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Moving is stressful for humans, and it’s even more stressful for cats. Cats are creatures of habit who hate having their routine disrupted. There are things you can do to make a move less stressful for your cats and avoid problems associated with moving, such as inappropriate elimination, fear based aggression, and hiding.

Before the move

Get your cat used to his carrier. It can be helpful to leave the carrier out where the cat can always see it. If your move involves a lengthy drive, start taking your cat on increasingly longer rides in the car so he can get used to it.

Put moving boxes out several days, or even weeks, before you actually start packing so you cat can explore the boxes, and get used to their presence. Most cats consider boxes fun toys, and allowing them to become familiar with the boxes can create a pleasant association. When you actually start packing, watch your cat closely. If she seems to become agitated or nervous watching you pack away familiar things in her environment, you may want to confine her to a quiet room away from all the action.

If your cat is easily stressed in general, this is the time to think about using natural anti-anxiety products or, in severe cases, anti-anxiety medications. Products such as Stress Stopper or Rescue Remedy, which are made out of flower essences, work well for most cats. Feline pheromone plugins can also help calm your cats.

Moving day

Confine your cat to a quiet room or bathroom that the movers do not need to access. Post a sign on the door to keep movers keep out of that room. Make sure your cat has a litter box, fresh water, and comfort items such as a bed and favorite toys in the room with him. If you have multiple cats who get along, place all of them in the same room together. However, if you have cats that don’t get along, make arrangements to keep them in separate room.

Some people recommend boarding your cats for moving day, but unless your cat is used to and loves the boarding facility, this will only add more stress to an already stressful situation.

When it’s time to move your cat, place her in her carrier while she’s still in her safe room. With all the furniture and boxes gone, the rest of your house will no longer be familiar territory, and your cat could get spooked and bolt.

Cats are “stress sponges” – they tend to take on their humans’ stress. The better you manage your own stress throughout the moving process, the calmer your cats will be.

Arriving at your new home

Before you even move your cat into your new home, cat proof the entire house. Make sure window screens are secure. Check for any areas where a scared cat could hide and close them off. Make sure that any chemicals such as pest control traps or cleaning supplies that may have been left behind by the previous owners are removed.

Set up a quiet room for your cat that includes a litter box, fresh water, and his comfort items. This can be your bedroom if you cat sleeps in the bedroom with you. Scatter some cat treats around the room before you let the cat out of her carrier to explore. For the first few days in the new home, especially while you’re still unpacking boxes, it may be a good idea to confine the cat to her quiet room. Make sure you spend time with your cat in her safe room, no matter how busy you are with unpacking and getting settled. Your cat needs to know that some things haven’t changed.

Slowly start giving your cat access to the rest of the house and let him explore gradually. Supervise your cat during these exploration sessions until he’s comfortable. During this phase of the move, you should place litter boxes in their permanent locations in the . Don’t get rid of the litter box in the safe room until you can be sure your cat is using the other boxes.

No two cats will react to the stress of a move the same way. Some cats will immediately explore and take over their new house, while others will take weeks to venture out of their safe room. Let your cat’s temperament be your guide as to how long this initial settling in phase needs to take.

Even though moving is stressful for cats, most cats will adjust quickly. It’s up to you to help make things as calm as you possibly can for your cat.

This article was previously published on and is republished with permission.

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10 Comments on How to Make Moving With Cats Less Stressful

  1. Was living in Puerto Rico last year. Unfortunately, due to the hurricane, I had to move back to the states. The move itself was stressful for me, I could barely imagine how my pets felt. Thankfully, they’re ok now, they’ve grow accustomed to New York.

  2. I’ve done two moves in the last four years. Both times my cat has freaked out, including the last one, even though it was only about 150 feet away from my last place. Now I’m really concerned, because I’m doing an international move toward the end of the year. I’ve already checked the regulations for my new country regarding cats, so that’s not the issue. He bad enough going to the vet. I don’t know what to do with him in his carrier for a 12-14 hour trip. I’m not leaving him behind, but I don’t want anyone to hear him screaming for that long. Unfortunately, all the advice I’ve seen as been for US moves. If anyone has done an international move with cats, I’d greatly appreciate some advice.

  3. I moved from Northern Virginia to Southeastern North Carolina in 2016. I thought long and hard about how to make the move as stress-free as possible for my 3 cats. As the move out was in two parts (for staging), I established a sanctuary room to keep them safe while the first load-out was happening, but one where they could see what was going on. (I should note my cats are not the shy, retiring kind.) That was also to be their sanctuary during showings and open houses, since it had windows enough to see the entire room without going in it. I had a sign on the door “Caution Lions Inside.”

    The night before the movers came to pack it all up, we checked into a nearby Residence Inn (which are all pet-friendly), with litter box, toys, food, etc. That way, I knew they were safe and didn’t need to worry about them bolting, etc. Two days later, after closing, I loaded them up and we took off for Wilmington. I knew one would be vocal the entire ride, and she did not disappoint (a Tortie), but I had set my mind to not be bothered by it and turned up the volume on the radio. Each had a large carrier with plenty of room to move around. It was a 5-hour drive, so I thought they would be okay without food, water or litter, and they were (though I took the precaution of covering the car seats with plastic, just in case).

    When we arrived at our destination, I checked into another nearby Residence Inn with my entourage. The next day, the movers came and unloaded, but we spent that night in the hotel, too. So, the first time they entered the new house, all their stuff, and all their smells, were here. I let them roam freely immediately, and they settled in just fine. Minimal stress, no drama, no accidents.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience in such detail, Catherine! I’m curious about keeping your cats in their sanctuary room during showings and open houses. I know a lot of real estate agents ask their clients to remove all pets from the home during showings, something that I consider impractical for most cats because it adds so much stress for them, and especially impractical for cat parents who don’t work from home! It sounds like this wasn’t a problem for you even though that room couldn’t be shown?

      And why am I not surprised that your tortie sang the whole way to Wilmington 🙂

  4. Ingrid,

    Good advice. As Grayson, Milo & me will be moving. Moving is stressful for parents as well as cats. Wish I could go to a quiet room & have someone unpack for me.

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