How to Help Your Cat Survive a Move

by Denyse Lessard February 25, 2015 7 min read

1 Comment

How to Help Your Cat Survive a Move

My cat is special. I have never seen a cat like him. He is not like other cats. He is different. He is... how would I describe him? Ah, let’s face it: my cat is obnoxious. I have never seen such a cunning, hypocritical, stubborn cat in my entire life. I’m not name-calling. It’s just the truth. You know, I used to believe that one can mold any cat to his or her preferences or shape his personality according to one’s taste. Same master, same pet. Man, was I wrong! I mean, you can try to give some discipline or behavioral training but be prepared to face that undeniable truth: it may not work. Know the beneficial tips about how to help your cat survive a move.

I think I forgot that truth because we have had very docile pets in our home over the decades (or maybe my parents were just amazing trainers) and we could get them to obey or even do tricks. The previous cat we had was so docile that within a few minutes, my husband taught him how to rollover. However, like humans, pets have their own personality. Cats can be especially hard to train. And this is the situation I’m faced with: despite all my efforts, my cat refuses to stay indoors no matter how much we play with him. He needs fresh air.

It took us some time to figure out why he was meowing all the time, though. Whenever I say ‘no’ or keep him from doing something, he cunningly goes into my suitcases or my clothes and pees on them. When he is bored, he goes to the kitchen, opens the cupboard and throws everything on the floor! With such a cat (that, I admit, even made me cry of despair more than once) you can imagine the nightmare I was expecting when we had to move to a new place…

In general, cats are not big fans of change. They like stability and they like to rule over their long-established kingdom (mainly, us!). So, a significant change in their routine can mean stress (or an overthrow of their rule per say!), and you might discover new aspects of your cat’s personality that were previously concealed. But, with enough phone calls to make, enough planning on your part, enough boxes to fill and a deadline to meet, let’s hope your cat won’t add up to your own stress level as you move to a new house. Actually, below are a few suggestions gleaned here and there (and from my own experience too because obviously, I have been through a lot!) and I hope they can help you to prepare your cat for his new home.

1) Do everything slowly.

Don’t rush. Take your time. In any case, your cat will slowly have to get used to your belongings being carried around, but even prior to that, you can let your cat explore the empty boxes that will gradually pile up in the living room. Why not pack up with your cat? He will then think he is part of it too!

The day of the move, place the cat in a closed room with a litter box, water and food so that he doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the new people carrying the furniture and slowly destroying his little world and everything that makes the house familiar to him.

In the new house, place him in a closed room too. Make it comfortable. Put food all around the room so that he can bump into his favorite treat as he is exploring the new place and think that this new place is just miraculously rewarding!

Let him explore the new house gradually and in a relaxed way, ideally when all the unpacking is over. You can proceed one room at a time so that he doesn’t feel overwhelmed or stressed. Let him play and run around.


2) Give your cat more affection than usual.

Cats are very receptive to affection. Actually, they feel reassured if you pat them and play with them. Moving to a new place IS stressful for you and you can always take a jog or vent with a friend once in a while when the pressure is getting too high. But your cat cannot verbalize his stress and anxieties. These can be translated into funny reactions, such as hiding, escaping, peeing outside the litter box and so on.

To prevent that from happening, or at least to lessen these annoying reactions, reassure him. Let him sleep on your lap, pat him as you’re watching TV, play with him, scratch his throat (is it just me or do ALL cats love it and start purring the moment we do this?). Anyway, you see the point. Your cat needs to feel that everything is okay, that you still love him, that you haven’t abandoned him and that there’s no danger whatsoever when he sees those dreadful boxes towering up in the living room. This step can be repeated over and over! Your cat will benefit from your attention if it is given regularly throughout the whole process. Before you move, as you move and after the move, give your cat lots of love.

3) Keep a regular routine.

As previously mentioned, cats don’t jump for joy when it comes to change. So that your cat doesn’t become overly upset or destabilized, try to keep his routine the same as long as you can. To help him in that regard, try to keep the same routine yourself. It may seem like nothing serious to you, but your whereabouts are like landmarks to your cat. If you neglect him because you have so much to do before you move, if you come back at 3 AM and forget to feed him, if new people suddenly come to your house; well, it’s more than enough to make your cat insecure and stressed out. Try to feed him at regular times, try to go to bed at the same time every night and make sure you give him attention on a regular basis.

4) Push the litter box a little further every day.

If your cat is peeing outside his litter box, it might be caused by stress but it might also have to do with the new litter box location. Your cat could be disoriented and simply not able to find it or he just may be upset and wanting you to know it! If you have created a home-based room for your cat for the time of the move, you can take the litter box and place it one foot further every day until the litter box ‘reaches its final destination.’ That way, your cat will slowly get used to the new location of the litter box.

5) If your cat used to go outside, wait sufficient time before you let him out again.

Okay, that may vary a lot from cat to cat but one thing for sure, though, is that you want to give your cat sufficient time to understand that this new ‘kingdom’ is his and that his ‘subjects’ are still the same. I have a friend whose cat was intelligent enough to leave through the front door on the day of the move, to explore the area as he wished, and then to come home by the back window on the same night. You may take the risk if you wish but I don’t think all cats would be able to find their way home on the first day. So, let him explore the house first, at least for a couple of days. I have heard of many people who only let their cats go outside after three or four weeks. When I saw that most websites about moving with a cat suggested that period of time, I resolved to do the same with my cat.

The first day was not too bad. The second day was tolerable. But the following days were complete torture. My cat would scratch everything, meow incessantly, pee on everything (clothes, suitcases, backpacks, stacks of paper, underwear (!) and so on and so forth) and run around like crazy (at that point, I have to admit I really thought he was!). So, to ease my agony (and especially his), I thought I would please him by letting him go outside as he was desperately in need of fresh air. I opened the door and took a risk. I was worried he might go far, lose his way or worse, cross the highway near our house. But I should have trusted him as he is quite intelligent. He walked around, explored a lot, found new places to wander and new mice to eat and he came back refreshed and so tired that he was content to just sit on my lap and bask in the love that the new surroundings could not offer him.

So, the bottom line is, if your cat can handle being indoors despite his habit, good for you. Let time pass and after a few weeks, let him go outside. But if your cat is like mine, and you’re on the edge of going crazy because of his misbehaviour, you can choose to trust him and let him wander around a little bit, waiting for him with treats so that he doesn’t go too far and is happy to come back to you.

So, do your best to do things gradually, give your cat lots of love, keep a regular schedule, move the litter box bit by bit and wait for a while before you let your cat out. Even if these little tips won’t turn your life back around, if you follow at least some of them, your cat might find the move to be not too upsetting after all. And who knows? He might actually even enjoy the ride and start ruling over the new house sooner than you think!

My cat is special. I have never seen a cat like him. He is not like the other cats. He is different. He is... the coolest cat on earth. I have never loved a pet so much. He needs tons of love, likes to snuggle all afternoon on our bed and is the cutest sleeper ever... ever. So, when he acts this way, all his irritating misbehaviour fades away and I’m the happiest cat owner on the planet...



Denyse Lessard
Denyse Lessard


Denyse Lessard is a therapist in alternative medicine.

She has an extensive educational background and has earned multiple degrees, including diplomas in Chinese medicine, Reflexology, Naturopathy & Iridology, and Homeopathy. She is also a member of the Association of Naturopaths and Naturotherapists of Quebec, and the Professional Union of Homeopaths of Quebec.

When working with her patients, Denyse believes in not only helping pets achieve optimum health, but keeping them in tip-top shape for their entire lives.

We invite you to learn more about Denyse's expertise in the alternative field.

1 Response


December 09, 2015

When moving yourself. First have a friend or family member take your cat into their home in a quiet location. A large bathroom, laundry room, a area that can be blocked off from the commotion of the rest of their home and/or pets. Do not try to move out boxes or furniture while your cat is still in your home. While packing to move, pack up the room where the cat’s litter box is last
After you have moved into the house, go get your pet from the cat sitters home. Move the cat into a smaller room with it’s litter box so while you are unpacking and making room for your cat’s items are being placed. Place those items FIRST. Once they know where the litter box is, they will return to it. They will put up with all the unpacking if you are light hear-ted about it and they will enjoy the boxes and wrapping paper to play in. Cats are highly emotional, moving is stressful on humans, if you are in a emotional up roar, your cat and your dog, your kids, everyone in your life will feed off that upheaval if you don’t take a chill pill yourself. Cats will feed off it ten times more easily than your loved ones will so get them into someone’s home you trust for a few days so they can be out of the mess and chill out until you have at least their items in place. Remember to take breaks often, have a cup of tea, sit down on a chair and let them get in your lap if that is what they are used to doing with you, while unpacking the rest of the house and pet them or feed them or spend ten minutes with them so they know they are OK and things will settle down quickly and they are not being ignored or up rooted. It might not be a bad idea to take those breaks for your own brain to settle down. Getting your shorts in a knot and getting all worked up in the mess of things is not healthy for you either.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.