One of the top three stressors is moving house. It follows after the death of a spouse and the break up of a relationship. But if we think that moving house is stressful for us humans, spare a thought for our feline companions. Cats hate change to their routine. They hate new things coming along to upset their equilibrium and will show their displeasure in various ways. So what are the best ways to move peacefully, calmly, and gently with your cats?

Probably the easiest option to take is to put the cat(s) in a cattery for a week or so while the old house gets packed up, the move takes place, and then the unpacking and getting straight at the new house happens. This option works well if you’re only moving up to a few miles away but if you’re moving several hundred miles away it is unlikely that you’re going to want to make the journey of several hundred miles (and back to the new house) to collect them.

So, if the cattery isn’t a viable option, then the cats will have to be kept strictly indoors in one room while all the household items are being loaded into the removal lorry. Ensure that all windows are closed and that there are no other means of entry to this room.  Make sure that no one enters this room inadvertently, and if you have a firm of removers helping you with the move, make sure that you tell them in advance not to open the door.

In the room, put the cat(s) into a large cage, which can be bought or hired, from larger pet stores, the vets, or an animal charity. Put favourite bedding, a bowl of water, a dish of food, and some dried ‘treat’s and some familiar toys in the cage with the cat so that he will be able to get on with his day without being too concerned about what’s happening outside the room.

Ensure that the lid to the cage is securely fastened so that a Houdini type cat or boisterous kitten can’t make a bid for freedom á la Steve McQueen!

Once the move has taken place the procedure needs to be reversed. Find a room that isn’t needed immediately, and place the cage, the cat, and all its belongings into it and securely fasten the cage. Again, make sure that no one accidentally opens the door to this room. The less the cat knows about what’s going outside the less it will panic and worry.

When all the furniture has been moved into the new house then you can visit the cat to make sure he is all right. Keep the door closed in case he bolts nervously and make sure – for several days running – that all doors and windows are kept firmly closed. That way, if the cat does get out of its ‘safe room’ it can’t get lost in a strange area.

Leave him in his ‘safe room’ for a couple of days to let him get adjusted to the new smells surrounding him. Under strict supervision, allow him to go into one new room at a time, letting him walk around and sniff his old familiar furniture and get used to the new set up. Then place him back in his safe room. Don’t rush him around the house crying ‘this is your new home, Tiddles,’ and expect him to be as enthusiastic as you are about meeting new neighbours and doing new things.

Let him take about a week to ‘meet’ his new house and get used to the new smells that are in it. If the previous owners had pets, their smells and scents will probably still be in the house, especially if the curtains and carpets were left with the sale of the house.

One way to make him feel relaxed is to use Walnut Bach flower remedy, which is used for change, sprinkling a few drops in his water bowls or food bowls until it’s completely used up. Or get some Feliway diffusers and plug in the safe room and then in the room that he’s getting to know each day so that he’ll get the message that this is a nice place to be.

If your cats are indoor cats, then make sure that no windows or doors are left open while deliveries are made, or new neighbours pop over to chat. Try to keep the safe room as their room for as long as is feasibly possible so that if they feel stressed at the new surroundings, they will feel safe and secure with all their familiar belongings around them. You may have to keep them in the cage at night for a while, just until they get used to the changes.

If your cats are outdoor cats, it is vitally important that you don’t let them out too soon after the move. You may never see Tiddles or Fluffy again if they go out without having first navigated their new home. After about 2 weeks, carry them in to the garden and let them smell the new scents that are there; the new flowers, shrubs, trees, outhouses, sheds, etc. Let them get used to all these new things – and then bring them inside after about 5 or 10 minutes. At no time, put them down, even if they struggle. Take them straight back to the safe room. Do this on a daily basis until after a couple of days, you feel that Tiddles isn’t likely to start whistling the theme tune from the Great Escape and mount a motorcycle and jump the neighbours’ fences as he rides to freedom. Let him go around the garden but keep an eye on him. It’s best to do this before a meal then you can rattle the treats or open the can of cat food and he should come running. If you do it after he’s been fed, he has no reason to come back – and he won’t! You know how stubborn cats are!

Moving your cat’s litter tray to just outside your backdoor will encourage him to start going to the toilet outside and seeing his own familiar tray will possibly feel less threatening to him. Once he starts using the earth in the garden you can always remove the tray, but let him feel safe and secure with having something of his own in this new alien territory, rather than just shut him outside and expect him to get on with things.

After another couple of weeks, you should find that Tiddles or Fluffy will be strutting their stuff around their new territory as if they’ve always lived there, but it is important to take the necessary precautions beforehand to avoid any upsetting situations whereby they get out and get run over because someone left the door open and the cat has just bolted. Being in a strange area, he won’t stop to sniff the flowers to get his bearings, he’ll just keep running until he decides to stop – and that could be miles away. 

It is a good idea to have your cats’ micro chipped or if that’s not possible, a collar or identity disc with your telephone number on, your door number and your postcode (zip code) so that if he does become lost, he can be returned to you quickly.

If you follow these simple guidelines, the move should be a big success and before you know it, Tiddles and Fluffy will be the kings of their neighbourhood, and acting as if they’ve always lived at this address.

© Pauline Dewberry May 2005

To find out more about Bach Flower remedies for animals, please click here:

Click here to see why you should never put your cat’s name on its collar or identity disc.

My thanks to Laura Dumm for her brilliant illustrations; click here to see her Cudell Street Cartoons:

Related article: True or False: Butter on paws - does it work?

One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)

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