- August
Posted By : PawBoost
How-To Move House With Your Cat In 4 Steps

This article is contributed by guest writer, @Dakota_Murphey.

How-To Move House With Your Cat In 4 Steps

Cats are territorial creatures and they don’t like change – two major reasons why moving home could be a traumatic experience for your purry pet. In order to make the transition from your old to new home as smooth and successful as possible for all concerned, a little insight into cat psychology can go a long way.

Did you know that feline territory is divided into 3 main zones – the core, the home range and the hunting range? Much of puss’ feeling of happiness, security and her ability to relax comes from being surrounded by familiar sights, sounds and smells. The core territory is your home – it’s where she sleeps, eats and plays. A sudden disruption in the core territory can be very distressing indeed.

With this knowledge in mind, here are 4 steps you should take to minimize the upheaval.

1. The last few days in the old home

Try and keep your cat out of the way when you’re packing up your (and therefore her) belongings, perhaps keeping removal boxes out of sight for as long as possible so that she doesn’t have to witness the dismantling of her core territory.

Depending on your cat’s behaviour during preparations for the move, you may find it kinder to book her into a boarding cattery during the final days in your old home, the day of the move and the first few days in your new home. Make sure you check the cattery first so you’re confident that it’s suitable for your pet, and book well in advance to ensure availability.

If you’d rather keep your cat at home, temporarily designate a cat room that puss can stay in and feel safe (with the door closed) while chaos reigns all around her. Make sure the room is cleared of furniture and contains familiar cat bedding, favourite blankets, the cat carrier, water bowl and a litter tray. About a week before the move, get her used to the room and start feeding her here too.

On the night before the move, shut her in and keep her in the room throughout the following day until you’re ready to transport her to the new home. If necessary, use facial pheromone sprays such as Feliway (available as a spray or plug-in diffuser) that can help to create a reassuring environment and are designed to reduce feline stress.

Photo Credit: Bre Sartori via Pexels

2. The first few days in the new home

Once your house move is complete, designate one suitable ‘cat room’ in the new home, which is where she should be spending the first few days. Ideally, the room should be out of the way (perhaps an upstairs bedroom) so your cat can be left undisturbed in her new ‘safe space’, surrounded by all the things that are familiar to her. You could add an item of clothing that smells of you and your old home, for extra reassurance, and use Feliway again to minimise any stress to your cat.

After a day or two, when your cat seems comfortable in the new room, let her explore the rest of the house one room at a time. Ideally, you should be present so as not to overwhelm her with the new environment. Let her into the rooms that are unpacked first so that the new surroundings are as stable as possible, minimising the amount of ongoing change.

You can help your cat feel at home more quickly by helping her distribute her scent in the new surroundings and make the new home ‘hers’. Cats typically rub their heads and bodies on furniture, walls, doors etc to lay down their scent. Help her by taking a soft cloth and gently rubbing it around your cat’s face to pick up her ‘personal scent profile’, then dab it around the rooms in house, at cat height. Repeat every day until your cat is settling in well.

Photo Credit: Fabricio Trujillo via Pexels

3. How will it take puss to settle in?

Depending on your cat’s personality and the amount of trauma experienced by the house move, it could take her a week, a month or longer to settle into the new home. Be patient and kind and let her get familiar with the new place at her own pace.

Don’t drag her out from favourite hiding places – top of the wardrobe, under the bed etc – since these are places where she feels safe and can observe what’s going on without feeling threatened. Forcing her to come out can seriously backfire and make the process of settling in longer and more painful.

Instead, gently cajole and encourage your cat to want to come out. Tempt her with tasty food treats and special play or a new toy. Look for signs of interactive behaviour and take the cue from her, then offer something desirable to accelerate her actions.

Using food and a regular routine will help puss settle in. Switch to small, frequent meals as a way to have more contact and interaction. Let your cat get used to and look forward to feeding times, rather than worry about it.

Clearly, if your feline friend shows no signs of adjusting, and especially if she refuses to eat for more than 2 days, it’s a good idea to get veterinary advice. Many vets are happy to share expert tips and guidance on how best to look after your pet on their website.

Photo Credit: Kari Shea via Unsplash

4. When can your cat go outside?

It is important for your purry pal to stay confined to the house for at least the first 2 weeks in the new home. This will allow her time to get used to the new core territory and build up a strong scent base there that will help her to find her way back home once she is allowed outside.

A few days before you let the cat out into the garden, it’s a good idea to sprinkle some used litter around the perimeter. Not only will this help her feel more comfortable venturing into the garden, but now she has a familiar smell, it will also ‘notify’ other felines in the area that there’s a new cat on the block.

When your cat shows signs of wanting to explore the Great Outdoors, try and go out with her into the garden, perhaps planning some garden activities for yourself at the same time, until she feels secure enough on her own.

Another trick is to time the first outings just before mealtimes. With the prospect of an imminent meal, she should be keen to stay near the house in anticipation of being called for dinner, rather than be tempted to run off.

Photo Credit: Krzysztof  Niedziela via Pexels

Finally, make sure your cat has some form of ID, such as a collar with a tag containing your name, new address and contact phone number. If she is microchipped, make sure the contact details are up to date. If she isn’t, now is a great time to get it done, just in case your favorite feline friend should ever get lost.


  • A fantastic, detailed and very informative article!!!
    One respectful suggestion:
    Familiarize yourself regarding known predators in the area you’re moving too and be diligent in precautions such don’t walk unleashed dogs or don’t leave unattended even for a second. For example, in Huntington Beach, CA
    we have a very robust coyote population that, as a result of a proliferation of new developments, are being pushed out of oil lands and fields. Small dogs have been snatched while owners have been distracted and/or cat left out “fir only a minute” or as a result of a front door being left open during a baby shower! seriously! There’s also a large seasonal population of hawks. On pawboost.com, you’ll see a variety of frantic small dog and cat owners with postings referencing coyotes.

  • In this day and age cats should be kept indoors and have a safe enclosed outdoor structure to play in when owners are home and can keep an eye open to be sure of the cats safety.

  • Why oh why would you encourage anyone to allow their cat to go outdoors? Instead why not use this opportunity to educate cat owners to use the move to retrain their cat to become an indoor cat?


    • This is a very narrow interpretation of feline life- yes if your cat is stricktly a pet keeping her indoors is certainly an option. Cats however perform many important functions in different environments- my indoor/outdoor cats keep my chicken coop rodent free and prevent the chickens from being predated by the ever present rats! And- after being out patrolling their land the catst come in to purr and snuggle. They get all the nutrition and veterinary care available while allowing me not to resort to toxic pest control measures- best of both worlds

  • This is well written and thought of everything one will need to make the transition of old home to new home for your feline friend.

  • I would of rather heard more about the “journey in the car ride” then after you get to the new home… :\

  • It’s very dangerous to let cats and small dogs outside in our area, unless they are in a secure enclosure (sometimes known as a “catio”). Cats have been carried off by coyotes or hawks right from their family’s yard. There are multiple “Lost/Missing Cat” notices posted every day. It is so sad because most of those kitties won’t be coming home for one reason or another. Dogs are reunited much more frequently.

  • Glad I found this article because I am moving soon with my two cats.

  • I was very happy to read this article through Step 3 … then Step 4 left me asking why this was included? I really wanted more info on how to find hotels that accepted cats, what to do about toileting while in the hotel room, how to make the cat more comfortable while in transit since they would be cooped up in a car for many hours at a time (unlike a dog that could be taken for “potty” stops along the way). Stuff like that would have been VERY useful

    Although I used to have indoor-outdoor cats, our current over-population of PEOPLE, CARS, animal and people predators, I can no longer subscribe to having free-roaming cats. All cats should be housed inside or within cat-friendly enclosures outside. Out on their own is not lawful in most states and is never safe for the cat. Please do not promote having outdoor cats, THANKS!

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