How Long Should I Keep My Cat Indoors When Moving House?


Looking forward to moving to a new home with your cat? Moving to a new home is stressful for everybody, especially your cat. Cats have a strong connection to their territory. If their home is changed, they may not recognise it as their territory and feel vulnerable. If your new home is somewhere close to your old home, then there is a chance that your cat will want to go back to the old one. This is why very carefully planned measures must be taken to ensure that your cat accepts their new  territory.   

Veterinarians generally suggest that you keep your cat indoors for 6 weeks to allow them get used to their  surroundings and smells. However, we let ours out after 1 week, because one of our cats was losing his mind. 

Below are a few tips to keep in mind before deciding on when to let your cat out.

Keep Your Cat’s Identity Safe

Although your cat should always be in a carrier whilst in the moving process, sometimes things may happen accidently. For example, your cat runs out of the secure room that they are in whilst all the doors are open in the house, due to bringing in all the boxes. So, in the off chance that your cat happens to escape out of your new home, it is essential that your cat wears a collar with an identity tag or a micro-chip, that contains your phone number and new home address on it. 

Making Sure Your Cat Is Comfortable    

It is better to keep your cat in a spare room to save everyone the trouble of getting confused about what is going on during the offloading process. A good idea would be, to put a sign on the door letting movers know that there is a cat or cats in the room and that no one should enter. Make sure the doors and windows of that chosen room are locked so that your cat is not able to escape.  If your cat is an anxious one, then you might consider keeping it in a cattery. You might also use a cattery to move your cat to the new home. But if you put them in the cattery right away, they might get shocked or confused. Cats are cautious creatures, so it is important to make them feel safe at every stage of your moving process. Take your cat to the cattery for a visit (where you may stay with them) and let them cat explore and get comfortable with the place. You could try taking treats or something like catnip with you, to make it a positive experience for them. Once they feel comfortable in the cattery, you may leave them there for a short while and then build it up. However, if you are moving then it shouldn’t be longer than a day that they would be there for. But, if you are moving a long distance then obviously staying in a cattery would not be an option. So you could get them used to the car by introducing it to them in stages. If you want to know more about familiarising your cat with the car, read my post ‘5 Tips On How To Travel Long Distances With Cats’      

Keep Your Cat In One Room Whilst Unpacking 

When we moved, we put our cats into one of the rooms with their food, water and litter trays and opened their carrier doors so they could come out and explore. They did not leave their carriers for a good few hours but the option was there at least. If your cat comes out of their carrier, it is nice for them to be able to jump up on a windowsill (if they are feeling daring), and look at their surroundings. So, it would be best to place them in a room that has a window in it (making sure it is closed, obviously). Whilst your cat is in the room, this also gives them the chance to get used to the new smells and sounds of the house. 

When To Let Your Cat Out Of The Room 

Once you have unpacked all your belongings, you can let your cat out of the room to start exploring their new home, provided the doors and windows are closed. If your cat is outgoing then they will check out their new home on their own. On the other hand if your cat is a bit nervous, they may want to stay in the room for a while. This is fine too, and they may just need some time to get used to the rest of the house. Don’t be forceful. 

How Your Cat Marks Their Territory  

A cat marks its territory by rubbing its face against furniture (and you for that matter).  This is because cats have glands located around their mouth, chin, neck and ears. The act of rubbing against inanimate objects is called “bunting”, and this is how they spread their scent around your house to ultimately mark their territory. So, you will notice that once your cat starts to explore their new home, they will immediately start rubbing against things in the house. The good thing about moving home is that, you will more than likely still have your old things, so their scent will still be on things like the sofas (which should make them feel a little less distressed). But they will want to spread their scent around the rest of the house too.     

Help Your Cat Settle Into Their New Home  

Moving into a new home, means new smells or old smells from other animals. This can make it difficult for some cats to accept their new home. So, if your cat is having a hard time feeling comfortable in their new home, there are ways that you can help them to feel more at home. One thing you could do is, take a soft cotton cloth and rub it gently on their face to pick up their scent. This way you will be able to rub their scent on the furniture or anywhere around the house.
If your cat is not wanting to come out of a certain room, then you could try moving their litter tray and food into the main areas of the house to encourage them to come out and explore (because they will have to eventually). Obviously, allow them some time and don’t be too pushy. 
If you are finding that your cat is really struggling, you could try buying something like Feliway to help them feel more calm. Feliway gives off “feel good” pheromones and helps to make your cat feel calm. We used it once, when we were looking after our friends cat and he became distressed (he started pulling his hair out, because he missed his owner). It did seem to make a difference as he did settle after that.      

Prepare To Let Your Cat Out  

Before we moved, we spoke to the vet about how long they recommended we keep our cats indoors. She said that they should be kept inside for 6 weeks to get used to the smells and look out of the windows to get an idea of their surroundings. Well, our cats lasted 1 week indoors because our younger cat was terrorising our older cat (out of frustration I guess) so much so, that it actually just became unbelievably annoying. Our younger cat is a real outdoorsy kind of cat and he likes to go gallivanting, but our older cat is more homey and didn’t mind not being able to go outside. Anyway, they went out after 1 week and were absolutely fine and did not get lost. We did do it in stages though, whereby we just let them out into the garden to explore but then brought them back inside after a set amount of time, and at night we still kept the inside. This only lasted a few days though, and then they were allowed to go in and out through the cat flap.
However, I would not suggest this (as a non-professional) because lots of cats do get lost. So, go with your gut mostly I guess. But 6 weeks (if they can handle it) is the recommendation that we got from the professionals. You could let them out for 10 minutes at a time and then bring them back, “rewarding” them with treats and then extend the intervals as you go.

If you are going to let your cat out for the first time, it is best to do it on a day that you will be at home all day so that you can supervise. Also, your cat should be left to walk around outside, rather than be carried and the garden should be secured if possible. This way, they can spread their scent through their paws and by rubbing themselves against the walls etc. This will help them to smell their way back, if ever they were to find that they had gone a bit too far. What you should try and do is train your cat to come back when you call them, by giving them a treat every time they return. 

How To Prevent Your Cat From Going Back To Their Old Home  

Cats are very homely creatures and are very strongly bonded to their homes. so it is only natural for them to want to go back to their old one. If you are moving somewhere that is close by to your old home, the chances of them trying to find their way back, are quite high. 
The most important thing is to have an identity collar on your cat, or more so to have your cat micro-chipped (this is a better option). This way if someone was to find them, they would be able to identify where they live. A good idea too, would be to let the new tenants of your old property know that your cat may try and return and that they should not encourage them to stay or give them any food. A cat will eventually return if they are hungry enough, so make sure to feed them as soon as they return home from being out. This allows them to associate returning home with being fed. 

Most important of all though, just make sure that you give your cat lots of affection and playtime. This makes them feel that only positive things happen when they are at home 🙂 

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About Me

My name is Tamsin and I’m obsessed with my two cats, Buddy and Bailee. Recently we took on a big move to another city and I needed a lot of info to keep them happy while we travelled. I created this site to share all the info I learned.

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