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Moving with Cats? Why Moving is a Bogus Reason to Abandon Your Cat

Moving is one of the top reasons that cats end up in shelters. Don’t let your cat be a statistic — here are resources and tips for anyone moving with cats.

Denise LeBeau  |  Aug 18th 2017


From changing jobs to a change in finances to losing or adding family members, moving can crop up suddenly and disrupt every aspect of your life and routine. Some cat parents find moving especially daunting. A recent 2015 study, Goodbye to a Good Friend: An Exploration of the Re-Homing of Cats and Dogs in the U.S., states that “housing” was the number one reason renters give up their pets. And The American Humane Association reports that of the 3.4 million cats entering the shelter system each year, approximately 1.4 million don’t make it out. While it’s more of a challenge to move with cats, it’s definitely doable. Here are some common issues that crop up when moving with cats — and how to overcome them.

A brown and white cat peeking out of a cardboard box.

A brown tabby cat in a red carrier. Photography by Sokratyks/Thinkstock

1. “I can’t find pet-friendly housing.”

In the digital age, finding pet-friendly housing has never been easier. From pet-friendly sites like Abodo and People with Pets to huge listing sites like Craigslist with pet-friendly search criteria, finding suitable accommodations is a few clicks away. To further stack the deck in your lease-procurement favor, get a letter of recommendation from your current landlord and have your cat’s medical records handy. These documents will go a long way in proving you are a responsible cat guardian and tenant to potential landlords.

2. “I’m moving long distance and my cat can’t handle the stress.”

If you’re moving hundreds or even thousands of miles to relocate, start working with your cat right away to get him used to what the trip will entail. Get him excited about going in his carrier — use special “carrier” treats that he only receives while in the carrier, give him his favorite toys, outfit the carrier with familiar bedding (this could be your T-shirt) and gradually increase the time he spends in it. Also, see if he likes being on a cat harness.

Driving to your new home? Get your cat used to the car by putting him in his comfy carrier and taking him on short driving trips that gradually increase. Keep the temperature cool and comfortable and play soft, soothing music.

If you’re flying with your cat, many airlines will allow the cat to ride in the cabin with you. VCA Hospitals offers advice on flying with cats that includes everything from moving through security to researching acceptable carrier sizes. Moving internationally? Check your destination country’s requirements for pets well beforehand, and be sure to have up-to-date health information on hand.

Even after you’ve acclimated your kitty to his carrier and/or harness, he could be nervous. Calm your cat by adding tinctures like Bach’s Rescue Remedy to his drinking water or applying pheromone-driven salves like Feliway liberally.

3. “We won’t have anywhere to stay with my cat while moving across country.”

There are plenty of pet-friendly hotel chains if you’re road tripping with your cat to your new home. La Quinta hotels are in almost every major city, and they’re very welcoming to pets. You don’t have to spend a fortune, either. Research options and pay beforehand so you and your kitties enjoy a stress-free stay.

4. “My cat will be traumatized by living in a new environment.”

Many cats need an adjustment period, but making a cat comfortable in his new home is simple. Start by keeping him in his carrier in one room that you’ve set up with familiar items — cat beds, cat trees, scratching posts, kitty litter pan, etc. Open the carrier door and let him get acclimated. After he’s secure in one room, give him the opportunity to check out the whole house on his terms.

5. “I can’t afford to move and keep my cat.”

There are plenty of resources to help keep costs down during this difficult time of transition. From pet food pantries to animal medical aid, finding financial assistance can be key to keeping your family together. Contact your local shelter and see if there are any guides that they can share with you. Or, start a fundraising campaign with easy-to-use sites like gofundme.com or youcaring.com.

Most of all — please research all options available when moving with cats. Don’t let your cats go from cherished family members to sad statistics. And before you start your journey, make sure your cats are microchipped and have breakaway collars with updated identification tags.

Moving with cats might be stressful in the moment, but once you’re all settled in, you’ll be glad you stuck by your promise to care for your kitty for a lifetime. Living arrangements will come and go, but your cat is yours for life.

Thumbnail: Photography by kmsh/Thinkstock.

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