Most cats don’t like too much change, and most would probably prefer to stay in their known territory. You can avoid a lot of grief by taking care of several aspects of the move for your cat. That grief wouldn’t all be the cat’s, mind – destroying plants and other objects, soiling the house out of fear, hiding, trying to escape, and increased miaowing, to the point where you would call it crying.
There are measures you can take before the move, during the move itself, and while the cat is settling into your new house. This article assumes you are moving within the same country – from Subang to KL, for example.
Before the move
Let your cat get used to his cat box – give him time. If you leave it out with its door open and a familiar, soft object inside, your cat’s curiosity will be satisfied by pinning one place or object down as known. You could put the odd cat treat – but definitely not chocolate (dangerous for cats) – in there for him to find. Building on that, if you feed your cat right at the back of the box, or carrier, you will eventually habituate him to it. Keep your cat’s daily food routine as regular as possible, and give him lots of attention – more than before, if possible. If you don’t have time, a little, often, works well.
If your cat has always been very flighty or easily stressed, try to have him in one room while all the action (and noise) takes place elsewhere. Discuss the possible use of anti-anxiety medication with your vet to ease things for him. At the new place, get rid of any toxic houseplants and make sure no poison traps have been left around the house and yard.
The Move Itself
To prevent your cat from escaping forever while movers come and go, shut him in a bathroom with food, water, a bed and litter tray. Catnip too, possibly. Put a sign up on the door telling the movers and helpers to keep the door shut. Feed your cat an especially small breakfast on the day of the move, to prevent possible stomach upset.
When you’re actually on the road, don’t risk opening the cat box to stroke and reassure kitty; he may be very unpredictable and flighty. After taking all that care so far, you wouldn’t want to lose him like that. Have a spare roll of packing tape with you in case the cat box needs emergency repairs on the way.
The New House: Settling In
Bring your cat to a room with a closable door immediately. This will be his sanctuary for now – somewhere he can retreat while all the chaos goes on in the rest of the house. If possible, arrange his food and water dishes, litter box and bed before letting him out of the cat box. Put some cat treats down low around the room where he will find them, to coax your cat’s curiosity to explore.
For his first several days in the new house, keep your cat in this one room, which he will consider his base. This will allow him to acclimatise to all the new sights, sounds and smells without getting overwhelmed. It will also make it easy for him to find his food, water and litter box.
Spend time with your cat or just be around him – share the room doing regular, quiet activities like reading or watching TV. The less fuss the better, so keep it defocussed from him (well, you know your cat). When he begins to explore, encourage him by offering him attention, using encouraging tones, offering snacks and play activities.
When the chaos of unpacking is mostly over, give your cat gradual access to the rest of the house, one room at a time. Just being with him for brief exploration sessions will encourage him a lot.
Put a second litter tray down in the same place where you’ll want the permanent one to be. Keep the tray available in the base room for at least two weeks. When your cat has fully settled in, that tray can be removed. Or keep the base room litter tray but move it gradually to a more suitable location. Move the litter tray a little each day – just a foot or so away from the base room and toward your new location each day, so your cat continues to know where it is.
When your cat starts to rub his chin and his flank up against the furniture, this is a positive sign known as marking behaviour. It shows that puss now considers this to be part of his territory. Hurray! Congratulations.