By Neha Gupta*
Let us break down the entire moving process into smaller bits, so every step of House Relocation is easy on your feline friends:
The Dreaded Carrier
Most Cat Parents are guilty of using the carrier only during vet visits or car rides, and hence, your cats don’t have a very positive association with the carrier as it reminds them of a not so great experience. It is time to bring out that Cat Carrier, line it with a soft and comfy blanket and leave it in your cat’s favourite spot. Remove the door of the carrier, so that your kitty can move in and out freely without worrying about getting trapped. Feed your cats their favourite wet food and a few treats every time they go inside the carrier and spend more than 10 seconds. Leave their favourite toy in there as well. Do this at least 3-4 times in a day.
After about 2 days, you may attach the door of the carrier, but leave it open, and when your Cat steps inside, give her a treat and close the door for about 2 minutes. Make sure you sit in front of the carrier and talk lovingly to your kitty while you do this. With her toy inside, the treat, and your loving tone, your kitty wouldn’t mind the closed door, and would not feel abandoned or trapped. Carry your kitty in the carrier from one room to the other, and place the carrier back in its original place once you’ve carried her inside for about 3 minutes. Do this a few times every day.
By Day 5, you can also take your kitty in the carrier to your car, spend 5 minutes inside the car, and bring her back home (do this when its quiet outside, and ensure there are no dogs or cats around). Continue this for 2 days in a row, at least 3 times in a day. Remember to reward your cat with an interactive play session followed by a treat. Your Cat is now looking at the Cat Carrier in a much Positive way. You can now safely proceed to the next Step.
The Car Ride
Once your cat is used to being carried in the carrier, take her out for a short ride in the car. I usually recommend night time for car rides at this stage, as your cat needs to appreciate the car ride rather than fearing it. The loud honking and traffic noise during day hours make it hard for your kitty.
Start with an interactive play session with your cat, then put out her favourite wet food, feed her well, and pet her gently. Now your cat is ready for her night ride. Always remember to use your most affectionate voice to comfort your cat. A short drive of 10 minutes done for 2-3 nights in a row is good to start creating Positive associations with the car and the carrier.
The process of packing is drudgery. For cats, though, it’s an intense experience. They often love it, choosing to dive in and out of boxes, thinking you’ve created this indoor play-land just for their amusement—or they hide in fear over the chaos taking place in their once-peaceful territory. Whichever reaction your cat has, precautions have to be taken to be sure she doesn’t get packed in a box by mistake. I’m not kidding…—it happens.
A cat playing in the packing boxes may decide to take a little nap in one. She burrows down into the linens that you’ve placed in there. You don’t realise that she’s in there, you close up the box, and into the moving truck it goes. Whenever you pack, put your cat into a separate room or at least make sure you know where she is before you close any boxes.
A Week Before the Move
The week before your relocation, get a copy of your cat’s Medical Records from your veterinarian (if you’ll be changing veterinary clinics). If you already have a veterinarian selected in your new location, have your current veterinary clinic forward the records there. Also, the week before the move is a good time to have an ID tag made with your new address and phone number for your cat’s collar. You’ll be putting it on your cat on the day of the move. You may also consider getting your cat Micro-chipped.
Get your cats to use Scratch Boards. These will carry your cat’s strongest scents to the new house. If your cats have never used a scratch board before, try Corrugated Cardboard Horizontal Scratch Boards. Most cats take a liking to it immediately.
If you are moving within the same city, try taking your Cat to the new house with a couple of her (already in use) scratch boards. Carry her wet food, and an interactive toy as well. Place her Carrier along with one scratch board in the room which is going to be her Sanctuary. Place another scratch board in any of the other rooms. Now open her Carrier. Let your Cat explore the new place at her pace (don’t rush). You may walk around with her, placing her scratch board in every place she enters, so there’s always a familiar scent when she enters the new space. Try playing with your cat in her Sanctuary. Then feed her. And get her back home. Even if you do this step thrice before the Move, the new place will not stress out your kitty.
On moving day, have all of the cat’s food, medications, etc., in a separate box that will go with you in your vehicle. You don’t want to get to the new home and realise you packed the food in some unknown box. The day of the move will be a hectic, stressful time, so keep your cat confined in a room with her litter box, a bowl of water and a bed. Play Calming cat music in the background. Give rescue remedy to your cat (Check with vet first) 30 minutes before you travel.
When you get to your new home, set up a sanctuary room. A bedroom is ideal. Set up your cat’s litter box, scratching post, bed, water and food bowls. Toss a few toys in there as well. Place Scratch Boards around the house. Set up some of the furniture (even if it’s not in the permanent location). Having the comfort of the furniture she’s familiar with will be helpful to her. Some cats will make the adjustment in a few minutes but others may need anywhere from a day to a week in the sanctuary room.
Your cat will let you know when she’s ready to check out the rest of the house. Take time out from your unpacking to visit and play with your cat. By indulging in fifteen-minute play sessions here or there throughout, you’ll be providing a world of comfort to your cat. Break open the catnip as well so you and your cat can celebrate your new home in style.
Remember, your cat’s an emotional sponge, so if you keep your attitude positive and casual, she’ll pick up on that and it could help in reducing some of the apprehension she may be feeling about this unfamiliar environment. If your cat was allowed outdoors in your previous home, this is an excellent opportunity for you to make her an indoor cat. There’s a whole new territory right inside the house for her. It’s more than enough to keep her busy.
The New Territory
The territory outdoors is unfamiliar, and you don’t know what other cats are out there who may feel there isn’t room enough in the neighbourhood for a new cat. If you’re absolutely set on allowing your cat outdoors, wait at least a month so she has a chance to firmly establish comfort in her indoor territory and to fully adjust to the move.
When you do begin letting her out, do it with a leash and harness. Take her out daily for walks close to the house so she starts remembering her way home. Let her walk in and out of the door so she makes the connection of where the entrance to the home is. She needs to know where to stay while waiting to be let inside. Don’t allow your cat outdoors unless she’s fully vaccinated, has ID on, and knows her way home entirely.
Once again, seriously reconsider making her an indoor cat. With environmental enrichment, playtime, and by creating Visual Stimulation for your cats, you can create an indoor environment that is stimulating, fun, secure, and comfortable.
* Neha Gupta is the Founder and Owner of Neha’s CatCafe – Cat Behaviour Consulting. She is India’s First Certified Feline Behaviourist, Cat Nutritionist, Cat Retention Counsellor and Animal Communicator. She specialises in Understanding & Elimination of Aggressive Behaviour in Cats. You can connect with her on Facebook and Instagram @nehascatcafe.