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  • How to Move House With Your Cat – Part 2 (During the Move)

    Oct 2

    Having moved a few times with a few different cats, both within the same neighborhood and to a new country, I have taken advice from a variety of sources, and have seen what works. I’d like to share some tips and tricks here that can help to make moving with your cat a smoother and more pleasant experience. Since this is a lot of information, I’ve split this into three parts: Preparing for the Move, During the Move, and Settling In to Your New Home.

    Part 2 – During The Move

    Depending on the length of your move, you may be moving your cat with a short car trip (or even a walk!), a long car trip, or maybe by plane.  Each type of move can have it’s own challenges, and I’d like to talk about some ways that you can help make any move with your cat go more smoothly.

    If this is a short move, to a new place not far from your current home, there are a few things you can do that will help make it easier for your cat to adjust.

    If you are able, try to arrange for your cat to stay with a friend while you are moving. Just like with packing, the actual move can be disconcerting to a cat, who feels a sense of ownership in his home, and he may attempt to run away during this time. If he can stay somewhere else during the move, he can avoid a lot of stress. Then, once you have moved your things, your cat will be able to see and smell his familiar possessions in your new home, which will help him feel more at ease.

    However, even if your cat will need to move right along with you, here is a process that has worked well for me, and I recommend doing this if possible.

    Before you start moving furniture and your belongings, choose a small room in your new home. It should be entirely enclosed once the door is shut, and be sure the door latches tight. An extra bedroom works very well for this purpose. Them, before moving your own things, set this room up with your cat’s food and water, toys, and litter box (make sure the litter box is on the opposite side of the room from his food and water). Allow your cat to wander around this room, getting familiar with the new place. The presence of his familiar things will help him feel at home. Close the door and have your cat stay in his “special room” until after you have finished moving your things in.

    If you will be taking your cat on a long car trip, it’s especially important that you have a good quality carrier. Remember that you will be using the carrier not only as a place for your cat to ride during the trip, but also to carry him in and out of your lodging at night. Be sure that the carrier is very secure, stays closed, and is roomy enough for your cat to move around in. Some carriers come with a soft fleece or carpet floor, which help to keep her comfortable and cozy. If not, it’s a nice idea to put a blanket or towel inside. You may even want to look for one of the carriers that have clips for a seat belt. This way, the carrier will not slip around and will be held in place even in the event of an accident.

    If your cat isn’t used to riding in a carrier, try to get him accustomed to it before the trip, by taking him out on a few shorter trips ahead of time. However, some cats never seem to enjoy riding in the car or carrier, and may continue to complain loudly for some time. It may help to put something of yours inside, like an old T-shirt that will smell familiar and help him get settled more quickly.

    Normally it is best to have your cat stay inside the carrier for the entire time that you are driving. This helps to protect her from getting hurt in case of an accident, and prevents her from suddenly leaping up on the driver’s neck. But the truth is that this is not always practical. Since cats usually dislike driving or being in their carriers for such a long period, once you are on the road you may want to let him get out and find his own place to settle down. With our two cats, we found this to be the easiest for everyone. Eric tends to make his spot under one of the front seats, while Felix generally preferred to ride on our daughter’s lap in the back seat. If your cats can manage to find a place where they are happiest, the drive will be far more pleasant. Just make sure he stays away from the driver.

    It may even be a good idea to put your cat in a harness that attaches to his collar, so that you can hold onto it if you need to open the car for a moment. However, it’s even better to put the cat back in the carrier before you open the car door. You absolutely do not want to risk having your cat bolt away in an unfamiliar place!

    We’re found that our cats would not eat much or use the litter box while traveling. However, it’s good to offer some food and water, and litter pan just in case. Usually our cats would have only a few bites of kibble when offered, and would have their main meals at the hotel.

    Likewise with using the litter box. Our veterinarian assured me that a cat can “hold it” for up to 12 hours with no ill effect. Once we stopped at our hotel for the night, food, drink, and box were the first orders of business. You may want to check out the hotel room for possible hiding places. We had a couple of incidents of coming back from dinner to have the cat nowhere to be seen, then find him hiding behind the bed and having to coax him out, with difficulty. Putting some rolled up towels to block entrance to this spot solved the problem. However, your cat may still look for a safe spot behind the curtains or in a closet. Cats are masters of hiding when they want to be!

    I’ll reiterate this – be sure your cat has ID! At least a collar with tag if nothing else, and be sure the tag has a number where you can be reached, not your old number at your previous house! Again, micro chipping is an excellent thing to do if you have not already, and make sure your cat is registered!

    If your cat is just not able to adapt to being on the road, this is where the Bach “Rescue Remedy” or even the tranquilizer from your vet may come in handy. Try rubbing a couple drops of Rescue Remedy inside your nervous cat’s ear to see if that will calm him down. This is effective for most cats, and it works well for our Eric. if this doesn’t work, then try giving him just a bit of the tranquilizer. When we traveled across the country with Felix in the car, he spent the entire first day meowing loudly, and unfortunately he was not helped by the Rescue Remedy as Eric was. Not only was this very unpleasant for all of us, but it was obvious that Felix was stressed and tired, since he had been unable to sleep at all in the car. That night we gave him just a fraction of one of the pills his vet had prescribed for us, and it worked like a charm. Felix got a good night sleep, was relaxed and happy the next day, and then he settled down for the rest of the six day trip, never even needing another pill. Of course, every cat is different, and you may find a different solution for your cat.

    If you will be moving with your cat by plane, here are some things to keep in mind. I flew with Eric from San Francisco to Indianapolis, en route to Toronto, with a stop in Denver for good measure! Eric did great, but I was very thankful for the advice I had been given from our veterinarian and a few friends with experience flying with their pets.

    Be sure you have made the necessary arrangements with the airline, and that they have approved your cat for traveling in the passenger area if this what you intend to do. Most airlines allow only one animal per flight, so it’s important to make sure you are on their record! Get an airline approved carrier, one that will fit under the seat ahead of you. Your pet carrier will count as a carry on item, so make sure you are still within the airline limits and that you will be able to check your other things. I brought along a large backpack for my trip with Eric, and put my purse in it along with some food for Eric, a bag of litter and a very small litter tray. This way I was able to bring a “personal” bag as well as the carrier, and still have everything I needed available.

    I checked in at the counter and informed the agent that I was bringing my cat along in the passenger area. She checked and saw that I had made the arrangements ahead of time, so everything went very smoothly.

    Going through security, you will need to take your cat out of the carrier. This is where a cat harness is critical! If you are simply holding your cat in your arms, and he gets spooked by the noise or crowds, he could easily slip away and get lost in the masses. I’ve been told this happens on occasion. But if you have your cat securely in a harness and you are holding tightly to both the harness and the cat, he will not be able to get away, and you should have no problem at all. I could tell that Eric was nervous, but he knew that I was holding him tightly and never even tried to escape.

    Once you are on the plane, place the carrier under the seat in front of you for the flight. You will not want to take your cat out while flying, but you can lean over to give her a few reassuring words. I found that once we were in the air, Eric relaxed and seemed very comfortable during the trip.

    During our stopover, I took Eric to a large bathroom stall and tried setting up the litter box and food for him. But like on our long car trips, he preferred to wait until we got to our destination.

    Overall, with a little preparation, traveling with your cat can be done fairly easily, and whichever way you are using can work very well.

    See Part 1 of this series – Preparing for the Move

    See Part 3 of this series – Settling In To Your New Home

    See my Squidoo Lens – How to Move House With Your Cat

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