Moving can be stressful for us humans, so just imagine what it's like for your cat! A cat's entire world is the inside of your house, so moving houses can be like moving to a whole new planet for a cat. If you're moving a long distance and have a multiple-day trip, it can be even harder on your cat.
This guide might be lengthy, but there are so many great ideas to make the transiton with your kitty eaiser for both you, and your fur friend!
Before we get into preparing your kitty for the move, and the actual process of moving, I want to go over one of the most important pieces of information I like to share with cat owners: Your cat carrier.
The carrier/cage you're using for your pet really does matter.
I see a lot of people who use too-small of carriers for their cats, and it's important that we correct this issue before the move because, if we don't, the rest of the advice below won't matter- your cat will be uncomfortable in a carrier that's too small for them.
Just like a litter box, your cats' carrier needs to be big enough for them to stand up in and be able to turn around in. If you put your cat in the carrier and they are either crouching down (because it's too short) or their sides are touching the sides of the carrier and they can't turn around... your carrier is far too small for your cat.
When I moved, I used a medium sized dog crate for my special needs cat, and a large cat carrier for my 14 lbs cat. (The cat carrier I linked here is the one I should have bought, because it has a door on the top, making it easy to load your cat up!)
If you are moving a long distance, I would say more than a couple hours drive, you want to get a big enough carrier or crate that you can include a litterbox in. Make sure to have a scoop and bag handy too!
Besides a large carrier or crate, there are a couple of other things you're going to want to help your kitty move easily too!
-- A blanket or sheet that can completely cover the carrier or crate. (I personally like to use a fitted sheet.)
-- A litterbox that will fit in the carrier or crate, if you're moving a long distance.
-- Food and water bowls for rest stops, if you're moving a long distance.
-- Feliway spray (we'll talk about this later on.)
Most cats run when they see you pull the carrier out, and that's because we have trained them to correlate the cage to the vet, which is a place most cats hate. Your first mission for a stress-free move is to get your cat acquainted with their carrier/cage so they are comfortable in it. I recommend starting this as soon as you know that you are moving. The more time they have to get used to the carrier or cage, the better.
Set up the large carrier or cage in your house. Put it in a common area that your cat uses a lot, I recommend where you feed your cat or their favorite place to sleep. Cover the back half of the cage with the large sheet and blanket, and prop the door open.
Personally, I got my cats used to the dog crate I moved them in by feeding them each day in the open cage. I put the cage where their food bowls always were and set the food bowls up inside the cage. I always left the door open, and never shut them in. This way, they got used to the cage and related being in the crate to be a good thing. My cats actually started going in the crate on their own, hoping it was time for meals, and I caught my special needs cat sleeping in there a couple of times!
Don't move their cat tree, don't pack up their toys or cat beds, and don't move everything around on them. You're packing up everything in your whole house, and your cat is going to recognize the changes and the boxes piling up all over. By moving their favorite cat bed, taking their cat tree away from the window, or packing up all their toys days before the move will stress your kitty out more. Leave all of their things right where they are until moving day. Packing their items last also means you will be able to keep all their items together to set up a "safe room" at the new place to start them out in.
This is an investment that will continue to help you and your cat throughout the rest of your cat parenthood life! Feliway is an artificial pheromone spray that mimics your cat's natural pheromone, thus helping to calm them in stressful situations.
This works great for not only traveling and settling into their new home. They make different formulas that help with inappropriate scratching, cats that aren't getting along, even inappropriate peeing!
For the purpose of moving, I recommend getting the spray I linked above, and potentially some of the diffusers for your new house. If your budget only allows you to get the spray, just spray it around the floorboards of your new house to promote a stress-free new house before you open their carrier door!
If you're moving everything in multiple trips, set your cats up in one room of your current house with their food, water, litter and the carriers set up in that room. This way, you know your cats wont slip out the door while packing everything up, and they're less stressed because they're not around everyone who's packing everything up. Pack up all their kitty things in your first trip over so you can set up their safe room for the first few days. If you're not moving in multiple trips or moving a long distance all at once, try to pack all your kitty things last so when you get to your new house, you can set their room up first and get them settled in (then they're not sitting in the cages longer than they have to be when you get to your new place!)
Pick a room in your new place for your cats first few days. Whether its the bathroom, your bedroom, or a spare room- This is where you'll want to keep them for the first few days as a 'safe room' while you get settled and they adjust to the new home. Walking in the door and just opening the carrier is not how any cat should be introduced to a new home, ever- especially when everything is in boxes and you're not settled yet. By keeping your cat in one room for the first few days, you're not only making it easier on them to find their food, water and litter, but you'll help them stay less stressed when they get to the new place! You can put all their favorite cat things in this room too- their beds, toys and cat trees- they'll recognize all their normal things around them and it will help them adjust to the new home.
Once the room is set up at your new place, it's time to take your kitty over! They should be acquainted with their carrier or cage, so when you go to put them in, it shouldn't be too hard to do. I always recommend waiting to load them up until everything is packed and everyone is ready to leave, this way they're in the cage for the shortest amount of time possible. Spray the sheet or blanket you have for covering the cage with feliway spray, a calming spray that will help them throughout the car ride. Put your cat in the carrier or cage, and cover it completely with the blanket. If you're using a bigger crate, have a friend or family member help you carry the covered cage out to the car.
Once in the car, keep the music volume down low, and play something soothing and calming (I don't recommend playing heavy metal, or some hardcore rap.) Keep your windows closed, so the loud sound of the road doesn't bother your kitty. Most of all, keep them completely covered as long as you can. If you're traveling far, you'll have to uncover the cage to scoop the box or offer them some food and water every so often, but just be sure to cover the cage back up when you get back on the road.
Often times, cat owners ask "You don't think I should let them out of the carrier once we're in the car?" and my answer is always "NO!" What if you get in a car accident? If your cat could go flying through a window. What if one of your family members opens the door at a rest stop and your cat jumps out, because they're in a car and nervous? Your cat is then missing in a area they've never been to before. What if your cat gets car sick? You're going to have them puking on your lap, in your car, on your seats. In some cars, there's also ways that your cat can get through to the engine and fall out of your car (we've seen it happen before!)
If there is one thing I want you to take away from this entire, long informational site it is this:
Keep your cat in their carrier or cage the entire time you are traveling with them.
Once you get them to the new house, and have their safe room set up, let them out of their cage and keep them secured in their new room for the first few days. Your cats are probably going to be nervous being in a new place, and might be upset from the car ride. Don't force them out of the carrier or cage, just open the door to the carrier or cage and let them come out when they're ready. Keep the door shut to their room for the first couple days, until you see that they're starting to act comfortable and normal again. Once your pets are acquainted with their safe room (and most of your things are unpacked and you know they won't slip out the door, typically 2 or 3 days after you move) you can let your cat out of their room when you’re at home. Make sure you leave the door open to their room, so they know where the food, water and litter box are. Some cats might still be super nervous and might not be ready to come out of their room. If your cat falls into that category, you can put them back in their safe room when you go to bed or to work.
Once your pet starts to act content in your entire house, you'll know it’s okay to leave the door open forever, and even remove the litter box, food and water from the extra room. Just make sure your cat knows where the other litter box, food and water are located in the house!
Remember, this process may take longer depending on the temperament of the animals and the situation. For some people, it may take a few days, for some people it may take a few weeks, and sometimes it may take a few months. Be patient and trust the process.
Now that you got your cat to your new house, you can unpack and give the time to settle in! I know my guide is long, but I have a lot of ideas and different things that have worked for us, and I hope will work for you too!
We wish you and your kitty the absolute best of luck while moving!