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Tips for Moving a Cat Long Distance

January 7th, 2019 - 10:21 AM

Setting up a simpler move with cats

For many people, cats are the perfect pet. They’re independent, low-maintenance and they don’t bark in the dead of night. When relocating to a new home, you want to make sure your cat is comfortable and cared for — a task that can be challenging since they can’t exactly tell you what they need. With a little planning beforehand, the process can be easy on you and your pet. 

Gray and white short-haired cat sitting in a moving box and looking up

Before you go

Preparation is everything when it comes to moving, especially with your pets. Check out A Practical Guide for Moving with Pets for a comprehensive overview of ways to ensure a smooth transition. 

Following these cat-specific suggestions ahead of your move will make a cross-country trek more comfortable for both you and your kitty:

  • Get your cat accustomed to her carrier. You’ve probably noticed that your cat sleeps in the same several spots for all her daily naps – so she won’t like to be introduced to her carrier on the day of the move. Purchase one several weeks before the move and introduce her to it slowly. Let her approach it at her own pace. After she is comfortable with the carrier’s presence, put her food just inside the carrier door so that she has to enter it at least partially. Every meal, put her food further inside the carrier so that eventually, she’s eating entirely inside her new little home.
  • Gather familiar items. Use a shirt that smells like you or one of her favorite pillows/stuffed animals as a semi-permanent presence inside the carrier. This way, she has a familiar smell to get her accustomed to the carrier before and during the transition. 
  • Pack properly. Just as you’ll want to pack well for yourself during the move, you also need to ensure that you’re doing the same thing for your feline friend. Here are some things to remember:
    • Travel crate
    • Food
    • Food bowl and water bowl (make sure you have one of each instead of using one for both)
    • Treats
    • Plenty of clean water
    • Medications (if needed)
    • Leash
    • Flushable litter
    • Litter box
    • Litter scoop
    • Plastic bags
    • Paper towels
    • Pet stain remover
    • Bedding
    • Toys 
  • Consider buying pheromones. Pheromones are chemicals that cats produce, as a sort of scent communication. You can purchase pheromone products, which can signal a calming effect to your cat. From sprays to collars, you can use these to diffuse stress while packing and traveling.  Introduce them into your pet’s life a couple weeks before the move, so you can monitor their effect. 

Traveling by car with cats long distance

Most cats can’t easily tolerate confinement for very long, which means a lengthy car trip could cause stress. Keep these things in mind before starting your journey:

  • On moving day, pack the car with her travel crate in mind. Riding in the front vs. the back makes little difference, as long as she has plenty of breathing room. Make sure there’s nothing blocking the openings in the carrier. If she’s in the front seat, the best option is to place the carrier sideways so that the door faces you. This allows the kitty to see you while not being in the direct line of the air conditioner/heater vents. 
  • Secure the carrier so it doesn’t slide into the floor or around the seat.
  • Keep the radio volume low because loud noises can be unsettling.
  • Take regular breaks for some fresh air and cuddles. 
  • Motion sickness may develop, so remove food and water three hours before leaving and avoid feeding until you’re finished traveling for the day. Mix some water with the evening food to provide extra hydration.
  • Don’t leave your cat alone in the vehicle, especially during extreme temperatures.
  • Their most active hours are dawn and dusk, as a general rule. Traveling during the day or night, rather than morning or evening, is easiest on your kitty, as she will most likely sleep the drive away.  
  • Make a hotel stay comfortable by placing toys, the litter box, food and water bowls in the room upon arrival. Give them time to explore and relax. Be careful going in and out of the room to prevent escape.

Flying with a cat

If driving isn’t an option, follow these tips for flying:

  • Contact the airline before your trip; discuss travel policies and any required paperwork.
  • Line the bottom of the carrier/crate with paper towels or training pads, and consider a soft-sided carrier if you plan on keeping her in the cabin area.
  • If they are riding in the cargo hold, write “live animal” on all sides and draw arrows showing the upright position. Attach an envelope with your contact information, destination, your cat’s name and photo.

Things to remember after the move

As you and your kitty settle into your new home, consider:

  • Once in the new place, leave the carrier open in your new home with the items inside for at least two weeks. Your kitty will appreciate having a comfortable, familiar retreat.
  • Cats like routine, and despite your best efforts, you’ll likely be unable to stick to a solid routine during your move. Just remember, this adjustment will be confusing for her, so expect some grumpiness and unusual behavior. They often will change their eating habits or relieve themselves outside their litter box during a house transition. This is fairly normal. Don’t be overly concerned unless it continues for several days – in that case, visit a veterinarian to verify that your kitty is still in good health.  
  • When arriving in your new city, keep your cat safe and secure while you unload and unpack. Check for hiding places and make sure all windows and doors have screens. In a new environment, she may look for places to escape or hole up. Once it’s safe, take out her belongings and let her explore her new home.

Still have questions about moving cats?

We hope this resource serves you well! If there’s anything else we can answer, leave a comment below. For questions about moving long distance with U-Pack, call 800-413-4799.