Moving a cat to a new home – what do you need to know?

30 June 2021

Moving home can be stressful at the best of times – and adding an unhappy cat in the mix doesn’t help. However, with a bit of planning and patience, moving a cat to a new home can be a calm and minimally stressful experience.

We gathered advice from a range of experts, including Dr Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, a Companion Animal Veterinarian with VIP Puppies. We also received plenty of expert advice from the teams over at removal company Robinsons Relocation and Lincoln-based Pet Checkers.

Here are our expert answers to common questions about how to move a cat to a new home.

A cat settling into a new home

How long does it take for a cat to get used to a new home?

Dr Venkat says that “most cats adjust fairly quickly to a new home, usually within a few days. Some cats may take longer to adjust, around 1 to 2 weeks or so. The length of time for a cat to adjust depends on the size of the new home and how different it is from their previous home. For example, a cat that is used to a one-story home may take longer to adjust to living in a two-story home.”

The team at Pet Checkers agree, adding additional factors in play when moving a cat to a new home. First, their age: “kittens adapt much more quickly than older cats since they’re learning about life very quickly. Older cats who have become used to their territory will naturally take longer.” Additionally, “if your cat has suffered any big traumas in the past, they might not be as confident or as robust as they once were. This means it could take longer to get used to their new surroundings.”

Is it bad to move a cat from house to house?

Dr Venkat says that “it is not bad to move a cat from house to house if you have a plan ahead of time. Prepare to make your move as low stress as possible for your cat.”

The Pet Checkers team notes that “some cats find moving house very stressful while others adapt quickly. For example, kittens are inquisitive by nature and for them, everything is a learning experience. Older cats with established territories and rescue cats can often find moving very stressful.”

How do you settle a cat into a new home?

Dr Venkat adds that “the most important thing to do to help a cat settle into a new home is immediately show them where their litterbox, water, and food dishes are located. Keep all of your cat items in one box that is easily marked that you can access right away – giving cats a quiet space to sleep away from all of the unpacking noise and bustle will help them relax in their new home faster.”

Additionally, she recommends “trying to keep as much of your same routine as possible, such as waking up and feeding at the same time and playing with them as much as you were before.” Ultimately, moving a cat to a new home is a stressful experience, but they will quickly become as comfortable and familiar with their new home as they were with the old one.

Whatever your cat’s experience, be patient – moving can be difficult and scary for them. The team at Pet Checkers suggest introducing your cat to the new house room-by-room: “find a quiet part of the house and set them up with their food and water bowls, litter tray, bed and blanket. Kittens and confident cats will soon start to roam around but shy or older cats might need to get comfortable in this space before they start to explore.”

Exploring is important – “it’s how your cat becomes comfortable in their new territory” – so give them the time and space they need to get familiar with your new home. Be sure to close off escape routes, however, as a nervous cat may make a run for it and get lost. The Pet Checkers team also advises that you “let them fully settle indoors before letting them outside – this might only take a week, or it could take six to eight weeks after moving a cat to a new home. It’s important you don’t let your cat outside too early, as new territory can be scary and cats often go missing when they try to escape.”

The cat owners at Robinsons Relocation recommend “surrounding your cat with furniture and items they’re already familiar with to calm their nerves and make them comfortable.” In particular, they recommend providing a room with “a safe hiding place, such as under a dresser or bed, toys to play with or climb on, and a steady, comfortable temperature similar to the previous home.”

A cat settling into a new home

Is it stressful for cats to move?

Dr Venkat says that moving a cat to a new home is a source of stress: “cats love routine and what is familiar to them, so disrupting their routine and surroundings can be stressful when moving to a new home. Stay patient with them as your cat adjusts and it will make the move more pleasant for the whole family.”

To limit the stress on moving day, consider using self storage while you’re moving home. That way, you can move your furniture on your own schedule rather than rushing to do it all on one day – and the more gradual change could be easier for your cat to adjust to.

If you have a dog, check out our advice for how to settle a dog into a new home.