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How to move house with a cat
Help for first time sellers
09 December 2020

How to move house with a cat

Daniel Strieff
Writer & Editor

Cats are creatures of habit, so it’s not surprising that moving house with a feline friend presents unique challenges.

Many of us have fallen in love with our cats because of their famous aloof independence, but those traits shouldn’t mask the stresses that a change in home can have on your whiskered companion.

In this article we look at how to make a purrfect home move with your cat.

Is moving home stressful for cats?

Yes, a major home move can definitely be stressful for cats, who tend to be more sensitive than dogs to their immediate surroundings.

Cats rely on things like territory and scent, gaining their sense of security through the comfort of familiar routines. Disruptions to those patterns can cause distress.

What can I do before I move to help my cat with the transition?

Even amid the chaos of packing up, try to keep as much of your routine intact as possible.

This applies to meal times and when you let your cat into or out of the house.

You should also ensure that you don’t pack up all of their security items -- such as their bedding -- too soon.

Also consider picking up a calming pheromone diffuser for your new home.

Pheromones are naturally occurring chemicals that cats produce from scent glands in their cheeks when they feel secure. Cats then spread pheromones around their homes as a way to mark their territory.

But you can buy a plug-in diffuser or spray that emits a synthetic version of the pheromones.

Spraying the synthetic pheromones into the air of your new home at least 24 hours before move-in day can help your cat feel calmer and safer in unfamiliar surroundings.

Others, such as Blue Cross for Pets suggest rubbing a soft cloth gently on your cat’s face to get the pheromones on it, and then dabbing it around the room where you’ll be keeping your cat.

How should I transport my cat to my new home?

The most important thing about the move will be keeping your cat safe.

Start with a secure pet carrier -- one that is strong and stable, relatively lightweight, and easy to clean.

Not all cat carriers are the same size, so choose one that gives your pet enough space.

Make your little companion more comfortable by placing a blanket or towel on the bottom to help them snuggle in.

If you have more than one cat, try to get a separate carrier for each one.

You also may want to leave the carrier out for a few days prior to moving to help your cat become familiar with it and so they don’t only associate it with scary things like travel.

When you’re actually moving with the carrier, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home suggests that you avoid fast, jerky movements or placing the carrier on unstable or uneven surfaces. Instead, carry it with both arms close to your body.

Once you’ve got your cat carrier in a vehicle, covering the carrier with a blanket or towel will give your cat a little privacy and prevent them from getting overwhelmed by unfamiliar outside images.

Loud music or driving with lots of sudden, sharp turns will only disturb your cat even further, so try to keep any sounds inside the vehicle quiet and avoid driving particularly fast.

How should I prepare my new house for my cat?

In addition to using synthetic pheromones to help your cat adjust to your new home, the charity Cats Protection recommends that you set aside one room as a base.

Preferably, this room shouldn’t be at the centre of action when you’re moving in, but rather a spare room or other relatively quiet space.

You can also try to make sure that all of your cat’s essential items -- food and water dishes, litter tray, bed, toys -- are in place so they’ll have that extra degree of familiarity when they arrive.

Cats also love small, cozy places, so the room you’ve set aside should have some good hiding spots for them. These could be under beds or sofas, inside blankets, in shoe boxes or drawers -- every cat will have their favourite go-tos.

How long will it take my cat to settle into our new home?

The amount of time it takes for a cat to settle into their new home varies, but you can take steps to help them grow accustomed to the new space.

For instance, take out your old blankets, cushions, and furniture in your new home as early as possible because they’ll appreciate having those familiar items in the unfamiliar space.

Adjusting to a new space can be especially challenging for an indoor cat who may not be as accustomed to different environments as an outdoor cat. For these pets, introduce the rooms in your new home one at a time to ensure they don't become overwhelmed.

Some experts recommend beginning with giving your kitty small, frequent meals to re-establish your bond, increase their sense of security and well-being, and give them an early sense of a routine.

When can I let my cat outside?

If you have an outdoor cat, Blue Cross for Pets recommends keeping your pet indoors for the first couple of weeks after moving in. That should give them time to develop a sense of security with their new home base before they start exploring the area.

But judge it on how your cat responds to the move. Felines move at their own pace and don’t like to be rushed.

If your cat seems frustrated at being confined indoors, maybe let them out a little earlier. Or if your cat tends to get a bit nervy, wait a bit longer before letting them outside.

It’s particularly important to introduce your cat to the outdoors slowly if, for instance, you’re moving from a flat to a house with a garden and your cat is only going outside regularly for the first time. If that’s the case, pay extra attention to where there are busy roads or other potential danger areas.

A trick that Blue Cross recommends is sprinkling some litter from your cat’s litter tray around your garden a couple of days before letting them outside.

Not only may that help your cat feel more secure that this is ‘their’ territory when they finally do venture outdoors, but it can alert other pets in the neighbourhood that there’s a new cat in town.

How can I prevent my cat from returning to our old home?

Some cats may feel drawn to their old home, especially if you’ve only moved nearby.

It’s a good idea to ask the people who have just moved into your old home to let you know if this does occur so you can come pick up your cat.

But also make sure that they aren’t doing anything to encourage your cat’s behaviour, such as leaving food outside or letting your cat inside their homes.

In your new home, offer your cat frequent meals and other treats to build their sense of security in you and your new house.

Be sure to keep your cat’s ID tag and microchip details updated with your latest contact information.

What should I do about a vet?

Do some basic background research to find your closest veterinarian as soon as you finalise your home purchase.

Not only will this come in handy down the line, but accidents are also more likely during the chaos of a move.

Being registered with a local vet will give you peace of mind that you’ll have somewhere to turn for care in case of any cat health emergencies.

Finally, it’s imperative that your cat’s vaccinations are up to date before move-in day.

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