT enough to just tell the movers to not open the door, they WILL NOT remember, they are moving things, they are busy. The sign is ESSENTIAL.
Once the movers are gone and you close the front door. Check on your cats in the cat room. If they are not ready to come out or maybe you need to do some unpacking first, let them stay here. They will let you know when they are ready to explore the rest of the house. You might want to wait a bit before letting them in the kitchen or utility room. A nervous cat might end up hiding behind the fridge, you don’t want that to add to your stress level!
To help to ease your cats into exploring new areas of the house, once technique we can use is the transfer of scent. Use a piece of cotton fabric or cotton glove, rub your cat’s face to pick up the feline facial pheromone, and then rub on the furniture of the new areas of the house where you want to introduce your cats into. A more detailed explanation of this technique can be found in this fabulous book…
Some cats tend to get an upset stomach after the move due to stress. Plain boiled chicken breast usually will settle that. Of course, if you are worried, PLEASE CHECK WITH YOUR VET.
Once you are in your new place, let’s the fun begins! Not only it is time to decorate your new nest, it is also fun time to do all the catification for your cats! If you need any inspiration, check out all my post under the ‘catification‘ category.
If you were going to let your cat outside, please wait for 6 weeks before doing so, so that they can get used to the new house. And this is very important – make sure you have updated the microchip information with the new address!
Then you can sit back and relax, and enjoy your new home with your feline friends!
Have you moved with your cat? How did it go? If you have any personal tip, please be in touch! I would love to hear from you.