Caroline Zambrano is a pet journalist and animal lover. You may have seen Caroline in Dogs Life, PETS and Choosing Your Dog magazines. My Pet Warehouse is delighted to amplify her unique knowledge and experience through My Pet Blog in a hope to help and educate concerned pet owners.
Moving house is no easy task. From hiring a van (or asking that one mate you’ve got with a ute for help) to packing and unpacking boxes (how did all this stuff even fit in the old house?!), we can all agree that the moving experience can be frustrating. So when you add the element of moving a pet from house to house with you – it’s basically a recipe for a full blown anxiety attack. Right?
We’re here to tell you that moving house with your cat is nothing to stress about. All you need to do is plan ahead – it’s as simple as that.
It’s important to know that cats are very territorial. They identify places through smell which is why your current home is familiar to them. Once you move house there’s a whole new territory to mark as their own!
Cats can also sense your anxiety – so if you’re feeling a bit stressed in the lead up to moving day, there’s a chance they’re getting that vibe from you and therefore becoming a little nervous themselves. Make sure you’re taking a moment to reassure them everything’s ok with a little pat or scratch behind the ears.
If you plan ahead, you’ll be sure to save yourself the last minute panic. There are loads of things you can do in the lead up to the moving day that will help moving your feline friend from your old house to your new house.
Caroline’s 8 tips for planning ahead
Like anything in life, when you plan ahead you are better equipped to anticipate any bumps along your journey. Moving with a cat is no different.
- Socialise your kitten
- Keep your cat safe
- Any special needs?
- Update your cat’s ID
- Flea treatment and prevention
- Who are your new pet neighbours?
- Use a cat carrier
Having an adequately socialised cat from a young age will help the move go more smoothly. If your cat hasn’t been exposed to animals and people from kittenhood, it’s unlikely they will be comfortable around new people and animals in the new home.
When you’re packing, it might be a good idea to keep your cat in a different room. This helps keep their curiosity at bay while also ensuring you can pack things safely without the cat getting in the way. Packing is a very consuming task so be sure to schedule in some cuddle or play time with your cat at the end of the day.
If your cat is elderly or has any medical problems, consult your vet about any health issues that could impact the moving process. It’s probably best to avoid feeding your cat breakfast on the morning of the move to keep their tummy stable.
Make sure your cat’s collar has your name, phone number and new address. Also ensure your cat’s microchip is up to date. To change your cat’s microchip details, visit www.petaddress.com.au, which - when you input your pet’s microchip number – directs you to the database that lists your pet’s microchip so that you may contact them directly.
Treat your cat for fleas – whether they have fleas or not - BEFORE the move, so that you don’t bring these blood sucking parasites to your new home straight away. Flea allergies are common in cats, causing them to scratch and chew, making life miserable with them often developing hot spots and skin infections.
Before you move, it might be a good idea to drive around your new neighbourhood and try to assess how many dogs and cats are living in the area. Perhaps check with your new neighbours if they have any pets. It’s always good to find out what they know about the animals in the area, and any concerns they may have.
Get the cat carrier out well in advance and have it ready to use. If you get your cat used to a carrier early on, when the time comes to move house your car ride there won’t turn into a CATastrophe. Getting your cat to hop into the carrier might mean you need to put an unwashed towel or T-Shirt inside – this gives them a familiar scent can comfort them during the move.
You can also try using a product that releases the chemical copy of feline facial pheromones, which cats leave naturally by rubbing their cheek against someone or something when they are feeling comfortable in their environment.
Travelling in the car
If you’re not sure how your cat will respond to travelling in the car on the day of the move, do a trial run in advance. If your cat doesn’t cope well, speak to your veterinarian about using Phenergan for your cat (not you).
If you prefer a holistic approach to calming your frantic feline during the journey, pet-friendly natural remedies, including selected flowers, can help your cat deal with stressful situations, like moving house and can have an immediate calming effect.
There are a number of other calming products on the market, but it is a good idea to consult with your vet or natural animal health practitioner to find a remedy suitable for your cat.
Keeping the carrier covered during the car ride may also do the trick. Try a few different tactics until you find the one that is the most relaxing for your cat.
Consider having a spare towel, too, so if they make a mess on the towel you already have in the carrier, you can change it if the trip is more than a few minutes. And best to stay in the car with the doors locked, with your cat, to do the changeover. Your cat escaping would certainly be a CATastrophe!
IMPORTANT: Never leave your cat in a hot car or out in the sun in the carrier! A car can heat up to very dangerous temperatures within just a few minutes, even on a relatively cool day, and this can be fatal to your cat!
Did you know?
Cats have scent glands on their tail, chin, lips and either side of their forehead as well as under their front paws? They use these glands to mark their territory in places they claim as ‘their own’ like your house. When moving houses, your cat will need some time to become comfortable in the new place because they will need to spend time re-marking their new territory.
If you feel the entire ordeal of moving house is going to be too stressful for your cat, boarding with a professional cattery or pet sitter, friend or relative may be a good alternative. Provided your cat is used to this process.
It’s better to board your cat from the day before the boxes get packed until the day after most of your things arrive to the new home. But don’t leave it till the last minute to book a boarding facility, particularly if you are moving during the holiday period, as the best ones are usually always booked out during those times.
If you’re going with a pet sitter, usually they come to your house; but in this case, your cat will be going to theirs. Inspect the sitter’s home in advance and maybe have another sitter on standby, just in case the first sitter unexpectedly cancels at the last minute.
It is also advisable for your cat to stay in one small room at the pet sitter’s house, with windows shut and any fireplaces or other escape routes blocked so there’s no way your cat can break out.
On the day you drop off your cat, take with you the cat bed, litter tray, food and water bowls, toys/scratching post and any necessary medication and written instructions to administer. Also leave the cat carrier with the favourite person’s used T-shirt inside it for reassurance during the stressful few days apart.
And don’t forget to leave with the pet sitter all your contact details, as well as the number for your vet and close friend or relative, in case the sitter can’t get through to you in the event of an emergency.
Leaving your cat with a friend
If you decide to leave your cat with a friend or relative, all the same rules apply to the room your cat stays during the move. Your cat may know your friend or relative well, but he doesn’t know the environment they live in so he would be equally stressed staying with them.
Make double sure your contact information on your cat’s microchip is up-to-date! This is a really common time for cats to be lost. Moving from one house to another, twice, will most likely be extremely stressful for your cat and he may end up very distraught upon arriving at their new home.
Arriving in the new home with your cat
When you arrive at your new home, release your cat from the carrier into a designated, preferably small room for a few days. The room is not banishment. It’s just a safe hide-out until things settle down.
When you take your breaks from unpacking, visit your cat in the room and sit there quietly, allowing your furry friend to decide whether to come out or not.
If you have more than one cat and they do not like each other, put them in separate rooms. Although, relationships often improve in a new environment as it’s a neutral territory. Kittens are quicker to adapt to their new environment.
In your cat’s room, there should be a bed, litter tray, food and water bowls. Plus, any familiar items unpacked. Make sure the windows are shut, any fireplaces or other escape routes are blocked, and the door locked. Locking the door not only ensures the cat stays in, but also prevents the moving people from accidentally going into the room and leaving the door open.
Some cats stop using their litter tray for a couple of days. It’s not revenge; he’s just stressed out. Some cats won’t pee at all especially if they aren’t eating, which can be a big problem. Speak to your vet for further advice if your cat has stopped urinating.
If your cat has trouble settling in, try using a cat pheromone diffuser turned on 24 hours before your cat arrives and for the first week after. Do not use the air conditioning and triple check the windows are closed.
You can also try leaving pure Lavender sticks in the room. Don’t worry, fresh lavender is not toxic to cats; only essential oils derived from the plants are poisonous. It will leave your room smelling beautiful and hopefully your cat less anxious.
Cats are about smell but playing classical music may also help relax your cat, as scientists from the University of Lisbon in Portugal discovered when playing Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings through headphones to cats undergoing surgery. (The research was published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.)
Over the next few days, you can let your cat explore more rooms in the house. If you have an outdoor cat, keep them indoors for three weeks to get a ‘scent picture’ of the new house. If he gets out too soon and gets chased, he will get lost!
Moving house with outdoor cats
Moving house with a cat that is used to the outdoors is more challenging than moving with an ‘indoor only’ cat, because an outdoor cat loves to explore the outdoors and is more likely to run into unknown dangers, primarily getting lost!
Before you start letting your cat outdoors after you move in to your new house, it is advisable to keep your cat indoors for three weeks. When you are ready to let your cat out, initially let him out just before dinner so he won’t go too far before returning for feeding.
Ideally, let your cat out into a fenced backyard and supervise. You can also try walking your cat on a harness for a few days around the perimeter, gradually increasing the time outside until they are comfortable with the new surroundings.
Beware of any neighbourhood cats that may have already claimed your yard as their territory. Your cat will have to claim this territory as their own, so expect some hissing and posturing until they work things out. In the first few months after moving in, unfortunately cats commonly get abscesses, which are build-ups of pus that usually form as a result of puncture wounds inflicted during cat fights.
Pet insurance can help you afford the emergency trip to the veterinary hospital. But if you want to avoid the injuries all together, think about keeping your cat exclusively indoors. Moving house is the perfect time to do so!
Transforming an outdoor cat into an indoor cat
If you want to avoid your cat getting lost or injured when exploring the outdoors, you may want to consider keeping your cat indoors. Cats that live exclusively indoors generally live healthier and longer lives because they are less exposed to injuries and diseases, such as Feline immunodeficiency virus (Cat AIDS), which impacts the cat’s immune system.
Living indoors also allows cats to spend more time with their human family and consequently have the opportunity to bond more closely emotionally with their owners. Owners are also more likely to notice any sickness before it becomes serious. Furthermore, keeping your cat indoors reduces the impact of your cat on local wildlife.
But to be happy and healthy, indoor cats need mental and physical stimulation, as they would get when roaming the outdoors. Providing an indoor cat environmental enrichment, including daily quality time with their owners, will ensure he doesn’t become bored and unleash their built-up energy on your household furniture.
Indoor cats are usually less active and more prone to weight problems, so feeding them a good quality diet and not overfeeding will help prevent obesity and a range of associated diseases. Consult your veterinarian for a diet suitable for your cat.
Cats also need an environment where they feel secure and safe when they sleep, groom or relax around the house. You can install shelves on the wall or provide tunnels, cat cubbies, boxes or cat trees/towers to give them the security they need.
Not only would your cat have fun playing around the ‘cat furniture’, but he would also get some exercise as he jumps on and off. Cat toys and scratching posts will also help to keep your feline friend entertained when home alone.
If you want to teach an outdoor cat to live exclusively indoors, going cold turkey is the only way to change their attitude to outdoor adventures. Slowly cutting access to the outdoors only makes it more confusing for the cat. - Dr Kim Kendall of Chatswood Cat Palace
Brace yourself, though, as your cat will protest to get out - don’t give into their loud and persistent demonstrations. If you’re not sure how to transform your outdoor cat into an indoor-only cat, speak to your vet or feline behaviourist for advice.
Settle your cat with these
Thundershirt for Cats
The Thundershirt for Cats provides a solution for anxiety in your cat by applying a gentle and constant pressure to the body, which has a calming effect observed in many cats.
The effects are seen to help cats when they are anxious, fearful or overexcited due to thunderstorms, fireworks, separation anxiety, moving house and other stressful situations.
Vetalogica Tranquil Cat Treats
Vetalogica Vitarapid Tranquil for cats is a quick release supplement in treat-form that helps balance emotions during distressing situations, such as thunderstorms, being left alone or visiting the vet.
This scientific formulation contains natural ingredients, is non drowsy, fast-acting and comes in delicious chicken and duck meat flavours.
Natural Animal Solutions Calm solution
Natural Animal Solutions Calm solution is an all-natural formula of calming ingredients that may assist cats in relieving nervous tension and stress when they are anxious or worried, such as during fireworks and other environmental noises.
Sentry Cat Calming Collar
The Sentry Cat Calming Collar is a pheromone cat collar that can modify your feline friend’s stress-related behaviour. It works by mimicking pheromones produced by a mother cat to calm her kittens. Your cat will still recognise this scent and feel calmer in stressful situations, such as thunderstorms, vet visits, new baby, moving house and more. The calming collar is unobtrusive with a relaxing lavender chamomile fragrance, and releases pheromones for up to 30 days without causing long term side effects.
Feliway Diffuser & Refill
A Feliway Diffuser can help your cat to deal with new or stressful situations, such as trips to the vets or moving house, which can cause fearful aggression or anxiety. Feliway uses a synthetic form of the feline facial pheromone, undetectable to humans and has a calming effect on cats, signalling to them that an area/territory is safe.
Rescue Remedy for Pets
Rescue Remedy for Pets is a natural remedy that works quickly to relieve stress in your cat. It is suitable for cats who have suffered from trauma and fearful of fireworks or thunder, as well as for making trips to the vet less stressful. Just add two drops of solution into your cat’s water and Rescue Remedy will sooth your cat soon after because of its immediate calming effect.
Butter On The Paws Theory – Fact or Fiction?
You might have heard about putting butter on the cat’s paws to help them get accustomed to their new territory and remove the smell of their old home. The idea is that the cat is busy licking butter off their paws and forgets all about being stressed in the new environment.
Is this true? Short answer is no. The cat will still be upset about moving to a new environment and then he’ll have greasy paws to clean up! Considering it takes most cats two to three days before they feel secure enough to eat, the only thing going for the ‘butter on the paws’ is it forces the digestive system to start working.
If you are keen to try this anyway, why not spread it on the forearms or on the tops of the feet rather than bottom of the feet? It might be less messy than on the paws.
The transition of moving from one house to another differs for every cat. Some cats get back into their old routine quickly and others stress for months. There is one thing, though, that is guaranteed to work - don’t move! Although, renovating is just as stressful for cats.
Thank you to Dr Kim Kendall, world expert feline veterinarian and behaviourist, from The Chatswood Cat Palace for her contribution to this article. Dr Kendall is also author of cat health and behaviour books available at www.felinefriendlycare.com.