Moving With Cats: Ways To Keep Stress Levels Low

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In total we’ve driven almost 6500 miles with Cole and Marmalade on three cross country moves. We went from Florida to California in 2014, California to Illinois in 2016 and back to Florida in 2018. Many people have asked us for moving tips and advice so they can also provide their kitties with the most stress free experience possible when moving.

So here’s a list of all the things we’ve done in the past to make sure Cole and Marmalade are as safe and as happy as possible before, during and after our moves!

Be clean freaks!

When you’re prepping to move and packing up all of your belongings, little items like push pins, elastic bands, beads, tape, jewelry, basically anything tiny can and WILL get dropped on the floor in the hustle and bustle (and stress induced haze) of moving! 

So after a boxing up session we always made it a point to check the areas we’d been working in, we took it in turns to look around in the areas and if working on carpet we’d also run our hands over the floor as well. Then after checking like this we’d sweep/vacuum to make triple sure we picked up any foreign objects that the cats could find and possibly eat.

Foreign body obstruction in cats is a very serious issue, many cats don’t hesitate to sample all sorts of objects. Marmalade. for example. loves to chew on plastic bags, so we have to make sure we keep them out of reach! Cats who ingest foreign objects that they can’t pass by themselves require surgery and in many cases die if not seen by a vet in time.

Here’s a good LINK for more info.

As always it’s also very important to make sure you don’t leave any cleaning supplies or paint were your cats can have access to them as well. With so many things needing to get done before your move it’s easy to forget… but all it takes is one slip of the mind and your cats could be in serious trouble!

Boxes & packing paper!

Obviously when it comes to moving time, lots of boxes and packing paper are usually involved! Although this seems very disruptive to us humans (and your cats), we like to take advantage of opportunities like this and make our home a fun playground for Cole and Marm… So instead of being annoyed by the chaos, embrace it and get creative making fun new environments for your cats to explore!

Also while packing and moving things around, we always tried to keep Cole and Marm in mind… Where are they and will this make a lot of noise? If we were about to do something big like move the couch or take down shelves, we’d get their attention first and then talk to them throughout the process using a soothing voice so they weren’t scared by any sudden noises or movements.

We also had “calm breaks” too, after a flurry of moving boxes around or rearranging stuff, we’d take a moment to play with them a little and let them inspect the changes before we continued 🙂

The Outside World

Cole & Marmalade are inside cats, so we wanted to make sure they were comfortable leaving the apartment and being outside. We had already been walking Cole on a leash for the past couple of years so he was used to investigating outside and Marm had begun to show more interest in going outside too so we purrchased a leash for him also.

A few months before the move we ramped up our cat walking schedule 🙂 … Instead of taking them outside every other day or every few days, we did our best to take them outside everyday even if it was just a few minutes, it’s all about consistency, being used to new environments and not having them panic leaving their inside territory.

Then a few weeks before the move we started taking them down to the car, once inside the car we’d just let them have a good sniff around and explore the strange new space. On the second day we started the engine so they could get used to the noise and vibrations and then after a few days of that we went for a short drive.

Over the days we’d go on longer drives and all the time we’d be talking to them and reassuring them that everything was alright… then once we returned home we’d give them treats and/or feed them to reinforce this positive behavior and make it seem like a good thing when they were driving around with us 🙂

Cat Carriers

As some of you may know already we (well mostly Jess) made custom cat carriers for the back seat of our pretty small car to maximize all the space and give Cole and Marm a few different sleeping areas. We used heavy duty boxes on the bottom level and then whatever boxes we could find on the top level that fit the best, this time around we made a cat cave for one side and this was very popular.

We used cable ties to secure the boxes together and then plastic garden fencing to surround the boxes and cut a opening at the front… the opening was clipped shut and we could easily access the carrier to give the boys some food if needed. One of the bottom sections had a disposable litter box, but CAM never used it they always waited until we got to the hotel rooms in the evening, they also had access to a small water bowl but didn’t really drink much either. We stuffed blankets and pillows around the carrier once placed in the car and it was very securely wedged between the back and front seats.

Once we had the carrier made up and ready to go, we kept it in the apartment so Cole and Marm could get their scent all over it and get used to it, sure enough they were investigating it immediately and it became one of their favorite sleeping spots 🙂

Other Important Stuff…

Make sure that your cats’ vaccinations are up to date, they’re microchipped and you have a supply of any medications they need… obviously having your cats escape during the move would be a horrible situation, but it’d be made worse if they were found and people had no idea who they belonged to… The I.D chips are quick and easy to administer and well worth it in my opinion.

Composure treats are something we purrchased while at the vet too. These are supplement treats designed to promote relaxation during stressful situations. Every morning we gave CaM a treat to take the edge of.We also kept veterinary records, along with photos in an easily accessible folder in the car.

We used a FELIWAY diffuser and wipes as well, the diffuser was in the apartment for a couple of weeks before the move (and after at our new place in IL) and we used the wipes daily on the carrier when traveling.

We also highly recommend Rescue Remedy. This is what we used on our last trip and they didn’t make a peep! Perhaps they are seasoned travelers at this point, but it cut out any stress they may have had!

Another thing to consider is import requirements, these vary from state to state. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service provides links to import licensing requirements for each state.

Book pet friendly hotels with low or no pet fees… On our most recent trip we stayed at LaQuinta hotels, the great thing about their pet rooms is that they have beds with solid bases, so cats can’t escape under there and never be seen again!

Moving Day

Two days before we started driving the movers arrived to help us load the truck, we kept Cole and Marm in the bedroom where Jess was working along with the carrier, star chaser scratching toy, cat tunnel, cube, tent and blankets. We also packed their litterbox without cleaning it, so once we arrived in our new home it immediately had their scents all over it and it was another familiar thing in their new territory to put them at ease.

When all the moving was over we created a fun play area in the empty living room with all the same stuff + more leftover boxes!

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Photo property of Cole and Marmalade

Again turn a negative into a positive! Cole and Marm had great fun in this new space chasing us around from room to room trying to catch the cat toys we were trailing behind us … We had a recovery day in between loading the truck and the first day of driving so we did all we could to keep them entertained and relaxed 🙂

The Drive

This was our daily routine… I woke up at around 5am and immediately fed Cole and Marm, I always added a little extra water to their wet food too (I do this all the time) so they’d slurp it all up and have that little extra hydration for the rest of the day without knowing it.

Photo property of Cole and Marmalade

I’d go grab breakfast for us and then we’d chill in the room eating breakfast, sipping coffee and playing with the cats, then around 8:30am I’d feed Cole and Marm again.  I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t lose any weight while we were traveling. This is when Marm would get his supplements mixed in with the food and we’d also give Cole a composure treat (he’s the more anxious cat) and we’d give Marm half of one too.

Once we were getting ready to head out we’d take all of our stuff down to the car first and prep by using a Feliway wipe all over the carrier, we didn’t want to spend extra time doing this when the cats were in the car and nervous, then we took the the cats down one by one. While driving we kept the windows closed and the music at a reasonable level, I didn’t even think about taking some CAT MUSIC with us to see if that helped calm them down too, but Cole and Marm would soon settle down and be sleeping in no time.

Photo property of Cole and Marmalade

Does my cat need to “stretch” their legs? 

I know some folks say they would take their cats out at rest stops to explore outside, stretch their legs and maybe use the bathroom too, but to us that would be a whole lot of noise, stress and general anxiety for Cole and Marm.

When we stopped for breaks they would always be sleepy and it just didn’t seem worth it to us, we decided it was best to just get to our destination faster and then let them explore then, on average we drove around 8 hours a day.

Hotel Stops at cat friendly hotels

Once we arrived at our hotel, we’d check in and then one of us would stay in the car while the other went to the room and made sure it was “CAM safe”. Like I said before Marm likes to chew on plastic so we’d check the entire place for that and anything else that could be an issue. Then we’d bring them in one by one, along with their fold down tunnel, cube, scratcher toy, regular toys, blankets to make forts with and of course their food!

All of these items have their scent all over them and help them feel at home in their new temporary space 🙂

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Cole and Marmalade really enjoyed their hotel time, lots of new smells, hiding spots, things to climb and views from the windows. Then after we fed the boys, one of us would go grab some dinner and we’d eat it in the hotel room so we didn’t leave them alone and they felt safe.

So that’s about all of the advice and tips we have for you, I hope it helps and gives you some ideas for when you may have to move with your cats. Not something I think anyone looks forward to but you can definitely make it easier for all involved with lots of preparation.

Photo property of Cole and Marmalade

We’d also like to take this opportunity to recommend U-Pack the long distance moving company we used on the 2nd and 3rd moves. They provide a great service that’s fast, efficient and cheaper than using traditional moving companies. You simply load the relocubes yourself in one location and they transport them to the next, the best thing about it for us was that we asked for a guaranteed delivery date so we weren’t waiting long for our stuff to arrive at all:)

When we moved from Florida to California the traditional moving company took 6 weeks to deliver our belongings to us and then items were missing and damaged. With U-Pack it only took 6 DAYS and there were no damages, we were more than impressed! – http://www.upack.com

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Travel safe and thanks fur reading 🙂

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