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Moving can be hectic for us, so imagine what all the mysterious commotion is like for our cats. “Any time you’re preparing for a move, the cat is going to sense it the minute you start packing,” explains Tracy R. Dewhirst, DVM, pet columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee. “Keep their life as normal as possible; leave their food bowls and litter box in the same place.”
The key is to minimize disruptions for your feline and make your new home as welcoming as possible. During the chaos of a move, it’s also easy for cats to escape and get lost. Experts say your cat will fare better if you follow these guidelines:
On Moving Day
Secure your cat Place your cat in a room with a sign mentioning there’s an animal inside and advising others not to enter, says Pam Johnson-Bennett, a Nashville, Tenn., cat behavior expert. When you need to remove the furnishings from that room, make sure you first secure your kitty in a carrier.
Use proper ID Dr. Dewhirst recommends microchipping your cat or getting a GPS collar for an added layer of security. Your cat’s ID should always include your cell phone number. It’s also a good idea to take a photo of your cat and write down its vital statistics as well as its descriptive features.
Don’t drag out the move When it comes time to move your kitty’s possessions, move everything at once. You don’t want to prolong your cat’s distress.
Use a cat carrier Don’t be tempted to carry your cat in your arms if you’re simply moving across town. “Your cat will escape,” Dr. Dewhirst warns. “Instead, put your cat in a carrier inside your house and don’t take your cat out until it is in a secured area in the new environment.”
In Your New Home
Provide sanctuary Your cat will make a smoother transition if you first provide a small and secure place. “Set up a sanctuary room for your cat so it can get its bearings in one small area before facing the task of familiarizing itself with the strange new environment,” says Johnson-Bennett. “Allow your cat to investigate more of the house a little at a time after it is totally comfortable with the sanctuary room.”
Offer positive reinforcement Food rewards can help your kitty make positive associations with the new environment. A tasty morsel might help lure your kitty out of its crate or container in the sanctuary room. You can also offer a treat just outside the room if your cat appears comfortable enough to venture out to it.
Make it familiar Your inclination may be to spiff things up in your new home, with new decor purchases. Now is not the time to buy that cute kitty food bowl or a new litter box, however. Familiar items will help your cat adjust to the new location. Your cat will be more at ease if its new home even smells a bit like the old one. To do this, take a sock and gently rub it around your cat’s face to collect facial pheromones. Next, rub the sock on doors and corners so your kitty sniffs its own familiar scent.
Think like a cat An unfamiliar furnace whooshing on, or the sight of strange cats walking by outside a window, may initially bother your kitty. Try to mitigate startling noises or distressing environmental factors until your cat becomes more at ease. Make sure you provide hiding options and elevated areas so your cat feels protected and safe as it checks out its new digs.
Like us, cats can take a while to adjust to a new environment. If your cat is relaxed and gregarious by nature, expect an adjustment period of a couple of weeks, says Dr. Dewhirst. But be patient: Some cats may take far longer. You are a real source of comfort and security for your cat during this stressful period. After all, for your cat, home is where you are.
Kim Boatman is a journalist and frequent contributor to The Daily Cat, based in Northern California whose work has appeared in The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifelong lover of animals and shares her home with three cats.