Acclimating Your Pet to a New Home
Feb 27, 2015 11:44PM
● By Suzi Harkola
If you have a cat in your family, you already know that they don’t like change. Moving to a new home, whether across the country or across town, can be very stressful, even for the most laid-back of kitties. Making the transition as stress-free as possible for both you and your feline companion can have big benefits, including reducing the risk of fear-based house soiling, excessive meowing and crying, hiding, escape attempts and aggression.
Several years ago, my husband and I moved from Nebraska to Florida. The day the movers arrived, we had emptied one of the bedrooms and put Rodney, our senior cat, there to keep him out of the commotion. I spent most of my time with him but left briefly, and someone opened the bedroom door. He ran out to the backyard, where the new owners were already putting in dog runs. After much ado, I was able to grab him and put him in a carrier for the car trip south.
It was a three-day trip, and Rodney was okay with most of it. He got used to the car after about an hour of meowing. We got to the new house before the movers arrived, and he was able to explore all the rooms and the lanai and pool. By the time the movers arrived, he was content to sit on the lanai and watch the action unfold.
Rodney was an old cat. He died at 23 years of age after living in his new home for many years.
We made another move a couple of years ago, this time a short drive between old and new. Now, with two cats, Mojo and Luke, the trip was a double dose of preparation.
Here’s what worked for me:
I put the carriers out in the middle of the family room with the doors open and soft towels and treats inside. You may want to try feeding them in the carriers for a couple of weeks. This did not work for me, as Mojo and Luke were too smart to take the bait.
I started packing boxes a couple weeks before the move. Although they were curious, they did not seem too stressed by the boxes.
When the big day came, I kept Mojo and Luke closed in a bathroom, away from the activity and noise. A sign on the door asked the movers and helpers to keep the door shut.
Other advice: try to keep your cat’s daily routine as stable as possible; stick closely to his regular schedule for feeding, play and attention. A feeder with a timer can be helpful to make sure your cat eats at the same time each day; feed your cat a very small breakfast on moving day to reduce stomach upset; if your cat is easily stressed, ask your vet about using anti-anxiety medication to make the move easier.
Once at the new house, be sure that the window screens are secure and that there is no poison used to kill bugs, mice or other pests. I did not let Mojo and Luke out of their carriers until the movers had left, then I let them explore the new place. (It is much smaller than their previous home; if we were moving to a larger place, I would have kept them in one room for a few days and then gradually let them explore other areas of the house.) Seeing familiar furniture and having their scent available in litter boxes and food put them relatively at ease. They were never outdoor kitties, and never will be. They have their place on the lanai, now called the “Catio,” where they can watch the world unfold safely.
Suzi Harkola is the managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota/Manatee and Peace River editions and a life-long lover of cats.