Moving house

Moving house is stressful for cats. Make it as easy as possible for them.

Being a territorial animal, moving house for any cat is very stressful.

For a scaredy cat, it’s even worse – the packing; their human’s stress before the move; seeing their favourite things disappear into boxes; strangers coming into the house and making a lot of noise on moving day; the actual move to a completely new ‘territory’ that smells wrong, looks wrong and is all plain wrong.

It all adds up to a scaredy cat nightmare.

How to make it as stress-less as possible for your scaredy cat   

Here are our tips on reducing their stress when you move house.

  1. Plan for your cat’s needs for moving day.
  2. Get them used to their crate.
  3. Get them used to their carrier.
  4. Pack.
  5. On moving day, secure them in a locked room, crate or carrier.
  6. Brief the removalists.
  7. Before moving them, scent their new home as much as you can.
  8. Move them and confine to a comfortable and safe room.
  9. Be careful when opening doors.

  1. Plan for your cat’s needs on moving day

Strangers in the house, doors being left open for hours at a time, a lot of noise and a stressed human all adds up to a very high risk situation for your scaredy cat getting out of your home.

The last thing you need when moving house is your cat being lost – recovering them could potentially take months of work.

So, before you even contemplate starting to pack, think of what your cat will need to keep safe and as least stressed as possible on moving day.

Consider these four options:

  1. Locked room
  2. Crate
  3. Carrier
  4. Cattery
  1. Locked room

Do you have a room you can physically lock, which you and the removalists won’t need to access on moving day?

If not, can you wedge a chair under a handle of a room and place a ‘DO NOT OPEN UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES’ note on the door handle?

They will need food, water, bedding and a litter tray on the day.

If you can’t pick them up, get them used to eating in their carrier (link).

  • Large crate

Would it be safer to use a 42 or 48” collapsible wire dog crate which you could make snug and cosy for them, cover with a sheet or blanket and place in a quiet area? These are readily available. They’re cheapest online. You might also be able to buy a second-hand one from Marketplace or Gumtree.

  • Carrier
    Or would a large panicking-scaredy-cat-proof carrier that they can stay in for several hours, with enough room for a litter tray, work?
  • Cattery

Scaredycats and catteries aren’t a great mix for many reasons – strange place, strange humans, strange smells, strange cats, perhaps different food.

Even confident cats often stop eating and lose weight when they stay at a cattery.

A scaredy cat is likely to have a nerve-induced ‘hunger strike’ for even longer and may be in a permanent state of stress the whole time.

However, a cattery would be a better option than your cat getting lost, if you don’t feel you can keep them safe before and during the move.

Arrange what you need now.

Also decide which room will be their ‘settling in room’ at your new home. Your bedroom will likely be suitable, as it will have a wardrobe with your scent in it in which they can hide.

  • Get them used to their crate

Securing in a crate on moving day
If you decide to confine them to a 42 or 48” collapsible wire dog crate on moving day, borrow or buy one and start feeding them in it. They’re cheapest online. After the move, you can donate it to a cat rescue group, sell it or keep it on hand for future use.

Include their carrier, lined with a towel or one of their beds. They may well decide that the crate is one of their favourite sleeping places.

  • Get them used to their carrier

If you can’t pick up your cat, leave their carrier out and start feeding them inside it, with the door open. A plastic carrier with a swinging-front door will be much easier than a fabric zip-up one or a plastic carrier that requires you to insert the door into holes.

After a couple of weeks, get them used to you quietly and gently closing the door when they’re eating in it.

If they panic, calmly open the door and offer their favourite treat inside the carrier.

Before moving day, your ideal situation is that they’ll eat in the carrier with the door closed.

  • Pack

New cardboard boxes are every cat’s dream, but the hustle and bustle of packing may unsettle your scaredy cat. If they seem stressed while you’re packing, consider confining them to their favourite room, with calming music playing, and offering treats periodically.

Make sure your cat doesn’t hide in a box while you’re packing. You don’t need the additional stress of thinking you’ve lost them.

Pack their specific items (beds, toys, scratching posts) as late as possible.

  • Moving day – before removalists arrive

Before the removalists arrive, place them in their secure and locked room, crate or secure carrier in a quiet room. Consider having background noise like talkback radio, calming cat music (YouTube has many options) and a Feliway diffuser going.

Smoothing drops of Rescue Remedy or Emergency Essence on their fur may also help. Both are available from health food stores or online. Rescue Remedy is available from supermarkets (medicinal aisle, bottom shelf, small yellow box)

We don’t have much personal experience with Zylkene, but you could also ask your vet for this.

  • Brief the removalists

When the removalists arrive, explain to them that you have a very frightened cat in the house. Highlight that it’s critical that they don’t get out.

Get an undertaking from them that they won’t interfere with whatever precautions you have in place to keep your cat safe.

  • Cat-proof and scent your new home
    If you can spend time at your new home before moving them, do a thorough safety check and try to get their scent in the house as much as possible.
  • Safety check  Do a safety check, looking for gaps through which they could escape (yes, even though they love you, they may well want to flee from this unfamiliar territory)
  • check that all windows (including bathroom and toilet) are completely closed and can’t be pushed or lifted open by a panicked cat
  • check that doors close
  • check if ducted heating vents can be lifted off (they could get into the ductwork)
  • block chimneys
  • lock balcony doors etc
  • Poison and plants  Also make sure no poison baits or dangerous plants have been left behind by the previous residents
  • Furniture unpack and place the major items of furniture that will be their ‘signposts’ and things they’ll need to feel safe eg beds, sofas, scratching posts
  • Your and their scent lay out clothes, sheets, towels and their used litter in each room to make it smell more like them. Rub flannels or tea towels on their cheeks; rub those on corners of walls of your new house, at cat height
  • Feliway have a Feliway diffuser going in their ‘settling in’ room

If you can’t do any of this before they arrive, keep them in their carrier in a quiet room while you do the safety check, unpack the ‘bulk’ items and try to get your and their scent throughout the house as much as possible.

  • Move them to their ‘settling-in’ room

Transport them in their secure carrier to your new home.

When they arrive, do everything that you did when you first adopted them. Depending on their fear level, it may be wise for them to start off in a 42 or 48” collapsible wire dog crate.

Keep them in their settling-in room until they’re acting normally with you – eating well, using the litter tray, have their tail up when you walk in, keen to greet you etc.

Then, gradually expose them to the rest of the secure house at their pace.

  • Be careful when opening doors
    Take extreme care when going in and out of the house; they will feel very unsettled and may attempt to flee.

    When we open the front door, we do the ‘cat scoop’ (bend down and have a hand at cat level, so we can block them if they attempt to run out).

    We also walk out the house backwards, so we can see if a cat is approaching and hoping to bolt out the door.