The Bekins Blog
Keeping Kitty Calm During a Big Move
Many people consider their pets an important part of the family and don’t question at all whether to bring the animal along when it’s time to move. If you have a dog, you’ve probably given him or her car rides many times, so another trip-even a long one-won’t be a big deal. If you have a cat, however, the moving process will likely be fraught with tension.
Cats are fairly low-maintenance pets when they feel safe in the house, but they don’t handle change well. An abrupt shift like moving to a new home can make them sick, scared, or anxious.However, moving with your cat doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience. With a little bit of preparation, you can ensure the move goes smoothly and your feline friend adjusts well to his or her new home.
This blog discusses some of the most common problems you may face when trying to move your cat, as well as helpful solutions. Read through the list so you know what to expect from your cat and know what to do to keep him or her calm and happy.
1. Hiding or Escaping
When things start disappearing from your house, or moving around, your cat will likely start to worry. Their refuge suddenly becomes strange and unfamiliar. Professional movers may unknowingly invading their safe places. This stressful situation can cause cats to want to hide somewhere they can’t be easily found, and when the time comes to get in the car, you can’t find your pet anywhere.
Another issue comes from keeping the door open while you load boxes into the truck or moving van. Many cats can’t wait to run outside when they aren’t supposed to, and fear of uncomfortable circumstances can drive them out the door when you aren’t looking. You don’t want the added stress of looking for a lost cat as you’re trying to get on the road.
Solution 1: Go Slow
Don’t try to get everything done in one weekend. Start packing up several weeks in advance, and leave the boxes out on the floor so your cat can investigate. Let them slowly adjust to the moving process so they aren’t taken by surprise when the house is suddenly empty.
Solution 2: Containment
If your cat already has a nervous personality and a history of escaping, dedicate one room as the cat’s room throughout the moving process. Move everything out of that room first and replace it with the litter box, food and water bowls, and favorite toys. Keep the blinds open so the cat doesn’t feel trapped, and make sure to visit throughout the day.
Keeping the cat in one place might calm him or her down, but other cats may cry or scratch at the door if they are separated from the rest of the family for too long. If your kitty falls in the second category, let him or her out at night to play and cuddle.
These steps will also work when you arrive at your new home. Instead of letting the cat loose in an environment that likely smells and sounds wrong, introduce him or her to the house slowly. Start by placing the cat in one room, and gradually let them roam around under supervision.
The stress and anxiety associated with changing routines, the uncomfortable motion of the car, and a lack of control over their environment can make many cats ill while traveling. He or she may meow constantly, drool, pant, pace restlessly, or even vomit.
Solution 1: Acclimatize
The first step to improving the car ride experience is to get a carrier your cat will be comfortable in. A hard plastic carrier is often the safest, as it will maintain a steady shape and won’t jostle your cat. Line the bottom with a soft material, such as a towel or old shirt. Something with a familiar scent will make the carrier more comfortable and ease the cat’s anxiety.
Help your cat get used to the carrier by leaving it out and open. Cats love to explore boxes, so he or she may start climbing in the carrier of their own accord. Try spraying it with a pheromone product to make it smell more enticing. When they get in the carrier, give them some treats to encourage a positive association with the box. You might also want to consider going on short trips in the car beforehand.
Solution 2: Talk to a Vet
Sometimes, getting your cat used to the carrier and taking practice car rides aren’t enough to keep your feline from experiencing carsickness. If that’s the case, talk to your vet about some anti-nausea or anti-anxiety medication you can administer during the trip. However, give your cat the prescribed dosage, and don’t give him or her any human medications.
3. The Necessities of Life
Unlike dogs, who are generally trained to use the bathroom outside, nearly all cats prefer to use a litter box. This can make long trips tricky, as you probably don’t want to drive for hours with a litter box in the back of your car, and you don’t want to make your cat sick by denying bathroom breaks. And letting your cat use the litter box during a rest stop can lead to frantic escape attempts.
Solution: Try a Harness
This may not work for every cat, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. Unlike dogs, cats don’t respond well to a leash clipped to their collar. They will try to wiggle free, hurting themselves or escaping. Instead, try a fitted cat harness. Look for one that securely wraps around the body. Make sure the harness is tight enough to keep the cat from escaping, but loose enough that it doesn’t hurt the cat or restrict movement.
Using a short or retractable leash, lead the cat to his or her litter box during a stop. This will be more effective if you take some time to get the cat used to the harness and leash before the trip.
Moving with your feline family member doesn’t need to be hectic and stressful. Take some time to prepare your cat and pay attention to his or her needs throughout the trip. Hire a moving company like Bekins to handle the logistics of the move so you can devote more time to keeping your family and pets calm and happy.