Moving with a Cat – Long and Short Distances

Picture of orange cat

Cats are creatures of habit and don’t like changes. It stands to reason, then, that moving can be a very stressful experience for a cat. Whether moving your cat a long or short distance, the effect is the same: you are completely changing your cat’s world as she knows it.

There are a few things you can do to make a move with your cat less stressful, for both you and your cat.

Preparing Your Cat for the Move

You should make sure to take the following steps in the months and weeks before your move with a cat:

  • Update your cat’s ID tag or get her one if she doesn’t have one. Make sure the tag has her name and your cell phone number on it (as your landline, if you have one, will be changing after the move).
  • Get your cat microchipped, especially if you are moving a long distance. It is much easier to find a lost cat’s owner if she’s microchipped.
  • Take your cat to the vet for a final checkup. You might be changing veterinarians upon your move, so letting the cat have one last visit in a familiar vet’s office is a good idea. You want to make sure your cat is healthy before the move. You should also get a copy of your cat’s medical records to transfer to her new vet. Ask the vet about anti-anxiety medication for your cat as well – this can help during a long- or short-distance move.
  • Seek out pet-friendly motels, especially if you are moving a long distance. You might need to stay overnight with your cat somewhere from here to there, and it’s nice if you already have cat-friendly lodging in place.
  • Make sure your cat’s carrier fits her and that she’s comfortable in it. If she’s outgrown it, get her a new one. Encourage her to get in the carrier on her own and explore it by leaving its door open and putting some treats inside. Reward her by giving her a treat every time she gets in the carrier. Remember if you must fly during your move to make sure your carrier is airplane-compliant.
  • Let your cat play with the moving boxes. Boxes are usually attractive to cats but seeing so many of them at once could be stressful to your kitty. Encourage her to play in and with the boxes to get used to seeing them around.
  • Keep a consistent routine. Make sure that even though you are packing and planning the move, you keep your cat’s mealtimes, playtimes and bedtime consistent. This will help to reduce your cat’s anxiety.

On Moving Day

Moving day can be stressful for both you and your cat. To minimize your cat’s stress on the big day:

  • Place her in a safe room in your old house while you load boxes into the moving vans. Make sure no one is able to open the door to inadvertently let her out. Put her litter box, carrier, toys, and food and water bowls in the room with her.
  • If you are moving a short distance and can do so, have a family member or friend watch your cat at their house during the move. That way there will be no chance of anything happening to her. You could also board your cat during the move if you have a boarder you trust.
  • Only give your cat a small amount of food that day. You don’t want it coming back up later.
  • Just before you’re getting ready to move her, put her in her carrier. Use a treat if she will get in more easily that way. Once she’s in the carrier, she should stay there until you arrive at your new destination. Don’t open the door to try to pet her– this can make her more anxious and cause her to run out.

At Your New Home

When you arrive at your new home, there are a few things you can do to minimize the stress for your cat while she’s acclimating to a new environment:

  • Before you begin to unpack and move things in, set up a room for your cat. Prepare this one with her carrier, toys, scratching post, bed or anything else she has, litter box, food and water. Place her in the room in her carrier and open the door. Place some treats around the room to encourage her to explore her new surroundings. Sit quietly with her in the room for a while as she gets used to it.
  • Make the rest of your new home safe and enticing or your cat. Close doors to rooms you don’t want her to get into yet or where she might get lost (i.e., basement). Rub a sock against your cat’s cheek and then rub it against corners of furniture and other things that she rubs on. She will recognize her own scent and is more likely to feel at home when she comes out of her room.
  • Place her toys and scratching posts around the house. If she finds familiar items around the house, it will hopefully keep her from marking territorial spots in her new home.
  • Make sure you stick to her schedule. Again, feed her at regular times, play with her at the times she expects, and keep her bedtime the same. If you need to keep her in the cat room for a few days, that’s fine, as long as it has all of her things in it.
  • Let her out of the cat room. Let your cat explore her new environment at her own pace. Set treats around the house for her to find, so she can associate positive feelings with her new home. If it’s a larger home, you might want to introduce her to just one room at a time, until she gets used to it. If you plan to move the litter box, you might want to keep her litter box in the cat room for a while until she becomes acclimated to the house.
  • If you have an indoor-outdoor cat, keep her indoors for at least a few weeks. If you let her out too soon, she could run away. You might want to take her outside on a harness and leash to let her explore her new surroundings.



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