Moving is an exciting but stressful part of life. Most of us are familiar with the work that goes into packing up our whole lives into bags and boxes. But what about our pets? For our pets, moving is an adventure but can also be a stressful time. Cats may already experience some level of anxiety or may develop it during periods of change and elevated stress. Stress not only affects our cats mentally but can exacerbate other medical issues such as UTIs, vomiting, and hair loss. Every cat will react to change differently depending on age, personality, and life experience. The goal is to keep our cats as happy and comfortable as possible during the big move, so here are some tips for both first-time movers and seasoned travelers.
Slowly Introduce Additions to Your Cat’s Routine
Cats are very attached to their safe spaces and it can be hard to change up their routines. Giving your cat time to adjust to the changes in their home while keeping their established routine as normal as possible will keep them from getting stressed. While preparing to move can be hectic and take up a lot of your time, your cat will still need personal time and attention even when life gets busy. Be sure to keep their play and food routines normal while packing, this will ensure your cat continues to have a sense of normality. To get your cat used to moving essentials, have their carrier out for them to play and hide in during the day to get comfortable before packing up their space. The carrier will also offer refuge when the packing gets disruptive and loud. If your cat has a history of not being comfortable in a carrier, try using pheromone spray to encourage them to go inside and relax. When bringing home moving boxes, allow your cat to play in them and place their items together where they can find them inside a box. Some cats don’t like the smell of new boxes, so if this is the case for you try using a little catnip spray on a box or two; they will love the boxes in no time.
Make Travel Feel as Safe and Homey as Possible
While a change of environment can be challenging for your cat, the actual travel can be just as stressful, if not more. You want to ensure your cat is calm and feels safe while in transit. Take a test drive to see how they fare on the road and observe their behavior to better lower your cat’s anxiety, making them feel comfortable. Bring along their blanket or favorite piece of your clothing they claimed as their own. The feel and smell of something familiar will give them a sense of home, especially if you are flying with your cat. You may also want to make time for a vigorous play session with them before leaving to encourage napping on the trip. Once you’ve hit the road, be mindful of your surroundings, ensuring that the temperature is comfortable and the music is not overwhelming. Have your cat carrier close to you and talk to them so they can hear your voice. And while it may be tempting to have your cat in your lap, try to avoid taking them out of the carrier. They are much safer inside the carrier than loose inside the car. Keeping them in the carrier also negates the possibility of your cat bolting on you. However, accidents do happen, make sure their collar tag and microchip info is up to date in the event that your cat escapes from the car or carrier.
Talk to Your Vet
No matter how much you try, your cat may still need help from a professional to manage their stress, and this will depend on your cat’s personality. If your cat is the chill type that is used to travel in a car you might need just to relax your feline with natural alternatives and that may be enough. But some cats are naturally prone to anxiety and moving can be too much for them to handle on their own. Schedule an appointment with your vet to assess your cat’s behavior and get advice on how to recognize and manage their emotions. There are many different medications to help with anxiety depending on if it was just brought on by stress or if it is a chronic condition for your cat. Going to the vet and getting the right medication may be necessary, but it can prove to be a bit expensive during a time when your budget is already strained by moving costs. Try looking into how pet insurance works as it can help before, during, and after your big move. Pet Insurance can help cover the cost of an appointment, treatments, or unexpected challenges that can pop up at any time. If you are going to be moving a great distance and your cat develops any issues along the way, you can ensure your cat will receive the best care without worrying about networks or huge costs. It’s an extra tool giving you peace of mind throughout the moving process.
At the start of the big day, you’ll want to get your cat safe and settled before doing anything else. Start the day by feeding your cat a small meal; this will ensure they don’t go hungry while reducing the amount of consumption to prevent them from feeling sick during travel. Contain your cat into one quiet space such as a bathroom or spare bedroom to keep them from bolting or getting hurt in the moving day chaos. If you have movers assisting you, let them know about your cat and what room they are in. The movers can avoid that space until you and your cat are ready. Remember to not pack away all their possessions, set aside a few toys to bring in the carrier to keep them occupied. If you are planning to lodge at a pet-friendly hotel or at another location before reaching your final destination, bring a small bag of comfort objects for the new space to help them feel at ease, including a pheromones spray to spray in the hotel room (I did this during a stay in a hotel room with Sophie). When it is finally time to leave, move your cat to the carrier just before hitting the road. Keep calm during your travels as cats are very good at picking up on body language and will mirror your emotions. With proper planning and monitoring, your cat will stay calm and comfortable for the duration of the ride.
You Made It
Congratulations, you have successfully made the trip and are ready to start a new adventure with your cat by your side! There will be a lot to do at your new home and it can take some time for your cat to adjust to their new environment. Just like you, they will need a chance to explore all the new places and find their safe space. If you are looking for advice on what to do after the move, you can look at our tips and tricks on helping your cat settle into their new home. A new home will be a learning experience for all, but it is a journey you and your cat will happily experience together.