Moving Your Cats to a New Home
Cats and Change
Changing anything in your cat’s life can be a very tough thing for even the hardiest of cats. Since cats are creatures of habits any small change can be turmoil for you and them. If you have a cat of your own you know that any little change can set off a string of bad behaviors. When a cat is stressed it can show signs in many different ways. It may cry more than normal, be more aggressive up to and including defecating outside of its litter box. So when my husband and I decided to move to our lake home we really needed to consider what the best way was to move them. Fortunately for us we are keeping our other home for the time being. (At least until the real estate market comes up some) So while we moved our necessary belongings our kitties could just stay put until we were settled and then we would move them.
Meet the Cat Part of our Family
One of the hardest things besides moving our cats is that they have three different personalities. Sam is our oldest at 11. He is the son of a stray cat who had him on our front porch and died giving birth. Sam was the only little guy that survived. When I brought him in he still had his umbilical cord attached. I hand raised him so as you can imagine he is my guy. Spoiled as ever. He truly doesn’t think he is a cat. His first 5 years of his life his best bud was our yellow lab mix, Alexandria. Alex taught Sam the basics of life. They played together and slept together when Sam got old enough. So I have no worries moving Sam.
Who is our second oldest at 9. We acquired her in 2003 when we came home from a trip to see my sister. It was pouring rain out and after unloading our luggage I went to the back door to let Alex out and there under our Alberta spruce was two sets of little eyes. All’s it took was a “here kitty, kitty, kitty” And they both ran for the door never to go outside again. (Except for one slip up, explained below) I named them Boo and Who because it was almost October that year. Boo was a tortoise cat and Who is pumpkin in color. Sadly we lost Boo 2 years ago
Our third cat is Ike. We acquired him and his brother Mike because when Boo and Who were about 9 months old my brother in law came to visit and he let Boo out. First, I don’t let my cats out and secondly we didn’t realize that either was in heat. Boo was out two nights and we could not catch her. Apparently she was having way too much fun to be bothered in coming inside. Mike was 5 when we lost him to complications from something lung related. Ike was the shy one of the two. Even as a kitten he stayed in the back ground. He loves to be cuddled but he will not initiate it.
So now you have met our three cats. They have all been through one move so this wasn’t something new for them. But as you see they all have different personalities. They all react differently to change. The last move for Ike was when he was just a little guy, just months old. And with his shy temperament I knew going in he would have the hardest time with the move. So now I needed to figure out how to make the move as easy on him as I could.
Preparing to Move your Cat
One of the first things that we did is we placed our cat carriers in the room that our cats spend most of their time. Typically this would be where you feed them or where their litter box is. We left the carrier sitting out with the door open and a comfy bed inside. Occasionally we put a couple of cat treats in it so the cats could find them on their own. The next thing we did was we started feeding our cat’s in the carrier. If your cat is reluctant to enter the carrier to eat, start by just placing his dish next to it. After a few days, put the dish just inside the carrier, right near the opening. Then, over a week or two, gradually move the dish toward the back of the carrier so your cat has to step a little further inside each day. Eventually, you will be able to place the dish at the very back of the carrier to your cat must go all the way into it to eat.
Another tip we found is to try to keep your cat’s daily routine as close to normal as possible. Stick closely to your cats schedule for feeding, play and attention. If you have a hard time keeping a normal feed schedule a feeder with a timer can be helpful to make sure your cat eats at the same time each day. If you cat is like my cat Ike and is skittish you may want to talk to your vet prior to moving day. An anti-anxiety medication may be something to consider to make the move easier for him.
The Day of the Move
We have always deemed one room in our house as our cat's. I would suggest this at least for the first couple of weeks after you move. We always have done this because we also have dogs. This way our cats have someplace to sneak off to if they don’t want to be pestered. Also, it helps keep our dogs from getting into the litter box. In the new house we are using the laundry room as our cat’s room. After we moved them we put them in the room with their food, water, litter box, toys, scratching post and comfortable belongings. We also put something with our scent such as a worn t-shirt in the room. Like I said the room will become your cat's safe zone if and when your cat needs to get away. After you move be sure to set aside time to spend time with your cat in his room. Because we already had moved we didn’t have all of the unpacking and suck to do. So this was probably easier for us then if we were unpacking too. My suggestion is to set aside two ten to fifteen minute play sessions each day. For the next two to three weeks after we moved, we spent time separately with each cat where we let each one to come out of the room to explore the rest of the house. This was more challenging for Ike. With Sam, as I expected he was fine right away. Who was pretty flighty. So I had to tailor this to each cat’s personality. With Ike I haven’t let him have the run of the house because he really isn’t comfortable. One of our other challenges is our dogs. They can’t understand why the cats aren’t as much fun as they were in the other house. So we have kept them separated too. Once everything gets settled we can go back to things as normal but for the time being our cats don’t need the added stress of the dogs chasing them.
My husband even went as far as going to our Habitat for Humanity and purchased an interior door. He took it and cut it in half just above the handle. He then installed it on the same frame as our laundry room door. This way we can leave the half door open when it seems that the cat’s are comfortable to have free run of the house and can still get into their room but the dog’s can’t get in there.
So for us, and our cat’s I can say our move was not as stressful as our last. It still wasn’t stress free. But I am already seeing changes in each cat and their comfort level. Sam is out pretty much all of the time now. Who only comes out when the dogs are outside or sleeping but she is getting braver. Ike hasn’t ventured out but he at least is now sitting on the window sill watching the birds. I think it will take him awhile yet.
I hope that some of these tips make your next move easier for you and especially for you kitty friends.