How to move with cats
Fact: Cats love boxes. But that doesn’t mean cats love moving. And many of them don’t. According to the ASPCA and WebMD, a move can create fear responses in cats — including crying, hiding and aggression. But while a move is a big change for them, it is possible to reduce the stress your pet feels.
We’ve compiled a list of things you can do for your cat before the long drive and throughout the move. Use this resource to learn about:
- Choosing a crate and getting him used to it
- Easing stress on moving day
- Making the road trip
- Staying in a hotel with your cat
- Things to look for after the move
Not moving by car? Many of these tips will also apply for flights or for shipping your pet.
Get your cat to love (or at least tolerate) the car
Most cat owners reserve car rides for trips to the vet, which means the car is probably not a positive place for your feline. But since the move will require a lot of time in a vehicle, you’ll want to make it a better place to be. The easiest way to do this is to start going on drives — begin with short trips around the block, then go a little longer leading up to the move. Make sure your cat is riding how they will during the move: either in a harness, carrier or crate.
Not sure which restraint to use?
Cats typically don’t like harnesses, so a carrier or crate may be best if they aren’t already used to one. Carriers are usually smaller (and the preferred container for air travel), and they have more solid sides that can be hard or soft. Crates are generally bigger and more open like you would see at a pet store.
Here are some tips for deciding what to use:
- Pick a crate with several openings if your cat isn’t used to one. It will make it easier to get them inside.
- Select a hard plastic option over a soft-sided fabric one if scratching may be an issue.
- Choose a carrier that’s easy to clean if the drive is very long (or if your pet is prone to motion sickness).
No matter which one you choose, make sure your cat will be able to sit, stand and turn around comfortably during the trip. If he/she isn’t leash trained, then the crate should also be large enough to hold a litter box.
Introducing the carrier
To get your cat familiar with his carrier, put it somewhere he likes to hang out and open the door. Place a few treats inside. After he has ventured in a few times for treats, start feeding him in there, slowly moving the food bowl from the door entrance to deeper inside. The goal is for him to go all the way into the carrier to eat.
Consider leash training
If you want to be able to give your cat some breaks to stretch his legs, or if you have an outdoor cat that isn’t litter box trained, leash training may be a good idea. Follow these tips to ease him into walking on a leash.
Make a plan for multiple cats
Ideally, you’ll have a separate carrier for each cat. If you’re flying or shipping your pet, most airlines and companies require them to be crated individually. Even keeping them separated in the car will reduce their stress and prevent them from fighting.
Things to think about for the move
Your cat’s temperament and overall response to the move will determine how much you have to do to ease him through the process. These tactics can help keep him calm and safe when moving:
- Provide a quiet space. If your cat is skittish around the boxes and extra movement involved with packing, give him a peaceful, safe space to stay that’s out of the way.
- Keep careful watch. Some cats may enjoy playing in the boxes, and it can be fun to see. Just be sure to keep an eye out for them, so you don’t accidentally pack them with your household belongings!
- Stick to your routine as much as possible. Feed, rest and play at the usual times to establish consistency.
- Plan for the big day. People will be coming and going a lot on moving day, so it’s crucial to contain your pet. You don’t want him hiding in a piece of furniture or escaping.
Check out these tips for moving with a pet for even more helpful information. And get tips for other types of pets!
Traveling by car with cats long distance
Now that your home is packed up and loaded, you can focus on keeping your cat comfortable during the drive.
Pack the car with the crate in mind
Choose a secure spot (either near a seatbelt or safely on the floorboard) that has plenty of ventilation and nothing blocking the crate openings. Riding in the front vs. the back makes little difference, but if possible, place the carrier with the door facing you or another person. This allows the cat to see you.
Make the car kitty-friendly
Keep the radio volume low, as loud noises can be unsettling. Also, close doors carefully (instead of slamming them) to avoid startling your cat. Arrange vents so there’s a flow of air without blowing directly on their space. If he seems highly stressed, consider covering his crate — darkness can be soothing for some pets.
Plan to drive at the best time of day
Most cats are calmer during the day — a combination of their natural nocturnal tendencies and typically being home alone during the daytime. Because of this, it’s best to drive during the day when they are used to resting.
Limit food and encourage water intake
Start driving early and withhold food (or feed a minimal breakfast) to minimize motion sickness. Here are some other suggestions to help prepare your cat for a long day on the road:
- Give water at each stop, but wait to feed your cat a larger meal until you settle in for the evening.
- Concerned about hydration? Using wet food is a great way to sneak in extra water.
- Cats will drink more from a moving water source, like a faucet or fountain. So if they aren’t getting enough, try pouring a slow stream into a bowl and letting them drink from the flow.
Make sure hazards are out of the way
Small cat paws may be able to reach through the grates of a carrier. If you’re packing the car to the brim, check that there’s nothing within reach to harm your pet. Plants or chemicals can be dangerous if swallowed, cords and strings can pose strangulation risks, and small items can be choking hazards.
Figure out the litter box situation
The travel litter box should be large enough for your cat to fit comfortably in, but small enough to go in his carrier (if possible). If you don’t plan on keeping it in the carrier, choose a litter box with a lid. Select an odor-control litter that’s low-dust and scoopable. For scooping on the go, use pet bags to contain the mess.
Tips for staying in a hotel
For many hotel chains, “pet-friendly” mostly means “dog-friendly.” That’s why booking online without proper research can be risky. Call the hotel ahead of time to find out if it allows cats. (Note: Assistance animals are not considered pets, so they are always welcome at hotels).
When entering a hotel, bring your cat inside on a leash or in the carrier, so he doesn’t escape. And if you plan on leaving the room for an extended period, place him back in his carrier. If you don’t, he may find a place to hide or run out of the room when you return.
Keep an eye out after the move
When you arrive at the new house, make sure it’s safe for your pet. Look for places where he could get out or things that could be harmful before letting him explore his new environment.
For a while after the move, watch for troublesome changes in behavior, including differences in sleep patterns or grooming, or increased vocalization. Don’t be overly concerned unless it continues for several days — in that case, schedule a trip to the vet.
Still have questions about moving cats?
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