Will my cat be happy in a town?
(Q) For the last seven years, my two male cats and I have lived in the countryside with very few cats around. We've now moved to a busy estate where there are lots of cats. Will my cats be happy outdoors here or should they go and live with my mother on her farm? Will they be more stressed about leaving me, or about being exposed to the other neighbourhood cats?
(A) Behaviourist Jon Bowen says: Cats do form close bonds with people, but this does not always happen. However, cats always develop a bond with their territory, which is why they can become quite distressed when relocated. After all, by middle age a cat has devoted a great deal of time and energy to carving out a territory and holding on to it. This is why cats will sometimes go back to a former house rather than try to re-establish a new territory after a house move.
It is important to make your new home and garden as appealing as possible for your cats. A feline pheromone diffuser and ad-lib feeding are good starting points, and start by letting the cats out only for short periods with the lure of a food treat when they come back in.
The time of year when a cat makes a house move might also make a difference. In spring, local cats actively try to re-establish territory, and by summer most of the space has been claimed. These are tough times for a cat to be introduced to a new area. In late autumn and winter, cats are usually less active so these are good times for a new cat to get out and explore while there is less competition for space.
In your case there is a lot of potential cat competition where you live, and the only way to find out whether your cats will cope is to start letting them outside and see what happens. If they get into a lot of fights then a move to your mother's farm may be the best option, but give it a few months to see how they settle first.
Lastly, make sure that your cats' vaccinations are up to date because transmissible diseases are more prevalent in areas with lots of cats.