Monday, 30 June 2014

Moving Your Cat To a New Home

A huge proportion of missing cat cases occur when an indoor/outdoor cat is moved to a new home.  By nature, cats are territorial creatures and if they don’t recognise the new house as their territory, they will by nature try to make their way back to the old house.  In some cases, they will be successful in navigating their way to their old home, but in others they will attempt to find their way home, and get lost along the way.  This guide is designed to help prevent that from happening.

One Week Before The Move

  • If your cat has never moved before and/or is a nervous furball, start prepping one week before you’re due to move.  Around this time, you’re likely to start packing up which will cause many cats to become unsettled.  One of the best devices we’ve found to prepare a cat for a move is the Feliway Diffuser.  Yes, they’re pricey but they work wonders with nervous cats.  We have trialled them with incredibly wild and terrified cats and the transformation is incredible.  Feliway is a plug-in device that diffuses a vapour that mimics the facial pheromone that cats rub on you and around their environment.  In human language, it releases a smell that is familiar to cats and relaxes them.  We recommend plugging one in for a week before the move.  You should notice a difference in nervous cats within 24 hours.
  • If your cat hates travelling in his or her cage, consider borrowing a different cage for the trip to the new place.  Or, leave the dreaded cage out for at least a week before you move.  Start feeding your cat inside the cage (leaving the door open) every day to help them to learn that the cage isn’t so bad after all.
  • Prepare a “DO NOT ENTER” sign for the room your cat will be hanging out in during the move.
  • Don’t wash your bedding or your cat’s bedding the week before the move.  It’s best for all bedding to smell familiar once it arrives at the new house, which unfortunately means you’ll be making up beds with week old sheets.  Sorry!!
  • Just before you go to do the final inspection on your new house, take a face cloth to your cat and give them a good rub.  Yes, this will sound like madness but trust us, it does work.  When you get to the new house, wait until nobody is looking and rub the cloth (which now carries your cat’s scent) around the house at the cat’s height.  This will help to make the house smell familiar to your cat the minute they arrive. 
  • While you’re there, locate a nice quiet room that you can pop your cat inside during the move.  Make sure it’s a place that nobody needs to access during the move, and is away from as much noise as possible.
  • The night before the move, make sure your cat comes inside at dinner time.  Lock the cat door, and close all windows and doors securely.  This will ensure your cat is ready and waiting to pop inside their cage first thing the next day.
  • If your cat is really nervous and/or doesn’t travel well, consider giving them a dose of rescue remedy with their evening meal.

On Moving Day

  • On moving day, give your cat a light meal and another dose of rescue remedy (if you’re using it)
  • From here, you have two options: either keep your cat locked securely inside a room at your new house and move them last OR take them to the new house straight away and lock them securely inside the safe spot you chose the night before.  We recommend whichever is likely to be the quietest and least disruptive location for your pet.  Often the new house will be the quieter option as moving in to a house is typically easier than packing up and moving everything out of the old place!
  • Regardless of which room you choose, stick your “DO NOT ENTER” sign on the door so NOBODY goes inside.  Make sure the room contains your cat’s favourite bed (or duvet, or sweater or pillow), a few of their favourite toys PLUS a couple of new toys to keep them entertained.  If you have multiple pets (who are good friends), pop them all in the room together.  Ensure their regular food and plenty of water is on hand.

Travelling To The New House

  • With any luck, your trip to the new house will be by car.  If not, head over to Inspector Spot’s Dog Box and take a look at our guides to travelling longer distances and/or flying with your cat. 
  • If this is going to be one of the few trips your cat takes by car, we don’t recommend doing trial runs.  Cats need to travel frequently and/or from a young age to become accustomed to travelling by car.  If this is going to be a one-off trip, there’s no point in stressing your cat with multiple trips to get them used to the idea.  We recommend just grinning and bearing the meowing for the duration of the trip.   
  • When you’re ready to go, lure your cat into their cage with a tasty treat.  Lock the door and cover the cage with a heavy blanket.  This will keep the cage dark and relatively quiet, which helps to calm even the wildest of cats.  Pop the cage in a secure spot inside the car (YOUR car, not the moving van or someone else’s vehicle).  Make sure it’s placed in a stable location so it doesn’t tip or move while you’re driving.  Often cats will feel better if they can see you (or a favourite family member) so consider putting them on the passenger seat or on the back seat between your children.
  • If you have multiple cats and are travelling with them by car, consider popping them in the same cage as they will often travel more happily in groups.  Make sure they’re good friends though!  If you’re not accompanying your cats and suspect they’ll be highly stressed, you’re best to pop them in separate cages.  Stressed pets can turn on one another, so if you’re not there to supervise it is best to err on the side of caution.
  • If you’re still moving things in and out of the new house, pop your cat into the quiet room you’ve chosen.  Plug the Feliway Diffuser in straight away and open the cage door, leaving the blanket covering everything but the opening to the door.  Leave the light off and close the curtains, and leave your cat to sit in a cranky little ball, hide from the world or hop out and explore with the door firmly shut.
  • Check on your cat a couple of times during the day, but don’t be neurotic!  Let your cat settle in and snooze.  And whatever you do, don’t let them escape when you’re checking on them!

The First Night

  • Once everyone has left, make sure all doors and windows are securely closed.  Once you have stopped moving things around, you can then open the door to let your cat explore another room in the house.  Let them explore at their own pace though – don’t pick them up.  Don’t carry them around.  And don’t fish them out of their cage or drag them out from under a table.  Cats adapt best when they’re allowed to explore on their own terms.  If it’s just you and a partner moving, it’s totally okay to leave your cat to roam around the house for the evening (or overnight) so long as all windows and doors are secure.  BUT if there is any risk at all of a child or someone else accidentally letting them out make sure they are popped back in the safe room.  If your cats usually sleep on your bed, we recommend allowing them to sleep with you from the first night, but again ONLY if there is ZERO RISK of someone accidentally letting them outside.

The Next Four Weeks

  • Here’s the fun part.  Your cat needs to stay inside for the next four weeks.  Yes, four weeks.  Trust us, we’ve trialled this with many cats – both adventurous explorers and timid tabbies.  The reason is simple: while dogs consider home to be wherever you are, cats see home as a physical territory.  Right now, that territory is your old house.  They need time to settle in, and learn that their territory is now your new house.  This process takes around four weeks.  So, be prepared to put up with a couple of days of meowing and get your cat set up with toys and a comfy bed to keep them amused.  Their interest in escaping outside will ease within a couple of days, and you can enjoy their company as an indoor cat for the next few weeks.  Don’t be tempted to cut the time down – if you do, you risk your cat trying to navigate back to your hold house and becoming lost along the way.  Despite media coverage to the contrary, most cats don’t have a great set of navigational skills, so the majority will not make it back to the old place.
  • Once your four weeks is up, you’re free to open the door and let your cat outside.  Accompany them initially, but let them explore freely without interfering.  The first time you let them outside, do it later in the afternoon before dinner time.  Send them out with an empty tummy, and entice them back inside with their favourite food.  Do the same thing for the next few days.  Once they’re coming inside happily you’re fine to give them free access to the outdoors again.
  • Now that your cat has been inside for four weeks, this is a great time to get them into a new routine – learning to stay inside at night.  You can download our guide to the benefits of having your cat sleep inside at night here.
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