Moving House With Your Cat
One of the most common concerns of cat guardians is how to help our cats cope with a total change in environment AKA moving house. Cats are inherently creatures of habit and moving homes makes for a lot of change in a very short space of time. I recently moved house myself and it was stressful enough even for us humans, but we did a bit of prep beforehand to make it as smooth sailing as we could for the animals, and it paid off! So grab a glass of iced tea and snuggle up with your furry friend and check out my top tips for a successful move with cats.
1. Be organized. I know this sounds a little redundant but with so much going on during a move it is easy to forget simple things such as having enough essentials e.g. medication and food. Skipping medication dosages and feeding inappropriate food can be an added stressor, especially for cats with conditions such as chronic kidney disease and Diabetes. It also pays to make sure your cat’s microchip details are up to date with the new address at least one business day before the move (if they aren’t chipped this is your sign from the universe to get it done!). You can your details for free in a couple of minutes here.
2. A New Normalcy. As the moving date approaches, try to keep your cat’s routine as similar as possible. A common cause of stress in cats when moving house occurs well before moving day, during the packing up of commonly used furniture and objects around the home. To combat this consider adding cardboard boxes to the home before you begin packing to make them part of the home and to reduce stress.
3. Carry Cage Savvy. It pays to train your cat to be comfortable being in and around their carry cage. Not only will this reduce stress on moving day, but it will also come in handy for vet visits and in the event of an emergency evacuation. A simple guide to carrier training by Fear Free Happy Homes can be found here.
4. Create a temporary ‘cat-room’ in the new house. It is important to promote a feeling of safety and familiarity for your cat in all environments, this is especially important in a new home. If space allows choose a quiet, empty room or in a pinch a room that has little foot traffic e.g. a bedroom, and ensure it contains all your cat’s key resources:
· Vantage points e.g. bookcase, cat tower
· Clean drinking water
· Toileting area (if your cat doesn’t use a litter box, allow them to get used to using one while at the old house)
· Resting and hiding areas e.g. a chair with a blanket draped over the seat to create a little cave
· Sleeping spots
It pays to use familiar bowls, blankets, and beds (resist washing blankets from the old home till a few weeks after the move). Feliway (see tip #6) is a useful addition as well. Moving boxes make great hideaways when turned on their sides so it pays to keep a couple of them for this.
5. Facilitate a gradual introduction. Keep your cat contained in their designated room for a day or two before gradually allowing them access to the rest of the house, one area at a time meanwhile being mindful of their behaviour and body language. Because all cats are unique individuals, I don’t like to set a one-size-fits-all schedule when it comes to exploring the unknown, you’ll find some cats are very confident and curious, who will willingly explore the whole first floor in a day whereas others will stick to ‘their’ room for a week before checking out the hallway. Observe your cat and adjust the plan as needed, you can always go back a step or two if your cat needs a little more time.
6. Feliway AKA your not-so-secret weapon. Readily found at your local vet clinic, pet stores and online. The active ingredient in Feliway is a synthetic chemical copy of the feline facial pheromone (FFP) that cats excrete through glands on their face when they are feeling comfortable and secure. It is dispersed into the environment via diffuser or spray, your cat will breathe it in through their Vomeronasal Organ (VNO) which will ‘decode’ the pheromone and send the calming messages directly to the brain. If budget allows, I suggest this set up: One diffuser in the new home plugged in a few days before ‘moving day’ (be sure to strategically position it in the area where your cat will be staying in before they explore the rest of the home) and another in the current home plugged in a couple of days before you begin to pack. Feliway spray can be used when travelling to the new home, to use simply spray in the car or on a blanket inside the car at least 5 minutes before placing the cat carrier inside, this time is needed for the alcohol to evaporate which can irritate your cat’s airways.
7. Prison Break. If your cat is usually allowed outside access, it can be tempting to let them outside the new home after a week, it isn’t uncommon for owners to remark that their cat is being vocal and scratching at the doors to be let outside. Although it can be difficult, the general recommendation is to keep them indoors for 5 weeks, with a gradual introduction to the garden and other outside areas. To do this make use of the time before a meal (not applicable to free feeders) and entice them back inside after a few minutes with their meal or a tasty treat, slowly increasing the amount of time they are outside.
I hope these tips come in handy the next time you and your cat are on the move! If your cat is struggling to cope with a new environment you are not alone, help is just a few clicks away.