How Long Does It Take A Cat to Adjust to a New Home?

Cat climbing on a couch.

Moving can be a stressful event for anyone. But how will this life-changing event impact your cat? The last thing you want is for your best friend to suffer depression or anxiety as a result of moving to a new home. There are some things you can do to make your best friend feel at home in his new digs.

How long does it take a cat to adjust to a new home? There is no “correct” time for adjustment to a new home. It can take a day, a week or longer. Most cats will feel at home in their new home within 2 weeks. If they are eating, drinking and using the litterbox, they are adapting to their new home.

How to Move a Cat to a New Home

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Our whole life is about change and that may include moving to another home. Whether it is down the street or across the country, it will be a big change for both you, your family and your pets. As you would do with your own move, planning your cat’s “move” to his new home can make the trip less stressful. Reducing fear and anxiety will be the best thing you can do for your cat throughout the moving process. Follow these simple tips for moving with your cat.

1. Get your cat comfortable with his carrier – the safest and most comfortable way to travel with your cat is in a carrier. If your cat has never been in a carrier before, you will need to allow time for him to become comfortable with his carrier. 

Start Introducing your cat to his carrier gradually (about 2 weeks before the move). Put it in the same room with him and let him check it out. Don’t push him to do something he is not comfortable with.

Open the door so he can get comfortable with the inside. Add some of his favorite toys so it seems more inviting. Covering the carrier with a towel or blanket can help your cat feel safe. Reward your cat as he achieves the desired actions.

2. Get your cat comfortable with being in the car  Once your has become accepting of the carrier, put him in the car next to you. The first few times don’t drive anywhere. Let him realize that being in the car is not something to fear. Lastly, get him used to riding in the car. My cats never “loved” going for a ride in the car like dogs do, but they tolerated it and eventually fell asleep. 

3. Get your cat comfortable with moving boxes – Since boxes will be a big part of the moving process, you will need to get your cat used to them as well. This part will probably be easier than the carrier since cats tend to love boxes. 

Put some boxes out a few weeks before you start packing and let your cat check them out. Chances are she is curious and jumps right in. If she does not warm up to the boxes, you can try spraying cat pheromones (available at the pet store) on the corner of the boxes to encourage her to check out the boxes. 

4. Check your cat’s ID – Make sure your cat is ID’d with a name tag that includes your mobile number and a microchip. Vet’s will microchip your pet for free making it easy for anyone with a microchip reader to identify you as Fluffy’s owner.

It is also recommended that you have “lost flyers” with your cat’s picture description and your contact info that can quickly be distributed. Some of these things may seem excessive, but if your cat gets spooked and bolts you’ll want to be prepared. 

4. Visit the vet – Making a trip to the vet before a move is important for a few reasons. First, you want to make sure he is healthy and can tolerate the stress of a trip. Second, you will want to get a copy of his medical records for the new vet. If you are flying with your cat, you should get a health certificate from your vet as well. Lastly, you may want to talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication for your cat.

5. Understand airline and hotel regulations – If you are going to fly or stay at a hotel, you will have to be familiar with the requirements of the airline or hotel. People travel with pets all the time, but you want to know before you go what to expect to make it easier on you and your cat. A quick phone call or online search should help with this.

6. Keep a routine – Do the best you can to keep your cat on his normal schedule. A change in routine can cause anxiety without the added stress of the move. Make sure your cat gets extra attention to keep him calm during this hectic time.

Following these tips and planning ahead will help your cat transition to the next chapter of your life as easily as possible.

Moving to the New Home 

Moving day is here and this is where the stress can really escalate. Your house may be filled with more people than normal. Your cat will not be used to the commotion and added people. Here are some tips that can help him handle moving day.

1. Create a safe-zone – Have a small room or space (bathrooms are great) where your cat can be separated from the activities of the move. Put all of his necessary items in the room as well as his carrier and his favorite toys. The door can be closed to separate him from the “scary” things happening around him. 

2. Give your cat a small meal – You don’t want your cat to have an empty stomach. That may add to the stress, but you don’t want him to overeat either. That could cause vomiting or diarrhea. 

3. Put him in the carrier – You may want to do this when she is in his safe – zone or right before you get in the car to leave. Once he is in the carrier for his trip, don’t open the carrier door. Even though you think you know your cat, anxiety could cause him to bolt.

Moving with a Cat in a Car 

Driving a long distance with a cat can be quite an experience, but there are some things you can do to make the trip easier for both you and your cat. 

If you are traveling in a car long distance, you will still want to have your cat in a carrier. I know it might seem tempting to let your cat out for the long trip, but having him in a cat carrier is still the best way to keep him safe and calm.

You will also want to make sure you have puppy pads, a small litter box with litter and food and water. Also, ensure you have supplies to clean up after a nervous cat. Make sure your cat carrier is secured. You don’t want it to be able to slide off the seat. When you stop, see if your cat wants to eat, drink or use the litter box. 

If you can give your cat attention when you stop, that will help calm him down. Talk to him periodically, so he knows he is not alone. Your cat will get comfort from your voice. 

Boy, Pixie and Mary’s Story – The Trip

Seven years ago my husband and I decided we were tired of the snow and Florida was the place for us. And of course that meant our 3 fur babies, Boy, Pixie and Mary were going to make the trip as well. 

We spent a lot of time researching how we were going to move our cats. We thought about flying with them (the trip was about a 1,000 miles), but quickly nixed that idea. We were not sure how we were going to travel on a plane with 3 cats and some people are extremely allergic.

The decision was made to put them in the hatch compartment in our Hyundai Tucson in their carriers. Boy and Mary were BFFs, so they traveled together in one large carrier. Pixie (more of a loner) traveled in her own carrier. 

About a week before the trip, I went to the vet and got them kitty anti-anxiety medication. Trying to give them the medication was an issue. No cat likes being given pills. We just decided to see how they would do without the medication and they did just fine. We had a small disposable litter box, food and water. We put food and water out for them every time we stopped.

They ate and drank very little and never used the box. They did not have any accidents either. Overall, they did very well on the trip. We were fortunate to have cats that did not have high levels of anxiety.

How to Help Your Cat Feel Comfortable in a New Home

Moving to a new home can be exciting, but it will most likely be a time of confusion for your cats. You will want to keep them as comfortable as possible and the more you can make life for them like it was before the move, the sooner they acclimate to the next chapter in your life.

1. Create a Safe – Zone – A safe zone is not only important when you are moving out, it is also important when you are moving into your new home. Moving in is just as chaotic as moving out. Giving your cat a quiet danger free spot will keep him calm and out of trouble.

A bathroom or any other room that is safe and has a door will work. Fill the space with the items your cat will need…food, water, litter box and toys. Once the space is set up, open the door to your cat’s carrier and let him venture out on his own.

2. Cat-Proof Your New Home – Check for chemicals, pest traps and other things that could be dangerous to your cat and remove them. Block off areas that will allow your cat to hide under and behind furniture. 

3. Put Out Toys and Scratching Devices – Put your cats favorite things throughout your new home. He will smell his scent and it will give him comfort. If he has a favorite place he likes to scratch, that should be part of his new environment. Interact with your cat playing with his favorite toys. 

4. Set-up Litter Boxes – This is something your cats will need as soon as they get to their new home. Place multiple litter boxes throughout the home. Show them where the boxes are and they should be good to go.

5. Get Your Cats Back on a Schedule – Keeping your cats schedule as consistent as possible. Provide your cat with scheduled play time and feeding times. Smaller more frequent meals may be necessary at first if your cat does not have much of an appetite.

6. Keep Your Cat Indoor for a Few Weeks – Let your cat become familiar with his new home before you let him venture outside. You may want to put your cat outside in a cat-safe enclosure or take him for a walk on a leash. You can also sprinkle your cat’s used litter around the outside of your house so he smells his own scent and becomes comfortable.

Some cats are used to going outside, but it is important to know the risks of letting your cat outside. Some areas of the country have higher risks (coyotes, otters, raccoons, eagles, owls) than others. 

Boy, Pixie and Mary’s Story – The New House

After being on the road for 16 hours, Boy, Pixie and Mary were finally at their new home. The first thing we did was set up the litter boxes in a configuration similar to our previous home. 

Since the house was a one-story new build, there really wasn’t anything to cat proof. Once we had everything in the house, we opened the carriers and let Boy, Pixie and Mary out into their new home. They slinked through the home with the bodies low to the floor as cats do when they are unsure.

They explored for the first day or two. They also stayed close to us and each other. Within three days they were pretty much acclimated to our new home. The tile floors were one of their favorite things about our new home. Their toys move around easier on tile than carpet. 

My Cat is Not Eating After the Move

Even though this can seem very scary, rest assured this situation is only temporary. When your cat gets hungry enough, he will eat. But in the meantime, try some of these suggestions until your cat’s appetite returns to normal.

Try feeding your cat small meals and stay with him for a few minutes and see if he eats. He may take comfort in you being with him and eat a small amount. Try it again later to see if he will eat more.

Try feeding him in a safe space, such as; his carrier or his safe room. You can also see if your cat will eat a few treats out of your hand. 

Try using Feliway spray or diffuser. Feliway is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone. It has a calming effect that can help reduce the stress of a new environment. Feliway is available as a diffuser and spray that can be used to reduce other types of stress as well.

Give your cat lots of love and attention. Surround him with his favorite things and even put a piece of your clothing near him and within a short time, he will be back to eating regular meals.

Final Thoughts

Moving is something most people will go through at least a few times in their life. A lot of the experience will be about planning for both you and your pets. Take the time to follow the steps and you can your pet will have a smooth transition into your new home.