You might be looking forward to your move, your new home and that sweet mortgage deal you managed to bag, but your cat has no idea it’s about to happen and couldn’t care less about interest rates. Moving can be tough on pets, especially cats, which are very territorial creatures, so you’ll need to take extra care to make sure your chum has a smooth transition to its new turf.
Plan ahead – quite a way ahead
A week or so before moving day, create a safe space for your cat, complete with all of his or her usual things – litter tray, toys, feeding station, scratching post and bed – and let them get used to this new space. When moving day rolls around, your car should be quite content to spend the day in there while you get on with all the difficult stuff.
Feed your cat at least three hours before travelling so that it doesn’t get carsick on the way and make sure it’s well used to a travelling carrier case. More sensitive cats might prefer to go into a cattery for a couple of days either side of the move and this can work out well for everyone.
Whatever your plans are, it’s vital that your cat’s vaccinations and microchip information is up to date and that you’re already registered with a new vet.
Create another safe room on “the other side”
Your cat should have another little sanctuary in the new home so that it can settle in more easily. Find a quiet spot and furnish it with all the items you had in the old sanctuary. If possible, add a couple of hiding spaces – empty moving boxes will do – as well. The neighbourhood cats will almost certainly catch wind of the new arrival so these hidey-holes may come in handy if they start staring through the windows.
Use your scents
A really clever trick is to scent doors and skirting boards with your cat’s own natural smell. Wipe a clean cloth over your cat’s facial scent glands and then mark doorways, floors and so on with it so that the new house feels and smells familiar from the start.
Don’t rush things
It could take three weeks or so for your cat to make itself at home, so don’t rush this process, as it’ll add more stress for everyone. Sit with your cat for a while every day, but don’t force it to explore or join you on the sofa for your favourite TV show – let it move at its own pace.
Eventually, your cat will start to explore and scent mark the new home, which is a sign it’s settling in. Make sure all the doors and windows are shut securely even after this stage, however, as you need to be certain that your new home is “home”.
Your cat needs a calm but interesting environment
For the first few weeks, build a routine for your cat. Feed it regular but small meals and use feeding time as bonding time. If you can, avoid doing any noisy building or renovation work until you’re sure your cat has made itself at home.
You can help your cat to settle in by making the sanctuary as interesting as you can. As well as boxes and hiding places, bring in perches of different heights, toys and puzzle feeders to keep him or her occupied and engaged until the transition is complete.
The great outdoors beckons
Once the transition period – at least three weeks – is over, you can let your cat outside. One good trick is to let it out just before a meal so that it’ll want to come back in! Don’t chivvy or carry the cat out; let him or her decide whether to go out or not and stand in the doorway so it knows you’re there to help.
Just as you did in the indoor sanctuary, offer hiding places near to the door or cat-flap so that your cat can retreat to them if it feels overwhelmed or threatened. Start with short excursions – a few minutes – and build up the time until you’re all happy and confident about the new territory.