This is a genuinely tricky business as cats regard your home (and theirs) and the surrounding area, if allowed outside, as their home range. They expect it to be permanent. Being forcibly removed from it and placed in a strange new area is not within their programming ?. They don’t really get it. They will be confused for a while and might do something silly. If the move is not far from the original home the family cat might set off on a long march back to his ‘home range’ miles away. He may make it. He may become lost and more confused. Moving home for a cat caregiver is a time when great control needs to be exercised to protect their cat companion and help them overcome this upheaval in their lives.
Last week I was walking to my doctor’s surgery and I bumped into a nice guy with a ginger tabby cat. The cat did not belong to him he said. The cat was lost. That was clear. My guess was that the cat’s owner had moved to the area. The cat had escaped their new home and become thoroughly confused. He was anxious and looking for help from strangers. He had chosen the nice guy.
The response would be to grab a cat carrier, phone a local vet and get the cat scanned for a microchip. If the contact details on the microchip were correct the problem would be solved.
The next day I noticed that a neighbour had a sign outside his front garden (front yard) saying ‘Lost Cat. Enquire within’. I knocked on his door and we had a nice chat about the lost cat. I advised the microchip scanning route and hope he took the advice. I don’t know the outcome.
If I see the cat again, I’ll do all that. It is distressing to see a cat in this state. I couldn’t help at the time because I was seeing my GP and I’d waited 3 blinking weeks for the appointment (broken Britain).
The moral of the story: great care needs to be taken to keep domestic cats safe when moving home.
In my experience, it might take up to 12 months, depending upon the individual cat’s character, for him or her to settle into their new home completely and regard that space and the space outside, if they are allowed to go there, as their home range. And at that point they will return home without becoming lost.
There is certainly a real danger in allowing a domestic cat to go out as they might become lost which is why they are kept inside sometimes to a single room for a while to sort out possessions.
Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM in his book Complete Cat Care advises cat owners to “sprinkle a little of your cat’s urine-soiled litter close to your new home to act as an outdoor signpost for its new home, and personally escort your cat outdoors in the first few visits.”
Supervision is vital and it’s a good moment to consider leash training your cat to allow him to get used to his new surroundings in a safe way. And dare I mention it? A cat stroller might be another way to get him or her out to see the new place safely.
Below are some more articles on moving home with a cat.
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