When it comes to settling a cat or dog into your new home after a move, remember to be conscious of their concerns. While moving is very stressful for the two-legged members of your family, our companion animals find it even more difficult to adjust to new surroundings after a move.
When moving from the U.S. to Canada a few years ago, I volunteered to move first so I could find a place to live before the rest of the family joined me. One of our cats requires extra special care, which meant I had to accompany him on the flight so I could monitor his health and well-being. My sister and her family, whom I was staying with initially, welcomed both of us with opened arms. But what I didn't know about our cat, Sherpa (pictured below in the carrier), was that he doesn't adjust well to change. Three years earlier we'd rescued him from a terrible fate and he had adjusted pretty well to our home despite his inability to trust humans.
But moving to another country was a completely different story. After four weeks of no sleep due to Sherpa's yowling every night - all night - starting around midnight (he's part Himalayan), my vet in California finally sent me some kitty Valium, just to ensure my sister, her son, husband and myself didn't go absolutely crazy.
I never did use the kitty Valium as he settled down as soon as the rest of my family arrived and we moved into our new home.
So while it may seem that your cat, dog, ferret or bird will adjust just fine, here are some tips I'd recommend to help them through the transition in order to ensure both their happiness and yours.
- Introduce your cat to their new home gradually. Cats are very attached to their surroundings so change is always unsettling. From my experience of moving with cats, and from introducing new cats to our household, I've found that restricting cats to one or two rooms at first gives them the opportunity to feel safe within a confined space. Place the litter box, bed, scratching post, food and water in the room with your cat. This gives them the chance to become accustomed to the sounds and smells in your new home. It also gives them a room of their own to use later as a refuge or if they feel uncertain. I try to unpack most of the house before I let our kitties wander the house. But this depends on your cat. Tom, the kitty pictured above, who we rescued off the street, was never upset by moving as long as we were there with him. So let your cat tell you when they're ready to explore the rest of the new house.
- Surround them with things that smell familiar. Put their favorite bed, blanket, toys or any item that is familiar to them in the room. I also recommend placing items that smell like you in the room, too. For example, my husband's favorite running tee shirt is always a huge hit with our kitties and makes them feel comforted during times of stress.
- Make sure the space is safe. Keep doors and windows closed and make sure there aren't any crawl spaces or holes where they can escape to and that you can't access.
- Pheromone products and natural remedies: Most people swear by products like Feliway - a synthetic version of the facial pheromone produced by a cat to mark its territory as safe. I've used it in our carriers prior to a move and tried the plug-in version as well. While I didn't notice a big difference in their stress levels, others have found it be be extremely helpful. Similarly, natural remedies, such as Bach's Rescue Remedy, may help calm your cat, in particular for the first few hours in a new home. Speak with your vet about natural solutions to stress before you try herbs or natural tinctures.
- Exploration should happen slowly. Let them explore on their own and in their own time. If they decide to hide under the bed, let them be. They'll eventually come out when they feel it's safe.
- Be careful if your kitty goes outdoors. If you plan on allowing your cat outside, make sure you keep it indoors for at least two weeks so that your home is familiar to them. After two weeks, take the cat outside with you and let it explore a bit. After ten minutes or so, take it back inside. Each day increase the time until the cat feels safe and knows the area. Also make sure that kitty is properly tagged with your new address and phone number.
- Why you might want to keep them inside. Most vets will recommend you keep cats indoors only. Outdoor cats are prone to injury, diseases, accidents, parasites and have a much shorter life span than indoor cats. Indoor cats can be very content and happy if you provide enough stimulation and fun.
No matter what kind of companion animal you have, adjusting to a new home is tough. Knowing your animal and their personality - confident, social or shy - will help you determine what their individual needs are.