How to Introduce a Cat to a New Home

Three Parts:Preparing to MoveMoving with a CatSettling In

Cats don't like moving any more than people do. To make a transition to a new home as stress-free as possible for your pet, it's important to prepare properly and learn to travel with your cat and keep them comfortable, and how to introduce them to the new space.

Note: This article is about moving an established cat to a new home. If you want to bring a new cat into your home, read this article on introducing a new cat to the family. If you want to socialize a new cat into a home with other cats, read about how to socialize cats.

Part 1
Preparing to Move

  1. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 1
    Use a carrier in good working order. If you're going to move with a cat, it's important to use a good quality cat carrier, not a temporary one used in some pet stores, and certainly not a cardboard box or other type of carrier. Use a carrier big enough for your cat to turn around comfortably, but small enough to keep them contained and persuade your cat to bed down and hide.
    • Even if you have a really calm cat that's a good traveller, keep it in the carrier during the move. Don't try to let cats move freely about the car during a road trip, unless you want to spend time herding them around rest stop parking lots.
    • It's a good idea to carry along a roll of duct tape to make repairs if necessary along the way. Sometimes, cats will claw, push, or chew at the carrier if they get a bit anxious.
  2. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 2
    Put the carrier out a few days before the move. If you've never moved your cat in a carrier before, it's a good idea to keep it out and open for a few days to let your cat become accustomed to it. Cats will typically rub their scent onto the corners of the carrier, which will make it more familiar when you close them inside.[1]
    • Some people like to feed cats inside the carrier, but since the cat won't actually be eating in the carrier, it's not necessary. Just leave it out, throw a toy or two in there, and let the cat explore alone.
  3. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 3
    Make the carrier smell like home. A lot of anxiety can be alleviated for your cat by treating the inside of the carrier and making it smell more inviting. Natural cat pheromones are commonly used for this purpose, but there are lots of ways to do this, with both commercial products and things around the house.
    • Feliway is the pheromone emitted through cats' faces, used to mark territory. Synthesized Feliway wipes can be used to apply to the inside of the carrier and calm the cat. They're available at most pet stores.
    • For a quick and easy remedy, try putting one of your t-shirts into the carrier. Your smell and the smell of home will calm your cat in many cases. Cat toys or blankets can also be used in the same way.
  4. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 4
    Consider using medication to calm the cat for the move. If your cat tends to be skittish and nervy, it's a good idea to talk to your vet about anxiety meds that you can use during the moving process to make it easier on everyone.[2]
    • Bach flower, valerian, and kava are natural herbs sometimes used to calm motion sickness, and mixtures are widely available at pet stores. Meclizine is an anti-nausea medication that you can use with a prescription from your vet.
  5. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 5
    Consider closing the cat into a room during the move. As moving day approaches, the stacks of boxes and general hubbub can be quite anxiety-inducing for your cat. Some people prefer to isolate the cat during this transitional period, closing them in a bedroom with food, water, and litter, in a quiet corner of the house.
    • This is an especially good idea if you're hiring movers to come and go, which usually requires the door to be left open for a longer period of time, increasing the odds that your cat may make a dash for it. If this is a concern, close them up for a while.
    • You know your cat better than anyone else. If being closed up in a room will stress your cat out more than letting them roam, don't do it.
  6. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 6
    Try a test run. If you've got a long move ahead of you, it's probably not the best time to put your cat in the car for the very first time. Instead, try making a few shorter trips, driving around long enough for the cat to calm down. This way, your cat will learn that they'll eventually be let out of the car and the trip well end.

Part 2
Moving with a Cat

  1. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 7
    Don't feed the cat before putting them in the carrier. A common worry when moving a cat is that the cat will need to eat, drink, or do its business. In general, when your cat goes into the carrier, it will go into hiding and resting mode, and won't want to do these things, anyway. To make the cat more comfortable, however, don't feed them anything, so they'll be able to ride without having to go to the bathroom.
    • Some people suggest withholding food from the cat for 12-24 hours, if your cat gets car-sick regularly. If you're going on a longer trip, though, it's likely the cat won't eat during that time, so it's better to feed the cat normally leading up to the drive.
  2. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 8
    Keep each day of a drive to eight hours or less. If your trip will last less than one day, you don't need to worry about food, water, or bathroom breaks for the cat, and until your cat has a special medical concern it's much better to just leave your cat in the carrier while you're traveling, until you arrive at your destination. After eight hours or so, your cat will need a break and need to be let out for a trip to the litter box and some water.
    • If you're going on a multi-day drive, you can let the cat out of the carrier in the evenings at the hotel, or wherever you're staying. There, you can provide food and water, though cats will commonly only be interested in drinking a bit and using the litter box.
    • Never, under any circumstances, leave a cat in the car. Cars can overheat extremely quickly, making them death traps for your pet.
  3. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 9
    Give the cat the chance to use the litter box before leaving. Leave the litter box easily accessible until the very last minute, when you're ready to put the cat into the carrier, then clean up the litter box and make it the last thing you bring, or discard.
    • If you have an appropriately sized litter box, most cats won't try to use it to do their business. It's not recommended that you try to use a big carrier and put litter inside.
  4. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 10
    Put the cat in the carrier and don't take the cat out once you've arrived. Once you've got the cat inside the carrier, put the carrier in the car, or whatever you're moving with, and leave the cat alone as much as possible.
    • It's common to keep the carrier covered with a light blanket, as long as there is enough air circulation. Making the space dark can help to calm the cat down and encourage them to sleep.
    • Don't stick your fingers through the cage, or move the carrier around, or attempt to let the cat out of the carrier. Just leave the cat alone to calm down.
  5. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 11
    Keep the car cool and quiet. Try to keep the radio off, or very low, and keep your voices as low as possible during the trip. Loud sounds can be quite agitating for your cat, so Try to keep things no louder than the gentle hum of the air conditioner.

Part 3
Settling In

  1. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 12
    Cat-proof the house. Soon after you move in, it's important to do a quick cat-proofing sweep around the house. Tuck away electrical cords and hide things that the cat will be tempted to knock around or hide in, or mess with, to be on the safer side. A lot of this will depend on your particular cat, and they're preferences.
    • Remember: cats can usually jump about five feet in any given direction.[3] Is Granny's heirloom vase going to be safe there? You decide.
  2. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 13
    Let your cat into one small room. When you've arrived at the new house, it's a good idea to avoid overwhelming your cat with the whole house. Pick a room, put out litter, food, and familiar objects, and let the cat get comfortable there for a day or two before opening the door when the cat seems comfortable.[4]
    • At first, keep them away from anything they'll be able to hide under or in. Many cats first instinct will be to crawl under the refrigerator, couch, or between some hard-to-reach boards in the basement and hide there, for as many as three days.
    • If your cat does hide, try not to panic. Put some food and water just out in the open from where the cat is hiding, Try to keep the area around where the cat hides as quiet as possible, and wait. The cat will come out eventually and explore when they're ready.
  3. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 14
    Show the cat the litter box location. The litter box is the first thing your cat needs to find in a new house. The best way to do this is to pick up your cat, place them in the litter box, and then leave them alone. If your cat's feet touch litter once, you can be confident that they'll a way back to the box, when they need to use it.
    • Cats want to use the litter box. You don't need to do much work to encourage them to use it in a new house. As long as the box is easily accessible and clean, your cat should be using it.[5]
  4. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 15
    Put familiar items out. When the cat enters the new room or the new house, put out some familiar items that your cat will recognize to make them as comfortable as possible. Toys, blankets, or chairs that the cat commonly napped on, are all great options for helping the cat acclimate to the space.
    • If you ultimately want to feed the cat elsewhere, or move that chair somewhere else, try leaving it there for a day or two to let the cat get comfortable, and then move it when the cat seems more comfortable.
  5. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 16
    Let cats explore at their own pace. Cats will need to discover the new space alone, with the freedom to move around and explore at their own pace. Don't try to force a cat to tour a new house, or make the cat move around the house faster than you want. The best way to let the cat get used to the house is to leave it alone as much as possible. Make food, water, and litter available, and let the cat be.
    • Don't follow the cat around as it explores, or you'll start to make your cat feel uncomfortable. Just relax and do other things. It may take several days, or up to a week for the cat to really calm down and acclimate, but it'll happen eventually.
  6. Image titled Introduce a Cat to a New Home Step 17
    Try to keep your cat's daily routine as stable as possible. Feed the cat at the same time as you fed the cat at your old house. Try to start your new schedule on as even a keel as possible. Try to keep things quiet for the first days and weeks in your new house to make your cat comfortable. Save the housewarming party for next month, if possible.


  • Don't stop it from discovering the house on its own.

Article Info

Categories: Cats | New Pets