Moving house with a cat – our simple, step-by-step guide

Moving home can be a stressful time for everyone. And, when you’re moving house with a cat, you’ll also need to consider how it might impact on their safety, wellbeing and happiness. Luckily, with a little preparation and some simple advice, moving cats to a new home needn’t be too stressful, for us or them. That’s where our simple step-by-step guide comes in…

Step 1 – Getting ready

Of course, one way to minimise the stress of moving house with a cat is to consider boarding them at a cattery or with a trusted friend. You’ll still need to know how to settle a cat into a new home, but it might help moving day go more smoothly. If this isn’t possible, however, there are some simple steps you can take to get your cat prepared.

On the day, you’ll want to try and keep your cat safely tucked away in one room – with the windows and doors closed. It’s a good idea to set this up ahead of time, so they get used to it beforehand. Putting out the cat carrier you’ll be using to transport them could also help acclimatise them.

Pre-moving day checklist:

  • Tell the removal company you’re moving house with a cat
  • Create a ‘safe space’ for them to be during the move

Step 2 – Getting moved

On moving day, try and stick to their usual routine as much as possible. Particularly when moving an older cat to a new home, as interruptions to their feeding schedule could be alarming. Using a pheromone spray or diffuser could also help keep them calm.

Remember, it’s important to let everyone involved in the move know you’re moving house with a cat. Tell the removal company beforehand and put a sign on the door of the room your cat is in, so no one lets them out accidentally.

When you’re ready to move to your new home, it’s important to stay as calm as possible and observe the usual precautions you’d take when travelling with a cat. A quick run through the basics, before you get going, could make the drive safer and more comfortable for everyone. Are they secure in their carrier? Is the carrier secure in the car? Are they comfortable? Too hot? Too cold? Are there any obvious sounds, like loud music, that may distress them? Or strong smells, like air fresheners? Most importantly, is there any way they could interfere with your safe driving of the vehicle?

Moving day checklist:

  • Place a sign on the door of their ‘safe space’
  • Update your cat’s microchip details
  • Prepare your vehicle

Step 3 – Getting unpacked

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When you’ve transported your cat to your new home, it’s best to immediately recreate their safe space. Unpack their belongings while they’re still in their carrier. When you’re moving house with a cat, familiar scents are your friend. Having a safe space filled with the smell of ‘home’ can really help.

Next, you can let them out of their carrier to explore. If they seem particularly nervous, they may want you to stay with them for a while. Here’s where understanding a bit about cat body language will help you decide how they’re feeling.

Moving in checklist:

  • Recreate your cat’s ‘safe space’
  • Fill it with the scent of ‘home’
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Step 4 – Getting settled in

Moving house with a cat isn’t the end of the process, of course. Now you’re safely moved in, you’ll be wondering how to settle a cat into a new home.

Just like us, cats need time to adjust to new homes. Make it a gradual process by introducing them at their own pace. If they seem particularly reluctant to explore, you could try rubbing their face with a cloth or blanket, then using it to ‘scent mark’ different areas of your new home.

Once again, a routine can help your cat feel more relaxed. Sticking to regular feeding times gives them once less thing to worry about and reassures them that you are still there for them ­– despite the upheaval.

If there were pets living in the house before you, you’ll want to conduct a thorough clean to help get rid of their scent. This will make it easier for your cat to feel like they’re not trespassing on another animal’s territory and help them settle in quicker. Of course, you’ll also want to make sure they don’t pick up anything nastier than old smells! If you’re worried about fleas, treating your new home with FRONTLINE® Homegard can help.  

Settling in checklist:

  • Let them explore – but gradually
  • Use ‘scent marking’ to make them feel at home
  • Try and stick to a routine
  • Get rid of any smells (and fleas!) from previous animals

Step 5 – Going outside

If you’re moving house with an outdoor cat, you’ll definitely want to keep them indoors for at least two weeks. It’s very easy for a cat to get lost if they haven’t spent enough time in their new house to consider it home. While you’re waiting, it’s a good idea to sprinkle some used litter around the garden, to let other animals know there’s a new cat in the area. This will also help them feel more comfortable when they do go outside.

Once they’re ready, try to time their initial explorations so it’s just before feeding. The desire to eat will keep them from straying too far. Let them explore at their own pace. Many cats are naturally cautious and won’t be as keen to bolt out into the unknown as you may expect.

When moving cats to a new home, it’s quite common to find them returning to their old house – particularly if it’s close by. This usually means they haven’t bonded with their new home quite enough. If this happens, you may want to consider keeping them in and repeating some of the advice from Step 4 until they feel properly comfortable. Warning the people moving into your old home this might happen – and giving them an easy way to get in touch if it does – is also a good idea. And, of course, you’ll already have updated their microchip details, so it’s easier to find them if they do get lost.

Moving house with a cat might seem like an overwhelming prospect. But, as with people, it’s all about taking the time to get comfortable. With a little patience and some careful forward planning, there’s no reason you and your furry friend can’t be happily and safely settled into your new home in a matter of weeks.

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