Tips for Moving a Cat Long Distance

This article was reviewed by Nick Coston, D.V.M. of Cornerstone Veterinary Clinic in Greenwood, AR.

Moving across the country with cats?

U-Pack® has a reputation with cat owners for being a great solution for long-distance moves with kitties in tow. Thanks to celebrity cats Cole and Marmalade, who have moved with U-Pack twice, cat lovers across the country learned that when they move with us, we handle their household goods so they can focus on traveling with their pets. We want to help make your long-distance trip as easy as possible for you and your feline friends, so we’ve consulted with a veterinarian and compiled the best tips for traveling and moving with cats.

Cat sitting in a suitcase ready for long distance move.


How to move with a cat

We know you’re here because you want to give your cat the special attention and care it deserves. Use this guide to learn about:

If you’re traveling with other pets, check out our guide to moving with pets for tips about dogs, fish and more.

Traveling long distances with cats in the car

Not moving by car? Many of these tips will also apply for flights or for shipping your pet.

For most cat owners, the only time their feline friend gets in a vehicle is for trips to the vet, which can make your car something they fear. Before a long-distance drive, you’ll want to work on getting them used to the vehicle and planning the journey with your cat in mind.

Make a plan for each cat

Each cat has individual needs, so consider them separately when planning for your move. If you’ve experienced behaviors with stress or motion sickness with one of your pets before, talk with your vet because they have medications that could help. Along with making specific plans for each animal, it’s good to keep multiple cats separated in different carriers during the trip to reduce stress and prevent them from fighting.

Choose a restraint or carrier

It’s best to keep your pet contained during the drive, and since most cats don’t love harnesses, a carrier or crate may be best. They come in many different sizes and styles, so you can pick the best option to fit your pet and car. However, if you’re flying, make sure to check with your airline and use whatever they recommend. We suggest choosing a crate with a wide opening so it’s easier to get them inside. If scratching is an issue, choose one made of hard plastic instead of fabric. Lastly, if your pet is prone to car sickness, select one that’s easy to clean with a solid tray on the bottom so you can slide it out and wipe it down. No matter what kind of crate you choose, make sure your cat can sit, stand and turn around inside.

Introduce the carrier and a leash

Start by placing the carrier somewhere your cat likes to hang out weeks before the big move. Keep the door open and place a few treats inside. Once he’s comfortable going in for treats, start placing the bowl at the door entrance and moving it deeper inside at each feeding. The goal is to get him to go all the way in voluntarily. You’ll also want to get them used to a leash so you can walk them at stops. Follow these tips to ease him into walking on a leash.

Practice going on car rides

Once your cat is used to the crate, put him inside and go on short drives using the crate or carrier. Begin by going just a few minutes around the block, slowly increasing the duration. You can also practice walking them at different stops to work on getting in and out of the crate in new locations.

Pack the car with the essentials

Take bowls, food, the leash, pet waste bags, treats and a travel litter box (with zip-top bags of litter and a scoop). Make sure everything is easily accessible near your cat — don’t bury the essentials underneath other stuff.

Plan the details of your drive

Because of their nocturnal tendencies, most cats are calmer during the day, so plan to drive during this time while they are typically resting. Pre-plan where to stop (tip: pet stores make great bathroom stops for you because you can take your cat inside!).

Keep your kitty safe and comfortable during the trip

Place the crate somewhere flat with plenty of ventilation, either in the front or back. Make sure you can access the door of the carrier to get your cat out at stops. We also suggest placing the carrier so they can see you out of an opening.

If the car is packed to the brim, make sure nothing is within reach. Plants or chemicals can be dangerous, cords and strings can pose strangulation risks, and small items can be choking hazards. During the drive, keep the radio volume low, avoid slamming doors, and make sure there’s a vent pointing at your cat for airflow. If they seem highly stressed, consider covering the crate with a towel or blanket since darkness can be soothing for some pets.

Give them plenty of water at each stop, and if they aren’t drinking well, use wet food to sneak in more water or try running a faucet since they may prefer to sip from running water. Feed a minimal breakfast and wait until you arrive somewhere for the night for the second feeding to minimize motion sickness.

Staying at a hotel with a cat

Resting and relaxing at overnight stops is important for both you and your cat.

Find cat-friendly places to stay

Search online for pet-friendly hotels in whatever city you’re passing through. However, for many hotels, “pet-friendly” really means “dog-friendly,” so be sure and call to verify that they allow cats. (Note: Assistance animals are not considered pets, so they are always welcome at hotels).

Keep your cat safe in and out of the room

Being in a new place can make your cat anxious, and an anxious cat can be unpredictable. Because of this, we suggest opening the crate after attaching your pet’s leash (reach through the grates or barely open the door to snap the leash onto their collar) so they don’t escape. If you don’t plan on using a leash, carry your cat inside while still in the carrier.

Once in the room, check for any hiding spots. If you have a Houdini cat, think about keeping them contained in the bathroom, so you don’t lose them. If you go in or out of the room, place your cat back in the crate to prevent them from running out.

Set up a travel litter box

When you get inside the hotel, empty a zip-top bag of litter into the travel litter box and place it somewhere quiet. If you’re concerned about your cat escaping the room or hiding under furniture, place the litter box in the bathroom with them to keep them contained.

Moving cats to a new home

When you arrive, use these tips to keep your cat safe while unloading and after the move.

Make a safe space for your cat while you unload and unpack

Look for places where he could get out or hide and block those spots while you’re unloading the moving equipment. You know your pet best, and if you think all the movement will make them nervous, keep them in the carrier during this time. Once everything is unloaded and the home is secure, let him out to explore his new environment.

Unpacking can have many stressors, like the crinkling of packing paper and closing of cabinets, so you might want to keep them inside the carrier to give them a safe space during the commotion.

Stick to a routine as close as possible

Even during the craziness of the move, try and stick to whatever feeding and resting schedules you had before.

Keep an eye out for any concerns

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.

Establish care with a new veterinarian

Once you’ve gotten settled, call a new vet for your first visit and have your records transferred from your previous care provider.

Have any other questions about traveling or moving long-distance with a cat?

If there’s anything else we can answer to help you and your cat move, leave a comment below. If you have questions about moving with U-Pack, call us at 844-362-5303844-594-3077 or click to learn more about our moving service.