An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Friday, January 22, 2010

On the Move

Dear Greyce, Rumour has it that I am moving from this neighbourhood with my purrsons. What will this involve? A Concerned Reader

Dear Reader, With a little planning, you can remove the 'concerned' from your name. Of course as felines we are most comfortable with the familiar. We know that something is up when routines change, boxes get packed, and family stress levels escalate. I've given a number of tips to help smooth your transition.

A Precious Greyce Handout for Cats & Humans Who Need to Know

Before Your Move
The wise human would take our anxiety into consideration. For example if we are used to a boarding facility, going there a day or more before the move and staying until the major items are unpacked and in place in your new home could do much to alleviate your stress. But that isn’t always possible. The sensitive purrson can help us by implementing whatever anxiety-reducing measures make sense: daily interactive play sessions; a spritz of Feliway on new packing boxes; retirement to a quiet room when packing is underway; or confining packed items to a particular room with the door kept closed when we are unsupervised - this prevents those amongst us who may be quite anxious, from christening these items with urine.

In any event, the wise purrson will ensure the following:

1. A transport crate. One for each cat (because should one of us have an ‘accident’ like hurling our breakfast with the move, then the other cat doesn’t have to put up with it as well; it also prevents us from getting irritated with each other and starting a fight – dangerous in such closed quarters).

2. Crate adaptation - that we are used to being crated. If not and a harness is being used, that we are used to being harnessed.

3. Car ride adaptation. If you are unused to car rides and you have the time, take short rides on a daily (or so) basis before the move. Start with just being in the car and SLOWLY work up to a 15-minute or so ride. Starting slow and going at a pace you are comfortable with (e.g., 1-minute ride, then 2-minutes, etc.) will make it less stressful. Of course you’ll be crated or in harness for this.

I will not go into the ins and outs of long-distance moving requiring air transport. Interested readers can consult credible websites such as the ASPCA's tip sheet on air travel with pets
4. Feliway. The purchase of both spray and diffuser will help give you a sense of comfort during what could be a trying time. Refer to the website for further information.

Your purrson will have many other things to prepare or do that relate to you:

- notifying your vet and ID (microchip) provider of your move; arranging for copies of your records, if need be; ensuring any medications you need are in good supply; if you get carsick, acquiring proper medication.

- arranging for your medical exam or vaccinations if traveling to a jurisdiction that requires them.

- preparing an information sheet (showing your photo, a description of your looks including age, gender, coat and eye colours, identifying marks, ID – tattoo, microchip and/or collar, and contact number); should you get lost, this will help you be found.

- preparing KEEP DOOR CLOSED signs (and having tape or push pins ready).

- purchasing any or all of the following as needed: Feliway spray and diffuser, carrying crate(s), harness(es), adult diapers (in case of accidents in your crate), a sturdy water dish, traveling litter box (possibly disposable) and your usual litter, your usual food.

- deciding on which room in your existing home (and in your prospective one) will be your sanctuary; and reserving feline items for said room(s).

- preparing a security bridge (something of your purrson that gives you a sense of comfort). My best is my purrson’s sock or undershirt, after it has been worn for a few days and NOT laundered so it is full of scent.

Moving Day

The best way to survive moving day is to retire to one room in your home with your litterbox and water. Food is optional depending upon how long you will stay here (and whether or not you have a long way to go. For example, having a big meal just before a flight is NOT a good idea. Use common sense. If you have a Feliway diffuser it should be plugged into an electrical outlet there. Purrsons should be instructed to keep the door closed at all times (for this is the one time you may feel the need to escape through the myriad feet of the movers and out of the front door.) In fact, a KEEP DOOR CLOSED sign with large letters posted on the inside and outside of said door would be a good reminder to frantic, forgetful humans.

When you are ready to move to your new space, consider being transported in a carrying case – or at the very least by harness. Again this is because you may be sorely tempted to escape the chaos (and the unknown) by bolting out the door and running for your life. And for many of us, the more our people shout and search, the more likely we are to curl up in a small spot and hide.

Once you are I your crate, ensure your purrson gathers all your belongings from this room – including that Feliway diffuser, and takes them with you.

If you have a distance to go, the wise purrson will line your carrying case with an ADULT diaper (which lays flat unlike baby diapers) so that should you urinate, poop or vomit enroute, clean up will be easy. And if you are going some distance, replacing a dirtied diaper with a clean one will be easy as well.

If you have a distance to go by car, installing a litterbox on the floor of the backseat would be a kindness. If you are crated, you may wish to use the litterbox when the car stops for snack breaks. It will be easy to access if you are in harness, too, (and if you are on harness rather than in a crate, you WILL be in the backseat with a responsible purrson, so you won’t wander to rest under the brake pedal. Sit in the front seat and get into an accident – then don’t expect to survive. And yes, air bags are lethal for you just as they are for very young children which is why they sit in the back as well.) If you have a harness, then you can go outside for a short walk when the family takes a rest break.

Remind your purrson that if you start to pant, you are NOT trying to behave like a dog! You are VERY stressed. Insist on stopping the car for about 10 to 15 minutes so you can calm down.

Again, those who are going quite a distance by car should consult the tip sheets of credible websites such as the APSCA (see car travel tip sheet ).

At Your New Home

When you arrive at your new home, stay in your carrier until your humans get ONE room in your new home ready for you. They should choose this room with care, because it will be ‘cat headquarters’ for at least the first few weeks. It needs your litterbox, food, water, toys, etc. Familiar items (especially if already used and thus carrying familiar smells) will help you adapt. That Feliway diffuser should be installed. And if possible, a radio tuned to easy listening music may help calm you.) Keeping the door closed at all times will keep you safe. Of course, visits from your purrsons are welcome.

When the movers have left and things are settled, explore you new home AT YOUR PACE. You will need to work hard to adjust to a new environment - memorizing the layout and laying down scent trails to find your way about. Some of us are better off exploring one room at a time (over a period of days or weeks) while others are more adventurous. Some may prefer to hide for several days. It is always wise for purrsons to keep doors to the outside and windows shut (again to prevent any wish to bolt). Again, nervous cats will appreciate that Feliway plug-in diffuser. New furnishings could do with a spritz of Feliway spray.

It may take several weeks before you have fully adjusted to a new home. Just take it at your pace and you will be fine. However if your appetite lessens, you continue to hide (for over a week), or your start to house soil, contact your veterinarian. These could be signs that you are having problems adjusting OR they could be signs that you are not well.

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