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Moving with Cats

Updated on April 14, 2014

How to Get Your Cat from Here to There without Going Crazy

Cat don't like change. Period. Any cat owner can tell you that. But what happens when you need to shake up their routine by moving? Moving is stressful enough on its own, but moving with pets can be doubly so. I tend to move about once a year and have two cats that come everywhere with me, so I've picked up quite a few tricks and experiences over the years.

Part of this lens will focus on how to handle packing the house, another will focus on the traveling portion (both long and short distances) and the last will focus on introducing them to their new home. I've done this a lot in my life and will no doubt continue to do so for a while. If you have any tips or tricks you have picked up, please let me know in the comments! I'm always looking for new ideas to keep myself sane with pets. As for you first time movers, just know that it may be difficult but it will be over soon and worth it in the end.

All cat pictures are mine and were taken by me. Felix is the grey tabby and Big Fluffy is the orange tabby. To see more of them or for more cat topics, please visit my site Trial By Cat

Preparing for the Move

How to Calm Your Cats While Packing and Loading

If only we were Wizards, then I would not be writing this lens and you would not have to read it. However, moving as a normal human is a trying ordeal in an of itself that I seem to get better at but never master. The same goes for my cats. There are two main phases of moving that I will focus on here: the packing and the actual moving day.

Packing

Whether or not your cats will start to feel nervous when you start the packing phase will largely have to do with both your personality and your cats. I move furniture a lot as well as constantly have boxes for Goodwill donation. It is not unusual behavior for me to be "packing" at any given time. Over the years, my cats have gotten used to that so they don't notice a difference until the bulk of my packing is done.

Once your cats realize that things are changing, they may start to exhibit nervous behaviors - hiding, constant meowing or increased need for attention. The best ways I have found to calm them down start with making sure they have an "area". This area should include their favorite bedding or toys and a place to curl up and hide. This works well to calm them down and is great for keeping them out from under your feet. I also distract them with playtime and attention between work so they don't feel left out and can keep busy. Adding a new toy couldn't hurt as a distraction either.

Moving Day

As if moving day wasn't stressful enough, now you have cats screaming their heads off or hiding behind boxes and running around movers. Do everyone a favor. The morning of your move, find a nice quite room that is out of the way and already packed. Make sure you have a litter box, their food and water, and some bedding or towels. Then lock the cats out of the way where they can't hurt themselves or anyone else. If you are moving a large house and it takes a while, check on them once or twice to make sure they are still doing okay. Once the movers are out, you should be able to start getting them ready to go with minimal fuss.

Traveling With Pets

Moving Them by Plane or Car

For transporting animals, the devil is in the details. Make sure you have a checklist to start with and your vet on speed dial. A few weeks ahead of time, starting talking to your veterinarian and let them know you are moving. They can give you good advice for anything that needs to be done before or any medications that may be helpful depending on the type of travel you will do.

By Plane

If you are transporting your pet by plane, you have to start early. You will need to call the airline to get the full run down of when they will be able to do it and all the steps you need to take to do it safely. Keep in mind that many airlines will not transport your pet if they have been given a sedative or something to calm them down. This may be the fastest way to transport them for very long moves or the only way for international moves. In the case of international moves, make sure you clearly understand all quarantine and vaccination laws and have all your ducks in a row.

By Car

This is the most common option. It may or may not be more stressful for your pets but it can certainly be more stressful on you! If you're cats are anything like mine, they spend the whole car trip screaming to the high heavens. Here are my general rules of thumb when it comes to taking them on trips.

  • Keeps cats in carriers with a blanket or towel that smells like home
  • Keep them in the backseat facing each other if you have more than one
  • Cover the cages or block the view of the window so they don't get carsick
  • Make sure you have all their essentials in the car with you

Cat Carriers

I like the typical plastic carriers for several reasons. They are light and portable. You can unsnap the lid for easier storing. They are easy to clean if there is an accident. Plus, you can write your name and even emergency instructions on the outside. They come in several sizes, but out of all the carriers I've used over the years this is the way to go for me.

Petmate Two Door Top Load 24-Inch Pet Kennel, Metallic Pearl Ash Blue and Coffee Ground Bottom
Petmate Two Door Top Load 24-Inch Pet Kennel, Metallic Pearl Ash Blue and Coffee Ground Bottom

This is a great model because it has all the convenience I listed above, but has two doors depending on how it's easier to get your cat inside!

 
Bergan, Comfort Carrier, Large, Black
Bergan, Comfort Carrier, Large, Black

I used to have one of these. My cats are too large, but my mother liked them for her smaller cat because they were easier to carry.

 

Long Distance Car Travel

Longer Moves Take More Planning

I have moved cross country a few times and have driven my cats there each time. Here are some of my adventures and how I've dealt with common problems.

Medication

I have medicated my cats both times. They get so scared in the car that they can make themselves sick, so I thought it was best. I've tried two different medications.

ACE - This is a sedative that must be prescribed by a vet. I'd never given them anything like this before and they were so quiet in the car that I was constantly reaching back to make sure I hadn't killed them! However, it worked perfectly with no side effects and very little fuss. They got medication for two days as it was a two day drive and were perfectly fine both in the car and after the move.

Xanax - This is not a sedative but is more for relaxing them. I didn't like this one at all! It calls for giving them a first dose 12 hours before the trip. That night, one of my cats was so sedated that he was unable to walk and ended up laying in his litter box unable to use it. It scared me so bad I barely got any sleep before my 16 hour drive! Needless to say, he got a smaller dosage the next day. My other cat wasn't hit as hard, but was very unsteady on his feet. The Xanax took longer to wear off and didn't stop them from starting to meow after about 6 hours in the car, requiring me to spend a night on the road that I hadn't planned for. I probably won't be using this again.

Stops

To stop or not to stop, that is the question. This will depend on a number of factors the main of which are: are they on medication and how long is the trip? Having two large cats makes letting them out at rest stops very uncomfortable. I would let them eat small amounts of food, but they would never touch their water in the car. They also refused to use a litter box in the car and would hold it until I stopped at a hotel or got them to the final destination. I generally recommend stopping anytime I would need to, but it can make it harder to get them back in their carriers and calmed down for the next part of the trip.

How to Calm Your Kitty

Before I left, my vet sat me down to describe all the medications she gave me and to give the cats a once over before I left. She sent me away with these wipes and two collars to help get the cats settled and calm them during the move. These were really useful with so much going on in the house that the cats weren't used to and helped keep them relaxed during that stressful time.

CEVA Animal Health C95660B 12 Count Feliway Wipes, All Sizes
CEVA Animal Health C95660B 12 Count Feliway Wipes, All Sizes

My vet gave me several of these wipes before I left and I love them! I used them to wipe down the inside of my cat carriers before I put in the blankets. It made it much easier to get the cats inside since they didn't seem to fear them as much and kept them happy.

 

Settling In - How to Get Settled Quickly

Just because you're finally there doesn't mean that it's over. You have to unpack, redecorate, and locate all the stores you will need. Your cats have to do the same. Here are a few tips for a smooth transition.

Set Up a Calm Area

Just like loading up, sequestering the cats away from the line of fine during unloading is really helpful. Setting up a specific cat area is a nice way to help them get settled in after everyone has left too. Bring back out those favorite toys and bedding. Try to find a location that is a bit out of the way and will not have as much foot traffic while you unpack so they can hide and get used to all the new sounds and smells.

Handle With Care

It's a big deal for cats to uproot themselves. I wish I could just explain to my cats why we're doing everything so they'd understand, but they haven't quite gotten the gist yet. All they know is that I'm stressed and so are they. Extra playtime and cuddles can make all the difference now. This is especially true for any cats who tend to act out when they are unhappy. One of my cats likes to be king of the bed, so I set him up quickly with my sheets and his blanket so he knows where to pass out. My other cat is a "helper" and likes to follow me around. It means he gets underfoot a lot and it can be annoying, but it makes him feel better and safer to be with me. I try to accommodate him the same way I do for other people who may sometimes be annoying but just want to help.

Cat Need a Hiding Space?

My last move forced me to get all my things into a 5'x8' trailer. This meant giving away most of my things including my pet items. While my cats love boxes, they also like something more comfortable to hide in for the long term. These are great things to put in out of the way places for them to curl up and feel safe.

Armarkat Cat Bed, 18-Inch Long, Brown
Armarkat Cat Bed, 18-Inch Long, Brown

This is one of my favorites. The hood helps them hide, even if it has to be put in the corner of a large room out in the open.

 
K&H Pet Products Kitty Sill Deluxe with Bolster Tan Kitty Print 14" x 24"
K&H Pet Products Kitty Sill Deluxe with Bolster Tan Kitty Print 14" x 24"

For cats who don't want to hide and are determined to see the world, this is a great option. It works especially well for houses and apartments that don't have large enough window ledges for cats to lay on.

 
Kookamunga Funky Fish Cat Bed
Kookamunga Funky Fish Cat Bed

Looking for something fun? This fits the bill. It lets kitty rest and relax in style!

 
ABC Pet Cat Ottoman Bed
ABC Pet Cat Ottoman Bed

For a more modern home or any place with limited space, this is a great option. It looks and acts like a classic piece of furniture but doubles as a cat bed.

 

Have you ever moved with cats or pets?

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Let us know your secrets! What are your best tips?

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    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Good advice.

    • Zdiddle profile image
      Author

      Zdiddle 3 years ago

      @acadiennevege: I do it a lot and it is never fun. Good luck on your move and hopefully some of these ideas will help!

    • profile image

      acadiennevege 3 years ago

      Those cats looks a lot like mine!! We have 3 and 1 dog and planing to move across Canada in August! Moving them is what is stressing me the most! Thanks for your advice!!

    • Zdiddle profile image
      Author

      Zdiddle 3 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks! I think they're the cutest, but I'm a bit biased.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      The cats are so cute!