by Ben Team
Moving is a stressful activity for everyone involved. And this not only includes you, your spouse and your children but your pets, too.
Happy-go-lucky dogs may take a change of address in stride, but cats often become quite distressed when forced to relocate. In some cases, it may take the family feline weeks to relax and adapt to his new surroundings.
There are, however, several things you can do to make moving with cats easier. Below, we’ll explain some of the ways cats react to the stress of moving and detail several effective strategies for keeping your cat calm during the process.
Clues That Your Cat Is Cranky: Signs of Moving Stress
Cats are all individuals who react to moving in different ways. While a small percentage of cats may embrace the change and adapt to their new domicile quickly, most will find the experience disorienting and frightening.
However, these emotions may manifest in a variety of ways, including a few that don’t seem related to the move. Some of the most common behaviors and issues that can arise during and immediately after a move include:
- Bolting for freedom. Many cats simply head for the hills when feeling uneasy or scared. So, when the stress of moving becomes too much to bear, they will dash out an open door the first chance they get. This is one of the reasons it is imperative you place a collar and ID tag on your pet before you start relocating.
- Hiding. Instead of running away, some cats feel safer by hunkering down in a hiding place that provides them with the security they crave. Hiding isn’t the worst way for your cat to react to the move, but it will force you to go on periodic “cat hunts” to ensure your four-footer is safe and hasn’t escaped.
- Intestinal issues. The stress involved with moving can cause your cat to experience mild to moderate digestive difficulties. These types of problems will usually resolve on their own with time, but be sure to discuss the issue with your vet if these problems persist.
- An antagonistic attitude. The fear and anxiety involved with moving cause some cats to become exceptionally cranky.
Your previously cuddly cat may start behaving in rather abrasive ways — he may even bite or scratch you.
How Long Does It Take a Cat to Adjust to a New Home?
All cats will take different lengths of time getting used to their new surroundings. Some felines may get over the stress of the move within a day or two, while others may take weeks to completely settle in.
The important thing is to be patient and attentive to your cat's needs, no matter how long the transition process takes. Most cats will eventually adjust, but don’t hesitate to consult with your vet or bring in the help of a pet psychologist if your cat hasn’t taken to your new home within a month or so.
It’s also a good idea to implement some of the following stress-reducing strategies.
Fixing Your Feline’s Fear: Helping Your Cat Cope While Moving
There are several things you can do to help make the moving process easier on your pet. Here are a few of our top tips.
Like dogs, cats experience a lot of their world through their noses. So, try to make your new home smell as familiar to your cat as possible.
One easy way to do so is by rubbing your cat’s face with a clean cloth to collect some of his personal scent. Then, upon arriving in your new home, rub this cloth along the walls and furniture at his head height. This will help your new place feel more familiar to him, even if he’s never been there before.
It may also be helpful to place a blanket or towel that smells like home in his crate or carrier. This will help him feel more secure while in transit, and it can also serve as a safe hiding place once you are in your new place.
Set Up a Transition Space
New homes — particularly large ones — may overwhelm some cats. The myriad rooms, closets and unfamiliar passageways may intimidate your feline, triggering some of the stress symptoms we discussed earlier.
One of the best ways to mitigate this is by establishing a smaller “transition space” for your cat. Just about any enclosed, out-of-the-way room in your new house will work, but a small bedroom, bathroom or closet is ideal. The important thing is to pick a place that is relatively quiet and free of potentially upsetting activity.
Try to avoid entering this room unnecessarily, and place your cat’s litter box, food and water inside. You may also want to place treats around the room, as this will encourage her to explore. After a few hours or days, your cat will likely feel safe enough to begin exploring the rest of the house.
CBD Chews and Tinctures
Some owners have begun using CBD for cats to help their pet cope with external stresses. Short for cannabidiol, CBD is one of the main components of the hemp plant.
While studies specifically examining the use of CBD for cats are still lacking, there are human studies demonstrating CBD’s efficacy in easing symptoms of anxiety. This is important, as the endocannabinoid system is present in many other animals, including all mammals.
Ask your vet if CBD could help enhance your cat’s well-being, and help them take your upcoming move in stride. Once you get the veterinary green light, check out Heelr’s selection of tinctures and chews to find one that’s right for your cat.
Ben Team is a lifelong environmental educator and animal-care professional who now writes about animals, outdoor recreation and the natural world. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with a spoiled-rotten Rottweiler, who is probably begging him to go to the park at this very moment.