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.
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.
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.
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.
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.