ONE THE MOVE – Simple, safe steps for moving with a cat
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
One of the most pervasive myths about cats is that they care more about places than people.
It’s true that cats are territorial and will seek out familiar places when stressed, which is why they sometimes attempt to return to their old homes when moved. But they’ll be much happier going where you go if you take steps to ease their transition from one home to another.
While you’ll never manage a stress-free move for either yourself or your cat, you can make the best of the situation by keeping your pet secure before, during and after the move, and then by allowing your pet to gradually adapt to his new surroundings.
The best way to move your cat is to confine him to a “safe room” before and after the move, and to transport him from one house to another in a secure carrier. The ideal safe room is a spare bedroom or bathroom where your cat isn’t going to be disturbed, and where he can be outfitted with food and water, a litter box, a scratching post and toys.
Don’t feel bad about confining your pet. He’ll be more relaxed in a small space where he won’t be subjected to the stress of seeing people tromping around his house with the family belongings. Confining your cat also prevents him from slipping outside, which is a danger at both the old and the new home. A frightened cat may be hard to locate on the day of the move if you don’t make sure he’s somewhere that you can put your hands on him.
When you get to your new home, leave the carrier — with its door open — in the safe room. Close the door to the room and leave him be while you unpack. Coaxing him out of the carrier with treats and praise is fine, but let him choose when and how much of the safe room he wants to explore. Never drag him out — you’ll upset your cat, and you might get scratched or bitten.
A couple of days after you’ve unpacked and things have settled down, open the door to the safe room so your cat can explore the rest of the house. Even if you plan to let him outside, keep him in for a couple of weeks. He needs to stay inside to start forming a bond with his new surroundings. Better still, make the most of the opportunity offered by a move and convert your pet to indoor-only status. Your new neighbors will appreciate it, and your cat will live a longer, safer life.
It’s relatively easy to make the conversion to indoor cat when you move to a new home. He’d carry on like crazy in your old home if locked in, but in new surroundings he’ll accept the change with little fuss. Part of the reason cats don’t like to convert to indoor-only is because they’ve marked the outside as part of their territory and have a natural desire to revisit it. A newly moved cat will learn to accept the territory he has been offered, and if the outdoors isn’t part of it, he won’t miss it as much.
Above all, don’t rush your cat through a move. Confinement during the transition is also good for avoiding behavior problems that might pop up with the stress of moving. By limiting your cat’s options to the litter box and the scratching post in his small safe room, he will quickly redevelop the good habits he had in your old home.