Dear Ms Kitty,

We got an offer we couldn’t refuse for our house and now we have to move. How do we keep our cat Buster from getting so scared during the move?

Dear Reader,

So you’ve found your new home; the papers are signed and you’re moving in 30 days. Now is the time to begin packing. A month gives you time to think through your move and also allow Buster to understand that changes are coming. Cats do best when we ease them into any process.

  • Prep the carrier
    Bring out the carrier and put a towel or blanket inside and encourage Buster to get in with positive items like food, treats, and toys. Let the carrier be a part of the family furniture, with comforting scents from home, so it isn’t something just used for scary vet visits.
  • Play with boxes
    Make a game out of packing by playing with Buster in the moving boxes. Cats can’t hold play and fear in their brains at the same time, so playtime is always comforting. It should be fun and give you a break too!
  • Check the vet
    Make sure to have your veterinary records up-to-date. If you are moving to a new state or locality, be sure to search for a new veterinarian in your new town and mail those records to the new vet. Keep copies in your personal records as well.
  • Chip the cat
    Also, be sure to take current photos of Buster, and either update the microchip information or have one inserted if you have not microchipped him. A lost cat is more likely to be reunited with you if the microchip is current.
  • Halter train
    If you have time, get Buster accustomed to a halter or walking jacket. Having him trained for leash walking will give you both more security when traveling in a car. Cats have to be taught how to wear a halter or walking jacket as having something on their backs can be threatening. Here are some tips on how to do that.
  • Start with the safe room
    Buster should be the last out the door and the last in the new home. It is best to create a safe room in both the old and new home. Cats sense change so it is ideal to keep Buster locked in his safe room to prevent a frantic search for him during what is a stressful time for you both.
  • Safe motels
    If you have to spend time in motels, consider using the bathroom as his safe room on the trip. Scared cats can find their way up into bed springs and be subjected to further trauma when you have to take the bed apart to find them. Keeping him in one room with his familiar carrier and equipment, even if overnight, may save you both a lot of heartache.
  • Bring the familiar
    Along with his familiar bedding and food, bring bottles of water from home to help keep things as familiar as possible. Use pee pads in the carrier and take unscented baby wipes to clean up in case of accidents.
  • End with the safe room
    The safe room in the new home can be used for as long as needed, depending on Buster’s ability to adapt. Setting up a bedroom with linens and items from the old home that have not been laundered helps bring the smells of the familiar. Cats are very sensitive to smell so this is an important thing to keep in mind. Be sure to include his litter box, a scratching post, some toys, and perhaps even an item you have slept on.
  • Keep the routine
    Moves are not a good time to switch up their diet or litter. Maintain a consistent feeding time and a clean litter box as you normally would. Buster may have a dull appetite but if you maintain as normal a schedule as possible, this helps him understand the world is okay!
  • Consider natural remedies
    Some kitties have low tolerance to change so if you’re aware of this, talk to your veterinarian or a local cat professional to find suitable natural remedies such as pheromone collars, sprays, and even drops or treats that calm him without the side effects of a drug. Happy Cats Haven carries Bach Rescue Remedy, AnimalEO Calm-o-Mile essential oil, NurtureCalm calming collars and Feliway sprays and plug-ins to help sooth your cat.

Planning for Buster long before you load the moving truck will help your best feline friend be as happy about the new home as you are!

Liz Oldach is the Adoptions Manager for Happy Cats Haven. Contact Liz at adopt@happycatshaven.org with feedback and questions!