Moving to a new home is stressful even when everything goes right! Imagine how confusing moving is to our cats – the boxes are fun when empty but soon they fill up with things and your cat can no longer jump in.
From the Feline Purrspective…
The bed you used to siesta on gets bagged up and taken away by strange humans. Your world seems to be coming to an end. Will you have enough to eat? Will you be safe from predators? Where can you hide?
Cats are territorial animals. An outdoor cat’s home range is the maximum area he roams and hunts in. Within the home range is a smaller area that the cat will actively defend – his territory. Inside this defended area is a smaller area called the “core territory”, where the cat can rest, has shelter, and feels safe from predators and other cats. Moving with your cat removes him from his core territory – the house or apartment he lives in.
How can we communicate safety and security to our cats when we move? Somehow, we cat owners have to provide what our cats need even though we are no longer “at home”.
- Resources : food, water, litter box, shelter
- Safe access to resources
- Belonging: territory
- Human interaction: predictable
- Playtime: predatory behavior
Moving with Your Cat
- Resources: Stock up on your cat’s preferred litter and food – if you are traveling by air, perhaps you can ship some of this to your new address.
- Safe access to resources: Create a “safe place” for your cat. When moving with your cat, this will most likely be her carrier. Make sure your cat is comfortable in her “home away from home”. In the weeks leading up to the move, leave it out for her to explore and nap in. Consider feeding her meals in it.
- Set up a “mobile” territory: A lot of cat communication is by smell. Cats have some of the best noses -with 30 genetic variants of the V1R receptor protein in their vomeronasal organs, they are able to discriminate between a wide variety of smells. So, avoid laundering cat blankets or quilts that your cat sleeps on – the familiar scent of home can help reassure your cat of his territory when he is on the move.
- Predictable, positive human interaction:Try to maintain daily feeding and grooming routines as you travel.
- Predatory play: Don’t forget play time – try to set some time aside to play with your cat when traveling.
You may want to keep your cat(s) in their own room with carriers as furniture, etc is moved – you don’t want them to escape!
Arriving at your new home…
- Establish a “safe place”: Choose a room that you can locate your cat’s essential resources in. Some familiar furniture will reassure him. Leave his carrier in there.
- Use pheromone diffusers in the “safe place”. You may also want to have them throughout the new house or apartment.
- A gradual introduction to the new house is best for many cats.
Pay attention to your cat’s body language – if she seems scared or frightened, allow her to stay in the “safe room”. Once she seems curious, allow her to explore while having access to the “safe place”.
- Maintain feeding and play/grooming routines as best as you can.
Some cats are more adventurous than others and may want to explore the new place once things are moved in. Keep a close eye on your cat’s body language.
Other things to consider when moving with your cat:
- Is your cat microchipped in case he escapes?
- Consider a calming supplement such as Zylkene, Calming Care. It is best if you start these several weeks before moving.
- Copies of your cats medical records
- Do you need a health certificate for travel?
- Consider getting your cat accustomed to wearing a harness and leash. Even if not fully leashed trained, a harnessed cat can be more easily handled in an airport or at a rest stop if you have to change out soiled pads in the carrier.
- Consider asking your vet for calming medication for travel.
Moving with your cat is an adventure…
I recently moved from my townhome of 13 years to a larger, two story house. It was a local move and was a bit drawn out since we did the moving ourselves. The four cats were curious at first but seemed to be a bit edgy as furniture began to disappear. I had started giving them Calming Care about 10 days before moving and planned to continue it for a week or so after arrival. (Many of these supplements may need 4-6 weeks to reach full effect).
The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…
(adapted from “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns)
I had planned for the four cats to stay in the master suite for a few days after moving and had set them up in there. But before long, paws began to show up under the doors, as all four cats proceeded to rattle the closed doors.
I finally gave in and let them out. I was worried that they would hide in some inaccessible space but they proceeded to explore and prowl around. I had placed the large cat tree so that the cats could access the top of the kitchen cabinets – this was a popular (although dusty) activity. The next day, Gus managed to catch some mice in the basement – we were officially moved in!
Want to keep up with the world of cats? Subscribe to The Feline Purrspective!