Moving cross country can be a stressful time. Not just for humans, because your cat can feel the stress of moving too!
Cats can be stubborn, but they’re also quite resilient and adaptable.
If you’ve traveled with your cat before then you probably realized that your own stress leading up to the big day was the worst part about it. The extra vet visits, the panic packing, and all the other moving-related anxiety can signal to your cat that whatever’s going on, it’s not going to be good for them.
As always, the best way to ensure you have a stress-free and easy time in the lead-up to the move is through planning and preparation. We’ve compiled a list of 13 tips for moving cross country with cats so that you and your kitty will get through the move just fine.
1. Get a Plan Together
When moving cross country with a single cat or several cats, it is crucial to have a plan in place. Unfortunately, with a move like this, you can’t just wing it. Not only will having a plan help you to feel more in control of the situation, but it will also help relieve some of the stress you and your cat might be feeling.
Once you know where you’re moving to and when you’re going, start to research what needs to be bought and organized for your cat before the big move. Researching all of these things in advance, and assembling a plan will allow you to focus on all the other major moving tasks that need to be sorted.
2. Pick Your Mode of Transport
One of the biggest debates around moving cross country with cats is whether your best option is to drive or to fly.
The answer really depends on the preferences of your cat and your location. Doing a cost-benefit analysis can help you determine which option is going to make sense for you and your cat.
The benefit of driving is that it provides a quieter and less chaotic environment for your cat. It takes longer, but there aren’t likely to be quite so many anxiety-inducing triggers along the way.
Driving may not be feasible if you are relocating from the East coast to the West coast, or you’re not planning to bring your car with you.
The main benefit of flying cross country is that it’s over quicker. If your cat is going to be scared either way, then it may be better to just get the whole thing over and done within a few hours instead of an entire day or several days of driving.
But flying presents its own unique stressors, including loud noises and large numbers of people. You’ll also have to remove your cat from his or her carrier at security and get them back in again.
Another thing to note is that different airlines may have different rules.
For example, United Airlines requests that cats should be at least 16 weeks old if traveling on board and American Airlines has some restrictions on breeds.
Research the restrictions your airline has before the move, as you don’t want any surprises at the airport!
Contemplate and evaluate your options accordingly, and whichever option you choose, make sure to give your kitty plenty of time to get used to their travel carrier.
3. Choose your Carrier Months in Advance
As you may already know, moving cross country with cats requires you to put your animal in a carrier. If you’re flying, make sure you look up airline regulations.
Many airlines limit in-cabin pets to a certain number, so make sure you schedule them on your flight well ahead of time. If you’re just driving, you should make sure that your carrier will fit on your seat or the floor of your car/moving truck.
Whichever mode of transport you’re taking, make sure to leave the carrier out several months in advance and place it in their favorite room with blankets inside. Since cats like dark, enclosed spaces, they will often opt to enter them of their free will.
Provided they don’t already associate the said carrier with the vet. If they are avoiding the carrier, begin feeding them inside the carrier so they’re forced to enter and adapt.
4. Schedule a Vet Appointment
Ensure to schedule an appointment with your vet to discuss your upcoming move. Your cat should be examined to check that they’re healthy enough to make the trip. You can also discuss some best practice advice for your preferred cross-country travel method.
In addition to this, your vet could prescribe your cat something that can help with anxiety if they’re generally nervous and scared when traveling. Most vets advise against sedation for air travel since it can interfere with their ability to breathe on the plane.
You also don’t know how your cat will react to the medication, and it’s not advisable to wait to find that out when you’re up in the air cruising at 35,000 feet.
If it’s just a short flight, intend to skip the sedation and stick with other anxiety-reducing methods, such as Thundershirts and supplements.
5. Make the Carrier Cozy and Comfortable
The right environment can make all the difference for a cat who is experiencing disturbance to its usual routine. The right environment for a cat means that you have a carrier that is large enough for them.
Line the carrier with a blanket on the bottom to keep them warm and cozy, and to catch possible urine or excrement. Make sure to throw in their favorite toy, if they have one.
Also, ensure that the carrier has places for food and water. You will likely want to remove them before the main stretch of travel to avoid spillage.
6. Buy Calming Products
Calming products are great tools to help reduce anxiety in cats. Cats respond really well to pheromones as they signal relaxation. They’re widely available so there’s no excuse not to buy some before the big move.
Feliway is a calming spray that you can mist your animal’s bedding with for immediate soothing effects. The spray releases an odorless vapor that mimics your cat’s natural calming pheromones.
Although the spray is non-toxic, it is advised that you don’t spray the cat directly. Another calming product that can be used is a Comfort Zone Collar. The collar releases the same calming pheromones as the control spray. Both products work well together so it might be a good idea to use them simultaneously.
7. Pack a Bag of Essential Items
To ensure an easy time when traveling, pack a bag of essential items. This bag should contain all of the items that you know you’ll need including food, water, treats, bowls, a favorite toy, blanket, and a bottle of pheromone spray.
If you’re flying you’ll likely be contained to just a small carry-on. So if that’s the case, be sure to pack essentials in your checked bag so you can have access to the items easily when you arrive at your new home. Don’t pack them in your moving boxes! If you’re driving, don’t forget that you’ll need to bring along a travel litter box too.
8. Take a Test Drive
Whether you’re flying or driving, both options will require some time spent in the car. So aim to do a few test drives before the big day.
All you need to do is put your cat in their carrier and drive around several times before moving day. Plan to increase the amount of time with each drive.
Even if you just drive in circles, it will be a good opportunity for your cat to acclimate to the rhythm of the car on the road.
To further relieve stress during these test drives, put on some calming classical music. Play the same music on moving day, either on the drive to the airport or for at least the beginning of your road trip. This should help put your cat in a better state of mind.
9. ID Your Cat Correctly
Before the move, try to get an updated tag with your current phone number and your new address listed on it. And remember to switch the tag out the day of the move, after the moving truck is packed. So if your pet runs out of the house while the movers are there, you still have the correct neighborhood info in place.
10. Tell the Movers You Have a Cat
Responsible movers will usually ask if there are pets on the premises, but some might not. Make sure to gather your moving team together at the beginning of the move and let them know about your pets and what the rules are for ensuring they don’t escape.
If you can, keep your cat locked away until the moving truck or car is packed. Or if you can, take them to a friend or family member’s house until you’re ready to leave.
11. Don’t Feed Your Cat on the Morning of the Trip
Cats can get carsick or have other nervous accidents, so don’t feed your cat on the morning of the trip. An empty stomach will be their best traveling companion! This applies no matter what way you’re traveling, whether you’re flying or driving.
12. Help Your Cat to Settle In
So you’ve arrived at your new home? Congrats! The hardest part of moving cross country with cats is now over. But you’ll probably notice that your cat is still uneasy from the experience.
The best thing you can do to help your cat acclimate to its new home is to offer plenty of time, love, and patience. If they want to spend the first week in your new place hiding under the bed then let them.
If you notice your cat isn’t adjusting well after a few weeks, try to talk to your vet about possible solutions to make the transition easier. Hopefully, being aware and present for your cat will be enough to help reduce your cat’s moving-related stress. Remember to show your cat that there is nothing to be afraid of, and gradually they should start to come around and adjust to their new environment.
13. Set Up a Permanent Litter Box Space
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll also want to establish their litter box’s permanent home. Try to keep one litter box in their home-base room. Put another one where you’ll want the main spot to be. Let both sit out for a few weeks, and then remove the home-based litter box so the only one left is the permanent one.
We hope these 13 tips for moving cross country with cats ensures that you and your cat have a stress-free and easy time in the lead-up to the move. And that once you’ve arrived in you’re new home that your cat settles in just fine! Enjoy the experience and Happy Moving!