Moving Day


If you’re like most people, just hearing the words “moving day” can make you groan at the thought of all the boxes that need to be packed, loaded onto a truck, and then unpacked. Moving can definitely be an ordeal. But it may be even more stressful for your cat than it is for you.

“To a cat, the good life means familiar surroundings and regular routines, and when you move to a new home, that’s all gone,” says certified animal behaviorist John Wright, PhD. “You may know there’s a reason for everything being packed in boxes, but your pet just fears what’s going to happen next.”

Fortunately, there are steps you can take before, during and after a move, to make the transition easier on your cat. Here’s what feline behavior experts suggest.


Familiarize your cat with being transported in a pet carrier or crate. This is important whether you are traveling by car or plane to your new home — since either way, your cat will probably be in a pet carrier. Unfortunately, most pet cats associate the carrier with unpleasant experiences, such as going to veterinarian or groomer. “The key is to help your cat learn to associate positive things with the crate,” says Suzanne Hetts, PhD, a certified animal behaviorist in Littleton, Colorado. She suggests that at least several weeks before your move, you start taking your cat on “practice runs” where you put her in the crate for five or 10 minutes at a time. Place some tuna or salmon in the crate to make it a positive experience for the cat. “The cat learns to associate the crate with food treats, rather than with places she doesn’t want to go,” Hetts says. Additionally, once in your new home, the crate can provide a familiar and secure base in which your cat can retreat if she feels overwhelmed by her new environment.

Pack your cat’s bowls, bed, litter box and toys in a special box marked “cat supplies” and bring that box in the car with you (rather than put it in the moving truck with all the other boxes). Make this one of the first boxes you unpack when you get to your new place. Your cat will feel comforted when you bring out some familiar items.


The day of the move, designate a room that can be a safe area to put your cat in where she can have peace and quiet while the movers do their thing in the rest of the house. Choose a room that’s relatively quiet and out of the way, such as a spare bedroom or second bathroom that no one will be using, suggests Sandy Myers, a pet behavior consultant in Naperville, Illinois. Clear out the room before the movers arrive, and then put your cat in the emptied-out room with her litter box, toys, and food and water dishes. “You might also want to leave a radio on to music the cat is used to,” Myers suggests. “This will mask out the noises of the movers.”


Once you’ve arrived at your new home, confine your cat to one room while you work on putting the rest of the place in order. “After things are somewhat settled, let the cat out, possibly a few rooms at a time,” Myers says. Letting your cat out to roam the whole house right away may be too stressful for her, and could cause her to become disoriented or fearful.

If you have an indoor-outdoor cat, wait a month before you allow her out of the house–and even then, the first few trips outdoors should be supervised. Otherwise, your cat may decide to take off and try to return to her old territory. Another option is to purchase an outdoor cat maze or enclosure. “This allows the cat to be outdoors and safely acclimate to the new location,” Myers says.

Be patient while your pet adjusts to your new home. Most cats need several weeks or months before they are comfortable in a new place. During this transition period, try to spend extra time with your cat. Plan some additional play sessions or devote extra time just stroking your cat and talking softly to her. Sooner than later, your cat will feel right at home.

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