Monday, March 4, 2013

Moving with Cats

Need to move? If you have to take Rover, it's usually not a problem. Woof! Dogs usually like to go anywhere their owners do, and if they are anything like ours, you have to spell the word R-I-D-E around them. So a move usually involves a longer car r-i-d-e, some days of reassurance at the new home, and the immediate need for a new dog tag with Rover's updated identification.

But with cats, it's a little different. Cats do not like changes of any kind - in their surroundings, in their schedule, in their family life. So moving a long ways (or even a little ways) can be highly stressful to both feline and doting owner. Here are a few tips to make it easier - if you have to move with Darling Kitty:

1. First and most important! Invest in a secure cat carrier. Maybe like this one:

A wire crate may work well, too. Do not use a cardboard box, or even those cardboard cat carriers they give you at the humane society or the vet's office. A stressed cat can claw right out of those (ask me how I know) and your freaked-out cat may, too!

2. Prepare ahead of time. Your cat will pick up on the stress and changes happening, especially when you begin putting all of your belongings in boxes, taping them shut, and stacking them all around the house. Sure, it's a fun jungle-gym at first, but when you start selling furniture (including the bed they hide under) and allowing strange people into the house (like movers) your cat will very possibly run out the door and hide, wanting nothing to do with all this upheaval in its life. Don't allow this to happen! Find a spot in the house (bedroom or bathroom) where you can safely shut the cat(s) and their food, litter box, bed, playthings away. Get them used to staying in here at least a day or two ahead of the move. Put the crate inside, so they'll get used to the sight and smell of it, and talk to them and sooth them. Tell them how much fun this will be - (right.)

3. If you use movers - shut the cats in their room with food, water, litter box, hiding spot, and big sign on door that says "Cats. Do Not Enter!" Inform everyone who is helping you that this room is off limits. Make sure there is no chance that your cat will freak out, dart out the door, and run off in a panic, while strangers are hauling furniture out the door.

4. Day of move - when you have a long drive ahead of you - place cats in their cages early. Bed them down, and put a mini litter box inside. If they are super stressed (they will be) they probably won't even eat, so it might be best to withhold food until you arrive at your destination (or at least until you pull over for the night.) When cats are frightened, they want to hide, so a cardboard box or a blanket draped over a wire cage will allow them some comfort and security. Leave them in their cage in the safe room until you are ready to leave. Them load them (cage and all) into the vehicle. Don't try to cradle little Sweetie-Pie as you walk her to the car in your arms. (This is when she might jump and take off.) Have her in the cage first, and then load the cage.

When you stop to check on them (at rest areas, parking lots) they will be super frightened of all the traffic noise, strange smells, etc. Do not take them out of the cage, no matter how much you want to cuddle them! This is a prime danger area for a cat to get lost, run over, or never be found. Leave them where they are safe - in their cage.

5. When you (finally, exhaustedly) arrive at  your new home - the dog will jump out with a smile on his face: "hey guys, cool, where are we?" The cats will huddle at the back of their cage, scared out of their wits, but glad that the rocking and rolling has stopped. Once again, have a "safe room" in the house. A small room where nothing else is happening, if possible. Prepare them food, water, a hiding spot, and a litter box. If it all seems safe, and you can shut the door securely to this room, you may let them out of their cages. Leave them be! You don't want them dashing out the door in this new location, where they will certainly run off and hide, or once again, possibly be hit by a car. Leave them alone, and they will be fine.

6. Introduce them to the new house slowly. They will slink around, checking things out carefully, looking for places to hide in one room at a time. Give them space and time to adapt in their own way. Just like people, cats have their own personalities. Some are brave, and some are not. Kittens will usually start to play quite quickly, while older cats will take longer to make the transition. But if you go slow, and let them do it on their own time, cats will adjust to their new surrounding. They mostly want to feel safe. (I mean, doesn't everyone?)

7. If they will be inside/outside cats, don't let them outside for quite some time. I waited almost two weeks to let ours out, and even then, it was onto a little quiet deck where they sat, smelled the air, and then ran right back inside where they felt it was safe. Leave the door open a crack so they know they can come back to their comfort spot. After almost four weeks at our new home, our brave young cat, Fred, is now running all over the property, and absolutely loves it.

Our old barn cat though, has decided she likes living in the house better than her scary new surroundings outside, and has only ventured out one time. That's okay. She is ten years old, and now lives by the motto: Discretion is the better part of Valor.

But all of our cats made the long move safely and without too much stress. (Oh, there was a little howling from the back of my rig for the first several hours of the drive, but all three of them finally decided to sleep through the move.)

The dog, of course, thinks his new house, his new yard and doghouse, and all the new places to take a walk, are the coolest things ever.

But moving with cats is different, and I hope these tips will allow you and your Feline Sweetie to make the transition as easily as possible, for everyone concerned.


Have you read WALKING THE DOG yet (the newest of my books?) Although there are many dogs in this story, there is also a quite independent orange cat, who has a difficult time making transitions, several times. I hope you'll check it out. It's available as an eBook almost everywhere, including Amazon.

So tell me, have you moved with your cats?
How did it go?
Feel free to add any tips or suggestions that worked for you!


middle grade ninja said...

Mrs. Ninja and I will be moving our cat soon. Not looking forward to it:)

Linda Benson said...

Good luck with that, Ninja! I'm not sure who was more stressed by our move - me or the cats. But with a little preparation, we all made it safely!

Elham said...

They are great tips Ninja! It is very important not to transport them in the back of moving truck, I think the family car is the best for transportation.

Linda Benson said...

That's right, Elham. This may seem obvious to some, but do NOT put the cats' crate in a moving truck with the furniture. Place their cages in a solid spot in the back of the family car or (second best) the back of a pickup with a Camper Shell on it. (And heavens to Betsy - NOT on the roof rack of your vehicle - doh!)

Sharon Ledwith said...

Great post, Linda! Even driving with our one cat in her cage is brave. She sounds like she's being tortured! Our first calico was so awesome in the car - would sit on the kids' laps, never heard a yowl out of her! Kudos for a great post! Tweeted and shared!

Holly Rutan said...


We just moved a cat into our house, and he is doing fine for now. He has his own room, which he will stay in while we get him and the preexisting cats used to each others' scents.

When I was a teen, we moved, along with our 6 cats. One day during the move, my mother brought the cats over and let them out in my room without telling me. Thanks, Mom! Not a one of them was visible when I came home, but I'll never forget the sight of a pillow "hovering" over my bed. They'll hide ANYWHERE...

Linda Benson said...

Sharon - yes, cats can be quite LOUD expressing their displeasure, so maybe earplugs are in order, too. LOL

Holly - Yes, a cat's first instinct is to hide, and this is for self-protection. If you understand (and prepare for) this wild trait they still carry, it makes everyone's life easier. And yes, they'll find ANYwhere to hide. LOL. Thanks for stopping by!