How Can I Prepare My Cat For a Cross-Country Move?

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I will be moving across the country next month, and naturally my cat will be coming along for the ride. I’ve never moved with a cat before, and am honestly unsure what to do outside of putting her in her carrier and buckling her in. What are your suggestions for making it as pleasant as possible for her? Are there things I can do now to start prepping her for the trip?

~ Jen

Siouxsie: Well, Jen, you have come to the right place for your answer! We actually made a cross-country move ourselves: Last summer, we moved from Maine all the way to the Pacific Northwest.

Three cats in carriers in the back seat of a car

Here we are, all buckled in and ready to go!

Thomas: From our experience, there are two things you need to start doing right away. First, if your cat isn’t comfortable with the carrier, you should get her familiar with it as just another piece of furniture. Leave the carrier out with the door or flap open and let her get used to using it as a cave or a bed.

Bella: If she won’t get in the carrier, try tempting by tossing a few of her favorite treats in there and telling her how good she is when she gets in and starts investigating.

Siouxsie: The sooner you start this, the better.

Thomas: You can also spritz some Feliway/Comfort Zone spray into the carrier (not when she’s in it, of course!) — the synthetic “happy cat” pheromones could help her feel more comfortable in the carrier.

Bella: Speaking of carriers, make sure yours is secure. You don’t want your carrier to fall apart while you’re in a hotel parking lot, for example, so if your carrier has seen better days, replace it before you go.

Siouxsie: You may find that your kitty is a bit vocal at the beginning of each leg of the trip. We sure were! We didn’t like all those twists and turns and stops Mama had to do before she got on the highway.

Thomas: But once you’re cruising down the road, your kitty will probably just curl up and go to sleep.

Bella: Keep the music low while you’re driving. We cats have very sensitive hearing, and if you crank the tunes, it’s going to stress us out and may even cause us physical pain.

Siouxsie: If you smoke, don’t smoke in your car while you’re on the road with your cat.

Thomas: Besides, getting out of the car to stretch your legs once in a while is good for you, right?

Bella: For people, yes, but for cats, not so much!

Siouxsie: That’s right. And if you are going to let your cat out of her carrier, never have a window or door open at the same time or you might have a missing cat on your hands!

Thomas: Make sure to plan your travel so your way points are at pet-friendly hotels. For example, Mama knew that the La Quinta Inns are almost all pet-friendly and rarely require pet deposits, so she figured out how many miles (or hours) she could comfortably drive in a day and made reservations at La Quintas along the way.

Bella: There was only one stop where Mama couldn’t find a La Quinta — in western Montana — so she settled on a Super 8 and paid a pet deposit.

Thomas hides behind a bed in a hotel room

Check for hiding places before you open the carrier.

Siouxsie: Speaking of hotels, make sure you know where your cat can go to hide: under beds, behind furniture, and places like that.

Thomas: At that Super 8 we talked about, Bella and I got under a credenza that looked solid, and Mama had to pull it away from the wall to find us!

Bella: But not before she tore the bed apart looking for us. Tee hee hee!

Siouxsie: That wasn’t funny! Mama’s back hurt all day after that!

Bella: Tee hee hee …

Siouxsie: Don’t make me come over there!

Thomas: Minimize your travel time by updating your GPS maps and programming each leg of the trip before you leave. Mama says to use the “shortest route” and “avoid traffic” settings to avoid hassles.

Bella: Before we left on our cross-country trip, Mama wrote an article for Catster with nine tips for moving across the country with your cats. You should check that out for some other details — and there’s some good advice from readers, too.

Siouxsie: Good luck, Jen, and we wish you and your kitty safe travels, a soft landing, and a great life in your new home.

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Comments

  1. Joanna says

    I haven’t gone completely cross-country yet, but the Thanksgiving before last, I did a round trip from Denver to Oregon (2 days each way) with my 21 year old (at the time) kitty.

    Along with Siouxsie, Bella & Thomas’s suggestions above, I also got Amber a “calming collar” (has the “happy cat” pheromones) to wear while in the car and some calming treat chews (she loved those) and I covered her carrier with the blanket I snuggle with on the couch (so it smelled like Mommy).

    She did really well on the trip, only yow’d for about 1/2 hours each time we started out and then she curled up and went to sleep.. I also put one of her favorite beds in her carrier (its actually big enough for 2 cats) so she could have something of home with her all the time.

    Don’t forget to have your kitty’s box available as soon as you let her out of the carrier and make sure to bring her favorite food, treats and toys to have in the motel rooms with you. Anything that makes her comfortable and feeling safe. Maybe even put a t-shirt you’ve worn (but haven’t washed yet) in her carrier as well.

  2. Kieran says

    My cats also were very vocal for the first hour or so, but then slept most of the way. I gave them GNC calming vitamin treats, but I’m not sure that had an actual effect besides placebo. :P

    We stopped at a Red Roof Inn that did not have a pet fee.

  3. Phyllis says

    I drove with two cats from N.H. to N.C. and things went very well. At first neither cat was real pleased but after a while they became used to things and also every time I stopped at a rest area I let them get some air outside, in their carriers of course. They liked that and had a great time looking around and smelling the air. Also get throw away litter boxes to have on the trip. Sometimes if you cover the carrier with a piece of light weight material that is calming for the cat also. Good luck. Make sure you have cold water for them also.

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