Moving Day! …with a cat. Tips from the front lines

Moving can be stressful. Add a fuzzy, set-in-her-ways cat to the mix and you’ve upped the anxiety factor to 11.

Moving to a bigger and nicer apartment is the most horrible thing that anyone has ever had to endure in the history of the universe.

Moving to a bigger and nicer apartment is the most horrible thing anyone has ever had to endure in the history of the universe.

*For a list of tips for moving with pets, just click this link or scroll to the bottom!

Every pet reacts differently to a change in their environment and it’s important to do what you can to make the move as stress-free as possible, for your pet’s sake as well as your own. We recently moved across town to a larger apartment with entirely hardwood floors (now what will she have to puke on?!). My Suki is not the world’s biggest fan of car rides, and despite the fact that the trip was only about 15-20 minutes and she loves her carrier, she made sure we were aware that this was the worst experience anyone had ever put her through, ever. She howled and panted the whole way, kicking and screaming until she was finally released into her new digs.

Of course, the car ride was not the beginning of our relocation. The packing comes way before that…

The Packing

Despite the fact that cats are of the opinion that cardboard boxes are the greatest and most fun things in the world, when mom is piling all the things they’re familiar with into them and sealing them off with packing tape, boxes take on a whole new meaning. You can’t really explain to your pets that they’ll be able to play with all their toys again in a few days, regardless of how much you keep telling them (and look like a crazy person while doing so). So it’s best to leave one or two of your pets’ toys available for them to play with, and be comforted by, during the packing process.

In addition to having a familiar toy to enjoy while the humans pack up, when the time comes to confine your pet to a certain area during the big move, make sure to leave them with Mr. Bouncy Fish (Suki’s favorite) as well as plenty of food, water and a clean litterbox (Suki’s other favorite).

When the packing was done and the movers arrived the time came to set Suki up in the bathroom. As a 17-year-old indoor cat, I wasn’t willing to risk having her underfoot during the moving-truck-loading process. So into the bathroom we went. Even with her familiar set-up, she made sure to loudly voice her opposition to the situation. Oddly enough, she loves to be in the bathroom when she’s not supposed to be.

We made sure to spend time with her and give her reassuring pats but she knew something was amiss. When she finally emerged from the confines of the bathroom she was shocked to discover everything she knew was gone. She curled up in her kennel, warily eyeing what was left of her home.

Which leads us to…

The Move

Wake me when this hellish nightmare of a move is over.

Wake me when this hellish nightmare of a move is over.

Like I said, thankfully my cat loves her carrier. There are some pets who hate theirs and it can become a struggle to prepare them for a car ride. If that sounds like your cat, try leaving their kennel out for them to explore and relax in and put a toy in there so they can associate it with something other than a means to go to the vet.

However, as much as Suki enjoys her kennel, it doesn’t change the fact that she hates going for a ride in the car. She has a history of peeing, pooping and puking on long trips. We managed to make this short (but loud) drive to the new place vomit-free but when I’ve discussed the issue with the veterinarian in the past, she suggested giving an unhappy cat a small amount of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to help with car sickness and travel anxiety. *Talk to your vet before giving your pet any medication! Dosage and safety of different types of medication vary from animal to animal.

The Arrival

We brought Suki into our new home, already set up with her food, water, litterbox, etc…, and let her out to investigate the unfamiliar surroundings with words of encouragement (and treats). For a few hours, she sniffed every corner of every room and eventually snuggled up on a chair that had a pile of clothes on it for a long nap after a major upheaval of her normal life.

Over the past few days, Suki has gained more confidence in exploring her new home. But she is doing some weird stuff. She has taken to standing in the middle of the kitchen and howling to no end if she can’t see us. Because I’m a crazy helicopter pet parent, every time she starts meowing I drop what I’m doing and go into the kitchen. Then she just sits there and stares at me. What a weirdo.

Do you have any insight or tips? We’d love to hear ’em! Feel free to share in the comment section below.

Tips for moving with pets

  • Make sure pets are in an area of the home that will be free of dangerous packing materials (styrofoam, packing peanuts, tape, etc.) and clear of frequent foot traffic.
  • Give your pet a favorite toy to play with while you’re working on the house. A sense of familiarity can help them feel more comfortable.
  • While you’re packing and lugging boxes, put pets in a quiet, minimally chaotic area.
  • Check on your pets frequently and talk in a calm tone.
  • Talk to your vet about any specific pet travel concerns you have, such as car sickness.
  • Allow your pet time to get used to their carrier. This may help them feel more at ease when moving day arrives.
  • Keep pets restrained while traveling. An animal running wild in your car isn’t safe for anyone.
  • Try to maintain some semblance of your pet’s normal routine. Change is not an animal’s favorite thing.


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