Moving Cats to a New Home: A Step-By-Step Guide

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Whether you’re moving across town or across the country with your cat, safety and preparation go hand in paw. Stories abound about cats that have escaped during the moving process, so establishing a secure, comfortable location – on both ends of the move – is critical.

Create a Safe Room

The “safe room” should be created before the first box is packed. Cats love their routines and view any disruption with suspicion. This is practically helpful when moving an outdoor cat to a new home (Bringing in a few boxes prior to packing can give them a preview without the upset of the move.)

The safe room should include:

If you have a scaredy cat, provide a box for hiding from suspicious sounds within the house.

Moving Cross Town

Cat in a box

When moving to a new home in the same city, it’s critical to create a safe room in your new home before your kitty arrives.

Establish a safe room in the new location with all the same items. You can choose to transport your cat at the beginning or end of the move, but be sure to keep her behind closed doors until the last box is deposited.

If you’re using a moving company or enlisting friends or if you won’t be at the location to supervise, leave a note on the door: “Cat(s) inside – do not enter.” Don’t risk an escape with doors open and people coming and going especially when moving an older cat to a new home.

When the time has come to transport your cat to the new location, place her in the carrier, and into the car.

Bring a few of the items from the old house with her familiar scent. Spend a few minutes with her while she explores the room, assuring her that she will be safe in her new home. Consider installing a Feliway plug-in pheromone diffuser to calm her.

Only once you’re finished with the procession of the people in and out of the house, should let your cat out of her safe room – under strict supervision.

Cats are experts at finding the most obscure hiding locations. Consider keeping her in her safe room at night until she gets more used to her surroundings.

Within a few days, your cat should become acclimated to her new surroundings and recognize furnishings and objects from her old digs. Add a litter box in your preferred location as she settles in, keeping one in her safe room. Set up her food and water bowls in the kitchen or where she is normally fed. She may return to the room if she feels anxious, so don’t be too quick to dismantle everything.

Soon, both of you will feel comfortable in your new surroundings.

Moving Cross Country

Cat sitting on a bed surrounded by boxes and plants

Moving cross-country requires more preparation than a move across town.

Moving with your cat across the country requires considerable preparation, whether you travel by car or plane.

The first step is to get a wellness check-up and update on any vaccines from your veterinarian. Microchipping is also a good idea, if, heaven forbid, your cat escapes. Horror stories abound about cats escaping their carriers in airports or rest stops with owners waiting days and weeks before the cat is found.

Also Read: How To Get A Cat Into A Carrier: 6 Steps For Success

Moving With a Cat by Plane

If you’re traveling by plane, contact the airlines ahead of time about their requirements for accommodating pets and the associated costs. There are specific dimensions for carriers (a soft one works best), which must fit under the seat. Be sure to include identification information and a jacket with a leash if you need to remove your cat.

Read More: Top 12 Best Cat Carriers Reviewed

Depending on the length of the flight, your cat probably won’t need to eat or use the litter box; shredded newspaper as a liner can absorb any accidents. Carry a small stash of treats or food and water to offer if there’s a layover.

Ask your veterinarian about a sedative If your cat is overly anxious, but chances are that once the flight is underway, she will sleep the trip away.


Brachycephalic (flat-nosed) cats such as Persians are not allowed in cargo due to potential breathing issues.

Depending on the length of the trip and number of transfers, cargo may offer an advantage in that a larger carrier can be used, to allow for a small litter box and bedding. American Airlines has detailed information on its website.

United Airlines has suspended its PetSafe travel program until further notice. While airlines stress safe handling practices, those experienced in travel have concerns.

Pet Transport Service

As another option, a pet transport service can handle all the details of getting your cat to her new location.

They are experienced in handling the paperwork and any details concerning quarantine, as well as customs if you’re moving abroad. Obviously, someone needs to be on hand to receive your cat at the end of her journey.

By Car

If you’re driving cross country with your cat, there’s more flexibility in terms of comfort. A small crate or larger carrier on the back seat can offer space for a litter box and a bed, but do keep a regular carrier handy.

A cushy carrier such as a SleepyPod is comfortable and can be strapped in using the seat belt. Again, be sure to include ID and a jacket and leash for extra security.

When you make a “pit stop,” offer your cat the opportunity to use the litter box and a snack, keeping safety in mind.

IF your cat is used to being leash-walked and has a calm personality, she may enjoy stretching her legs before resuming the journey.


Once you’re at your new home, the process is similar to departure. Set up the safe room before releasing your cat, including the familiar items from the old home – beds, especially, plus litter box, food and water bowls, and scratchers.

As before, people will be coming and going and doors will left open, so put that note back on the door and don’t let her out until the last box is brought in.

Cats do like their routine and while moving with your cat can be a challenge, preparation goes a long way toward making the transition easier for both of you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare my cat for moving?

Create a “safe” room with all her familiar things and be sure to limit the chance for escape. If you’re moving a long distance, get a check-up with your veterinarian and be sure to have proper identification and microchipping. Have a safe room ready at the other end of the move.

How do I prepare my cat for moving when traveling by plane?

Check with the airlines for their policies and cost, including carrier dimensions. If you must ship your cat by cargo, it’s essential to keep your cat secure in its carrier and include identification.

How do I prepare my cat for moving when traveling by car?

For a long trip, a crate that accommodates a small litter box offers more comfort. Be sure to have ID. Have your cat wear a jacket that can be used with a leash for additional security.

What should I do to make my cat comfortable in the new home?

Keep her confined in the safe room until all furnishings and boxes are in place. Let her out to explore under supervision until she feels comfortable in her new surroundings, Always allow her access to the safe room.

Cat personality change after moving?

Some cats may exhibit personality changes after moving to a new home. Cats are territorial by nature so a shift in location could increase their stress levels. create A safe space for your cat at the new house. if after a few weeks your cats still showing signs of stress, decrease appetite or any other signs of distress it would be a good idea to take them to the vet and consult with an expert cat behaviorist.

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About Sally E. Bahner

Longtime editor, reporter, freelance writer: editor for chain of local weekly newspapers; editor-in-chief for The Whole Cat Journal; reporter for local online newspaper; contributor to various cat-related publications, both print and online, as well as magazines and book publishers. Areas of expertise include cat nutrition and behavior and Russian Blue cats. Talks and classes on cat care and adult coloring. My blog is at

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  1. Regina

    Hope all cat owners will take moving as seriously as you. I’ve seen numerous of times how irresponsible those people are. If you cannot take care of your cat during the move, either give it to some family members or hire man and van – they will help you.

  2. Dan

    I personally love cats and found this very informative. I will definitely be checking up on this website for all the tips of keeping your cat loved and safe!

  3. Deb Langer

    Thank you for the advice. My cat doesn’t like car travel ond I’m certain the move will be just as stressful for her. She’s 3 so hopefully she will adapt.

  4. Catherine Strausser

    Great article! We moved cats across the country – southeast PA to Southern AZ. 2 of our cats were senior and 1 was a Siamese w mild asthma. We used a pet relocation service. Not so cheap but oh so wonderful! I came west the day before and got the safe room ready and hubby stayed back in PA with the tough job. I can’t say enough good things about the service. I was called all along the way when: they left the PA home for the airport, arrival at airport, plane safely airborne, arrival in Tucson, on the way to our new home etc. There was even an app for my phone so I could track the flight! Airline paperwork was double checked and tickets provided. What a relief! The kitties had better flights than us humans!

  5. Angela

    I loved the tutorial on moving with a cat. I recently moved with my cat kitty, watching the video before the move was very helpful, it made the move less stressful on both kitty, myself.