by Andrea Dobras
Moving to a new home can be a very stressful and emotional time for everyone involved, including your household animals. Cats become very attached to their environment and leaving their “territory” can be very traumatic. If a move is in your near future, follow these helpful hints to ensure a less stressful transition for your feline.
Many cats react even with small changes in their environment such as when a new piece of furniture is brought in or taken out of the home. Keeping this in mind, expect your feline to be curious and confused when packing begins. Double-check boxes before taping them closed or moving them out of the house to ensure your kitty isn’t napping or hiding inside.
On the day the move is scheduled, set up a room of the house that has a secure door. Prepare this room with food, water, litterbox, a safe hiding spot and other familiar items where your cat can remain when the house is being emptied. There will most likely be strangers going in and out of the home, so a room that is far away from the commotion is best.
Preparing the New Place
Depending on where you are moving to, consider whether or not other animals have occupied the home prior to you. If so, you may want treat the home for potential fleas. Cleaning the new home thoroughly is important to remove any old scents. Finally, do a walkthrough of the new place to make sure windows have secure screens, and that there are no other potential dangers including rat/insect baits hidden in closets, cupboards or pantries. Make sure very high hiding places are sealed off.
Choose one room of the house as the “sanctuary room.” This room should have a secure door where your cat cannot escape as they transition into the new home over the next several weeks. The sanctuary room should be set up with food, water, toys, scratching posts, cat bedding and a litter box. Using items that are familiar and already have yours and your cat’s scent on them is best.
Your cat should be the last thing to move over into the new place. When you transport your cat, make sure the carrier is secure (all tabs/bolts around the box are locked and in place). Always transport your cat in a carrier and never let loose inside a moving vehicle. When you arrive, bring the cat carrier into the sanctuary room and shut the door behind you. Open up the carrier and leave the room. Let your cat come out at his/her own pace and give them several uninterrupted hours for exploration. Coming in and out of the room will most likely cause more stress and should be avoided. Depending on how your kitty is adjusting, they may need a solid week or two in this room only to settle in. People are always excited to see how their cat will do in the new home and have a tendency to rush introductions to the entire house. I encourage you to be patient and understanding in order to avoid behavioral issues or unnecessary stress.
When your cat seems to have acclimated, you can gradually let him/her explore other areas of the house, a few rooms at a time. Spreading items with your cat’s scent on them around the house will help them adjust to the new space. Let your feline explore at his/her own pace while supervising at a distance. If your cat seems over-stimulated or stressed, return them to the sanctuary room and repeat in 24-hours.
Other Helpful Tips
• It’s normal for your cat to not want to eat, hide or not use the litter box for a couple of days.
• To help calm your cat you can purchase a plug-in, such as Feliway, that releases soothing pheromones.
• Place a break-a-way type collar on your cat with your new contact information in the event of accidental escape.
• If your feline is micro-chipped (which is strongly recommended) update your contact information with the micro-chip company.
• If you are moving to a smaller place with multiple cats, be aware of possible tension between felines over territory. Make sure to place sufficient litter boxes, beds, scratching posts, high resting platforms and multiple food and water bowls.
Moving to a new home will probably be the most stressful experience your cat has had to endure. With careful preparation, you can help ensure the transition to a new home is a good one. Please note that this article is directed at indoor-only cats.