Moving House with an Indoor Cat

Pile of boxes for moving day

Moving house is a stressful time for everyone.

Even the most straightforward and desired of house moves can throw curveballs and create problems.

It’s the nature of packing everything you own into boxes, bundling it all into a truck and then re-assembling a version of your old life somewhere new.

Moving house with an indoor cat doesn’t have to be difficult but it does require a small degree of preparation and thought.  

The last thing any owner wants to see is their pet unduly stressed.

Be Extra Careful with Indoor Cats on Moving Day

There’s a lot to think about when you move house and an indoor cat can escape during the chaos of moving day.  Loud noises, strange smells and a break in routine can cause considerable anxiety to our pets and the reaction can be to bolt.

Movers and helpers may not be as careful or as considerate as you’d like when it comes to ensuring doors stay closed and cats remain inside. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the logistics of a house move and make mistakes or become uncharacteristically careless. 

You’re going to have a lot on your mind.

Any cat that escapes outside on the day of a move can become a cause for concern but for owners of indoor cats, it’s especially upsetting. These animals are unfamiliar with the external surroundings of their environment and may become scared, disorientated and unresponsive when called. 

We’re not saying this to scare anyone. Countless numbers of people move every day with indoor cats and have no problem at all. You just have to be careful.  

If you are concerned about moving house with an indoor cat, then consider putting your pet into a boarding cattery until the move has been completed.  If nothing else, it’ll be one less thing for you to worry about. 

Indoor Cats and Staying Inside

Cats are bonded to their environment.  Territory is very important and it can be hard for them to adjust to a new space.  Moving house with an indoor cat has an advantage because they’re already used to staying inside. Outdoor cats can become frustrated at having to remain indoors making it a miserable few weeks for both the pet and owner. Indoor owners also don’t have the stress of a cat’s first trip out into the wild of a new neighbourhood.  

Before Moving House with Your Indoor Cat

A strong and durable cat carrier will make your life so much easier.  We’re not just talking for removals day but throughout a cat’s life. Pick a decent carrier to transport the cat inside. The lock should be secure and you should feel confident in carrying the pet out to the car.  If you’re struggling to choose between a hard or soft cat carrier, then initially, it’s probably best to go with a hard one. 

Introduce Your Cat to its Carrier as Soon as Possible

Ideally, this is done during kittenhood but if that hasn’t been possible then try to do it in advance of the move. Put the carrier somewhere where the cat is able to explore it freely. 

Add familiar smelling items inside and give praise and treats when he or she shows interest so that they develop a positive relationship with the box. We’ve found that the foundation of a successful car ride with a cat often starts with the carrier.

Update Contact Details

A few days before your move, register your cat with a vet in your new area and update the contact details on its microchip and collar

Move House with the Cat in a Cattery

This is often the easiest thing to do.  It keeps your cat from getting caught up in the stress of moving day and it’s one less thing that you’ll have to worry about. 

Book a Cat-Friendly Hotel

If you’re traveling a long way to your new home, then planning an overnight stop en-route is a good idea.

Not all hotels or motels accept pets so it’s important to find a place that will and to make a reservation as soon as possible as some hotels can only offer a limited number of pet-friendly rooms.

A number of Days Inn Hotels have a cat-friendly policy but not all.  

Introduce an Anxious Cat to the Car 

If you’re traveling a long way, then you can prepare your cat for its car journey by introducing them to the vehicle’s interior ahead of time.  This will help them put a scent down and to associate the car as a safe space. Our previous post about how to travel with a cat in the car will give you advice on how to do this. 

Keep a Routine

Cats thrive on familiarity and during a house move routine is one of the first things to go out of the window.  Keep their day-to-day as near to normal as you can. It might just mean feeding them at the same time and playing with them as you normally would. 

Get Out Your Moving Boxes

Distribute any empty packing boxes around the house before you begin to pack. This will help the cat get used to seeing them around so that by the time you start boxing things up, they’ll know there is nothing to worry about. 

Set Up a Safe Space in Your House

Many cat professionals recommend setting up a ‘safe space’ in the home before the move.  Often, it’ll be a spare bedroom or any place that’s empty of furniture and (hopefully) away from the bulk of foot traffic during the move.  Start this a few days in advance.

Add their bed and litter tray to the room.  You might feed and play with them, too, so that it becomes a familiar and enjoyable place to be.  One day before the move, add a scratching post and some empty boxes so they can go high or go and hide.  This is when a Feliway or Comfort Zone diffuser can help. 

Make Sure Everyone Keeps the Door Closed

Tell everyone working in the house that there’s a cat inside the room.  It might be useful to hang a note on the door, too. Put a chair or a box in the way of the door so nobody opens it accidentally. 

Moving Day with an Indoor Cat


On the Day

On the day that you’re leaving the house, offer the cat a light meal in the morning and make sure there’s plenty of fresh drinking water throughout the day.  Ideally, the cat should be the last thing left in the house to go. Put their things in the truck last of all so that they’re the first to be unpacked. This will help settle your cat faster.   Encourage them into the carrier and take them out to the car. 

Inside the Car

An indoor cat may be more fearful of outside noises and smells as opposed to an outdoor cat.  They might benefit from having a towel or a blanket placed over the top of the carrier. 

Don’t be tempted to let a cat come out of the carrier and climb around in the car.  It’s dangerous to have a loose pet wandering around. They’re far safer in the carrier and so is everyone else. If a carrier really isn’t an option then you can buy a cat car barrier to fit between the front seats and the back. 

In Your New House

Unpack the cat’s items first and set them up in a quiet room that can be left empty for a day or so.  Make sure there’s a clean litter box, a bowl of food, drinking water and toys on the floor before you open the grate and let the cat explore.  Put the Feliway diffuser into an electrical socket or use a natural or synthetic spray if you have one. 

Check that the house is cat-friendly.  Make sure there’s nowhere they can disappear to or hide in.  If the previous owners had cats then it’s a good idea to clean anywhere the cats might have left a scent.  This is usually anything at nose or paw height (remember they can climb). This will help reduce any uneasiness over territory. 

If you need to, add additional diffusers throughout the house. 

If your cat is anything like ours, then it will be out and exploring within minutes.  Other cats might take some time and will benefit from being isolated in the spare room for a day or so after arrival. 

Keep a litterbox in with them but then add another to wherever it is in the house one will be kept in future. Spread their toys and items throughout the house.  Keep the door to their safe-space open so they have somewhere to return to. 

Letting Your Indoor Cat Outside

You might want to let your indoor cat outside.  This can happen when people move to a safer and more cat-friendly neighbourhood or environment.  Generally, the recommendation is to wait for 2-weeks before letting a cat outside. Ideally, it’s best to leave it a few weeks more just to be sure. 

Cats are adaptable and intelligent but sometimes they can try to return to a previous home which can be dangerous. Giving them sufficient time will reduce the likelihood of this happening. 

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