Some events in our lives, such as moving home, are inevitable. Unfortunately, this kind of change can be a little too overwhelming for a cat, resulting in atypical behavior such as yowling or trying to escape. When a cat is stressed, it will either hide or run away. And when your pet dashes out of the window to return to your previous home, he might never make it back to you.
The best thing you can do to keep your furry companion safe in your new home is to restrain him in a humane way. Most cat owners and vets suggest keeping your cat in a dedicated room while you are settling in and unpacking all your stuff. This way, you can easily care for your pet while preventing him from slipping out.
The question is, how long should you keep your feline confined indoors after moving? We have discussed the details below, so keep reading!
How long should you keep your cat inside after moving?
A new environment means new smells and sounds, and cats despise these. Sometimes, however, a move to a new home is unavoidable, and every family, including the four-legged ones, must learn to adjust.
Sadly, cats do not understand the transition of moving. Because they are naturally territorial animals, exposing them to unfamiliar things will only make them feel vulnerable. Eventually, a frightened cat may try to escape and find its way back to the old house. Thus, if you are not careful during your move, you could lose your pet forever.
According to veterinarians, you need to keep your cat inside for around two to six weeks until he learns to acclimatize to his new home. Some cats might just take a week before starting to feel comfortable in their new surroundings. The time will vary depending on your cat’s temperament. And, if yours is an anxious kitty, you may need to take extra measures before moving to a new residence.
Tips for settling your cat into a new home
Changing residence can be exhausting – from the preparation right down to the tedious days after you have moved in. You need to attend to your family’s needs, run errands, unpack and arrange your belongings, find the nearest supermarkets, and many other things. With all these things piling up, you might forget about your cat – but he also needs your attention, especially at this very stressful time.
If you are moving soon, do not forget to include your cat’s well-being on your to-do list. How are you going to take good care of your pet during the transition, and how will you prevent him from freaking out once you have settled into the new house? If your cat is an outdoor fellow, then keeping him inside can be even more challenging.
You need to be well-prepared before moving with a cat. And, as much as possible, you should have a contingency plan in case things go badly along the way.
Here are a few tips to consider to minimize the stress of moving:
1. Update your cat’s identity tag
No matter how careful we are, sometimes we cannot stop a frightened cat from running away. Simply forgetting to close a window, especially when you are busy attending to so many other things, can be exploited by an anxious cat who is waiting to escape. And, once he is out on the road, your cat may never find his way back to you.
Having his microchip or identity tag updated with your current address is important so you can be easily called if someone finds your lost pet. Otherwise, he might even end up in a shelter. You do not want this to happen to your cat!
2. Choose a spare room for your cat
Having a dedicated cat room in your new house is another plan you should have in mind before moving. The room should be a quiet and comfortable space where your cat can spend a few days. It could be a laundry room or a bedroom – it does not matter, as long as it is somewhat isolated from noise and people.
Let your cat stay there temporarily while you unpack everything and until you are ready to introduce him to his new home. Some owners suggest keeping a cat in this dedicated room for up to three days until they are used to the new environment and can then be slowly introduced to the rest of the house.
3. Keep your cat comfortable and well-fed
Try to make your cat’s room as homely and comfortable as you can. Make sure to provide him with enough water and food to keep him content. That said, some anxious cats might refuse to eat or drink in an unfamiliar space, but do not give up. Eventually, a hungry cat will no longer be able to refuse a tasty meal put in front of him.
For most cats, food and water will not be enough to calm their anxiety. Be sure to visit your cat every few hours to cuddle and play with him. Do not leave him alone for too long, or be prepared to suffer the consequences, such as unending yowling at night.
4. Gradually introduce your cat to the other rooms
So, you have finally settled in and you are ready to introduce your cat to the different areas of the house. Your next goal is to help your cat acclimatize to your new home. You can introduce the kitchen area first, and the next day spend some cuddle time in the living room. Keep a close eye on your cat’s behavior to make sure he feels comfortable day by day.
5. Surround him with familiar things
Cats typically build an emotional connection with their home. Taking them somewhere unfamiliar can make them feel insecure and vulnerable. Cats who are anxious can become disoriented and might react instinctively by hiding in narrow spaces or frantically rushing outside, thus exposing themselves to danger.
To help your cat adjust to the new home, surround him with familiar things from the previous home. It could be his bedding, favorite toys, or even your used shirt or towel. Cats rely on their sense of smell for survival, and anything that provides a familiar scent will give your cat a sense of security and of being “at home”.
6. Close all possible escape routes
It should not surprise you to see your cat trying to escape when he first arrives in your new house. Out of fear and stress, he might take advantage of an open and run-off. You need to teach him that this is his new home and that he cannot go back to your previous abode.
Understanding this potential reaction beforehand will help you plan ahead. Before letting your cat out of his carrier, be sure that all openings in the room have been closed. Secure the windows and put a sign on the door to keep it closed at all times. It will be difficult at first for your confused kitty, but with your patience and love, your furry friend should be able to adjust soon.
7. Use pheromone products
Synthetic pheromone products are another excellent option to have on hand during a stressful transition. This chemical, which is an exact copy of the reassuring pheromones produced by cats, is popularly used by owners to calm their cats and is available in the form of sprays, diffusers or collars. You can choose one or a combination of these – whichever works best for you and your cat.
8. Give your cat love and attention
Love and attention are crucial to help calm a stressed cat. Nothing will comfort him more than the warmth and familiar scent of his owner. Even if you are really stressed and busy after moving in, do not forget to spend a little bit of your time with your furry companion.
9. Wait at least three weeks before letting him out
As mentioned, most veterinarians suggest keeping your cat indoors for up to six weeks until he gets used to his new environment. However, some cats might lose their mind if they stay inside for that long, especially if they have an outdoor cat. Observe your cat for up to two weeks and, if you notice him starting to feel comfortable, then it might be the right time to reintroduce him to the outside world. If not, he may need more time to adjust – generally up to six weeks.
10. Supervise your cat outside
So your cat is already comfortable with the new house and its surroundings. When you take him outside for the first time, make sure you do not leave him alone. He may be calmer by this time, but you should still use a harness and leash to avoid the possibility of him dashing to a nearby road if he happens to freak out.
Gradually allow him to explore the yard under your supervision. Slowly increase his playtime outside and, if he jumps over fences, call him back so he does not stray too far. Soon, your cat should be able to recognize your new home and can play freely outside on his own.
How to know if your cat is ready to go out
Cats should be completely relaxed in their new home before they venture outside. That means they should be acting normally, just as they did in their previous home. There should be no more hiding away or yowling during the night.
As mentioned, you need to supervise your cat when letting him out for the first time. Make sure your main door is kept open so that he can run back inside if he becomes overwhelmed.
Another good tip is to sprinkle some of his litter around your garden or backyard before letting him out. Your cat will recognize the familiar scent in the area, and it will let the neighboring cats know that this is his territory.
However, if your previous house is just a few blocks away, there is a chance that your cat might go back there. Politely ask the new residents of your previous home to give you a call if your cat returns, and discourage them from feeding him to keep him from coming back.
Wrapping it up
Moving to a new residence can be stressful for territorial animals like cats. So, before the big day arrives, make sure that you have everything prepared, including a temporary safe space to prevent your cat from escaping.
Depending on your cat’s personality, the time he needs to adjust to a new home might vary. Some calmer cats may only take a short time to acclimatize, while others, who become easily anxious, might need up to six weeks to adjust.
Even though our feline companions are territorial, they are also highly adaptable. Make the transition less chaotic for both of you by giving your cat all the love and support he needs. Follow the tips mentioned in this post to help your furry friend adjust to your new abode as soon as possible.
Image: istockphoto.com / Viktoriia Ponomarenko