Moving with a cat can be tough for a lot of pet parents. Cats are inherently territorial creatures, and transitioning from the home they’re used to into a new home can cause some stress—even for the most laid-back of kitties. Making your cat feel comfortable in a new home though is part of your job as their caregiver, so it’s important to go into the experience prepared.
For cats, moving to a new home is similar to moving in on that first day they were adopted. New sights and smells abound, and a lack of familiarity means that, while there is a lot to explore, there is also a lot to be weary of at least at first. We’ve gone over general tips to make moving with cats less stressful (for both you and your feline friend), but here we’ll narrow our focus and look just at ways that you can help your cat feel comfortable in a new home. Since as you know, settling in to a novel environment is difficult, even for us humans.
How long does it take for a cat to feel comfortable after a move?
The length of time it will take for your cat to adjust to their new environment depends largely on their temperament. Some cats feel at home right away, and won’t require much beyond a lesson in where their litter box, food bowl, and water bowl/fountain are. Other cats, however, might take days, weeks, or even months to start feeling safe in their new territory.
The best thing that you can do when it comes to timing, is to let your cat go at their own pace. Moving is stressful. Moving when a large part of your comfort and sense of safety is wrapped up in your territorial base is even more stressful. Give your kitty as much time as he or she needs to adjust to their new home, and don’t try to rush the process.
Step-by-step guide to helping your cat feel comfortable in a new home
While you can’t force your cat to settle in any more quickly than they’re ready to, you can do certain things to ease their transition into a new home.
Note: Before you move or right after you move, transfer your cat’s records to their new veterinarian so that you’ve at least got on the major base covered while you work on settling everyone in.
Move them in a cat carrier
A carrier is a safe place for your cat even if they hate being in there. Your cat should be in their carrier anyway while you’re loading and unloading the moving truck to ensure that they don’t get loose. It will also help contain them in a familiar territory until the moment they’re ready to get out and explore.
Choose a home base
Instead of just letting your cat roam free in your new home immediately, pick one room where they can begin to get situated. Any room with a door will do, though an office or bedroom is ideal.
Fill up their litter box and place it on one side of the room, and then put out fresh food and water on the other side of the room (if it’s not time for a meal, putting a couple treats in their food bowl will work too). Put a scratcher and some toys in the room as well.
Keeping the door to the room closed, open their carrier and let them step out when they’re ready. Then let them take a look around.
The key is to let them acclimate to a small area of the house first so that they start to get comfortable with the new smells before exploring further. Depending on how they’re doing, you can either keep them in the room for a few hours or for up to a week. During the time they’re in there, be sure to check in regularly and to give them lots of love and attention.
Expand their territory
Once your cat has gotten comfortable with one room of the house you can let them roam more freely. You should leave their litter box in the same space for now, but you can move their food bowl and water bowl/fountain to their permanent spots.
Always be sure your home is in a cat-friendly state before giving your kitty free rein. Prior to letting your cat out of their “home base,” double check that there are no dangerous packing materials lying around. Plastic wrap, packing tape, and string are all hazardous, as are any sharp objects like scissors or box cutters. Feel free to leave out plenty of empty cardboard boxes though, of course!
Pay close attention to your cat during their first days and weeks in your new home. If you notice signs of stress (more on those later) consider going back a step and limiting their territory instead of expanding it. There’s nothing wrong with returning your kitty to their home base for a day or two if they’re exhibiting discomfort, just be sure to move their food and water back in there with them.
If your cat seems to be adjusting well and is acting like their normal self, then you should be good to go! At this point, you can choose the permanent home for their litter box. Show them where you moved it so they can find it later on.
Signs that your cat is stressed out after a move
There is probably no way to make a move completely stress-free for your cat, but be on the lookout for signs of stress that appear to be overwhelming and/or persistent over the course of a few days. These include:
- Excessive vocalization
- Excessive scratching
- Excessive grooming
- Hiding and/or withdrawal from interactions
- Panting and/or drooling
- Runny eyes and/or runny nose
- Lack of appetite
- Infrequent potty breaks or doing their business outside of the litter box
You know your cat better than anyone. If you notice one or more of these signs or a sign that isn’t listed here but is outside of your cat’s normal behavior call the vet.
Helping your cat feel comfortable in a new home is important, and it’s better to take it slow than to rush them into a situation where they don’t feel safe. Pretty soon, your cat should be back to their normal self, and they’ll likely even be excited about exploring their new realm.
To make sure they’re as happy as possible in their new home, provide them with plenty of attention, especially right after the move. Keep them on their same meal routine too, since that will bring a sense of familiarity to an unfamiliar situation. Encourage them to discover what their new home has to offer by, piquing their curiosity with well-placed toys and scratchers, and set up a cat tree in front of a window so they can get a look outside too.
Most cats don’t take as long to feel comfortable in a new home after a move as they do to feel comfortable on adoption day. It helps that not everything is brand new: they still have you! Just give lots of extra TLC during this time and address signs of stress right away.