How to Keep a Cat from Running Away when It Is Moved

Four Parts:Moving Your CatKeeping Your Cat in One Room InitiallyGradually Allowing Access to More RoomsIntroducing Your Cat to Your New Garden

Moving house is a stressful period for everyone involved, not least your cat. Your cat will be disoriented and anxious when you move to a new house, but you can help her to adjust and lower the chances of her running away or trying to find her way back to your old house. Gradually introducing your cat to her new environment enables her to adapt to her new surroundings and make herself at home all over again.

Part 1
Moving Your Cat

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    Make sure your cat is micro-chipped. Before you move it's important to take some steps which will prepare your cat. If the worst happens and your cat does run away, ensuring that she has been micro-chipped will mean she is fully registered and can be returned to you if she is picked up or found. Most cats now are micro-chipped.[1]
    • Your vet can do this quickly and easily and it doesn't hurt or distress your cat.
    • A tiny microchip is inserted under the skin which can be quickly scanned by a vet. The chip will have all of the owner's details on so you can be quickly reunited.[2] You need to update your details when you move or if you change phone number, since the database is only as good as the information you give it.
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    Get a collar with your phone number on. A more old-fashioned way to identify your cat is to get her a collar with your phone number on. This way if she sneaks off and gets lost, or heads back to your old house and someone finds her, they can quickly and easily get in touch with you.
    • This is a cheap and simple thing to do but it could make a big difference.
    • It's sensible to leave your phone number for the people moving into your old house in case your cat heads back there.
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    Prepare a basket. Before the move make sure you have a suitable cat carrier that will last the journey without falling apart or breaking. She will have to stay in the basket for quite a while, and it can be a very stressful experience for a cat. Take some time to make it comfortable with her favourite blanket.[3]
    • Let her get used to the basket before you try to get her to go into it.[4]
    • You can do this by leaving the basket out in the house for a few days before the move. You can even put a little piece of dried food in there to encourage her in.
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    Isolate your cat from the moving mayhem. Moving is stressful for everyone, your cat included. While all the packing is taking place keep your cat in one room with everything she needs. When it comes to the day of the move it is especially important to isolate your cat from the stress and noise.[5]
    • Consider using Feliway, a calming pheromone product for cats, starting two weeks before the move, allowing it plenty of time to take effect.
    • Keep her in one room, which should be kept closed off all day. Make sure everybody knows that the cat is in there and it must remain closed.
    • It's advisable to put her into the room the night before the move and keep her in there overnight.

Part 2
Keeping Your Cat in One Room Initially

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    Prepare a room for the cat. Before you bring your cat into your new house, you should prepare a room that you will keep her in for the first few days. Make sure the room is fully equipped with all her favourite toys and blankets. You also need to have enough food and water, as well as a litter tray, and all food and water dishes.
    • Cat rely on scent, so putting furniture in the room that smells of you can also help.
    • Put a sign on the door and tell the movers not to open it, a panicked cat could make a run for it.
    • You should also make sure all your family know which room you are keeping the cat in when you move.
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    Keep the cat in it's basket during the move. Your cat should be the last thing you move. Once you have moved all the boxes and furniture, bring your cat in in her basket. Take her into the room you have prepared, but keep her in her basket while there is still a lot of comings and goings.
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    Allow the cat to explore this room. Once the move is complete and a semblance of normality is returning you can ease your cat into her new surroundings. The key to helping her successfully acclimate to the new house is to move gradually. You should keep her in the one room for the first few days, but you can let her out of her basket to explore the room once the moving noise has died down.[6]
    • When you open up the cage or basket spend some time sitting with her in the room to help put her at ease. Give her some food or treats.
    • Don't worry if she goes and hides in a corner or under a bed somewhere, she is just taking time to adjust to her new surroundings. Be patient with her and don't try to force her out of cover.

Part 3
Gradually Allowing Access to More Rooms

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    Open up more rooms. After a couple of days you can begin to allow your cat to explore some more of the house. After making sure that all potential routes outside are closed and secured, invite her to have a look around a few more rooms. Gradually allowing access to other spaces will help to lower her anxiety.[7]
    • Keep an eye on her when you allow her to explore more and be on-hand to comfort or play with her if she appears stressed.
    • If you have a cat-leash you could use it to make sure she is unable to make a run for it. If your cat is not used to a leash this could just make her even more stressed out.
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    Consider using a pheromone diffuser. You can use a plug-in pheromone diffuser to release scents that are designed to calm stressed cats. You can buy these from your local pet store or vet, and they help to create a more reassuring environment after a move.[8]
    • It is a particularly good idea to use one in the room your cat will be spending a lot of time in at the start.
    • Different cats will react in different ways to these diffusers and some may not react at all. You could keep some catnip handy as an alternative.
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    Be patient. It's important to be relaxed around her, and to allow her plenty of time to adjust to her new surroundings. She might take a while to get back to her old personality, becoming more withdrawn or quiet after the move. Showing patience and sensitivity will help to reduce any anxieties and create a comfortable and welcoming environment.[9]
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    Keep her indoors for two weeks. While you gradually introduce her to her new house, it's important that you don't allow her to get outside yet. Keep her in the house for two weeks so she can become fully acclimated to her new surroundings before you let her out.[10] Spending this long in the new house helps to establish it as her new base, and lower the chances of her trying to make her way back to the old house.[11]
    • Take extra care to make sure your don't leave doors or windows open in this period and generally be observant and careful.
    • If you have a very adventurous cat who is desperate to go outdoors, don't give in. Keep her in for a minimum of two weeks; the amount of time depends on the disposition of the individual cat.

Part 4
Introducing Your Cat to Your New Garden

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    If possible, close off a space in your garden. When you are ready to introduce your cat to your back garden the same rule of gradual exposure applies. If you can, block off a small area of your garden to do this. Let her into this closed off area to be exposed to the sights and sounds of your garden.[12]
    • An enclosed space should be one where there is no chance of her getting out to a road or escaping over a fence into a neighbouring garden.
    • When you take her out you should stay close to her and be attentive.
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    Don't force her out. If she doesn't want to go outside, then she is probably still adjusting to the new house and is not yet completely comfortable. The adjustment period can vary so don't force her outside, this will only stress her out more. Be patient and let her go at her own speed.[13]
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    Allow her to walk around supervised for short periods. Take her out into the garden for short periods and let her explore. Keep a close eye on her at all times, and take a toy and a couple of treats to help put her at ease. Start with short periods and gradually increase them as she becomes more accustomed. Begin with a few minutes at a time and go from there.[14]
    • Always ensure there is an easy route back into the house if she gets spooked or wants to dash back in. Leave a door wide open for her and don't block it off.


  • Declawed cats should be kept indoors only! They cannot climb or defend themselves without their claws.
  • Don't be frustrated at the cat if it doesn't adjust as quickly as you'd like it to.
  • Your cat should have a collar with contact details on it.
  • An indoor cat is safer, especially if you live in a busy area with lots of traffic
  • Build or purchase an outdoor cat enclosure so that your cat cannot run away.
  • If your cat stays hidden because she's scared, allow her time to adjust.
  • If you keep your cat in a cage for the trip, make sure it's big and comfortable.


  • Be aware of the risks and dangers in your area: busy roads, coyotes, foxes, wolves, next door's dog etc.
  • Make sure your cats are up to date on all shots, in particular FIV.
  • Be aware of neighbouring cats and strays that might have rabies or other diseases.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Travel with Cats