Last summer we finally did it.
We moved into our own apartment!
While we were overjoyed at the prospect, the road ahead was..well, taxing, to say the least.
Moving is exhausting, tiresome and it never seems to end. There are boxes to be assembled, packed and somehow stored, furniture to be bought, utilities to be connected and disconnected, administration and mail to be taken care of, you name it.
Often, it’s a stressful, chaotic time. And it was no different for us.
In the midst of all this, we had 4 cats to consider. Now, I’d made the mistake of moving a cat out of its territory into a new one without prep before – never again. The amount of stress you cause them and yourself just isn’t worth it.
So I came prepared this time.
Step 1: The Groundwork
First off, I bought some Feliway as I went out to get boxes to assemble. Then, I plugged that in where we were storing the boxes.
You see, I knew that that many new boxes, along with the territory disruption of packing, in our small living room was a bad, bad idea. Basically, I’d be asking for them to be sprayed or at least marked ferociously in some other way. Along with some serious cat-on-cat hostility due to the raised anxiety levels, of course.
The Feliway was a pre-emptive strike. A gentle nudge from me to them to use bunting (face rubbing) instead of spraying.
Next, I assembled the boxes and let them stand around empty, so they could get used to them. Meanwhile, I started emptying closets. Since these were items that we didn’t use on a daily basis, they wouldn’t disrupt the territory too much. So, they were the first to go.
Meanwhile, the cats were naturally intrigued by the boxes and did some facial marking. Luckily, there were no fights as things progressed. Over the course of a few days, they grew accustomed to the boxes being part of their territory. And I got to pack up most of our stuff.
Phase one was complete.
Step 2: The Final Days Before The Move
This was where the rubber met the road.
As things became increasingly chaotic, I tried to keep the cats’ schedule as routine as possible.
Food, water and litter boxes were all still in the same place. And I tended to them as I always did. Meanwhile, I hadn’t moved any baskets and cat trees yet. I specifically saved them for last so they would be the first pieces of furniture in the new place.
Packing Up The Territory
Next, I started packing up the things that were part of the territory and prepping their carriers.
I then placed blankets and towels in our bed for the night so they’d absorb our smell. Next, I put those blankets in the pet carriers which had been sprayed with Feliway. I then scattered the carriers around the house, with some snacks in them to entice the cats to check them out and and sleep in the carriers. This way, the towels and to blankets could also absorb their smell.
Meanwhile, I tried to provide as much play time as I had time for. I wanted the cats to have a way to vent their nervous energy somewhere, as by now, they knew something was up.
The Night Before The Move
On the night before the move, we took apart the few pieces of furniture we were taking with us.
We spent the night on our mattress on the floor.
Everything was stacked and ready.
The plan was to lock the cats in for the night so they’d be ready to go in the morning. At this point, they were definitely tense. We knew we wouldn’t get much sleep that night.
In fact, at 3 am that morning, I finally managed to catch our Faith.
I knew she came in through the cat door during the night to eat. It was my only chance to catch her since she is feral. I could’ve locked her up before that night but it would’ve caused her a massive amount of stress. And that was something I was trying to keep to a minimum during this already stressful time.
Once I managed to close the door on her and gently corner her, I placed her in the back with her best friend, Falcor. Thankfully, he was able to help her through this, acting as her comfort blanket.
And so, we were good to go. Onto phase 3!
Step 3: The Day Of The Move
The morning of the move, I made my supply bag for the cats.
Food bowls, water bowls, food, litter, litter boxes and toys were packed up and put into 3 bags – one for each room.
The plan was to put Faith and Falcor in the office, Trinity in the bathroom and Arwen in our walk-in closet. That way, they didn’t have to deal with the entire house at once. In time, they’d explore one room at a time, at their own pace.
The reason for separating them was due to the risk of redirected aggression.
While my cats all tolerate each other fairly well, only Faith and Falcor really have a strong bond. The chance of the cats lashing out towards each other due to frustration and fear during this process was very real.
This kind of incident can cause the bond between the cats to shatter, which in turn could lead to territorial wars.
I would have separated Falcor and Faith as well, if I didn’t think his presence would at least take the edge off of the panic attack she was bound to have. He was her rock, after all.
I would also be providing them with familiar smells. Prior to letting them out of the boxes, I’d spray the rooms with Feliway in all corners, and plug in a Feliway vaporiser in the main living area.
Next, I’d give each of them a cat tree to create some vertical, familiar smelling space, a couple of toys, some sleeping spots. Then I’d add food, water and – on the other side of the room – a litter box. I’d also use some of the boxes I used to carry my supplies in as hiding spots.
So when the moving truck arrived to load up our stuff, I made sure that the drivers understood the cat furniture was the first thing they’d have to unload.
After that, my boyfriend took charge of the move while I crated the cats and prepped them for their journey. They stayed in the back as the truck was being loaded, so they wouldn’t be in the way. Meanwhile, the loud noises and people traipsing through their territory wouldn’t freak them out too much .
I then took a taxi to our new place with the cats, unloaded them into the hallway and set up their rooms.
Next, I got them each to their own room and opened the carriers. I immediately left the room, so they could get their bearings and explore the new digs at their own pace, without me there to distract them from this important step.
Meanwhile, I got busy with readying the house for the arrival of the moving truck. We also had 3 deliveries that same day. Sure, the cats were aware of the noise, of course, and most certainly got stressed. But, I was able to minimise the amount of stress by making sure they were out of the way when the movers got to the new place.
And while they were acclimatising in their rooms, I had the chance to set up the house and put everything in place as the movers brought things in. That way, I wouldn’t have to make big changes to their territory anymore, once they were finally ready to emerge from their rooms.
Evaluating Their Distress Level
When the movers finally arrived at our new place, I went in briefly to check up on each cat. Each of them got a piece of the cat furniture that had been unloaded.
It was interesting to see how each cat was coping.
While Falcor and Faith stayed in their carrier for over 2 hours, Trinity had already come out of hers and hidden under a closet by the time the truck arrived.
Meanwhile, Arwen was wandering around and exploring when I came in.
Each cat was clearly going at their own pace.
Arwen, in fact, was doing so well, walking around with her tail up and even eating, that I let her out to explore the bedroom. I did lock her back in the walk-in closet briefly when the movers brought in the bed and during its assembly.
We’d made it through the day.
Step 4: The Aftermath
Every couple of hours I checked in with them to see where they were, progress-wise.
Soon, Trinity started wandering about, but she was still not eating or showing me enough confidence in her tail-up. Which told me she wasn’t ready yet for the rest of the place. She stayed in the bathroom for a couple of days.
The same was true for Falcor, and he took a day or so longer than she did.
Meanwhile, Arwen was more than ready to explore the rest of the house after the movers left – tail firm in the air.
Faith took more than a week to be fully comfortable in her own room.
Once ready, I opened the door and let them wander while keeping their safe room available to them. And some of them did run back a couple of time, after being overwhelmed by the rest of the place. They’d often check out one of the smaller rooms first, before taking on the living area itself.
Once they showed me a tail-up and an interest in the communal food bowl in the living room, I knew I could dismantle their safe room. They soon after started bunting the walls, furniture and us.
Preventing Problem Behavior In Your New Home
One other thing I did to ease any tension was to add scratching posts and other higher level furniture to the still somewhat empty rooms, as soon as I could.
This is often one of the biggest mistakes people make when moving since they’re so preoccupied with the move – understandably so. Without that vertical space, your cat will likely start hiding, stressing and possibly acting out, especially if there are multiple cats around.
The different levels provided by furniture allow them to preserve their personal space and sense of security.
While there was still some tension each time we cleared away more boxes – hence the Feliway vaporiser which, thankfully, lasts for a month – it was nothing compared to the moving day itself.
And after 6 weeks, they were so at home that they grew very much interested in going outside and exploring their new territory there. So, we opened the door to the terrace and joined them there. We left the back door open as they explored the neighbourhood, so they could retreat when necessary until they were fully at ease.
We were finally home.
So, what about you?
Have you ever moved a cat to a new home? Or are you perhaps planning to in the future?
Tell us about your moving day in the comments!