Cats don't like change. Even moving a food dish, cat bed, or Modkat can earn you the cold shoulder from a change-averse kitty. After a major move, your pet may show more intense anxiety through escape attempts, excessive vocalization, inappropriate elimination, or aggression.
Moving should be as easy and stress-free as possible for both you and your cat. Take a look at our top 10 tips for keeping cats healthy and happy during a move. (If you are planning to stay put, feel free to forward this article to a cat-loving friend who's relocating.)
Update your cat's microchip and tags. A microchip is one of the most important investments you can make in your cat's health and safety. Cats can be furry escape artists who dart out cracked doors, slip out askew window screens, and leap out of their people's arms. An estimated 15% of household pets escape at some point. While 93% of dogs will make it home, only 75% of cats will. Microchip your pets, and keep the registration current; you'll be glad you did.
Stock a travel kit. This tip doesn't apply to cats headed across town, but if you are transporting a cat for a long distance in the car or moving across the country, it can be a lifesaver. Cat food, a water bottle, dishes, favorite toys, kitty litter, a waste bag, and a travel-friendly litter box like a Modkat Tray makes a great kit.
Set up a safe room for your cat. While you and your team of helpers are scurrying about packing, stacking, and loading, put the cat in a safe, quiet room with fresh food, water, a litter box, and a toy. Don't take her out until she's crated. After you've moved to the new place, do the same thing. Set up the cat's space first, and keep her there until she's comfortable.
Keep your cat in a crate while on the road. An uncrated cat is an unsafe cat. While we hear terrible stories of cats and dogs perishing in hot cars, far more household pets die because they were uncrated during a car accident than because of heat exposure. Don't take the risk. Whether traveling by car, train, or plane, a crate is the only safe way to move a cat across the country.
Help your cat adjust to a smaller living space if needed. If you are transitioning a cat from a house to an apartment, you'll want to maximize the space you have. Offer vertical adventures like a cat tree, use window perches and bird feeders to your advantage, and make sure to play with your cat every day to help eliminate space-induced stress.
Introduce new people slowly. If you are moving in with a roommate, getting married, or planning to crash at your parent's place for a while, your cat may need time before he warms up to new people. No matter how much you love your family and friends, your kitty might find all the new voices, scents, and hands overwhelming. Take it slow. Use food and toys to your advantage.
Be sure you know how to introduce any new animals. Does your new place come with a resident cat or dog? This can add extra layers of challenge. Help your cat adjust by making these introductions slowly and carefully. Do plenty of research and talk to a feline behaviorist before moving your cat into another animal's territory.
Choose a cat-friendly airline. You can eliminate a long drive in a car by flying, but airline travel brings its own stressors. Selecting the right airline, budgeting plenty of time for TSA, and scheduling a visit with the vet for last-minute paperwork can take the anxiety out of moving.
Maintain your routine. The fewer changes your cat has to cope with, the better she'll cope. Keep everything in her life as normal as possible no matter how topsy-turvy things might feel for a while.
Moving with a cat can be tough on everyone. Alleviate stress with careful planning, common sense, and a cat-friendly perspective before, during, and after the move. Your cat should settle in just fine. If you notice problems more than 14 days after the move, contact a vet or feline behaviorist. And congratulations on the new digs!
Adopting a cat can be one of the best choices you ever make. Not only do you gain an entertaining companion who will (probably) be glad to see you at the end of a long day, but you'll be saving a life, too.