Moving with cats across the country is a special type of challenge that you as a pet owner can tackle successfully only if you are well-prepared for it. Established habit and daily routine mean the world to cats, and a home move will often shatter both these lifelines of theirs.
To make matters worse, moving cross country with cats will take these super sensitive creatures way out of their comfort zones and will lead them to strange surroundings with only one lifesaver – you.
To guide you through your upcoming feline relocation, we have prepared 10 tips for moving long distance with cats – priceless advice on how to move with cats across the country.
1. Keep your cat’s routine unchanged
Cats depend on their routine to make sense of the world around them. So, one of the major problems when moving with a cat to a new home is the inevitable change. One thing you can be sure of is that your feline friend will instinctively pick up even the slightest of alterations within their surroundings – for instance, sudden and inexplicable accumulation of cardboard boxes or unfamiliar people in uniforms coming to inspect the home.
Here’s what you can do to keep your cat’s daily routine fairly unchanged:
- Keep feeding your cat like you’ve done until that moment. In reality, there isn’t any good reason to stress your pet additionally by altering their feeding times.
- Try to keep the same schedule for playing with your cat although that may prove to be close to impossible due to the overwhelming move-related tasks you’re expected to complete.
- Do your best to keep offering your pet animal the same level of attention as before – again something that should be rather difficult during the hectic pre-move period.
2. Keep your cat calm and stress-free
When moving cross country with a cat, arguably the hardest thing you’ll have to do is keep your pet calm and stress-free during the entire relocation period. Here’s how you can make this happen, or at least try:
Speak to your cat. Sure, animals cannot understand human speech but that shouldn’t stop you from explaining to your own pet that changes are coming and that you’re going to face those upcoming changes together. Who knows, you may be surprised by how much your clever cat understands you in the end.
- Stay calm. Your cat’s senses are heightened enough to detect that you yourself are worried and stressed out due to the approaching home move. Your pet will likely pick up any changes in your behavior or distressing tones in your voice, and will respond accordingly. Make an effort to stay calm and your sensitive pet should follow suit.
- Keep strangers away. When the representatives of your cross country moving company visit your home for a visual inspection of the items you have for packing and transportation, keep your cat in a room away from those strangers so that your pet won’t get frightened.
3. Take your cat to the vet
Moving with a cat across the country is only a good option when your pet is both healthy and 100% ready for the long distance car drive or plane flight. When following your own moving checklist, you’ll soon get to the task that’s entitled Take your pet to see the vet.
You may not know it yet, but visiting your vet prior to the move will fulfill multiple purposes at the same time:
- Request a full medical check-up of your cat prior to Moving day. You must make sure your animal companion is in good health before the long trip to the new home.
- Request copies of your pet’s medical records (such as the immunization passport), so that you can register your cat with a new licensed veterinarian upon arrival in the new town or city.
- Speak with the vet about possible cat sedation for travel (anti-anxiety medication) if you suspect your pet will be too nervous or frightened during the car trip or airplane flight.
4. Prepare the transportation carrier
While it’s usually okay to transport a dog inside a car without a shipping container, cats should always be placed inside suitable carriers for their own safety, and the safety of the car passengers. If you intend to ship your cat by air, then you must get a pet carrier that’s been specifically designed for air travel and approved by the airline company you plan to use.
Size. The cat shipping container should be large enough so that your pet can sit, stand, lie down, and turn around naturally.
- Construction. The cat carrier should be constructed from rigid materials (metal, plastic or wood). Also, it should have a solid top and ventilation openings on its sides. Make sure the door is securely latched so that your cat won’t be able to get out on their own during the relocation trip.
Even in the case of opting for the best option to move your pet across the country – a comfortable cross-country drive in your own vehicle, moving long distance with a cat should not be underestimated. This is why, it pays off to be prepared – guarantee a good level of safety by purchasing an approved cat transportation carrier from your local pet shop.
5. Keep your cat safe on Moving day
The process of moving with cats from house to house is primarily about the safety of your dear animal companion. Here are the things you should do to ensure a high level of safety and protection during the day of the move:
- Ask a friend or a neighbor if you can leave your pet with them during the most dangerous and chaotic day, at least until the moment the movers leave your home.
- Designate a room where your dear cat will be a safe distance away from the whirlwind of packing and moving activities. Provide fresh water, preferred food, a comfy cat bed and a litter tray. Also, make sure the door stays shut – you can even attach a sign DO NOT ENTER to keep anyone from opening the door by mistake.
- Consider leaving your cat’s carrier inside that room so that your poor pet can have a safe place to hide from all the strange noises and frightful commotion that will take place on the day of the move.
Remember that the long distance movers you have hired are not permitted to transport pets as the latter fall into the category of non-allowable items.
6. Have a safe car trip with your cat
As mentioned above, when moving with cats to another part of the country, the best way to approach the transportation issue is to have your cat with you in your own vehicle. This way, your pet will be perfectly safe and should be relatively calm because you’re never leaving their side during the moving trip itself.
Ultimately, the trick to having a problem-free and even enjoyable journey comes down to the thought and efforts you invest in the preparation:
Arrange the car trip in such a way that your cat remains the last thing to be loaded into the vehicle.
- Consider giving your cat suitable anti-anxiety medication – as recommended and prescribed by a licensed vet – especially if you notice that your animal friend is too frightened or restless prior to the trip.
- Pack a travel bag with all the essentials you think your cat may need on the road – favorite food, fresh water, most loved blanket or toys – anything to remind them of their world and to keep them tranquil.
- DO NOT let your cat loose inside the car as you can never be sure how your stressed-out pet will react. Instead, keep them inside the pet transportation carrier – safely locked and secured by a seat belt.
- Plan your car trip in the best possible way – opt for pet-friendly motels or hotels along the way, if necessary, and NEVER leave your cat inside the vehicle without supervision.
7. Consider shipping your cat by air
How to move across the country with a cat? Now you know the best way, but it can never be as fast as transporting your feline pet by air. Distance is usually the deciding factor in such cases – somehow you wouldn’t be thrilled by the thought of driving from one coast to another (the driving distance between New York City and Los Angeles is about 2,800 miles), and you shouldn’t subject your cat to such as an excruciatingly long car drive either.
Of course, the alternative is to ship your cat by air.
- Decide whether your pet will travel as cargo or as a cabin passenger with you. Some airline companies allow a certain number of small pets to travel in the cabin with you. Contact several airlines to learn whether or not you can take advantage of that service.
- Make a reservation for your cat as soon as you can. Make sure you are well familiar with the pet policy of the airline carrier.
- Prepare the required documents – a health certificate is a must.
- Check again whether the pet carrier is approved for air travel.
- Arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before the departure time.
8. Keep your cat indoor after the move
Our tips for moving with a cat continue with practical advice on what to do with your pet right after the home move.
Ensure the safety of your cat by taking them to a designated room and once again, proving all the essentials the pet may need: water, food, bed, litter tray, and even some toys. DO NOT let your cat loose around the new home right after reaching your destination.
- Ensure that the room is clean and has no residual scents or visible signs of previous pets.
- Check whether all escape routes from that room are blocked – windows, doors, etc. It’s definitely no fun to confine your poor cat to one room but you don’t have much of a choice – most of the times cats will be so stressed out and terrified of the unfamiliar home that they may attempt to plot a courageous escape.
- Leave the pet carrier inside the room as your frightened pet may choose to hide inside it for added comfort and protection.
- Use the time to complete essential post-relocation tasks around the new home while your cat is slowly but surely getting used to the new surroundings. Read the next tip to learn how to help your beloved pet acclimatize faster to the strange environment.
9. Help your cat acclimatize faster
One thing should be clear by now: it’s definitely not easy to move across the country with a cat. On top of the difficulties during the actual move of your pet from home to home, now you’ll have to deal with the post-relocation acclimatization period of your animal companion.
- Let your cat out of that room whenever you feel he or she has calmed enough to want to explore the strange surroundings. When you sense that your pet has recovered from the initial post-move shock, it’s time for the next step.
- Close all doors and windows leading to the outside and then introduce your cat to the rest of the new house or apartment. It’s best if you turn the exploration period into a fun game so that your cat can get used to its new home even without realizing it.
- Re-introduce your cat’s old routine – the sooner they can cling to something familiar and comforting, the quicker the adaptation period will pass.
- Provide proper identification for you can in case your cat does manage to somehow escape the new home – a collar with your mobile number or a permanent microchip.
- Give your cat enough time to feel right about the new home. The adjustment period may take a while, so be patient and don’t rush things.
10. Keep an eye out for feline depression
Hopefully, your cat will breeze through the post-move adaptation period and everything will be back to normal in no time. However, cats are extremely sensitive to even slight changes in their environment, so it’s possible that your cat get down with a condition known as feline depression.
Monitor closely your cat’s behavior and note down any worrisome signs.
- Keep in mind that it’s not easy to diagnose depression. Nevertheless, the most common symptoms of feline depression are: loss of appetite, aggression, excessive sleeping, prolonged periods of non-meowing or isolation, etc.
- Be there for your beloved cat, and devote to him or her as much time as you possibly can. Temp them into play and show them that you love them every chance that you get.
- Consider hiring an experienced pet-sitter if you’re away from home for too many hours. Another viable solution is to get your cat another pet animal for company.
- Take your cat to see a good vet if the troubling symptoms of cat depression persist.
See also: How to move plants to a new home