Moving is a stressful event for every family member, with children changing schools, leaving old friends and meeting new ones, and learning a new neighborhood, adults working on overwhelming paperwork while setting up new utility and professional services, and everyone packing and unpacking, organizing new spaces, and so much more. But what about our feline family members – how can you help them adjust to a new home safely and comfortably?
How Moving Can Affect Cats
Cats are creatures of habit, and dramatic changes to their routines can be unsettling. Moving to a new home is very disorienting to a cat, as all the sights, sounds, and smells of its home change at once, and its spatial orientation between rooms and furniture is also disrupted. This can create anxiety and depression, and some cats may become wary, reclusive, or even aggressive. They may stop eating or else seem to beg for the reassurance of treats all the time. Cats could start spraying in unwanted areas in an attempt to reclaim their sense of space, or they could regress to other unwanted behaviors, such as scratching, biting, or yowling.
Taking steps to help a cat adjust to its new home can help minimize the animal’s anxiety and the disruption to its patterns. This can allow the cat to settle in to a new home more smoothly and with less discomfort.
Helping Your Cat Cope With Moving to a New Home
It will take a conscientious effort to help a cat prepare for and endure moving to a new home, but that effort is well worthwhile for a happy, comfortable pet and a smooth, efficient move.
- Several weeks before moving, take time to get your cat used to its carrier. The carrier should be a safe, reassuring space well-sized for the animal to move around and relax. If possible, take short car rides using the carrier so the cat adjusts to the motion and sensations of travel.
- Get your cat a thorough physical a week or two before the move. Discuss any potential problems with your veterinarian, and be sure your cat’s vaccinations are updated. If necessary, consult with your vet about anti-anxiety medication to help your cat with the move.
- Just before the move, update your cat’s identification tags and microchip information to the new home address and current phone number. This will help you reunite with your pet if it gets lost or escapes during the chaos of the move.
- Keep your cat’s daily routine as close to normal as possible. This includes feeding time, playtime, and grooming. The more familiar the routine is, the less stressed the cat will become as other things around it are changing.
- While you’re actually packing and moving boxes, keep your cat in one comfortable, isolated room with its familiar bedding, toys, food bowls, and litter box. This will keep your cat out of the confusing activities that can be upsetting and stressful.
- During the move, keep your own voice calm and reassuring, and take time to pet and interact with your cat. Your familiar presence can be very comforting and will help the cat stay calm and relaxed.
- Consider boarding your cat for a few days during the move if the animal is high-strung or overly anxious. This can allow you to handle the stress of the move without extra concern about your pet, and you’ll be able to bring the cat to its new home once most of the chaos has subsided.
- Before bringing your cat into a new home, deep clean the property thoroughly to remove ingrained odors, particularly from previous pets. This may include shampooing carpets, vacuuming draperies, and replacing air filters as needed.
- Use a soft cloth on your cat’s head and cheeks to collect its natural scent onto the fabric. Then use that cloth to wipe corners and surfaces at the cat’s eye level throughout your new home to spread its odor around. This will help the cat get used to a new territory more quickly.
- Unpack your cat and its accessories first, including its litter box, climbing tower, toys, and food bowls. Put these items in an isolated room in the new house to give your pet a chance to acclimate without being overwhelmed by too much space while you continue to unpack.
- Gradually introduce your cat to new parts of the home over a period of several days. This is also a good time to transition an indoor/outdoor cat into being a strictly indoor pet, which is safer and healthier for the animal and will ensure it does not get lost in a new neighborhood.
Be patient with your pet as it gradually learns its way around a new home. Cats are curious, and your pet will slowly learn about its new territory and settle into the new space. By taking careful steps to make the move as smooth as possible, your cat can transition to a new home safely and comfortably, and you both will enjoy a happy home.