Tips for moving house with a cat

Moving house is one of the most stressful and significant things we do. Packing and organising admin can be time consuming and disruptive, moving day rarely goes smoothly and establishing a routine in a new environment can be difficult – especially when you’re living out of boxes and bags! With all these distractions, it can be easy to forget the impact a move has on our pets, particularly cats.

Cats are extremely sensitive animals, and will find it much more difficult to cope with and adapt to moving home. Cats thrive when they have a routine and are familiar with their surroundings. In your current home, they most likely have an area that they regularly roam around and recognise. The smells of their territory and home help them feel settled and calm, so when they suddenly find themselves in a new environment that they don’t recognise, it can be a big shock.

There are plenty of things you can do to ensure the move is as smooth as possible for your cat, helping them feel much more settled much sooner – reducing their anxiety as much as possible. 

Before the move

It isn’t just being in a new home that will disrupt your cat’s peace – in the run up to moving day, it’s likely that your current home will quickly feel like a completely different place. 

Your own routine might be different as you pack boxes, empty rooms and strangers come and go as you clean and freshen up your home ready for its next occupiers. With this in mind, it’s well worth checking your cat into a familiar cattery in the run up to moving day. Alternatively, if your cat normally stays with friends or family, consider asking if they can look after them for a short period of time. This will be a lot less disruptive for your cat, who may be reluctant to come home if they sense something is wrong. 

If you don’t feel like this is the best thing for your cat and would prefer them to be at home, set up a quiet room for them that will be left untouched for as long as possible. Get them used to this space around a week or so before moving by putting their litter tray, bed, toys, food and water in there so they have an undisturbed area of calm just for themselves! This should be a slow process to not cause more confusion and disruption.

Keeping your cat calm from the offset is the aim of the game, and another way to do this is to use cat pheromones. Cats make a pheromone when they feel safe and comfortable which they will spread about the home. Infuse pheromones into your home at least 24 hours before you start packing your home up with a plug in diffuser or spray such as the Feliway Classic Diffuser.

It’s likely that you’ll have to travel with your cat to your new home. If your cat isn’t used to being in a carrier or in the car, take the chance to get them accustomed to going into their carrier and associating it with something other than scary trips to the vets. Leave it open in the house for a few weeks, placing treats and toys inside to entice them into the carrier on their own accord. By the time moving day comes around, they’ll happily make their way into their case! 

Another thing to consider is how well they travel. If they don’t go in the car very often, it can be a strange experience for them – even if they’re happy to go in their carrier. Speak to your vet if you’re concerned about the possibility of your cat having travel sickness or anxiety – they will be able to give you advice specific to your cat and the journey that you’re planning for them to take.

When choosing a new house, one of the biggest concerns for pet owners is whether the house is suitable for our cats, dogs and other pets. It’s likely this has been done already, but be sure to check that the house is safe for your cat. For example, the house’s proximity to main roads. Check the garden for any suspicious looking plants that might tempt your cat – lots of flowers and plants are toxic to animals so do your best to assess the garden before moving your cat in.

Older cat say on dining table in kitchen

Moving day

Moving day is a long, tiring and exciting day! You’ll likely have people helping you move boxes and furniture, so if you’ve kept your cat at home, let your removal team know that you’re moving a cat too so they won’t disturb them in their quiet room. Before they arrive, spend some time with your cat to comfort them. 

Hopefully now, your cat won’t have any problems with going into their carry case. You should pop them in there before any major activity takes place so they’re as calm as possible. 

If you’ve spoken with your vet about travelling with your cat, you’ll know the best way to transport them to your new home – this will be especially useful if you have a long car journey to make. 

Once you’re in your new home, you should unpack your cat’s things first – while they’re still in their carrier. Seeing and smelling their bed, toys and food will be comforting in an otherwise confusing and scary environment. You should also plug in the pheromone diffusers like the Feliway Diffuser you introduced into your previous home to help your cat identify that this space is safe for them. 

Clean the house thoroughly to remove any scent of other pets that have lived there previously before bringing your cat to the house. Gently rub a cloth around your cat’s face and rub this onto furnishings at their height as another way to introduce their own scent to the new house.

It’s worth once again setting up a room just for your cat at first, and let them explore this space quietly.

Boxes for moving house on shelf

After the move

After the chaos of moving, things will soon settle down for you and your cat. Hopefully, by taking these steps, your cat will have had a calm experience and will feel much more confident after the move. 

Gradually, let your cat explore the home more widely. It can be stressful for your cat if they suddenly have a lot of unfamiliar space to explore, so help them take slow and small steps and be sure to keep doors and windows closed – it’s important to keep them inside for a few weeks after moving to a new home to ensure they don’t get lost. Sprinkle some cat litter around your garden so other cats can pick up the scent. Your cat will also find it useful to recognise their own scent when they do eventually go into the garden.

It’s also important to register your cat at the nearest vets and update their microchip details with your new address, as well as any insurance they have. It might be worth doing this before you move, but don’t leave it too long once you’re in your new home!

Neil’s top tips:

  • Even the most confident cats won’t be ready for exploring outside after a move. Be firm and keep your cat inside for at least three weeks so they can get settled. 
  • Give the new occupiers of your own house your contact details in case your cat does try to return home – especially if you haven’t moved very far.
  • Moving to a new home can be stressful, so be patient with your cat if they make a mess or have an accident in your new home!