Today I want to share with you my moving process for Jack. I am in no way an expert, things just went really well for us so I wanted to share our process.
An important thing to know about cats is that they are not just predators, they are also prey. Animals like wolves, some large snakes and some birds of prey all can hunt cats for food. This means that cats like to know every inch of their territory, they want to know where they can safely hide, and where a scary thing might be hiding. This means that every time you move stuff around in your home, or perhaps pack things in boxes and remove them to storage, your cat will usually feel the need to re-investigate the safe/dangerous spaces. This is part of why cats can find moving so stressful.
We hired storage about 6 months before we moved so that we could redecorate the house for selling. I noticed as we started packing things to go to storage Jack really did get out of sorts when we moved things around or when things disappeared from a room. We knew we would need to approach this carefully.
The Pet Carrier:
We don’t usually use his pet carrier unless he is going to the vet and although it is only a short drive he usually cries all the way, as well as making it extremely hard to get him into the carrier. So 5 weeks before moving day I got his carrier out and because it splits in half I put the bottom half with his blanket into the room that my husband and I spend the most time in. for the first week I fed him treats in it, he would sneak up to it and grab the treats and then run away from it again. Magically after a week, I turned around one day and he was just sitting in it. After that, I stopped feeding the treats daily as he is supposed to be watching his weight.
We always use a Feliway diffuser because he pulls his hair out from anxiety but a week before we moved we got an extra one so that we could have one downstairs and one upstairs.
We also got a small manual spray to use on the day.
Two weeks before we moved we tried to move as much as we could out of the office room which was to be his designated safe spot. This would help to minimize change and upset closer to the time. So we just had what we really needed to work with left in the room.
A Week before
A week before we moved I started turning the room into a safe room, which meant he had an extra food bowl in that room, an extra litterbox, his bed, and a scratching post all in that room. It helped with 2 things, it helped him to associate that as his safe room but it also meant that if we needed to leave the front door open for loading the car we could lock him in that room safely. In this period I also added the top half of his carrier back on, which he did not like at all. And I started giving him Zylkene once a day. The Zylkene really made a difference he would even come and sit with us and investigate while we were dismantling furniture instead of hiding upstairs.
We still had a litter box and food/water downstairs because Jack is particularly annoying from about 3/4am and he jumps on our heads and knocks things off the bedside tables. So we only locked him in the safe room to sleep the night before we moved.
The day before we moved husband was on leave so we took all the rest of the stuff out of the room so it was literally just Jack’s stuff in the safe room on the day that we were moving.
Plan for the new house
I had also made a plan for what I wanted to do with Jack when we got to the new house. There is a bathroom connected to the bedroom by a passage and they all have doors. So the plan was to keep jack in the new bathroom until I had cleaned the bedroom and moved the furniture into the bedroom then we could lock him on that side with access to both the bathroom and bedroom while we sorted out the rest of the house.
On the day of moving:
We kept Jack locked in the saferoom as husband loaded the car and van and I went from room to room giving it one last clean.
An hour before we left I sprayed my car with Feliway (I didn’t want to do it too late as while it is in the air it aggravates my asthma) and I sprayed the pet carrier too. I also put a puppy pad under his blanket in the carrier in case he had any accidents.
We had to be out by 12 so at 11:30 husband took Jack to the bedroom to give him one last play, fed him his Zylkene and then put him in his carrier while I cleaned the saferoom. We also put his harness, without the lead, on him in case I needed to remove him from the carrier for some reason during our trip.
What I brought in the car:
Carrier with puppy pad and blanket and Jack in it
small kitten litter tray
box with poo bags, treats, toys, a lead, and more Feliway
Then it was off to our new house, it was an hour and a half drive so I was quite worried about Jack. I put him in the back seat so that in the case of an accident he would not get crushed by the airbag, and then I threaded the seatbelt through the handle of his carrier. While driving I had the aircon on 18 degrees as it was fairly warm and sunny, I also had classical music playing. I am an anxious driver so I usually play classical but I think that it helped Jack too.
Jack was soooo quiet that I actually thought that he might have died of a heart attack!! But 45 min into my drive I had to stop at a red light so I turned around and checked he was still alive!! 20 min before we arrived Jack did start meowing a little but he stopped after a few minutes.
When we finally got to our new village we had to wait. We had to wait for 2 things, the one is that in the UK you often don’t get your keys right away you have the wait for the money transfer to happen and then you can go collect your keys and there is no way to predict when that will happen, the other thing is that husband was driving the van and he set off later than me so I was waiting for him. I was worried that Jack needed the loo so I set up the kitten litter tray with a puppy pad in it in the back of the car and then let jack out of his carrier (the car was parked). Jack was very happy to be out and exploring but he didn’t need his litter tray. In hindsight I realised that I was transporting all my pot plants in the boot and he would obviously have thought that a much better litterbox!! but thankfully as I said he didn’t go. After exploring the car a bit I was getting hot and I could tell that he was uncomfortable too he kept moving and trying to get comfortable and eventually he was open-mouth panting which is not a good sign in cats. So I put the lead on his harness and took him outside.
Note: Jack had some bad experiences going on the lead in our garden and loud kids scaring him so usually he runs away from the lead and harness. But I don’t know if it was the shock of all the change or if it was the head of the car but he was very happy to be outside the car in the shade even with the harness and lead
Eventually husband arrived, we still needed to wait for the keys. I had been holding Jack this whole time but when husband came he just set jack on the ground and instead of trying to bolt he just sat down and started munching grass… what a weirdo. I guess it helps that we have moved to a rural village where there are lots of fields around and not much traffic. To clarify it’s not weird for a cat to eat grass, it’s weird for a cat to eat grass in an unfamiliar stressful environment.
Then we got the call about the keys so we bundled jack back into his carrier which he miraculously just went into without complaining and we drove off to get the keys. he was very good on the drive there and back.
As soon as we got to the new house I carried Jack in his carrier with me, we opened the house and I took him straight to the designated bathroom. I left him there closed in his carrier while I fetched the rest of his stuff from the car/van. same set up as the safe room; food, water, scratching post, litterbox and his carrier. then I opened his carrier door with him closed in the bathroom. he refused to come out. I was not surprised so I just left him in the bathroom while I set about cleaning the new bedroom. He kept going to the bathroom door and crying but as soon as I went in he ran back to his carrier.
About an hour or so after I finished cleaning the bedroom and moving our essentials in I opened the bathroom door for him and he was quite happy to come explore the new bedroom with me. We left him locked on that side for the rest of the day while we moved stuff and cleaned. he cried at the door quite a lot. Eventually, at about 7 or 8 we finished for the day and let him into the rest of the house (no garden access obviously)For all his hair pulling and anxiety he is actually a very brave little cat, he behaves a bit like a dog. If he can see husband or I then he feels safe, he was pretty bold in exploring the rest of the house right away and he didn’t slink around although he was obviously very very alert and kept making sure he had a path back to the bedroom. If you are a cat owner don’t be surprised if this doesn’t happen for you. A lot of cats will spend the first few days in their safe room, they will usually let you know when they are ready to leave by investigating the door, scratching at the door etc. (I am talking about moving house with a cat, not getting a new kitten, kittens are different) When my parents took my one cat Pangaea to their holiday house for a week she spent the entire time hiding under a cupboard! That is totally normal behaviour for cats, Jack is quite unusual. It has been a week since we moved as I type this and Jack really has settled quite well. He is sitting on the couch with me as I type this.
I like to keep my cats indoors for 2 months when they first come to a new house as I feel it really gives them time to bond to the house and reset their GPS coordinates to home if you will. But as my parents are immigrating this year and bringing my two girl cats, Salty and Pangaea, they will also need to be locked in for 2 months and I don’t feel like the hassle of having one outdoor cat and 2 indoor cats so I will just keep Jack indoors until the girls are ready to go out.
We kept him indoors at our old house because he has no road sense and would sit in the middle of a 4-way intersection and not move even if cars hooted… so he is quite used to being indoors and this house is bigger than our last house. (perks of moving to the country ;P ) Even when I open the front door to go out he is interested but he doesn’t make a mad dash to try and escape so it is working well.
And so that is the story of how we successfully moved Jack with what seems to have been minimal trauma to him. If you are planning to move a cat (or cats!) soon I hope that this post can be of help and give you some ideas to investigate.
Peace and Love