When you’re moving house
, you have plenty to think about - decluttering, packing, organising, cleaning and answering endless emails from your solicitors.
You do all this while keeping your fingers crossed (metaphorically, unless you’re really trying to make life difficult for yourself) that the sale will go through and you’ll be able to move to your new home as planned and on time.
Moving with pet cats adds another layer of difficulty, but with a bit of thought and prior planning you can make sure that your whole family can get through the process without harm.
Here are some top tips on ways to keep your cats safe - physically and emotionally - when moving house.
Before the move
Cats are creatures of habit, so in the run up to moving day they may feel stressed by the changes going on around them. They may pick up on all your stress, too, and witness the frenetic activity but won’t have the benefit of knowing what the heck is going on.
Cats love cardboard boxes but only really on their own terms… Surround them with cardboard boxes that you’re filling with the contents of your home (changing their surroundings beyond recognition) and they won’t be thrilled.
Before you start packing, choose a room that you can pack up and leave almost empty by moving the contents into another room. Move your cat’s things (food bowl, toys, litter tray, bed etc) into that room, so that they have a safe haven to which to retreat when the rest of the house descends into chaos. You could go in there “to keep the cat company” when you need a break from the madness, too!
As moving day gets closer, try chilling your cats out with some pheromone spray from the vet. Also, we all know that cats become unhappy and vengeful if you don’t feed them on time under normal circumstances, so whatever you do, make sure you feed them when they’re expecting it.
Your cats know full well what a cat carrier is for, and it’s likely that they’ve never had a positive experience at the end of being put inside theirs. You could bring it out weeks in advance and get your cat used to seeing it (it might make it easier to put them inside). Or you could hide it until the very moment you have to wrangle them inside to minimise the chance of them hiding behind the pipes under the bath.
When moving with cats, it’s important to make sure they are microchipped so that if they escape en route, there’s a greater chance of finding them. You’ll then need to update their microchip details with your new address.
This might sound strange, but shortly before moving day, rub a towel around the chair legs and other cat-height furniture in your home. Use that towel to line or cover their carrier on moving day to surround them with familiar smells.
On moving day
Some people book their cats into a cattery for the day, but this could cause your cats additional stress if they’re not used to going to a cattery.
Alternatively, make sure somebody in the household is responsible for staying with the cats. Keep them in a room where there isn’t going to be a lot of coming-and-going, and give them lots of reassurance (and treats).
When the time comes to move your cats, put them in their carrier (that step is obviously far more involved than those five words imply). Pop the towel (the one that smells like home, which you prepared earlier) over the top of the carrier to help keep them calm. Hold the carrier with both hands from beneath - now is not the time to trust using the plastic handle.
If it’s going to be a long journey, ensure you pack food and water that you can give to your cat in their carrier when you stop. Keep the carrier out of direct sunlight and be mindful of the temperature in the car.
The new home is going to be just as chaotic as the one you’ve just left, so for the first day just find a quiet room where you can let your cat out of their carrier, put their things in there with them and let them settle. Visit them frequently and make a fuss, bring them treats and tell them how beautiful they are to try to curry favour and make it clear that you are very sorry for disrupting their lives. They might still poop in your shoes later, but it’s a bit less likely if you’re sufficiently repentant.
Settling into your new home
Hopefully, the people who sold you their house will have cleaned it. Nevertheless, if they owned cats there might be unfamiliar cat smells around that will make your cats very nervous. Liberal use of a scent-neutralising spray around your new home will eliminate those odours and allow your cats to feel that they have exclusive run of the place.
You could then rub the home-scented towel on a few chair legs to make the house feel more familiar.
Let them explore the new house a little bit at a time. Limit them to one room at first, and add furniture or boxes that they can hide behind or in to make them feel more secure.
Keep the house locked up carefully to avoid your (probably scared) cats escaping. Gradually allow your cat to access the house at their own pace, and give them at least three weeks (preferably more like 4-6) to familiarise themselves with their new home before allowing them outside. Remember to update that microchip information before you let them out!
Make sure the people who have bought your old house know what your cats look like and know how to contact you. That way, on the off-chance that your cats escape and head for ‘home’, the new owners will be able to let you know where they are.
Moving house with cats isn’t for the fainthearted, but once you’ve all settled into your new home, your cats will be running the place again and all will be well.