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Moving House with a Cat
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.
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. 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 euthanized.
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 to pack, move and unpack 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.
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. 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 (keep the key on your person). 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 traveling cage and make sure it doesn't get packed with the furniture. 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 traveler, no meal at all. A vet may prescribe a sedative for the journey. Your cat must travel with you, NOT with the furniture. Once the furniture van has gone put your cat in his traveling 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 organize 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, familiarize 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.