Cat on hardwood floor in kitchen getting pets
Date Published
November 08, 2019

Anyone with a cat knows that they don’t do well with change, and moving is especially hard on them. This is because they are very territorial and bonded to their living space, so moving to a new home is a major disruption. It’s important to minimize this stress as much as possible for your cat’s health and wellbeing.

We’ll discuss what to do pre-move, during the move, and in your new home to help your cat(s) have a smooth transition.

Symptoms of stress and fear in cats

Cats display stress, anxiety, and fear in many different ways, and how it manifests itself depends on your particular cat’s temperament. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress and fear in your cat will allow you to identify and remedy the cause.

Never punish your cat for displaying negative behaviors due to stress — it will only cause more stress and fear in your cat (which is harmful for its health) and usually just makes the behaviors worse.

Stress and fear may appear as:

  • trembling/shaking
  • withdrawal/hiding
  • decreased appetite
  • vomiting
  • escape attempts
  • aggression
  • destructive behavior (scratching)
  • over-grooming/compulsive behaviors
  • accidental house soiling
  • litter box avoidance
  • excessive meowing and crying

Following these tips and precautions will help ensure your cat transitions to its new home with little to no stress.

Cat on hind legs peeking into a moving box

What to do pre-move

  • Stick to the routine – Keep feedings and other routines such as littler box cleanings the same as usual leading up to move day. The activity of moving means there will be some level of disruption to what your cat knows, but keeping schedules as normal as possible will help.
  • Get the moving boxes out – Start on your packing early and work on it gradually so it doesn’t happen all in one flurry. Gradual change will be easier for your cat to deal with and allow it to investigate what is happening (not to mention help you get your packing done at a manageable pace).
  • Talk to your vet – Your vet may have additional instructions or recommendations for your particular pet. He or she may also recommend giving your cat an anti-anxiety medication on moving day. (If one is prescribed and your cat has never taken this kind of medication before, it is worth asking for an extra dose and doing a practice run ahead of time to see how your cat reacts to it.)
  • Train with the carrier – Start getting your cat familiar and comfortable with its carrier if it isn’t already or it’s been a while since it was used. Set the carrier out with the door open so your cat can investigate it. Start putting an occasional treat at its entrance or just inside. You can progress to feeding your cat near the carrier, then at its entrance, and eventually inside the carrier. Be patient — this may take some time, but it’s important that your cat has no feelings of fear or anxiety for its carrier. It will make things easier on both of you if you don’t have to stuff a struggling, scared cat into a carrier on move day.

Fluffy cat walking into a cat carrier

What to do during your move

  • Corral you cat – Close your cat in a room with food, water, a bed, a litter box, and its carrier to keep it out from underfoot and to prevent it from slipping out of the house during all the activity. A bathroom works well, but a vacant bedroom is another good option. Place a sign on the door asking the movers (and family) to keep the door shut. The further from the action your feline friend is, particularly all the noise, the better.
  • Limit food intake – On move day your cat will inevitably experience a bit of stress because of all the unavoidable activity. Feed your cat at its regular time (if you can), but consider giving it a smaller meal to avoid an upset tummy and potential vomiting, especially if your cat is prone to this.
  • Transport your cat with you — Never put your cat in the back of the moving truck or in the cab of the truck. Put your cat in a secure carrier and take it with you in your vehicle. Place the carrier in a seat and secure with the seat belt or put it in the well behind the seat. Only open the carrier when you’re in your new home — don’t open it outside or allow your cat to explore the new yard right away (even if it’s fenced).

British Short Hair cat lying on couch with paw hanging out

What to do after your move

  • Designate a home base – Pick a room for the cat in the new home and create the same setup as what you used in the old home. Confine your cat to that space for the first day or two so it can get used to the new smells while you start to unpack and set things up.
  • Cat-proof the house – Cut off all escape routes (shut all doors and windows) so when your cat is let out and begins to explore it can’t get outside. It may also try to hide, which is fine as long as it doesn’t hide anywhere unsafe or where it could become stuck. Block off areas and close off rooms that you want to keep your cat away from while it acclimates to its surroundings.
  • Take things slowly – Gradually allow your cat to explore the home. Be patient and let it hide if it wants. Some cats will adjust very quickly and make themselves right at home, while others may take days, weeks, or even months to totally relax and settle in. Once your cat is free to roam the house, start moving the litter box to its permanent location over the course of several days (moving it closer each day) so your cat doesn’t lose track of where it is.
  • Keep it indoors – Don’t let your cat outside right away, even if it’s an “outside cat.” It will be in a completely new and unfamiliar territory, and you don’t want to risk it becoming lost. If you do plan to let your cat outside eventually, make sure you are outside with it in a fenced space or on a leash and harness for several sessions before letting it loose. Whether it is staying inside or not, ensure all of its vaccinations and tags are up to date as well as its microchip if it has one.

AAA Movers is Minnesota’s trusted moving company for local and long distance moves. We’re experienced in all types of moves, including moving with pets. Contact us if you’d like a free moving quote or to schedule your move!