Moving with Cats
Moving homes is a stressful time for everyone involved, including the cats in your household. Cats in particular tend to be very wary of and sensitive to change, and with everything you’ll have going on to prepare for a move, it can be easy to forget that this time is extra nerve-wracking for your pet. Our cats also tend to take on our own emotions, so if you’re feeling nervous or stressed, your cat will likely notice that and act in kind.
Unfortunately, stress can have some serious impacts of cats, both physically and mentally, but luckily, there are a few things you can do to help make the moving process a bit smoother for your pet.
Moving cats to a new home
If you’re in the process of a big move, it’s important to be on the lookout for any signs that your cat is experiencing stress and figure out ways to help them feel safe and secure. Understanding when your cat is feeling off starts with recognizing their normal behavior and noticing when it changes. Aside from that, when a cat is stressed, they may exhibit some of the following signs:
- Running away/hiding/needing extra attention: Depending on the cat, yours may exhibit stress by making themselves scarce and frequently hiding or they may become extra clingy and needy.
- Going to the bathroom outside of their litter box: If you’ve discovered that your cat is routinely relieving themselves outside their litter box (and you know that you’re keeping it clean) that could be a sign of stress. Diarrhea and/or constipation are also signs that your cat could be stressed.
- Unwanted behavior: Some cats may lash out when they’re under stress, which could exhibit itself as excessive scratching, meowing or biting, either toward people or other animals.
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns: A cat that has a decreased appetite or one that always seems to be begging for food could be feeling stressed. A change in sleeping schedule could also be a sign that your cat is feeling strained.
- Overall grooming: If your cat has started licking or scratching at their body more frequently—especially to the point of creating bald spots—that could be a sign of stress.
Keep in mind that many of these symptoms could also be associated with medical problems, so if your cat exhibits any of these changes—even in combination with a stressful event—it’s important to seek veterinary help to avoid missing something health-related.
How to help your cat deal with stress
While there’s not much you can do about the hectic nature of prepping for a move, there are a few things to keep in mind that might help calm your cat and make them feel safe and secure.
- Create a safe space: If it’s at all possible to keep one area in your home free from clutter and noise during the move (even if just until the very end), your cat may enjoy having a quiet and calm area to relax and feel at ease.
- Load them up with goodies: Providing some toys and extra entertainment is a good way to keep your cat distracted from the craziness that might be going on around them. Consider interactive toys that keep them physically and mentally active for the most stimulation, as well as additional scratching posts if scratching has become a problem. Window perches and wall shelves are also a nice way to get them above the fray.
- Use a calming spray: For a little additional help, consider a calming diffuser or spray that dispense specific pheromones throughout the air that help promote calming hormones in your cat.
- Make sure they have a safe place to hide: Besides providing them with an entire room, if possible, it might also help to provide your cat with an additional safe space to hide and feel secure, like a covered bed.
Traveling with cats in a car
If your move involves car transit—which it likely will, at least to some extent — it’s essential to keep your cat safe while traveling. Help your cat get used to car travel by starting with short distances to get them acclimated, and if you have a long ride ahead of you for the move, plan to make frequent stops so your cat can stretch. It’s also important—for your cat’s safety and your own—that your car remain in their carrier on the floor of the car for the entire trip. If you feel that your cat requires additional resources for travel related anxiety, please consult your veterinarian who can help identify appropriate additional solutions.
Once you’re in your new home
Just because you’ve completed your move doesn’t mean the stress of the move will be over for your cat. It will likely take you time to settle into your new place, and as that occurs, your cat may have some anxiety as they acclimate to unfamiliar surroundings. Some of the following steps can help alleviate their nerves:
- Start small. Especially if you’re moving from a small space to a bigger one, giving your cat free reign over the entire house can be overwhelming. If your cat is still exhibiting some of the above signs of distress, consider setting up one room for them to get comfortable in before introducing them to the rest of the place.
- Do some cleaning. Your cat could be extra sensitive to all those new smells in a new place, especially if there were animals in the home before. Do a deep clean to get rid of any powerful smells and be sure their “safe space” includes items like blankets or cat furniture that has comforting and familiar scents. Once your cat moves out into other rooms of the house you can help make them feel more at home by spreading these familiar items—with familiar scents—in other areas, as well.
- Pay extra attention to your cat. You’ll probably be anxious to get everything unpacked and settled right after you move into a new place, but the more time you can take to spend with your cat—and to do the normal activities you used to do with them before the move—the more secure you’ll make them feel.
- Remain calm. While it’s important to keep your emotions level during a move to help create a calmer environment for your pet, you can also help by putting calming pheromone diffusers throughout your new home. These diffusers, or calming sprays, help signal to your cat that they are in a safe place.
- Stay consistent. Even though moving can be unsettling for everyone, keeping some familiar items around helps a new place feel like home a little quicker. Do your best to keep your pet’s environment as familiar as possible so they are surrounded by items they know. Things like the same litter box from your previous home, sticking with the same type of litter and bringing all their favorite toys can help your pet acclimate to their new home faster.
While you might not be able to eliminate every single stress for your cat during a move, with a little bit of preparation and thought, it might be possible to at least provide them with the essentials to make it through with as little disruption as possible.