Copyright 1994 - 2006, Sarah Hartwell

Moving home can be a traumatic experience for a cat. A frightened cat, unused to upheavals or disoriented by a house move, risks straying during or after a move. Every year, thousands of cats become strays when their owners move house. Make sure your cat isn't one of them.

It is a wise idea to have your cat microchipped. If possible, send off the change of address (or do this online) just before the move. Otherwise if your cat strays, he may be returned to your old address. Leave details of your new address and phone number and a photo of the cat with the new homeowners in case this happens.

Before moving, check that local restrictions allow you to own cats in your new home. They may restrict how many you can keep and whether they must be kept indoors. Some leaseholds and housing developments are strict "no cats" areas. If you are moving abroad, you must arrange shipping for your cat and check for quarantine requirements and entry vaccinations. If you discover you can't take your cat with you, make arrangements to rehome him as soon as possible. This may cause heartbreak, but waiting till the last moment may mean he can't be rehomed and has to be euthanased.

The simplest solution is to board the cat for several days at a well-run cattery close to your new home. Transport him to the cattery before your moving date to allow you time to pack, move and unpack your own belongings without worrying about him escaping amid the confusion.

If this is not feasible, clear out a secure shed or small room some days before your moving date. It must be escape-proofed and preferably lockable. Remove all contents so that the removers don't need to go in there. If you have a kitten pen, place that in the room. Get your cat used to eating and sleeping in his 'secure room' or kitten pen as sudden changes in routine can upset cats. Not only will you know where your cat is, it will protect him from the chaos of moving furniture and boxes and unfamiliar people entering the house.

On moving day, put him in his secure room or kitten pen with food, water, litter tray, bed and a familiar smelling blanket or towel and cat toys. If you have a battery radio, leave it playing on low to keep him company and to mute the sounds of moving. Even if he doesn't normally wear a collar, make sure he is wearing one bearing his NEW address. Securely shut or lock the door (always keep the key on your person, the last thing you need is to have to break down the door to his secure room). Unlocked doors can be opened in error during a house move so tape a notice to the door to tell the removers not to enter. You might decide to fit a bolt out of reach of children who might accidentally let the cat out.

Prepare a secure, well-ventilated travelling cage and make sure it doesn't get packed with the furniture. There are plenty of good cat carriers available. A cardboard box is not suitable as frightened cats can easily break out of them. You also need a litter tray and litter, water bowl and flask of water for the journey, especially for a long journey. On moving day, give the cat a light meal or, if he is a bad traveller, no meal at all. A vet may prescribe a sedative for the journey - under no circumstances should you use a human sedative as it may be toxic to cats. Your cat must travel with you, NOT with the furniture. Once the furniture van has gone put your cat in his travelling cage and pack everything from his secure room.

When your cat arrives at your new home, either from the cattery or your previous home, you need a secure room and/or kitten pen as before. The cat may now be hungry so provide food, but remember that an upheaval can upset a cat's system and make it sick. Make sure that no-one enters that room; if necessary, temporarily fit an out-of-child's-reach bolt on the door. Your cat may have to live in that room for a few days while you try to organise the rest of the house. When he is allowed to explore the rest of the house, keep external doors and windows shut. You will need to keep your cat indoors for two or three weeks to get used to his new home.

If your cat is to be allowed outdoors, familiarise him with his surroundings by escorting him using a harness a lead for the first few forays. Sprinkling some used cat litter (but not cat faeces) close to the house will provide him with a scent 'signpost'. Some cats settle in quicker than others. He will need plenty of reassurance and petting while settling in and it is critical that he wears a collar and tag, at least until he has settled in.



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