All cat guardians should understand the potential difficulties and dangers of moving home with their cat. I am sure that 99% of them do. So much has been written about it. It is a risky time when domestic cats can become confused and lost. I have read stories of domestic cats jumping onto removal lorries and hiding amongst the furniture. The owner can’t find his cat and has no idea they are on the lorry. Meanwhile, the lorry has travelled hundreds of miles and parked up for a few days before the driver and staff deliver their cargo. There is a real danger of domestic cats becoming trapped inside a removals lorry.
Moving home with your cat requires a bit of planning and I hope this article provides some useful tips some of which come from Dr Bruce Fogle, who I trust implicitly.
He recommends that “the safest and most pragmatic arrangement” is to place your cat for a few days in a boarding cattery from a few days before the move until a few days after it. This avoids your cat becoming lost and frightened during the move. It also provides enough time after the move to know exactly where your cat’s bits and pieces, furniture et cetera are.
If it is not possible to put your cat into a boarding cattery Dr Bruce Fogle suggests that you select a small safe room in your home from which you have removed the contents (which avoids the removal workers’ need to go into it) and use that space for your cat during the move. The room should be set up a litter tray, food, water bowls, bedding and toys et cetera. He suggests that when you moved into your current house, ideally, the same room should be used for this purpose when you leave the house. This, I presume, makes the process more reassuring for your cat due to its familiarity.
The day of the move and after
Check on your cat to make sure that she is okay. It is important that you, the owner, transport your cat to the new home in a cat carrier. Your cat does not go with the removal people! This sounds obvious but in the opening paragraph I recounted a story which is a warning too against allowing removals staff to take your cat to the new home. You can never be completely sure that a third party will handle your cat properly and in a way which is sufficiently sensitive by your standards.
The usual cat carrier should be used with which your cat is familiar. If your cat is a poor traveller a light meal or no food beforehand would be appropriate. If your cat is a very poor traveller you might consult with your veterinarian who may agree to provide motion sickness medication or a mild tranquilliser to see your cat through this tricky time. Some people recommend Rescue Remedy for humans as a calming treatment. I have never tried it on cats.
- What do you do with your cat on the day you are moving home?
- Moving home with a cat – keep the bed smelly!
Most people agree that a cat in a new home should be confined to a part of the home, perhaps a single room, until they want to investigate and it is safe to do so. My experience tells me that it can take about nine months sometimes for a cat to become thoroughly habituated to a new home. I am not suggesting that a cat stays confined during that time! If you moved a short distance, there is always the danger that your cat will return on his own volition to his previous home. This may happen several months after he has apparently settled in. If he does become lost I would check the old home first if it is under a mile away. Some cats have travelled a lot further, however, and waited a long time for their owner to find them. And I have a story of siblings falling out of friendship after moving home.
Personally, I did not confine my cat to a single room in my new home. But I was around all the time because I’m retired and therefore I was able to supervise him 100% and he was confined to the home i.e. a full-time indoor cat at that time. I subsequently built a garden enclosure for him with the intention that he would use it and the inside of the home as his home range. Unfortunately he broke out of the enclosure and I decided that it was too difficult to confine him but that is another story.
Dr Bruce Fogle makes an interesting suggestion. He agrees that there are new and unexpected dangers outside your cat’s new home. He suggests sprinkling a little of your cat’s urine-soiled litter close to your new home. This will act as an outdoor signpost for his or her new territory. If you do allow your cat to go outside you should supervise for “the first few visits”. Dr Fogle suggested it takes several weeks for a cat to become acclimatised to a new place. I have suggested that it can take longer but it clearly depends on the individual cat.