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 1 – Preparing For The Move
If you are moving to an entirely new area, or especially to a new country, there are a few “official” things that you will need to take care of before you move, in order to ensure that your cat is able to come easily to your new home without the inconvenience of delay or quarantine.
First, check with the new area to see if there are any documentation requirements for getting in. In our case, when we moved with our cats Felix and Eric from the United States to Canada, we found out that we would need certificates of health as well as documentation of rabies vaccines for our cats. This was easily taken care of with a quick trip to our vet, but if we had not known about these requirements, we could have ended up spending time at the border making phone calls or even needing to leave our cats behind while we sorted things out. This may also be the case if you are moving within the US to a different state.
Also, find out if your new area has any licensing requirements. A city government office or web site should be able to help you with any of these questions. For us, when we lived in California, cat licenses were not needed. However, once we arrived in Toronto we discovered that they were.
If you are moving to a different area and will need to go to a new veterinarian, be sure to obtain copies of your pet’s medical records for your new vet. You could also check with your current vet to see if they could fax your pet’s records once you have arrived in your new home. Most veterinarian offices use faxes, and this was what we were able to do. This will save you from having to carry and keep track of your cat’s records during the move.
If it will be a long trip and your cat tends to be a nervous traveler, ask your vet about possible solutions. S/he may want to prescribe medication for him, but in most cases this should only be used if really necessary, and there are some excellent natural alternatives available. My favorite is “Rescue Remedy”, by Bach Flower Essences. Just a drop or two rubbed on the inside of your cat’s ear or sprinkled into her water dish will have a calming, relaxing effect (you can even use it yourself if you want!). It may be a good idea to try this out ahead of time to be sure that it works for your cat. In our case, Rescue Remedy worked beautifully for Eric, but seemed to have no effect at all on Felix. So just to be prepared, our vet prescribed Felix a small quantity of tranquilizers, which turned out to be a tremendous help later during our trip.
If you are traveling by car, and the trip will take more than one day, make your overnight arrangements ahead of time and make sure that any hotels you stay at allow cats. It’s a good idea to call the hotel to make the reservations yourself, rather than relying on a Website. Our drive from San Francisco to Toronto took six days, and although most of my chosen accommodations worked out perfectly, there was one place that told us after we arrived, that although their entry on the web said “Pets Allowed”, what they really meant was “dogs only”. We were not allowed to stay there with our cat, and they did not give us a refund. I had to call half a dozen other hotels in the area to find one that did let us stay there, felines and all. I also suggested to the first place that they might want to update their listing!
If you will be traveling to your new home by air, make arrangements ahead of time if your cat will be going along. Many airlines allow only one pet in the cabin per flight; so if you are traveling with more than one cat, check around to make sure you can be accommodated. Also, check with the airlines to see what the size constraints are for your carrier. When I flew with Eric I got a smaller, airline approved pet carrier for him that met my chosen airline’s requirement.
Keep very close watch over your cat while you are packing and preparing to move out of your current home. If possible, even see if you can arrange to have your cat stay with a friend while you are packing. It is very upsetting for a cat to watch while his/her entire domain is being taken apart, and this can cause a great deal of stress. Many cats have run away while their humans were preparing for a move, which is what happened to us.
While packing up the kitchen, my husband inadvertently left the door to the deck open, and Eric slipped out while his back was turned. This was late at night, three days before we left, and all our searching proved to be fruitless. We were extremely fortunate to have dedicated neighbors who staked out the hill behind our house until Eric was found seven weeks later. Many people are not so lucky, please don’t take any chances!
Likewise, be sure that your cat is well secured while your movers are working. If you do not have a place for her to stay, please have her stay in a secure room that she cannot get out of. Also make sure that the movers know she is in there and that they do not open the door. Put a note on the door as a reminder.
If your cat is not microchipped yet, this is a great time to get it done, and be sure to register him with the microchip company. If your cat does happen to get away before or during the move, this will be one good way to advertise that he is missing, and many cats are found every year through their microchips.
Even if you are just moving down the street, keeping a strict watch over your cat before and during the move will help everything go more smoothly and will help to prevent him from getting lost.
See Part 2 of this Series: During 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