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How to Move House with a Cat

Adele MacGregor

Written by Reviewed by Dave Sayce

31st Jan 2022 (Last updated on 12th Sep 2022) 9 minute read

Moving house is an exciting time but it can also be a stressful experience, and even more so if you are moving house with a pet. However, the move will not only be trying for you, but it can also be an unsettling event for your cat.

Cats can be skittish and react to those around them, so it is essential that you are calm and prepared when moving with your pet. You will need to keep in mind that your cat may try to return to your old home, or will be anxious for the first few days or weeks in your new home.

In this article, we share tips and advice on moving house with a cat, how you can prepare for the move and what to do once you’re in your new home. Whether you're moving locally or moving abroad with your pet, we have everything you need to know to ensure a smooth and stress-free journey.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Why Moving House With a Cat Can Be Stressful
  2. Planning Ahead of the Big Move
  3. During the Move
  4. After the move
  5. How Long Should You Keep Your Cat Indoors After Moving?
  6. Preventing Cats from Returning to Your Old Home
  7. Moving With an Outdoor Cat
  8. Moving With an Older Cat
  9. Moving Your Pets with Compare My Move

Why Moving House With a Cat Can Be Stressful

The moving process, and moving into a new home, can be a stressful time for everyone involved. When moving house with a pet, that stress can be exacerbated depending on how your animal responds.

Cats can become distressed and act especially skittish at this time, leading to more stress for you as you try to keep the animal calm. Be aware that your reaction is likely to have an impact on your cat, so being organised and calm is essential.

Additionally, the new property and surroundings will be unfamiliar and your feline companion may be wary in the first few days and weeks. If your cat is a rescue, they could be more likely to feel nervous and unsettled. Some rescue animals get especially upset at the prospect of moving, thinking they are being returned.

Being aware of this, and any other specific vulnerabilities your cat has is essential to safeguarding your pet and ensuring you have planned ahead.

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Planning Ahead of the Big Move

As we’ve mentioned above, the best way to minimise the stress and anxiety during a move is to plan ahead. You will know your cat best so keep in mind their habits, routines and favourite items so that you can ensure the move causes as little distress as possible.

Being organised and prepared with regards to microchips, collars and vets are also essential steps that need to be taken prior to your move. Below we look at a few of the ways you can plan for moving with a cat and how it can help your feline feel secure:

Microchip and/or update details

Make sure you change your address and contact details on the central database for your cat’s microchip. If your cat doesn’t have a microchip, it is highly recommended that you arrange this at this time.

Get a collar

Again, if your cat doesn’t currently wear a collar, getting a collar with your contact details attached is recommended in the event your cat gets lost in your new neighbourhood or town.

Find a new local vet and register

Finding a new vet prior to your move is essential in the event you have an emergency early on. Do your research, read reviews, compare vets in the area and register to an appropriate one so that you’re ready once you’ve moved into your new home.

Getting your cat used to a travelling crate

This is something you can do in the lead up to the move. If you introduce your cat to the travelling crate on the day of the move, it may be anxious and frightened by the new experience.

In the weeks and days leading up to your house move, get your cat used to the crate and build up to taking them out on a drive in the crate. You can do this by putting favourite toys, comforting items or even treats within the crate so they become acclimatised to it.

During the Move

On the day of the move, there are a few steps you can take to make the moving process less stressful for your cat. These are also steps you can take whilst you unpack and during the first few weeks of moving to your new home:

Leave your cat with a family member or friend if possible

When you first move into the home and begin unpacking, try to leave your cat with family or a friend, preferably one they are familiar with. A new home and surroundings will be stressful enough, without the added distress of removal professionals in and out of the house and furniture being moved.

Once everything is a bit more settled, you can gradually introduce your cat to the new home, avoiding an anxious and skittish cat during the day of the move.

Clean the house and scent mark

Before your cat comes into the home, it is recommended that you give the home a clean to remove any smells from the previous owners, especially if they had pets. Once you have a blank slate, you can introduce items of your clothing with familiar smells and your cat’s toys and bedding.

Set up a safe area

Set aside an area that your cat knows is theirs, preferably out of a high traffic area or where unpacking or decorating is taking place. Make it familiar with cosy bedding and blankets and your cat’s favourite items. This will help them feel at home more quickly and keep them calm.

According to the RSPCA: “Noises and objects often scare cats. They need to have somewhere to hide away from perceived danger. To prevent your cat suffering, always provide access to safe hiding places to allow him/her to escape feeling afraid.”

Initial exploration of the home

On the day you move, once the removal team has gone and the home is quieter and organised, slowly introduce your cat to the home. A walk-through with your cat on the day is recommended, but keep in mind it will take days or even weeks for them to fully accept the property as their new home.

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After the move

Once the move is completed there will still be steps to take to ensure the wellbeing of your pet. Your cat will need to accept the new property as its new home and this can sometimes take time. However, there are a number of things you can do to make the process easier for both you and your cat.

Gradually familiarise your cat with your new home

It is likely your cat will be wary of its new surroundings so take the time to show them around the home. This includes where their specific “safe” area is, where you will sleep, where their food is and so on. It will take time, but gradually introducing them to their new home can help make them feel safe and familiarise them with the new property.

Keep routines the same

Another way to reassure your cat in the new home is to keep to the same routines. This includes feeding times, types of food, letting them out or any other activity you do with your cat that will keep them in a routine. This will help them to feel safe and settled.

Familiar scents

As with dogs, cats can be very sensitive to smells. Having familiar scents around, such as items of your clothing or comforting blankets they lean towards, will help settle them into the new home. Keep various items of worn clothing or other items with your scent around the house in the first few days and weeks in the new home.

Give your cat time to adjust

Finally, give your cat time. They will likely take longer to settle into your new home than you do. The best approach is to be patient and prepared so that you’re in the best position to help them adjust safely.

How Long Should You Keep Your Cat Indoors After Moving?

The RSPCA recommends keeping cats indoors for at least two weeks after moving house, ensuring your cat's behaviour has settled before letting them outside.

They reiterate that cats need time to adjust and settle, stating that they could get into perilous situations if, for example, your cat tries to return to your previous home.

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Preventing Cats from Returning to Your Old Home

Cats tend to be very territorial animals and can develop strong attachments to their environment. When you move house. Cats showing up on the doorstep of an old property is not uncommon, as that is where they identify as “home”.

The tips above, such as setting up a safe place for your cat in the home and keeping your cat indoors for the first few weeks can help prevent your cat from trying to return to your old home. However, if your cat does try to go back, it would be worth informing the new owners of your old house about possible visits.

Let the new occupants know that you have a cat that may show up at the house and give them a detailed description of your pet. It is important that you stress that they do not make a fuss or give treats or food (unless necessary) as it will encourage the cat to return. Make sure they have your contact details in the event your cat shows up at their door.

Moving With an Outdoor Cat

When moving house with an outdoor cat, you will need to get your pet used to the surrounding area as well as the home itself. Below we’ve included some of our top tips to keeping your cat safe and familiarising them with your new neighbourhood:

  • Check that the immediate area is safe and roads aren’t too busy
  • If you have a garden, try spending time with your cat there before going further afield
  • Take your cat around the local neighbourhood on a leash if possible
  • When your cat first explores outside, stay close by with treats and toys
  • Try to keep a routine early on of when your cat goes out, for example, before mealtime
  • Install a cat flap so they can easily get back inside

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      Moving With an Older Cat

      Older cats may not be as active as younger cats and kittens, but they can still be skittish during the move. Making sure they are comfortable and around familiar scents and items are essential to ensure they are not distressed during the moving process.

      Once in the new property, spread out favourite toys and blankets to make it feel familiar. Using old blankets or clothing items with your scent on them will help your cat to settle. This can help reassure your older cat, who will be used to familiar surroundings, especially if they have grown older in your previous home

      Moving Your Pets with Compare My Move

      Animals are very perceptive, especially pets like cats and dogs, and they can sense when you are stressed or unsettled. If you are panicked or stressed during the move, it’s likely your cat will be too.

      At Compare My Move, we have a large network of reliable removal companies across the country who can help your home move run smoothly. By taking the stress out of the move, you can focus on the wellbeing of your feline companion.

      We can match you with up to 6 local, verified and fully insured removal firms, allowing you to pick the right company for your needs.

      Adele MacGregor

      Having written for PerformanceIN, WalesOnline, Grazia Magazine and The Olive Press, Adele now writes advice articles for home movers, first-time buyers and house sellers alike.

      Dave Sayce

      Reviewed by Dave Sayce

      Owner & Managing Director, Compare My Move

      Dave Sayce is the owner and managing director of Compare My Move and has over 10 years of experience in the house removals industry.