How to Move Cross-Country with Cats

Deb Hipp
Find Self-Storage

Moving with a cat can be challenging.

If you let your kitty roam the car, she may crawl under the driver’s seat and hide until she creeps out later to curl up on the brake pedal.

Other than a trip to the vet, your big move might be the first time your feline friends have been away from their home turf. At the end of your long car ride, your cat will enter her home. These new surroundings can cause a cat’s stress levels to rise and your kitty might act strangely in her new home.

Don’t worry, though. There’s no need to get your back arched up over moving with a cat. Pounce on these tips on moving with cats to make the journey as painless as possible. Here’s how to drive across country with a cat.

how to move with cats

Bring Out Carriers Early

You need to be “very strategic” with cats when moving, says Amy O’Brien, who relocated from Kansas City, MO, to Denver. O’Brien placed carriers for her three cats around the house a month ahead of time to acclimate them to the temporary transport homes.

Cat carriers allow you to ensure the safety of your pets, as well as you and your family. Before your move, take your cats out for a drive with your cat inside the carrier. Don’t forget to let them have a few of their favorite toys inside to keep them company.

Give a Cat Some Space

Black cat Maine coon in a pet carrier

Sam Gooch has transported 25-30 cats 1,800 miles to Sherwood, OR, several times for a Kansas City area animal rescue. She uses 36-inch wire metal dog crates, removes the detachable divider and places it sideways as a shelf.  “It makes more space, and the cat can get up higher,” says Gooch.

Your cat might enjoy the long-distance ride more if they can move about freely inside their carrier, at least enough to stretch their legs and tail. Make sure you choose the right-sized cat carrier for a stress-free trip.

Spritz Before Traveling

Gooch sprays Feliway Pheromone Travel Spray For Cats on bedding to reduce cat anxiety while traveling. Holistic pet physical therapist Sally Morgan likes to use Safe Journey Botanical Animal Flower Essences for a few days before and after the trip.

“It’s for fear of motion and helps with nausea also,” says Morgan.

You can put aromatherapy oils in a diffuser to help your cat feel more calm and relaxed in their new environment. Lavender oil and frankincense are known to have a soothing effect on felines.

Be Careful With Doors

Movers and other people will be clomping in and out at both your current home and future destination so post signs on doors announcing the presence of a cat so he doesn’t escape.

“The area is not familiar so even an outdoor cat will not be safe until he has had some quiet time in the new place to explore the house and then the yard,” says Morgan. Cat owners might want to keep your cat in its carrier until the commotion of moving is over.

Soothe Feline Fears With Touch

Cat is travelling in a car. Funny face expression

Another way to soothe kitties is the Tellington Touch technique, which uses circular movements of the fingers and hands all over the pet’s body to reduce anxiety, according to Morgan.

“The ears have many acupuncture points, and working on the ears can give the cat a lot of relief from nausea and car sickness,” she says. (See a video demonstration here). Make a point to stop every couple hours to give your kitty a rubdown.

Consider the Cat Litter

Get a small, travel-sized litter box, and let the cat use it before the trip so the box has a familiar smell, says Morgan. Bring a good supply of dog poo bags for easy litter tray cleanup.

Pack Comforting Smells

Bring the cat’s bed or a towel that smells like you and the old home to her spot in the new house. Familiar smells help keep the cat calm.

Keep Cats Hydrated

Gooch puts food and water in small containers typically used for fast food condiments to avoid messy spills. She stops every few hours to give cats a spoonful of wet food for moisture to ensure they stay hydrated.

Provide access to water bowls at regular intervals and try sticking to mealtimes as much as possible.

Have Proper ID

Make sure your cat is wearing a collar at all times with updated contact information,  including cell number and destination address. It’s a good idea to get your cat microchipped before the trip as well. A microchip will make it easy to track you down if your cat was ever lost. Before moving houses, make sure your cat is up to date on vaccinations.

Avoid Direct Sunlight

Just because your cat loves to curl up in sunny spots at home doesn’t mean he wants the sun beating down on his crate in the back seat. Keep the crate out of direct sunlight, says Morgan.

Never put cats in the back of a moving truck or inside of a trunk. Cat carriers should always be stowed in the main cabin or in the backseat of an automobile.

Make the New Home Familiar

In your new place, put your cat’s towel or bed next to your bed as usual. Provide fresh water near his bed, since he may need it nearby in an unfamiliar place. “It’s great to have a room mostly put together with some familiar furniture so they have a safe place to hide during the commotion of unpacking,” says Morgan.

Let them get used to this safe room first. Once all the movers are gone and the commotion has settled down, let your cats explore the rest of the house. As you unpack moving boxes, your cat will start to recognize the old scents and smells from the old house and start to feel more at home.

Be Aware of Plants

Make sure that house plants, even non-toxic ones, are away from the cat’s crate for the trip so she won’t chew on plants that are harmful or upsetting for digestion, says Morgan. Check for any poisonous plants that may be blooming in your new home’s garden beds.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 30, 2021 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a freelance writer who lives in Kansas City, MO. She writes about organizing, moving, personal finance and legal issues. When Deb isn鈥檛 writing, she鈥檚 traveling or cheering on the Kansas City Royals.
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