ARE YOU MOVING? GET YOUR CAT READY FOR THE BIG DAY!
It's that time of year again: moving day is around the corner!
Your cat's sense of security relies on a stable environment and a predictable routine. In fact, "your" home is really more his home! If he could speak, your cat would probably tell you that you are his tenant. Something as innocuous as moving a piece of furniture to a new spot can disturb and upset him. Just imagine what he will feel when he is uprooted and relocated to unfamiliar territory. Fortunately, all it takes is a bit of planning to reduce the impact of this upheaval on your pet's emotional wellbeing.
What can you do to make things go smoothly?
Have your cat boarded
For a few days before and after the big day, both you and your pet could benefit from having him stay at a boarding facility, preferably one that he already knows. If that is not an option, move your cat into a secure room of his own (with a window), away from the hurly-burly of packing. The room should contain all the cat's familiar belongings. His carrier, blankie (unwashed), scratching post and food and water bowls can be placed at one end, and his litter box in the opposite corner. You can also plug in a calming pheromone diffuser. This becomes HIS room, where he is protected from accidents and shielded from noise, the presence of strangers in his home, your own jitters, as well as all the disruption to his surroundings. Most importantly, this will prevent him from escaping from the home or hiding in a tight spot from which you will have difficulty extracting him. Lastly, your cat will feel a lot better if he does not witness what would look to him like a disaster, i.e. his world almost literally falling apart!
Leave behind a photo of your cat
If you are moving within a radius of no more than 10 to 15 kilometres, leave a photo of your cat in your current home for the next occupants, together with instructions not to feed him, pet him or let him back into the home if he decides to return to his old hunting ground. Obviously, you must also provide a phone number at which the new occupants can reach you if they spot him nearby.
Transporting your pet
If the trip is long, consider asking your vet for medication against travel sickness.
When all is ready and it's time to leave, calmly load your cat into his carrier, then cover the carrier with a towel. Place the carrier in the car (if you are moving in summer, be sure to have the air-conditioning on to avoid heat stroke), and only then remove the cat's possessions from HIS room.
Arriving in your new home
To help your cat settle in more quickly, start by setting up HIS room before you begin unpacking. You can plug in the calming pheromone diffuser in this new location.
Ideally, your furniture should already be installed in its permanent location before your pet moves in. Place the carrier in HIS new room with a closed door, and let him emerge from the carrier when he is ready. In due course, he will indicate when he wants to leave the room.
To encourage your cat to explore his new surroundings, you can scatter treats around the home. Don't interfere with his investigations: he will be discovering a world of smells of which you are completely unaware.
It's a good idea to provide a separate litter box on each floor of your new home. Leave the boxes uncovered and position them in locations that suit your cat's need for privacy.
Keeping your cat indoors
For the first three weeks, it is prudent to keep your cat indoors while he takes possession of his new home and acclimatizes to his surroundings. The closer you are to your former home, the longer you should keep him indoors, as he might try to return to his old address.
The first few times that you let him go outside, do so before feeding time, to make sure that hunger brings him back. Leave the door open so that he can retreat if he senses danger. If possible, go outside with him, but don't interfere as he explores the area.
He will find his own safe places!
While protecting your pet from the upheaval of the move, even if this means temporarily restricting his space, try to keep his environment calm and predictable throughout the process.
You can also take the opportunity to "catify" your new home by installing features like shelves on which he can lounge from a safe height and happily survey his domain. Most cats welcome such amenities!
If you see signs that your cat is having trouble adjusting (loss of appetite, soiling, distress vocalizing, etc.), contact your veterinary team right away.
Every year, moving season swells the numbers of missing and abandoned pets. If you have to part with your pet — or if you are thinking of adopting one —, your veterinary team can refer you to a shelter.