Moving With Your Cat: The Do’s and Don’ts of Making A Smooth Transition to A New Home

If you know us cats like we hope you do, you know that change can be a very difficult thing for us to deal with. Yes, we tend to be particular about our likes and dislikes from how full our food bowl is to the exact sunspot in the living room that is ours and ONLY ours—no other creatures allowed. But what really throws us out of whack is being suddenly teleported into a new environment with overwhelmingly new smells, sounds, tastes, sights, etc…you get the idea. 

Us cats need familiarity and comfort when our everyday routine is disrupted or a major change takes place that we don’t understand (a death in the family, bringing home a new human baby or fur baby, rearranging furniture to repaint the walls, etc). This is especially important and can be difficult to maintain when you plan on removing us from an environment we’re used to living in and taking us to what feels like an entirely different world. 

But just because most cats are not crazy about moving homes doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to make the transition easier for them! While every cat is different and some are more chill than others, I, Laszlo, will let you in on some secrets of my own (as well as tips from Mom) that can help make going from one place to another with your cat a doable task.

Knowing Your New Home

People move for many different reasons and generally where they end up can have an effect on pet ownership. First you need to establish where you and your cat plan on living.

  • 1. Apartments and rented homes. Whether or not your kitty is allowed to live with you in your new apartment or rented home is up to the landlord in charge of the building you’re about to move into. If they themselves are animal lovers, you’ll likely have nothing to worry about. However, it’s always a good idea to contact the landlord to meet with them, if possible, in advance to discuss accommodations for your pet and whether or not you can bring more than one furry friend to live with you. Every apartment and rental is different in how they are managed. By getting to know the landlord or who’s in charge of that space before you start packing, you are giving your cat the best chance of being allowed to stay with you and not risk needing to be re-homed.
  • 2. College/University. While we certainly can’t help you choose where you expand your education, we can be good roommates! However, not all schools will accept us like they will you. If you’re considering bringing us along for the college experience for any reason, be sure to carefully read the rules on dorm pets for all your options well in advance. Many colleges allow emotional support animals (ESAs) to stay in the dorms with students. 

  • For those with disabilities or are in need of medical or mental health assistance (depending on the severity of symptoms), students are allowed by ADA law as necessary to have a service animal accompany them anywhere on campus as well as live in their dorm in the United States. If you need to bring your cat with you to college for any reason, depending on where you live, you should check the national or local laws about taking a pet with you to college if you plan on living on campus.

  • 3. Family and loved ones. If you’re moving back home to be with your family after the worst of the pandemic is past, or moving in with a friend or significant other, discussing bringing your kitty with you to stay is key. You should talk with your loved one(s) about whether you’re sharing finances spent on keeping your feline friend healthy and if they’re willing to cat-sit for you in the event where you have to be away from home for a while. You should always, always, ALWAYS only bring your kitty with you to a home that is respectful and supportive of yours and your cat’s needs. 
  • Keep in mind however, that if someone you’re thinking of moving in with has pet allergies, that you may need to either consider staying with someone else who will welcome you and your kitty or be prepared to set boundaries between your cat and a host who is allergic to them. If you’re not sure whether who you’re going to live with has a cat allergy, the safest thing to do is ask and if necessary discuss accommodations that you can both agree on before moving in.

    Getting Ready for the Big Move

    Once you know where you and your cat are going to live, you’ll want to research in advance the veterinarian clinics or pet hospitals in your new area. More importantly, locate the area’s emergency clinic. This is a crucial step to take ahead of time because if your pet becomes under the weather or their behavior raises concerns about their health, you will know exactly where to go and who to call to make sure your kitty gets the treatment they need asap!

    1. Get your kitty chipped if it isn’t already. Register your cat’s identity with the company or organization who designed the chip. Included with your cat’s information should be a designated emergency number (yours and a trusted friend/loved one, as a backup). If your kitty is already chipped, you will need to update the company with your new address, including the date the location change takes effect. This will make finding a missing cat a LOT easier if they escape or get lost before, during, or after the move. A chipped cat is a trackable cat.

    2. Make sure we’re up on our vaccinations…whether we’ll like it or not - we won’t! For those of you who do not vaccinate your indoor only cat after a certain age, check with your vet on protocols to follow if needed. You’ll definitely want to double check your cat’s most recent vet papers to be sure that they have a good bill of health. If you think your kitty might have any issues with traveling by vehicle or airplane, such as an upset stomach or other sensitivities, consult your vet for a second opinion so the two of you can work out any medical assistance your cat needs before making the trip. If your cat takes prescription medicine, definitely bring that with you.

    You’ll also need to bring any necessary documents on your pet’s health, vaccinations, and identification, in the event of an emergency or in case you’re asked to provide information on your pet. Definitely bring a picture of your kitty (make sure to get our good side) to show off—er, I mean, show to authorities in case your feline friend wanders off on their own or escapes their carrier.

    1. Get a good cat carrier. A cat carrier or kennel is mandatory at all times in the car when bringing your cat with you. The last thing you want is for them to start climbing all over you and the seats. By keeping them in a cat carrier, you can focus on the road, keeping both you and your kitty safe. Most importantly, be sure to secure the carrier with the seatbelt so it stays in place. Include a disposable litter box so you do not have to let your cat out of the car to relieve themselves. Be sure to pack a feline first-aid and emergency kit in case of any incidents or injuries enroute.

    If you intend to board a plane with your kitty, you’ll need to invest in a pet carrier designed to fit under your seat. You should also include comfy and absorbent bedding for your cat in the carrier in case they have an accident (or a nervous bladder).

    Even with absorbent bedding, a cat carrier should be easy to clean in case of accidents and motion sickness. The carrier should also be durable enough so that your feline friend won’t break out during the trip and cause chaos for everyone and themselves.

    2. Be sure to pack some of your kitty’s favorite things. Toys, a blanket or towel and some treats of course are important to bring along! You might want to include a t-shirt or top with your scent on it and put in in the carrier. Us cats can be comforted by your smell.

    Temporary Lodgings

    Depending on how you are traveling with your cat to your new home, you may need overnight accommodations along the way.

    1. Check out Hotels/Inns/AirBnBs in advance. Not all places are pet friendly, and it’s your responsibility as a cat parent to make sure we are welcome at wherever you choose to stay for the night. Some places charge extra for our stay (too bad they don’t accept cat ‘gifts’), mainly to cover extra cleaning to rid the space of any pet allergies between guests. Finding pet friendly hotels doesn’t have to be like searching for a flea on a Persian. Fortunately, furry guests are becoming more common now, and now there are many cat friendly hotels around the world! Many of them are brands you may already be familiar with.

  • 2. Staying with a friend or relative for the night. If staying at a hotel is beyond your budget, you should talk with a trusted friend or relative about spending a night at their place as a stopover on the way to you and your kitty’s new home. Even though you’ll only be staying for a short time, you still need to communicate yours and your cat’s needs and both yours and the host’s expectations while you’re there. 
  • Destination Concerns

    Depending on where you’re heading and who you may or may not be living with, there are bound to be concerns surrounding your feline friend’s company in their new environment. This especially applies to pet policies at hotels, inns, and AirBnBs, that may have specific rules that guests bringing furry friends are required to follow. College campuses are similar and usually have more restrictions to which types of pets can and can’t stay. And of course, apartments or rented homes may only allow one or two pets to live with you, with all kinds of conditions.

    Moving with your cat or any other pet can be a less-stressful experience just by planning ahead, considering all the issues and options, and proceeding with a clear path of action. Security for your cat during the entire move should be your number one concern and consideration. After that, wishing you and your kitty much good luck in your new home!