Let’s face it, moving house is never all that fun – particularly if you’re a creature of habit. Cats aren’t exactly known for their flexibility, so if you’re planning a move with your feline in tow, there are some simple, proactive steps you can take to make the ordeal as stress-free and comfortable as possible.
Planning the Move
Your move day will inevitably come as a shock to your pet cat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared! A bit of forward planning will ensure that your move goes as smoothly as possible, keeping your cat safe and happy throughout the disruption.
Preparing Your Cat
Unfortunately, you can’t sit your cat down and explain the move to them, but you can take a few simple steps to get them ready for the pending move and make it as least disruptive as possible. As with any scenario, the more organised you are and the more you’ve planned for the worst, the less likely it is that anything untoward will eventuate.
Your main priority throughout your move should be keeping your cat calm and safe, and using pheromones is a great way to keep your cat feeling relaxed. You can purchase synthetic pheromones in the form of a room spray or diffuser – you might like to chat with your vet or pop in to a trusted pet store to find the best option for your cat.
You can also harness your cat’s own natural pheromones by rubbing their face with a soft cloth ahead of time when they’re feeling relaxed, and then allowing your cat to snuggle up with the cloth when they start to show signs of anxiety.
Stick to Your Routine
Cats are creatures of habit, so while you might feel like your own schedule has been completely thrown out by the moving process, you should do your best to keep your cat’s routine as regular as possible. Stick to their usual feeding schedule and try to keep up any cuddling, play, or wind-down rituals you’ve established.
Create Safe Zones
Even if your cat loves being the centre of attention, they’re better off being kept well away from the hustle and bustle of packing up your home. Apart from being distressing and confusing for your cat, there’s a risk that they will become spooked or disoriented, which could lead them to slip away and go missing.
To avoid the worst, you should set up a ‘safe’ room in your house that can be kept quiet and peaceful in the days leading up to the move day, and on the day the move is happening. The night before your move, set your cat up in the room with their food, water, bedding, pheromones, and any other creature comforts they enjoy, and let them sleep out the worst of the hubbub with the door safely shut. You can collect them and their belongings as the final step before heading to your new abode.
Get Their Carrier Out
A lot of cats panic at the mere sight of their carrier – and understandably so, since it’s typically associated with disruption, movement, separation, or (very scary) visits to the vet. You can help to remove some of the fear associated with the carrier by normalising it ahead of your move.
Keep your cat’s carrier out with the door open for a few weeks and allow your cat to explore it in their own time. You can gently encourage them by padding the carrier with some familiar-scented bedding or popping in some tasty treats, but it’s best not to push your cat – the point is to make the carrier feel like a normal part of the room, so it’s not such a big deal when they do have to climb inside on move day.
Register with a Local Vet
Hope for the best but plan for the worst – you never know when you’ll need professional assistance, so it’s a good idea to get acquainted with your new local vet ahead of your move. You should also request that your current vet send any medical records to the new practice, so they’re prepared for whenever you need to make your first visit.
If your cat is not already microchipped, you’ll definitely want to get this done ahead of the move. A microchip is a tiny chip that’s inserted under your cat’s skin to act as a permanent ID, so they can be easily identified and you can be contacted if they ever go missing, without relying on a collar (which many cats have a habit of discarding). Since your cat is likely to be disoriented in the initial days after their move, it’s a high-risk time for escapes and getting lost, making an up-to-date microchip more important than ever.
If your cat is already microchipped, make sure you contact your vet or microchip provider to update your contact details before the move. It typically costs between £10 and £30 for the initial procedure, and you can expect to pay a similar amount to update your details.
Cleaning the New House
Your cat has an incredibly sophisticated sense of smell, and it will be on high alert as they try to make sense of their new surroundings. If you have the opportunity, it’s well worth your while to thoroughly clean your new home before introducing your cat to it, especially if the previous occupants included other cats or pets. You don’t want to give our cat the impression that they’re entering another cat’s territory!
Make Sure the New House is Cat Safe
Before allowing your cat to explore your new home, give it a thorough once-over to check that it’s cat safe. This is particularly important if you’re moving your cat into an established environment where other people are already living. Check your new space for any potential hazards, like plants and foods that are toxic for cats.
You should also survey your new home for any potential escape routes and furniture that could be mounted to access open windows. Even if your cat is usually a homebody, the disorientation of the new environment might trigger a flight response, so it’s important to be extra vigilant about possible escapes.
Packing and Supplies
What is it about cats and packaging? Whether it’s boxes, tape, or discarded wrapping, cats always seem to want in on the action. But packing materials usually don’t make safe toys for your cat. In the lead-up to your move, you should avoid creating any potential choking or toxicity hazards by keeping packing materials locked away and out of your cat’s reach, especially when you’re not around to supervise. You should also opt for low-tox swaps wherever possible – for example, choosing biodegradable corn starch packing peanuts over the Styrofoam variety (though your cat still shouldn’t be encouraged to eat them).
The actual day of the move is inevitably going to be a big one for both you and your cat, but it doesn’t have to be a traumatic ordeal! You can keep the stress and fatigue to a minimum with some careful forward planning.
Transporting Your Cat Safely
Most cats aren’t particular fans of travelling – the best you can do is make their trip as safe and comfortable as possible. Always use a secure carrier when driving with your cat, and ensure it’s properly belted in so it won’t move if you need to brake suddenly.
Make sure your cat has access to plenty of water and isn’t getting too hot from direct sunlight. To avoid travel sickness, opt for a light meal a few hours before the trip. If you know your cat is a very anxious or nauseous traveller, consider discussing medication options with your vet ahead of time.
Consider a Cattery
Depending on your cat’s temperament, you might be better off checking them into a cattery for the duration of the move. This also frees you up from the stress of caring for your pet while you’re busy tackling the task of moving. If you decide to book your cat into a cattery, book for a few nights either side of your actual move day. That way, you can introduce your cat into their new home environment when it’s already calm and set up.
Some cats find the social aspects of catteries distressing and would prefer to be by your side despite the hubbub of the move, so you should carefully consider whether this option is best for your cat. Our guide to catteries might help you decide. https://ukpetguide.com/should-i-hire-a-pet-sitter/
Make Use of the Designated Safe Area
Earlier, we suggested setting up a ‘safe’ room in your home where your cat can relax and retreat while the rest of the house is being packed up and removalists come and go. If you’re not opting to use a cattery, make sure this designated space is set up and secured on move day, and anyone helping you with the move knows to give it a wide berth. This room, along with your cat’s belongings and your cat themself, should be the last things you pack up before heading off to your new abode.
Though not always possible, sticking to as much of a routine as you can on the day of your move will do your cat wonders. Keeping things like feeding and toileting times as normal as possible will help to provide some sense of stability while your cat copes with the many unavoidable changes that come with the move.
Unpack Their Belongings First
If you’ve packed your cat’s belongings last, they’ll be nice and easy to access and unpack as soon as you arrive at your new residence. Unpacking your cat’s belongings first will help them to settle in as quickly as possible, ensuring that they have access to essentials like food, water and their litter tray, as well as any creature comforts that will make their new space feel like home. Transfer your cat directly to another designated ‘safe’ room in your new home.
Let Them Explore
Your cat may be wary and hesitant to explore initially, so you should let them get accustomed to their new surroundings in their own time. Some cats will find your presence reassuring, while others will prefer to be left alone as they begin scoping out the new space. It’s a good idea to restrict your cat’s explorations to their secure ‘safe’ room initially, before gradually allowing them to access the rest of their new home – more tips on that below!
Once you’ve made the move, the hard work is behind you, and you can start the process of settling your cat into your new home. As with the move itself, the priority here should be keeping your cat safe and stress-free. It’s important not to rush the process: go at their pace until they acclimatise to their new environment.
Creating a Comfort Zone for Your Cat
Earlier, we suggested setting up a ‘safe’ room in your old home and then another one in your new home to provide a quiet, peaceful sanctuary for your cat to relax in while the hustle and bustle of the actual move takes place. It’s a good idea to maintain this designated area for a few weeks after the move, allowing your cat to establish a new comfort zone for themself before they start exploring further afield.
In stressful and unfamiliar circumstances, even the most well-house-trained cats are prone to accidents. Cleaning up a mess is no doubt the last thing you feel like doing alongside all the other chores that moving entails, but it’s important to remain calm and patient with your furry friend. Cats typically prefer clean environments, so you can rest assured that they’ll be back to observing proper toiletting etiquette in no time. The calmer you are, the calmer your cat will be and the quicker they’ll be back to their usual house-trained self.
If you’re moving with an outdoor cat, navigating the transition to independent outdoor time needs to be handled with some extra care. Even though they might not enjoy being cooped up, you should keep your cat inside for a few weeks before gradually allowing them to start exploring outside. If you rush the process, you risk your cat becoming disoriented and not knowing where to return home to. See below for more tips on safely adjusting your outdoor cat to their new neighbourhood.
Notify New Residents
Since cats tend to be homebodies, there is a risk that they’ll make their way back to your old home. This is particularly of concern if you’re moving locally, although cats have been known to travel impressive distances! There are precautions you can take to prevent this misguided homing behaviour, but it’s a good idea to give the new residents of your old home a heads-up too. You don’t want your cat making a habit of going back to your old home for second dinners from unwitting new residents! Ask the new residents to contact you should this occur.
Speak With Neighbours
It’s equally important to chat with your new neighbours and introduce them to your cat. If your neighbours can recognise your cat, they’ll be able to keep an eye out for their safety. Introducing yourself to your neighbours will also give them the opportunity to warn you about any existing neighbourhood cats or other hazards to be aware of, such as cranky neighbours or busy roads.
Give Them Time
It’s important not to rush your cat through the process of adjusting to their new home. Give your cat time to explore and become familiar with their new surroundings, and don’t panic if they seem withdrawn and cautious at first. Keep reassuring them, maintain their regular food and sleep routine, and they’ll be feeling at home before you know it.
Play With Them and Give Fuss
While many cats appreciate alone time and benefit from space and quiet when adjusting to a new situation, it’s important that your cat still knows they have your love and support while they’re settling into their new environment. If your cat likes to play, set aside some extra time to have fun together as the two of you settle into your new home. If your cat has a quieter temperament, they might prefer watching TV with you or simply spending some quality time in companionable silence together in their safe room.
Preventing Cats from Returning to Their Old Home
Since cats are creatures of habit with a strong sense of home, there’s always the risk that they’ll try to return to your old residence. This is especially a risk if you’re not moving far, although cats have been known to travel surprising distances. You can help to mitigate this risk by introducing your cat to their new surroundings gradually so that they’re familiar with and confident about where they live now. Read our tips for introducing your cat to their new neighbourhood below.
As we’ve mentioned, you should also speak to the new residents of your old home, as well as your old neighbours, to discourage them from feeding or otherwise interacting with your cat should they drop in to visit. They may not realise that they’re exacerbating your cat’s confusion! Leave your contact details with them so they can get in touch if your cat does show up.
Choosing a Cat-Friendly Removal Company
Since approximately 57% of UK households have a pet, most removal services will be well-versed in moving houses with cats in the mix. The best way to gauge their pet-friendliness is to have a conversation before you book and ask them what their strategy is for moving with pets. On the day of the move, make sure you communicate with the removals team about which rooms have been set up as ‘safe’ zones for your cat, so they know to give them a wide berth.
It should go without saying that your cat isn’t furniture and should never be packed into a moving van (even in a carrier). If you’re making a longer-distance move and can’t transport your cat yourself, you’ll need to find a specialist pet transport service. Many reputable companies are offering this service both within the UK and internationally.
Top Tips for Moving with an Indoor Cat
While moving with an indoor cat means you don’t have to navigate the difficulty of introducing them to a new neighbourhood, it does present its own set of challenges. Many indoor cats are highly attached to their home environment, so they may be more prone to stress and anxiety during a move. Alongside following the moving tips we’ve already listed, here are some additional steps you can take to help your indoor cat settle in as smoothly as possible.
Spend quality time
Indoor cats tend to be very attached to their loved ones, so your presence is the best way to remedy any anxiety that comes from adjusting to unfamiliar surroundings. Setting aside extra time each day to spend with your furry companion will reassure them that they are still safe and loved in their new space.
Make them feel at home
We’ve already talked about setting up a designated safe room for your cat during the move – this is especially important for indoor cats, who rely completely on their home environment to feel safe and secure. Make their new room feel like home by bringing along your cat’s favourite blankets, bedding or even some of your unwashed clothes – anything that reassures them that this is still their safe haven.
As we’ve discussed, synthetic pheromones in the form of a room spray or diffuser can be a great way to quell cats’ anxieties during a move. Setting up pheromones in your indoor cat’s new space is a great way to make it feel safe and cosy for them from the start.
Consult with your vet
If you’re still concerned about your indoor cat’s stress and anxiety levels, consider talking to your vet about your options. They may suggest medication to alleviate some of the short-term distress your cat is feeling.
Top Tips for Moving with an Outdoor Cat
Moving with an outdoor cat adds another layer of worry for a lot of cat parents, since your cat will need to learn to navigate a whole new environment without your watchful presence. The key is taking it slowly and allowing your cat to gradually build up to the level of independence they enjoyed in their old neighbourhood. Alongside the tips we’ve shared above, these are our top tips for ensuring your move goes smoothly for you and your outdoor cat.
Update your microchip
We’ve said it before, but microchipping is extra important for outdoor cats, who are most at risk of getting lost or wandering long distances from home. Ensuring your cat’s microchip is updated with your contact details before you move home can save a lot of heartache should your cat end up getting lost.
Your outdoor cat may be pining to explore their new surroundings, but it’s important to give them a few weeks to settle into their new indoor space before you allow them to roam outside. This gives them time to mark the home with their scent and makes it more likely that they will be able to find their way back to it once they do start exploring further afield.
Once your cat is well acquainted with their new home and ready to take the next step to explore outdoors, you should start with small, supervised trips. You can gradually build up to longer adventures, and eventually independent ones, once your cat is relaxed and confident in their new surroundings. Since you won’t know the other cats in the neighbourhood, you should delay night-time explorations until your cat is much more settled and confident.
Let them out before they’ve eaten
Shaking a tasty bag of kibble has to be the most tried and true method of getting an adventurous cat to return home – and it’s much more effective if your cat is hungry! It’s best to schedule your cat’s first few outings for just before you would normally feed them a meal, so they’ll be hungry enough to come back at your call.
Explore with them at first
Eventually, you’ll have to trust them to their own devices, but if your cat is hesitant about venturing outside, you might like to accompany them for the first few outings. Head outside and prompt them to follow you, leaving the door open so they can return to the safety of indoors whenever they choose.
Prepare for accidents
As we’ve mentioned, stress can cause toiletting confusion for even the most well-behaved cats. For outdoor cats, being cooped up inside when they’re used to roaming makes toiletting even more challenging. Placing a few kitty litter trays in different rooms of the house can help, but be prepared for accidents while your cat is unable to go outside.
Top Tips for Moving with an Older Cat
Older cats can find moves particularly stressful, especially if they’ve spent a good deal of their life living at their current address. But with a bit of forward planning and a lot of reassurance during the move, you can ensure that the process is as stress-free as possible.
Book into the vet for a check-up
Before moving your older cat, it’s a good idea to book in for a check-up with your regular vet. You can also use the time to discuss any special needs to consider ahead of the move. Make sure you book this well in advance of the move itself, as many cats find vet visits stressful and you don’t want to be adding to the inevitable stress of the move. While you’re there, ask your vet to recommend a local vet practice in your soon-to-be-new neighbourhood, and have them send over your cat’s records.
Synthetic pheromones, in the form of a room spray or diffuser, can be a great way to calm your cat during a stressful time. For older cats, this can be especially beneficial. Discuss the best option with your vet or a trusted pet store.
It’s important not to rush any cat when they’re getting used to their new abode, but this is especially true for older cats. Let them take their time to explore their new space, allowing them to become acquainted with one area of the house at a time. If you have an outdoor cat, move onto outside explorations very gradually.
Monitor for signs of stress
While it’s normal for cats to appear more withdrawn or flighty than usual after a sudden environmental change, you should pay special attention to any ongoing behaviour changes in your older cat after a move (see our list below for signs to look for). If they don’t seem to be picking up a week later, contact your vet for advice.
Behavioural Changes to Look Out For
Stress and anxiety are normal responses to a sudden change in environment for cats. You will more than likely notice some of the below symptoms in the days surrounding your move, but if they don’t resolve quickly, or if you’re at all concerned that your cat doesn’t seem themself, you should contact your vet for advice.
Body language and vocalisation
While your cat can’t tell you how they’re feeling in words, they can give you an idea through physical cues. Common signs of stress include pacing, trembling, flattened ears, and hair standing up on end. Crying or excessive meowing is another way your cat can tell you they’re feeling distressed.
Failing to use their litter tray for number ones or twos is a common sign of stress in cats. Have patience, and it should resolve once your cat is settled into their new environment.
Lashing out at people or tearing up the furniture is a telltale sign of emotional dysregulation in cats, often triggered by fear. Give your cat some time and space to adjust to their new environment, but if it doesn’t resolve or you’re at all concerned, it’s best to consult with your vet.
Usually stressed cats will go off their food, although sometimes excessive eating can also occur. Again, this should resolve as your cat settles into their new home, but if it doesn’t seem to be improving after a few days, or you notice any changes in your cat’s weight or condition, you should consult your vet.
Licking and cleaning more than usual often indicates anxiety in cats. In severe cases, this can lead to hair loss, and should be treated by a vet to avoid possible skin irritation.
Again, it’s inevitable that your cat will exhibit some signs of distress during your house move, but they should resolve quickly. Monitor for prolonged symptoms, and don’t hesitate to contact your vet if you’re worried that your cat isn’t bouncing back as quickly as expected.
There’s no getting around it – moving is an inherently stressful time for cats and humans alike. But even though cats typically don’t enjoy sudden changes to their routine or environment, there are simple steps you can take to make the move as stress free as possible for the both of you. Have patience, and before you know it, you and your cat will be curled up on the couch, enjoying your new abode together.