Cats are creatures of habit, and they do not appreciate changes in their routines. A stressful event or upheaval, such as a move to a new residence, can spike up their anxiety levels and lead to unhealthy and unwanted behaviors. If a change of address is in your plans, take the time to address your cat's stress and make a few simple efforts to help your cat through the move and transition period.
She Knows That Something Is Up
When cats experience stress and anxiety, they may engage in the following behaviors:
- Eliminating outside of the litter box
- Hunger strikes
- Attempting to escape from the home
- Becoming more vocal
- Grooming excessively
A move can impose stress on all family members. Children fret about changing schools and leaving their friends behind. You may feel apprehensive about the new position that you accepted that is prompting this move. There is a lot to do, from house hunting and packing to jumping through mortgage lender hoops and overseeing the arrival of your belongings to your new home. Your cat will pick up on those feelings from the very beginning, so you need to take steps to keep her happy and safe long before the actual moving day.
Do You Know Where Your Cat Is?
Some cats respond to stress by fleeing. Prevent your cat from becoming a runaway by sequestering her indoors if she is not already an indoor cat. Make being indoors enjoyable for your cat by providing a window perch from where she can watch the birds, and provide plenty of toys and interactive playtime with your cat. Whether or not she has been an indoor cat already, take extra precautions to ensure that she cannot dart outside and take off when the door opens. Have every household member ring the doorbell when they return home, and instruct them to wait for you to let them in. Do not do so until you have located your cat and are confident that she is not going to bolt for the open door. If you are selling your home, be sure to enclose your cat in a carrier when the realtor comes to show the home, and keep the carrier at your side. Ask a veterinarian (such as one from Berlin Township Animal Hospital) about a microchip for your cat for identification, and be sure to enter your current cell phone number when you register the microchip with your contact information.
Reinventing the Carrier
Many cats strongly dislike being stuffed into a carrier, especially when their only outing in a carrier includes a stop at the veterinarian's clinic. Between packing your cat up every time your house is being shown and the prospect of driving to a new location with a protesting kitty along, take steps from the very beginning to change your cat's opinion about the carrier. Leave the carrier out in the open, place a cozy blanket or an article of clothing with your scent on it inside and keep its door ajar so that she can approach and sniff it at her will. Play an interactive game of tossing her favorite toys into it or projecting the laser dot toy toward the opening. Give her a treat reward every time she braves its open door.
Cats Love Boxes, So She Will Love Packing
No matter how many cool toys a cat has, she will always gravitate to an empty box to play with. Use that love of boxes to your advantage by leaving plenty of empty ones around your house before you begin packing, and encourage her to have fun with them. As you pack the boxes and seal them, use them as building blocks to create an obstacle course of varying heights for her to navigate and climb.
Beware of the Movers
When it is time for those boxes, your furniture, and other belongings to be loaded onto the moving van, clear everything out of a bathroom and place only your cat and her necessities in the room. Shut the door and hang a large sign that warns the movers not to open the door. Be sure to also verbally inform each mover that there is nothing to be loaded from that room and that the door must remain closed at all times. You can assign a responsible family member or friend to hang out in the bathroom with your cat for the duration of the loading process to provide companionship and reassurance.
Your Kitty's New Abode
After the movers have unloaded all of your belongings at your new home and departed, make a complete inspection of the dwelling for any possible escape routes that a cat may discover, and take steps to close off such openings. Look for any toxic products that former occupants may have left behind to kill rodents or insects, and dispose of them at once. Designate one room to serve as your cat's safe room, and set it up with all of her belongings before you open her carrier. The door to this room should remain closed for a few days until she has acclimated to it. Spend plenty of time in the room with her to interact and offer reassurance. Once she seems comfortable in her safe room, you can open the door and allow her to explore the rest of the home at her own pace. She will probably retreat to this room several times until she has adjusted to her new home.
With your loving support, your cat will get through the big move with less stress, enabling an easier transition as she adjusts to the new place that you will now share and call home.