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Moving House with a Cat



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You know only too well how stressful moving house can be - and it's almost as bad for your cat!

Cats are notoriously suspicious of change within their environment - even a newly decorated room, replacement sofa or Christmas tree can cause them unease. So imagine how a house move might affect your feline friend.

But, with some forethought and care and advice from FAB, the UK's leading authority on the health of cats, you can avoid many of the problems and ease the pressure, making your move less stressful for you both.

If your cat is particularly sensitive and it is convenient for you, you may choose to board him at a reputable cattery for a few days over the moving period but this may, of course, be impractical if you are moving from one end of the country to the other.

Before you move
Cats should always be transported in a safe container. Leave the carrier around for a few days or even weeks before your move, so that the cat becomes used to the sight and smell of it.

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Moving day
Early in the morning, put the cat in one room with all the doors and windows shut. This will keep him away from the upheaval of packing boxes and furniture moving. It will also save you hours of searching for him when it's time to leave. Provide a litter tray, water and food (but don't feed him just before travelling in case he is ill on the journey). Put a notice on the door to remind family members and the removers that the door should remain shut.

When it's time to go, put your cat in his carrier with a familiar blanket and transport him, properly secured with a seat belt, in the car - either wedged securely in the back or in the well behind the seats. Don't put him in the removal van or the boot of the car.

You may be facing a long journey so remember to offer him water and the use of a litter tray at some point, though he may not be interested in either. When you take a break remember to leave a window open but never leave a cat in a parked car on a hot day as the inside temperature can soar to dangerous heights very quickly. The use of an artificial pheromone such as Feliway (available from your vet) may be useful if your cat is not a good traveller.

On arrival at your new home
Leave the cat in the carrier until you have one room set up to accommodate him. This should contain water, food and a litter tray. When the room is ready (all doors and windows shut and fireplaces blocked) let him out of the carrier. Make sure that you leave him with some familiar bedding and if it is a cold day, a hot water bottle wrapped in a blanket. This should make him feel more secure.
When the removal van has left, the exterior doors are firmly shut and you are ready to collapse in a heap, let your cat out to explore a little. It may be wise to confine this initial exploration to just a couple of rooms so that he is not totally overwhelmed.

Settling in
Some cats walk into a new home, curl up in a favourite chair and never look back. Others take time to adjust to their surroundings but you can help them to settle in.
Cats will rub their heads and bodies on furniture, walls, doors etc to lay down scent from glands which are situated mostly on the head but also over the body. Rubbing their own scent around the house increases their feeling of security. You can help this process by rubbing a soft cotton cloth gently around the cat's face to pick up its personal scent profile. Then dab this, at cat height, around the room(s) where he will initially be exploring. You can repeat this daily and widen the areas where you impose his scent, so before he ventures outside he should feel confident within his own home.
Use food and a regular routine to help during the adjustment period. Small frequent meals will give you more contact initially and help to reassure your cat that all is well. He will relax because he will know what is going to happen and when.
An indoor cat may find settling into a new home more difficult than one which spends time outside, because he will be less used to environmental changes. Such a cat should be introduced to his new home slowly - one room at a time and with plenty of reassurance.

Exploring the neighbourhood
Keep your cat inside for the first two or three weeks to give him time to learn the geography of his new home and to become accustomed to the smells. When you decide the time is right to let him out, withhold food for about 12 hours so he is hungry. If he already associates a particular sound (tapping a bowl or rattling a bag of biscuits) with food so much the better. Choose a quiet time to let him out in the garden, firstly ensuring that there are no other cats about. Go out with him and let him explore for a little while before calling him in for food. Repeat the exercise several times, allowing him to go a little further and for a while longer each time. Cats used to the outdoors generally cope well with a new territory to explore. Timid cats may take a little longer and should be accompanied as often as possible until their confidence builds.
If your cat is spending time outdoors he should be microchipped or have some form of identification - a snap-open collar is probably the safest - bearing his name, your new address and 'phone number. If your cat is microchipped don't forget to inform the registering company of your change of address.

Preventing your cat from returning to his old home
If you are moving just a couple of miles you may find that your cat regularly returns to his old home. This is simply because he has not bonded sufficiently well with his new home and has picked up familiar routes during exploration of his new territory.
Ask the new occupants of your old house and the neighbours there to discourage him by chasing him away or by calling you to collect him. Spread the cat's scent around your home, as described above. Keep your cat inside for a month and then, as mentioned earlier, only let him out for a short period just before you feed him and accompany him on his walk round the garden. In this way he will begin to recognise the new house as a source of food and shelter, both of which are being denied him at the old house.
This period of readjustment may take weeks and, in some cases, it can be months before he can be allowed outside unattended. If all else fails and your cat refuses to accept his new home, you may be able to persuade the residents of your old house or one of the neighbours to adopt him permanently.

But, with patience and a little bit of luck, you and your cat will soon feel like you've never lived anywhere else!

New contacts
When you move house you will be looking for a new doctor and dentist. Don't forget to find a vet too - your cat will need his regular vaccinations, flea and worming medication, but it is also useful to have the number handy in case of emergency.

You may also need to find alternative holiday accommodation for your cat if you have moved away from your favourite cattery. Information on good catteries can be found in the Good Cattery Guide 2005 produced by the Feline Advisory Bureau and available through its head office - 0870 742 2278 or website -

The FAB website gives helpful advice and information on all aspects of a cat's health and welfare including solutions to behavioural problems, treatment of diseases, and tips on general care. It also features some great photographs and a quiz.


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