Moving Your Cat

Moving is a stressful time for cats.  Without warning, their worlds are turned upside down.  Boxes appear out of nowhere, each with a strange smell.  Their normal routine vanishes as their frantic parents pack for the big day.  If that isn’t enough, the stressed felines are packed into a carrier and then released into a strange environment with new scents and sounds.  Here are my suggestions for making this time less stressful for the feline members of your family.

First, keep your cat confined at all times.  Unfortunately, many cats escape during moves.  A door is propped open for a few minutes to load a truck and the family cat vanishes.  To prevent this tragic event, keep all pets in a secure location.  Lock the door to their room and post a note “Cat Inside – Do Not Open” to prevent accidental escapes.  Update your contact information associated with microchips and collar I.D. tags.  Should the unthinkable happen, leave food and water at the back door along with an open carrier.  Most cats will return after they calm down.

Second, establish a ‘safe’ room in the old house where the cat can hang-out undisturbed while you pack.  The master closet works well as the familiar scent provides great comfort.  Set up another ‘safe’ room in the new house before the cat arrives.  Fill the area with familiar objects like suitcases, blankets, beds or a basket of dirty clothes.  Cover any windows to reduce stimulation.  This is not the time for him/her to meet neighborhood cats.  Provide easy access to the litter box, food and water.  Also give your cat a covered area to hide in.   Spray Feliway around the room to create a calming environment.  Allow the cat to view the room from the carrier for thirty minutes before opening the door.  Disturb the cat as little as possible once he/she is in the new safe room.

Third, acclimate your cat for at least 24 hours before allowing them to investigate the new surroundings.  Always keep a path to the safe room clear.  If the cat becomes over stimulated, return him/her to the safe room for a time out.  Let them explore at their own pace.

Lastly, control your own emotion before interacting with your pet.  Take a few deeps breaths and calm down before you enter the safe room.  I know moving is stressful with so many things to do and remember, but try to keep it to yourself.  Don’t  let your stress filter down to your pets.  Remember, you don’t have to unpack everything right away.  Pace yourself and be sure to include some breaks to spend time with your pets.   They need you more than you may realize during this stressful time.  You will also benefit as petting an animal has been shown scientifically to reduce our blood pressure.

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.