How To Move House with Your Cat (WITH BOOPING NOT POOPING)

Cats are creatures of habit. They are also very territorial. Put those two things together and that adds up to a pet that does not like to move house.


People find moving house stressful, so imagine how it is for a cat, who does not understand what is going on, and does not want anything to change.

Here are some tips to make the move easier and less stressful for you and your cat.

When You Book Your Movers

  • If you are planning to move overseas, there are some extra considerations.
  • Plan which room will be your cat’s safe room on Moving Day. I like to choose a room that will not be part of the moving process, such as the bathroom. Or if that is not possible, choose another room that will not be disturbed during most of the moving process.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a multi-pet household, consider if they should share the safe room. Are they used to being together even if they are feeling stressed? Maybe they need separate rooms? If you also have a dog, here are some tips for Moving House With Your Dog.
  • Consider your plan for how the house will be emptied. If your cat’s safe room is part of the moving process, do you want the contents of that room loaded onto the truck last? Those items will then be unloaded first at your new house so you can set your cat up immediately in their new safe room.
  • Plan to move as many of the other items out of the safe room as possible in consideration of the movers.
  • The mover may suggest moving the furniture out of the safe room for you as their first task. Your cat will only be in his or her carrier for that short time, and can be settled into the safe room for the hour or two that it takes to load the truck.
  • When you make your booking, tell your movers about your cat and your potential plans for Moving Day. They have a specific and efficient way to pack their truck, and will have suggestions for making the move less stressful for you and your cat.

A Few Weeks Before Moving Day

Moving is a stressful time. Cats feel your stress and become stressed themselves. Reduce your stress by planning ahead as much as possible.

  • Get your packing boxes out as early as possible and allow your cat to inspect them.
  • Keep a separate box for your cat’s needs. I always take this box with me in the car. On Moving Day you can fill the box up as you are leaving the old house and then unpack it in the safe room of the new house.
  • Cats know when there is a change in the air. Piles of clothes and boxes everywhere are a dead giveaway. The packing process may be stressful for your cat. When you are packing, it can be a good idea to put your cat in a separate room. On the other hand, my cat Pruney seemed to find it reassuring to be included in this process. I think he felt more in control, and could give all of the moving paraphernalia his seal of approval.
  • If your cat is with you when you are packing, keep an eye on them when you are closing up the boxes. The items in the box could smell very comforting to your cat, and he or she might be tempted to climb in for a nap.
  • Consider boarding your cat for the last couple of days before Moving Day. If your cat is used to visiting a boarding facility, or you have a friend or relative who is known to your cat, this can be a great idea. You’ll need a vaccination certificate for a cattery. Check if anything else is required when you make your booking. After the move, you can pick your cat up and go directly to the new house.
  • Ensure you have a suitable cat carrier.
  • Microchip your cat. If your cat is already microchipped, ensure the contact details are current.
  • Ensure your cat’s collar has your current phone number on it. A mobile number would be best.
  • If you have an elderly cat, talk to your Vet about special requirements.
  • If you think it is needed, talk to your Vet about sedation, anti-anxiety medication or Rescue Remedy.
  • If you are moving to a new area, get your cat’s health records printed for you to give to your new Vet. If you know who your new Vet is, your current Vet might email them for you.

In The Week Before Moving Day

  • Get the cat carrier out a few days before the move to allow your cat to get used to it. When my cats even hear the carrier, they head for the hills.
  • If you are not boarding your cat, set up their safe room. They will need their bed, food and water, toys and their litter box. Also, consider using Feliway. If your dog will be in the same room, Feliway will have no effect on them.
  • Place your cat’s carrier in the safe room so it won’t be loaded into the truck by accident.
  • Clear out as much as possible from the safe room. The ideal situation would be that the only remaining items are your cat’s bed and other essentials. Use the advice that your mover gave you when you made your booking.
  • Make sure your cat’s meal and play times don’t change. Try to keep as much of the normal daily routine as possible.
  • If possible, go to your new property and start preparing the safe room. Because cats judge everything by their nose, spraying a synthetic facial pheromone, such as Feliway around the safe room will ease the terror of the first hours in the new house. Spray it at about 8 inches, which is cat level. If you choose to use a Feliway diffuser, install that and let it do its thing. If you are also preparing for your dog, apply the DAP, which will have no effect on your cat. Feliway will have no effect on your dog.
  • Whenever you feel it is the right time before Moving Day, start keeping your cat inside. In the last couple of days when packing is most intense, the general mood in the house might be a little anxious. If they feel uncomfortable enough, they might choose to lie low for a while and stay out overnight. Your moving day will be much more stressful if you are running around looking for your cat.

On Moving Day

  • Give your cat a small breakfast. The stress of the day may cause indigestion. If the time to travel is less than three hours away, water only would be better. You can feed them immediately at the new house, although they might be too stressed to eat.
  • Don’t let your cat outside on Moving Day.
  • Put a reminder notice for the movers on the door of the safe room you have chosen for your cat.
  • When the movers arrive, ensure they are aware that your cat is in the house and that the safe room door must stay closed. If you have any special plans about how the house will be cleared, review your plan with them as soon as they arrive.

Traveling By Car With Your Cat

  • Always transport your cat in the car in the safety of a solid cat carrier.
  • Place the carrier where there is good airflow. Do not bury your cat in piles of household goods and clothes.
  • Spray the bedding with Feliway.
  • Put a seatbelt on the carrier.
  • If the weather is cold, an extra blanket in the carrier would be appreciated.
  • If the weather is hot, good airflow is critical.

If It's A Long Car Trip

  • Plan for cat-friendly breaks. Research picnic areas on your route.
  • If you need to stay overnight, research cat-friendly accommodation before the move.
  • If you and your cat are traveling alone, take all your snacks and water with you, so you don’t need to leave your cat.
  • Take spare bedding, absorbent paper and plastic bags in case of accidents. Also pack some garbage bags for used kitty litter, in case your cat manages to use it. Depending on the length of the trip, the poor cat may not be able to eat or poop.
  • Don’t completely fill your car. Leave some room for tending to your cat. Think about where the litter tray will travel.
  • Park in the shade.
  • Offer water, food and the litter tray in the closed car. Your cat may not be interested. If it’s a hot day, leave the engine running so that there is still some airflow. Make sure your cat is in the secured cage before the windows or doors are opened.
  • Do not leave your cat in the car on a warm day. A closed car parked on a warm day will quickly heat up to a temperature that will distress, injure or even kill your cat.
  • If you are traveling with someone and you need to shop for snacks, one of you can stay with the cat in their carrier outside the car in the shade.
  • If you are by yourself, plan to have everything you need with you, and stay with your cat in their carrier in the shade.
  • If you are staying in a motel overnight, make the bathroom the safe room for your cat. Check that the bathroom door closes properly.

Traveling By Train With Your Cat

  • A very solid cat carrier is an absolute necessity for train travel to prevent your cat from escaping.
  • When you make your booking, ask if you can keep your cat with you during the trip. Otherwise, get all the information you can to ensure a peaceful trip.
  • Amtrak allows pets as carry-on baggage in at least one Coach Class train car on each trip. (My apologies for referring to your cat as baggage.) Your cat must be in an approved carrier. The Amtrak website has everything you need to know.
  • Take spare bedding, absorbent paper and plastic bags in case of accidents.
  • Keep in mind that you will need to be able to carry the weight of the carrier with the cat in it.

Traveling By Air With Your Cat

  • Check with your airline regarding the minimum age your cat must be to travel.
  • Your airline will have detailed requirements regarding your cat’s travel crate or carrier, microchipping and easy identification.
  • Check that the plane’s cargo bay will be pressurized and heated.
  • Ensure your cat has his or her own travel crate. It needs to be big enough for your cat to get up and turn around.
  • Help your cat get acquainted with the travel crate well before traveling. Bring the crate home and place it in a familiar area. Put some of their bedding in the crate. Tempt them with treats. Don’t force your cat into the crate; this will be a gradual process.
  • A non-stop flight is preferable to cut down the number of times your cat is moved into new surroundings.
  • An early morning or evening flight is advised. In warm weather, avoid leaving or arriving in in the middle of the day. This will prevent your cat sitting on a hot runway waiting to be boarded or, having disembarked, waiting to proceed to the air terminal.
  • Sedation for your cat is not recommended for air travel. The effects of sedation in a pressurized cargo bay at high altitude are unpredictable, to say the least, and can cause respiratory problems. Once the cargo bay becomes still, your cat will settle down without the sedation. Sedation also prevents your cat from bracing to react to movements of the travel crate, and they may be injured. Instead, spray your cat's bedding with Feliway.
  • Consult with your Vet about your cat’s current health and whether they should travel. If your cat is pregnant, air travel is not a good idea.
  • Ask the Vet if there are any known hazards or diseases at your destination that you need to prepare for.
  • Your cat’s vaccinations need to be current.
  • The airline will probably require a certificate of health.
  • Get a list of Veterinarians at your destination in case of emergency.
  • Put an unwashed piece of your clothing in your cat’s travel crate. A t-shirt would be ideal. Wear it for a couple of days prior to travel if possible. Your cat will have a piece of you for snuggling.
  • Do not feed your cat for about 8 hours before travel. This will reduce the risk of them sitting in a soiled crate during the flight.
  • Place a “Live Animal” sign on the travel crate.
  • When you are seated on the plane, ask the flight attendant to check that your cat has been boarded.

If you’d like some information about settling in, Introducing Your Cat to Your New House may be of help.

My Moving Day Story

The beautiful white cat in the window below is Pruney. He and I moved house seven times around Sydney, including twice to my house in the Blue Mountains. Pruney was the first cat that I moved house with, and I learned a few things along the way to make the process easier for him and also for me.

Cats know when things are different. Pruney was no exception. When I was preparing to move house, he would stay close and sit on me whenever he could. I would explain to Pruney what was going on and give him some extra attention to try to reassure him. Introducing him to the packing paraphernalia and letting him have a sniff also seemed to give him a feeling of control and that there were no secrets.

During our second move together I was trying to get ahead with my packing. I had the suitcase zipper open under the bed and was looking through my clothes and stuffing them inside if I thought I wouldn’t be wearing them for a while.

After a few more deposits, I felt a bit of resistance. I got down on the floor and looked into the suitcase. Pruney had crawled in there! He probably just wanted to give my clothes a good sniffing, but it also seemed that he thought he couldn’t be left behind if he was in the suitcase. Hardly a practical idea, though.

At the time I bought my house in the Blue Mountains, it was roughly a one and a quarter hour drive from the suburbs of Sydney. I was worried about how Pruney would survive the trip. I already knew that he had a habit of hyperventilating when we were in the car going to the Vet, and this, in turn, would start me hyperventilating.

I called my Vet and asked his advice, and for this case, he suggested a sedative. What a relief. Mum also offered to sit in the back seat with him for the trip.

Pruney stayed at Mum’s place the night before Moving Day. After the movers had left, I went to Mum’s, and we administered the sedative. We gave it half an hour to get into his system, and then we jumped into my car. Mum reported how Pruney was doing from the back seat. It didn’t seem like the sedative was taking effect, but everything seemed to be going well.

When we were nearly there, I decided I really needed to stop at a petrol station and buy some fuel. We stopped at Bullaburra. Mum had told me that the sedative was taking effect. When I came back from paying the attendant, she had him out of the carrier! And the window was down. I was horrified. I looked around quickly. There was a railway line on the other side of the highway. There were a few houses on this side, but it was mainly a bush area at that time. If Pruney escaped, I was certain I would never see him again.

I got into the driver’s seat and asked calmly for Mum to close the car window. She told me not to be silly; Pruney wasn’t going anywhere. I turned around to have a look. He was indeed looking very relaxed, draped on Mum’s lower arm. He looked up at me, and started to get up. Mum said that he wanted to come and join me. I asked Mum to please close the window. She laughed and wound up the window. Electric windows with driver control would have been helpful.

We arrived at the house in Wentworth Falls. It was the first house that I ever purchased, and it was so exciting! Pruney was very drowsy, so I settled him on one of my T-shirts in a bedroom and closed the door.

We made up the bed in what would be my room. Mum was going to sleep there tonight. I had a blow-up mattress, and I set this up in the bedroom next door. Pruney was still spacey, so I left him there.

We eventually called it a night. Mum went to bed. I pulled Pruney over closer on the T-shirt and settled down.

Just after 2 am, I was awakened by something landing on my chest. Pruney!

He was awake and wanted to play. I patted him and whispered to him that we would play in the morning. He did not settle down but instead went into the hallway for a walk. That was okay because I knew he could not get out of the house. The laundry was two doors away, and I heard him use the litterbox.

I was just drifting back to sleep when I heard Mum shout. I got up as quickly as I could and bashed my head on the wall in the dark. I scrabbled around looking for the light switch to Mum’s room. Pruney was on the bed with Mum, running madly around and jumping up and down. He was clearly happy and excited to be back to normal. He saw me and ran over. I gave him a pat and asked Mum if she was alright. She was smiling, she said she was fine, and asked me to turn the light out.

I went back to bed, and Pruney ran around for a while. Then he launched himself onto the bed and me. I heard a little noise, and then felt a rush of air near my face. His claw must have got the airbed. I was gradually descending to the floor.

Eventually Pruney settled enough for me to go to sleep. A very memorable first night in my new house.

What's Your Story?

If you have any stories about moving house with your cat that might help someone else, please leave a comment below.

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Doyle says

Nice run down of moving house with a cat. I am guessing you spent the first night sleeping on the floor from deflation of the airbed and would ahve been a bit uncomfortable . Also good tips for anyone moving to ensure that they are not chasing after their cat on moving day. I run a small moving furniture removalist company and it can be quite interesting seeing pet owners chase their little friends around the block and into neighbours yards on the day you move.

    Deb says

    Hi Doyle. Nice to hear from a professional removalist about the big day.
    Moving house is usually something we customers look forward to, but the actual process of moving is really stressful.
    I have moved lots of times around NSW and Tasmania, and I have found Australian removalists to be very patient and helpful.
    Maybe you can refer your future clients who are cat owners to this article? Especially those who have not moved with cats before.
    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, and have a great Sunday!

      Doyle says

      Hello Deb,
      Thanks for the reply. Will pass on any information I can for future moving clients who are cat lovers and thank you for the kind words about removalists in Australia.

Tracy Williams says

Thanks for all your advices! Pruney is looking great. I too have a cat and love to know about the small but useful tips for the health of my lovely cat. Keep sharing such blogs.
Tracy Williams recently posted…17 Best Cat Prime Movies You and Your Cat Will LoveMy Profile

    Deb says

    Hi Tracy!
    Thank you so much for your comment, I’m glad you like it.
    I love your website! Lots of lovely pictures and good advice.

Hazel Owens says

Your tip to tell the removalists about your cat is super important. The last thing you want on moving day is to have the added stress of your cat getting out. Either keeping your cat in its carrier and telling the removalists to leave it be, or taking your cat to another place while the removalists are working, will insure that your cat stays safe and sound during your move. Thanks for the great tips!

    Deb says

    Thanks for your comment Hazel!

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