Moving house with a cat can be a tricky business, and it’s not just a case of finding a suitable property. Industry sources indicate only 7% of landlords advertise their homes as pet friendly and yet 50% of the UK’s population owns a pet. But if that wasn’t difficult enough, consider the emotional impact on your pet. Any house move will feel seismic to a little cat, sparking feelings of stress and anxiety.
By making feline wellbeing your top priority, the whole process has a much better chance of being turned into a positive journey for you both. Try to put yourself in their paws to understand how the whole experience feels for a cat. The good news is that with a bit of planning and extra affection, you can really help your purry pal to stay stress-free and soon get settled in their new home.
To really get inside your cat’s head during a change of home, it helps to know a bit about feline psychology. Our feline friends are creatures of habit who love their routines and familiar spaces. They’re territorial little beings who form strong bonds with places that make them feel safe and secure. Having that disrupted can upset their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Here’s a good summary of the five pillars of a healthy feline environment:bvna.org.uk]
More than anything, cats value scent and consistency. They recognise places and things by smell more than sight. So, when everything suddenly smells unfamiliar, it’s understandably disconcerting for them. The key is to recognise how difficult this transition is for your cat, meeting their needs with empathy and care, and helping them build confidence in their new environment at a pace they feel in control of.
Cats live very much in the present moment. While the move may be stressful now, with time and patience your pet will start forming positive associations with the new home. Stay positive, attentive and motivated for your cat’s sake. If they sense you are there to provide stability through the ups and downs, that will ease their anxiety more than anything else.
Make your new home feel inviting and familiar to your cat. Set up a separate room just for them with essential supplies: food, water, bed, litter tray, scratching post, toys, etc. Use this space as your cat’s safe haven where they can escape if overwhelmed. It’s a good idea to only allow supervised interaction in other areas of the property until your cat seems comfortable.
Fill the room with scents your cat knows and trusts. Use Feliway sprays, especially near litter trays, beds and scratching posts. Bring blankets, scratching posts, and litter from your old home. Place food and water bowls, toys, scratchers and beds in spots similar to where they were in your previous residence. If you can manage to maintain a degree of spatial familiarity, this will provide extra reassurance.
Stick to your normal daily routine as much as possible. Continue feeding, exercising, grooming and playing with your cat at the usual times. While the environment has changed, keeping a predictable schedule will help them feel secure. Provide extra love and play when your cat seems open to it, and give them space when they prefer alone time. Above all else, respond sensitively to your cat’s needs.
Once they appear comfortable in the safe room, you can start allowing short, positive interactions in other areas of the home with supervision and encouragement using treats/toys. Look for signs that your cat may be feeling overwhelmed like hiding, aggression or dilated pupils and guide them back to their space to destress as needed. It can take days or weeks for some cats to build confidence beyond a single room, and patience is the magic ingredient.
Pay close attention to your cat’s behaviour before and after the move. Signs of stress in cats include hiding, less grooming or eating, aggression, urine marking outside the litter box, excessive meowing and clingy behaviour. Be patient, these behaviours often lessen over time as your cat adjusts. Again, the way to help your furry friend is to provide plenty of reassurance through affection and treats to help boost their confidence.
Also remember that felines keenly pick up on our emotions. Try to remain as calm and positive as possible. If you go into your house, move confident in your ability to make the experience good for your cat, that confidence will rub off on them.[Image source: Yerlin Matu on Unsplash]
Moving house with a pet has its challenges, but the more cat sensitive you can be, the sooner your feline friend will feel at home in the new place. Here are some additional tips that may be helpful:limit
- Choose a quiet time for the move when you can focus on your cat’s needs. Avoid moving during other stressful events when possible.
- Play calming music, nature sounds or a TV show your cat enjoys during the move to mask loud noises that might startle them.
- Keep your cat’s ID tag information up to date, and consider microchipping for your peace of mind in case they escape outside
- Ask your vet about anxiety medication, where appropriate, which can take the edge off their stress and lessen any trauma.
- Use puzzle feeders and interactive play to keep your cat occupied when alone in the new space, boosting their mood and confidence.
- Give your cat extra individual attention each day. Reassure them often through gentle petting, play, grooming and treats.
- Start group integration slowly if you have other pets. Supervise initial interactions closely and be ready to separate them if tension arises.
- Never leave doors/windows open unsupervised, especially right after your move. Even indoor cats can feel the urge to escape!
- Limit visitors and activity in the new home as much as possible to avoid overwhelming your cat during the initial, sensitive time.
With compassion, sensitivity and commitment to supporting your cat’s needs, you can make this difficult transition much easier for them to navigate. Stay patient and flexible, focus on the small victories, and remember that with consistency, your cat’s feelings of uncertainty will fade, leaving the familiar: you.