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Moving with Your Cat

By: Alex Lieber

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Few people would argue that moving ranks as one of the most stressful events in our lives. Piece by piece the things that comprise our lives are taken down, wrapped up and packed away.

Imagine what must be going through your cat's mind when she sees her possessions being shipped away to a cloudy fate. Adding insult to injury, she is then scooped into a carrier, transforming her from "queen of the household" to just "freight," to be packed into the car or airplane.

Before the Move

While there is no way to make moving easier for yourself or your cat, there are some steps you can take to make the process less traumatic. The single most important piece of advice, the one that will affect all the others on your journey, is: Plan ahead!

That means you shouldn't wait until the last minute to start packing in a furious, desperate rush. Begin packing nonessential items several weeks in advance, leaving your cat's possessions alone until you are close to the move date. You may want to "stage" your home – pick a room that you know you can pack with all the boxes and make it off-limits to your cat. You'll keep her out of the boxes and make the initial packing less stressful for her.

In addition, cats are creatures of habit. Try to keep her routine as close to normal as possible until the move.

As the date of the move approaches, boxes will begin to line the halls and every room. When it is time to pack up kitty's items, keep them all together. When you arrive at your new home, you can quickly unpack all that she knows and loves to help ease her transition in her new space.

Have your cat and all pets checked out by your veterinarian before moving and get appropriate documentation, such as:

  • Copies of all health records to be given to your new veterinarian, including inoculation records

  • A health certificate less than 10 days prior to the move, issued by your veterinarian

  • A permit, if necessary, for your destination state (your veterinarian can help you obtain this)

  • New identification for your pet with the new address and contact information (or contact the microchip company to update your pet's information)

    If you are transporting your cat by airline, you need to make travel arrangements well in advance to the move. Each airline has its own rules regarding pets, and many won't transport animals during certain times of the year. To learn more about these and other airline regulations, see the story Airline Rules for Flying With Cats.

    Moving Day

    Whether you hired movers or bribed friends to help you huff the stuff yourself, it may be a good idea to have someone pet-sit your cat, preferably at their home. In the chaos that was once your house or apartment, your cat will have ample opportunity to get stepped on, hide in a box or even run out the door.

    If keeping her at another location is not an option, put her in a safe room (such as the bathroom) with a "Keep Out" sign. Be sure to include her favorite toys, some food, water and the litter box. Your cat, safely in her carrier, should be the last item to move. Prepare a place in your car or truck cabin – don't even think about sticking her in the back of the hot, stuffy moving truck. One good jolt could bring half the contents crashing into your cat.

    Make the carrier as comfortable as you can by lining it with a towel, newspaper or her favorite blanket. Mark the carrier with your contact information. Some experts recommend withholding food and water for 6 hours prior to hitting the road, to cut down on the chance of vomiting and the need to eliminate on the trip.

    Before hitting the road with your cat, you should have pegged hotels along the way that permit pets, and plan to stop several times on the trip to let her stretch her legs and use the litter box. For more information on how to prepare your cat for a road trip, see the story Driving Fluffy.

    When you arrive at your new home, bring your cat to another safe room you've thoroughly checked out, along with her favored possessions, food, water and her litter box. Open the cage, but don't force her out. You may want to leave a shirt and a blanket with your scent in the room, so she feels more secure.

    After the sweat and the stress of moving, you now have the fun task of turning your new digs into a home for you and your cat. That means your days and weeks will be filled with unpacking boxes, some which may contain potentially dangerous material. Always move boxes with cleaning solution, soap, antifreeze, etc., to areas out of the reach of your cat's claws.

    If your cat is an outdoor feline, you will want to familiarize her with the surrounding area. To learn how to introduce your cat to her home and the new neighborhood, see the story Introducing Your Cat to the Neighborhood.

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