Cats and Moving to a New Home: Making the Transition

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 23, 2023
4 min read

Moving may be one of the most disruptive life changes—for both humans and pets. Cats are averse to change, which can make moving day extra stressful for all. 

When it’s time to pack up the house and make your migration, you can take steps to make the transition easier for your kitty. The goal is to keep them calm and comfortable. This will help you avoid messes, meowing, aggression, and attempted escapes. 

Update information. Make sure your cat’s ID collar is secure and up-to-date. It’s best to microchip your cat before the move, in case they get scared in the new space and run off. Reunions are much more likely when microchip info is kept current.

Make a “new normal.” Leading up to the move, keep your cat’s routine as normal as possible. The sudden appearance of new people and moving materials, along with the disappearance of favorite furniture or objects, can cause stress for cats. To reduce this stress, introduce boxes to the home before you start packing. This helps create a new normal landscape for your cat. It also reduces the number of new stressors on moving day. 

Introduce the cat carrier. Introducing your cat to a good pet carrier a few weeks before the move can make it easier. Choose a carrier that is well-secured, designed for travel, and cozy. 

Set the carrier in a safe, quiet corner of your current home before you start packing. Place treats, a favorite blanket, and familiar toys in the carrier to build positive associations with the carrier. Allow your cat to freely enter and leave the carrier whenever they would like in the days and weeks leading up to the move. Placing the carrier in a quiet place will encourage the cat to seek refuge there as packing and moving activities become more hectic. 

On the big day, keep your cat in the carrier while people are moving in and out of your current home. If your move includes a major road trip, make sure your cat is used to car rides in the carrier. 

If your cat gets cat sick or stressed in the car, your vet can prescribe medication to help ease these issues.

It might be tempting but don’t open your carrier mid-travel to soothe your kitty. This increases the risk of your cat making a dash in unfamiliar territory. 

Once you’ve arrived, keep your kitty in their safe carrier as you cat-proof the new home. Close all windows and doors, and tuck away any electrical cords or plugs where your cat might get stuck. 

Introduce one room first. Choose one room with familiar objects and furniture. When the room is secure, let your cat out of the carrier to explore. It’s safest to keep your kitty in one designated room while there's a lot of activity in the new home. 

Make sure there’s a litter box, food, and water in this designated room. Set aside time to quietly spend time with your cat in their temporary room to help them feel comfortable in the new house. 

If your cat seems nervous, you may choose to keep your cat in one room for a few days to give them ample time to acclimate to the new space.

Runaway cats. When moving to a new area, it is common for cats to attempt to return to their old stomping grounds. It’s safest to keep your cat indoors all the time. Even if you plan to let the cat go outside eventually, keep them indoors until you are sure they have bonded with the new space. It is best to keep your cat indoors for a minimum of two weeks. You can encourage positive associations with your new home by feeding your cat more often with small meals and incorporating more treats and play into your cat’s day. When you do let your cat outside, make it short at first, and keep an eye on them. Call the cat in after 10 minutes to start, and work your way up to longer times outside.

Neighborhood cats. If you do start letting your cat wander the neighborhood, stay vigilant and listen for the sounds of a catfight. Keep a close eye on your cat until both of you are familiar with any other cats in the area.

Stressful events. Even after you and your cat have settled, stressors like thunderstorms or fireworks can unsettle your cat during the early days in your new home. Take extra precautions to keep your cat indoors, safe, and secure in their new home.