It’s summer and that means moving season in Colorado. Mostly because winter moves involve skidding down icy roads and hauling heavy boxes with frozen fingers, and for some reason that just doesn’t strike us as an ideal moving environment.
Pam Johnson-Bennett, a certified cat behavior consultant, explained, “Even though you and your family members are prepared for the chaos that takes place while things are getting wrapped, packed and prepared, your cat has no idea why his environment is going through major changes.”
Johnson-Bennett and Marilyn Krieger, both certified cat behavior consultants, shared their advice on how to make it a smooth cat move.
Prepping for the Move
- Introduce items associated with moving prior to the actual move. Krieger suggested putting out lots of boxes so that your cat can get used to them.
- Let your cat get familiar with his carrier, too. “Always have the carrier out, way before they are required to go into it,” Krieger said. She added that it helps to feed him treats while interacting around the carrier to ease his stress.
- Maintain a daily schedule. Groom them at the same time, play with them at the same time and feed them at the same time.
- “Place your cat in one room to avoid the risk of escape while the movers are going in and out,” Johnson-Bennett said, “this will also help reduce his fear from hearing and seeing all the commotion.”
- Krieger added that covering the carrier loosely with a light towel, once your cat is inside and ready to go, also helps. “Cats will feel more secure and won’t see movement,” she explained.
- It’s best to select one room in the the new home to keep your cat first, (a sanctuary room), according to Johnson-Bennett and Krieger, and it should contain their personal items like litter boxes, scratching posts, and toys.
After the Move
- Changing the brand of a cat’s food or litter could cause unnecessary anxiety, so it’s best to stick with what they know. “Make is as stress free as possible. Consistency is extremely important,” Krieger said.
- She said owners shouldn’t force the cat out of his carrier, just interact with them in the sanctuary room and let him come out at his own pace.
- Krieger also stressed the importance of reading each individual cat, because certain cats may require more time to feel comfortable leaving the sanctuary room.
- “Don’t be in a rush to unpack everything. Take frequent breaks to interact with your cat and help him through this transition,” Johnson-Bennett advised. Krieger agreed, “Remember to give them plenty of attention.”
Let’s face it. All of this seems a little intense. It’d be a whole lot easier to just pack-up our cats in their carriers and simply place them in the new home. The thing is, though, it’s not easier in the long run.
Often, the cat parents allow the cat to roam throughout the entire house immediately and that’s simply too overwhelming. Cats are territorial and they don’t like change. -Pam Johnson-Bennett.
If cats feel stressed they will act out behaviorally.
Krieger said they tend to do this by:
- Hiding a lot.
- Avoiding their litter box and eliminating elsewhere.
- Lashing out if they are cornered.
She emphasized that these behaviors are all stress related.
Cats are emotional sponges and they easily pick up on our level of stress. Be as calm, casual and positive as possible in order to send the message to your cat that his world hasn’t been turned totally upside down. -Pam Johnson-Bennett
Pam Johnson-Bennett is a certified cat behavior consultant and author of several books, including Think Like a Cat.
Marilyn Krieger is a certified cat behavior consultant who is available for consultation on site, by phone or via Skype.