Home moves are a big deal for everyone, especially cats. Our cats are naturally territorial creatures who feel most at ease on familiar ground, and spend much of their time patrolling and scent-marking it. Leaving that behind can be bewildering, particularly for older cats who have lived in the same place for some time. Some cats will even put themselves at risk by running off to find their old home. Here’s how to ensure moving house with cats goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Plan ahead for moving with cats
Set up a quiet room for your cat in your current house, around a week before the big move. Fill it with her things: bed, toys, litter tray, food and water, and gradually introduce her to this safe space. When moving day arrives, leave your cat in here undisturbed, with the doors and windows closed. Feed her at least three hours before moving her to the new house in her travel basket, so she doesn’t get travel sick. Alternatively, you could book her into a cattery for a few days during the move, to avoid all the fuss.
Either way, make sure her vaccinations and microchip details are up to date as you move to your new territory (and don’t forget to register with a new vet when you get there).
2. Establish another safe room
Create a secluded sanctuary for your cat in your new home where she can stay and settle in for the first few weeks. As with the room at your old place, choose a quiet location and put her things in here. Add old boxes for her to hide in, a scratching post, and something high for her to climb onto. These will all help her feel more secure.
You could also leave out some of your worn clothing – your scent nearby should help her relax. And keep curtains and blinds closed so that neighbouring cats can’t stare at the new resident!
3. Use scents to soothe your cat
To help your cat feel more at home, try a pheromone scent. Sprays, diffusers or plug-in devices create a reassuring environment that can help to reduce cat stress. Unlike humans, cats rely more heavily on scent than they do on visual memory. You could try gently wiping around the lower part of your cat’s face with a cloth to pick up her own scent, then rubbing this on the bottoms of doors and other surfaces at cat height.
4. Settle your cat in slowly
Allow your cat time to get used to her new environment. When you feel she is relaxed and ready, open the door so that she can explore the rest of the house at her own pace, one room at a time. An older cat, especially, shouldn’t be rushed, as you don’t want her to feel confused or scared.
Keep outside doors, windows and cat flaps fastened shut, so she can’t escape and get lost. Your cat will let you know herself when she is feeling secure, as she’ll start scent-marking her new territory by rubbing her face up against surfaces.
5. Create a calm yet stimulating environment
Establish a routine with your cat in the first few weeks after moving, so she feels less stressed. Feed her small, regular meals and spend plenty of time with her. Try to avoid doing anything that might rattle her, like decorating or building work.
Make your new home as cat-friendly as possible: provide perching areas where she can sit up high and look down, and create hiding places that she can retreat to. Provide indoor entertainment so she can burn off energy and keep her brain active. A puzzle feeder will make her work for her food, for example.
6. Allow time to settle: how long to keep your cat indoors after moving?
After moving house with a cat, keep her indoors for at least three weeks to give her time to settle. When you do let her outside, do so just before her dinnertime, which will entice her to come back again. Step outside first, and encourage her to go with you. But don’t carry her out – let her make her own way. And leave the door open, so she can run back inside at any point.
Ensure she has hiding places close to the house, preferably near her cat flap – use pots, plants and garden furniture that she can retreat behind if she feels threatened. Let her out for short periods at first, building up to longer stretches, until you’re happy that she feels secure and confident on her new home turf.
Tell us your true stories about moving with cats, and tips on helping things go smoothly! Post on Instagram with the tag #PethoodStories and we might be able to share on our channel (@petplan_uk), or get in touch at @PetplanUK on Facebook.