We’re in the process of purging, selling, and packing up our home to get ready for a local move. And while the kitties certainly love the empty boxes all over the place, I know as moving day gets closer their stress level is going to increase significantly.
Cats do not appreciate change. Especially change that involves removing them from a comfortable, well-marked territory to one that is completely new and smells funny. But, as a veterinarian mommy to these two handsome felines, I know how to help them remain calm, and I’m going to share my tips with you!
(By the way, these tricks will work to reduce cat anxiety in many stressful situations besides moving; think new cat, new baby, new human, new furniture, etc…)
Prior to moving day:
Purchase a Feliway diffuser and place it in the room your cat uses most often, especially if they hide there. Feliway is a synthetic cat pheromone that only cats can smell, and it helps reduce anxiety. You can begin using Feliway a couple weeks before moving day, and then continue its use in your new home (we’ll talk more about your cat’s “sanctuary room” later).
Play classical music while you’re packing! Studies have recently shown that cats respond well to classical music and that it reduces anxiety! As an added benefit, it will reduce your stress as well. I like this product (for both dogs and cats)!
Get out the carrier(s) and do some positive reinforcement training. If your cat does not like the carrier, this is really important. Your cat should not see the carrier for the first time on moving day! Bring it out several days in advance, put it on the floor in a quiet spot and put a comfy blanket in it. Prop the door open and put some food or treats in there. Do this every day leading up to moving day.
Make sure your cat is microchipped and that the info is updated. Moving is the perfect opportunity for tragedy to strike in the form of an escaped kitty. Take this simple precaution to make sure your cat can be identified.
Play with your cat regularly during the packing stage! Be sure to have regular play sessions during the weeks leading up to the move. This will help reduce any anxiety or loneliness your cat might experience while you are preoccupied with the move.
On moving day:
Lock ’em up! Put your cats, their carriers, a litter box, some food and water, and a hiding place in one room with a closed door. This room should either be emptied before the cats are placed inside, or emptied last. Whatever you decide, make sure everyone knows the plan and to keep the door closed. Place a sign on the door as a reminder if necessary.
Move the kitties last. Once the movers have emptied your home, load up the kitties in their carriers and buckle them up in the car to take them to their new home. You might consider spraying a little Feliway on the blanket that is in the carrier at least an hour before you are going to load them up.
Cat proof the new house by checking to make sure all the windows are closed, the screens don’t have holes to escape through, and that your cats can’t get stuck anywhere.
Set up a sanctuary room in the new house. Plug in your Feliway diffuser in the room you have chosen. Place the litter box, food and water, and hiding places in this room. If necessary, have the movers put your furniture in this room first, so that the cats will feel more at home. Let your cats out of the carriers inside this room, and close the door. This is their safe zone, until you are finished moving for the day.
When you are done moving and all is quiet, open the door to the cats’ sanctuary, and allow them to explore on their own time and terms. You can also use Feliway in the rest of the house to help your cats adjust more quickly. Play some classical music. Maintain the same routines as much as possible, and give them plenty of love and attention as they are getting used to their new home.
For super anxious cats:
If your cat is prone to severe anxiety, consider arranging to board them for moving day and the day after. They may be less stressed this way, and there is less chance of them escaping or hiding out of fear. Sedatives might also be an option that you can discuss with your veterinarian.
Does your kitty totally freak out at the vet, too? Then call Dr. D – she makes house calls!