Moving house with a cat

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A step by step guide to making it stress free for your cat

Moving house is near the top of the list of most stressful life events — and that goes for your cat as well as you. Felines are territorial creatures so an upheaval to everything they know about their environment can be a challenge for cats. The step-by-step guide to each phase of moving house with a cat should help the day go smoothly and your cat to adjust to their new surroundings.

Countdown

Good planning will help ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible for both of you — a countdown can be helpful:     

1-2 weeks before you move:

Decide on a ‘safe room’ in both your current and new home where your cat can stay while everything is being moved. Empty the safe room, if you haven’t already done so, so nobody needs to go in there for anything. Set up everything your cat will need in there (see Setting up a safe room further on for guidance). Start feeding your cat in there so he gets used to being in there.

Start doing some carrier training if your cat is unaccustomed to it or to improve his associations with it if he’s only ever gone in it for a vet appointment.

The day before:

Put your cat in the safe room — don’t wait until the evening or the morning of your move — especially if he normally has access to outdoors. Chances are he may be feeling a bit unsettled anyway by your packing and the last thing you want is for him to go AWOL at the last minute.

Put a notice up on the door warning that your cat is in there and saying that no one is to go in there. Double check all windows and escape routes are shut.

Put out a box to pack all your cat’s things in from his safe room so they will be ready to hand as you arrive at your new home.

Change your cat’s microchip details so your new address is updated and any contact details.

On the day:

Don’t disturb your cat more than necessary — feed, check water, and clean litter tray out.

If leaving later in day, give small meal but avoid feeding 3 — 4 hours before you’re due to leave. Wait till you are ready to leave before putting your cat in his carrier and packing up all his things.

On arrival, take him straight to the new safe room, close the door, and unpack and set up all his familiar things, then open the carrier. If he doesn’t want to come out immediately to investigate that’s fine, leave him to come out in his own time.

Put a notice on the door warning that your cat is in there and to warn removal people not to disturb him or let him out.

Boarding

Arranging for your cat to board at a cattery can be a good option; it will mean that he won’t be bothered by all the noise and upheaval and you can get on with the business of moving without worrying about keeping him safe and secure. Things to consider:

● Check out the cattery you are planning to board your cat at to make sure you’ll be happy with his accommodation.

● Book in plenty of time!

● Make sure vaccinations are up to date and that you have the paperwork to hand, not packed away!

● If moving to somewhere nearby, you could take your cat over on the morning if you’ll have time, or the day before if it’s likely to be a rush. If moving to some distance away, it may be best to book a cattery near to your new home so that when you collect him you won’t have far to travel.

● It may be a good idea to extend his stay a little if you can bear to be apart a little longer, so you have time to get everything unpacked at your new home and can set up a Feliway diffuser in readiness.

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Setting up a safe room

Set up a safe room for your cat in your new home. Make sure windows are shut securely and door. Set up a Feliway diffuser in there — the pheromones will help reassure your feline friend.

Unpack and set out all his familiar things: toys and bed, scratching post, cat carrier etc. It may be tempting to wash bedding before you move but leave it so it smells familiar! Set up water bowl and food bowl and a litter tray well away from bed and food.

Settling in:

Happily, cat owners no longer resort to buttering paws or cutting off tails to ensure a cat doesn’t wander off when settling in to a new home!

● Keep your cat in his safe room for a few days so he doesn’t feel overwhelmed by his new surroundings until he’s feeling more confident.

As you begin to allow your cat access to other areas of the house, make sure all windows, doors, and any other exits to outdoors are securely closed.

If your cat is an outdoor cat, keep him in for at least a few days.

● Spend the time your cat is house bound to survey the surrounding area for any dangers like busy roads. Also note if any other cats come into your garden which could consequently come into conflict with yours.

Allow at least 3 — 4 weeks for your cat to settle into his new surroundings before you let him outside for the first time. Cats often go missing after moving home because they are allowed out too soon and will often try to make their way back to their old home. Always let out before breakfast or dinner so he won’t be tempted to go too far at first because will be expecting grub to turn up soon. Let him take himself out rather than picking him up so he doesn’t become disoriented. Only leave him out for short periods at first. If he is a little reluctant to explore, don’t try to hurry or force him – let him take things at his own pace.

  • Make sure in this time that you register with a local vet.

Come when called

To help you feel more at ease when you first let your cat out, spend the time he is confined teaching him to come when called.

Initially while in the same room, call his name and gently shake a packet of his favourite treats or the container you keep his food in, then immediately feed him some. They need to be very yummy so your cat will want to come to find and eat the special treat.

Once he runs to you from across the room to get his treat, start increasing the distance you call him from until you can call him to you from any room in the house.

When you let him out, he will still respond to your call if you continue to reward him. You now have a cat that will come when called.

Getting to know the neighbours

Cats are not known for their tolerance of others in their territory so you can expect some conflict when he does start to venture out. Be on the look out for trouble and run to his aid if you see your cat being bullied. You can also:

● Fit a cat flap only he can access.

● Spend the time he has to spend indoors quietly dissuading other cats from coming into his garden.

● Position food bowls away from entry points in the house in case it encourages other cats to come in.

If your cat does get into a fight as he gets to know the existing cats, make sure you check him over thoroughly and get any wounds checked and treated by a vet. Cat bites will often become infected so a course of antibiotics will probably be needed.

If you are worried your cat may be in danger from his new environment but you want him to have an outdoor safe space, think about installing a catio. This is an enclosed area your cat can access from the house to spend time in the fresh air but be kept safe from harm’s way.