If you are moving house with a cat it may be a good idea to make some preparations for your pet in advance of moving day. When we have to pack up our belongings and move house there may be a great deal of tension within the household and cats will pick up on this. They do not like the disruption within their environment and they certainly will not appreciate the removal men bustling about in their home. This can lead to them experiencing a great deal of stress and in some cases running off in order to avoid the situation. This could be disastrous if you need to keep to a strict time schedule.
I would suggest that you ensure that cats are sheltered from as much of the disruption as possible in the run up to moving day. Some owners find that things are easiest if the cat stays in a cattery for a few days while they move from their old home and begin to unpack in the new one. If this option is not for you then I suggest that you keep one room of the house as peaceful as possible and keep your cat in there away from all the activity on moving day. I often suggest a small room such as the bathroom for this purpose. It is usually relatively easy to pack up before your cat goes in to be away from the stress on moving day. Put your cat in the quiet room with a little food and water before the removal men arrive. Provide a cat basket or box in which your cat may hide if it feels upset or anxious, but do ensure that you do not leave any doors or windows open through which your pet may escape - or you may lose your cat. Cats are often so stressed by the comings and goings on moving day that they will try to leave the house and if they are frightened they may not return for a while; this can be very stressful if you are all packed and ready to go but the cat is missing!
Ideally your cat should be put into its traveling carrier or basket only after everything else has been packed and sent off to your new property. In this way your pet will be free to move around for as long as possible and not contained in its basket for any longer than is absolutely necessary. I would suggest that you provide some newspaper as bedding in the basket and take along some spare papers in case a change is needed in the car on the way to your new home. If the journey is to take a while then it may be advisable to ask your vet for a sedative such as ACP for your cat. This will reduce the effects of motion sickness and stress. It may also be a good idea to limit the food intake of your pet immediately before the journey to help prevent any vomiting due to travel sickness.
Once you arrive at your new home your cat should be sheltered as much as possible from the hustle and bustle of unpacking. Again, try to keep your cat in a small quiet room of the new house until you have dealt with the removal men and any other major tasks. Your cat will probably show signs of mild distress at being in a strange environment. Allow your cat to hide if she likes as this will help her to deal with the situation in her own time. You may find she does not want to come out of the traveling basket and it is better to wait rather than force her to do so. Water should be made available to your pet at this stage.
Once the new house is quiet you can allow your cat out of the quiet room to explore and have some food. A product called Feliway may be used to reassure your cat. It is a synthetic feline pheromone which helps to relieve stress in cats and will help your cat to feel at home. If you use this product I would recommend the plug in diffuser which should be switched on for at least an hour before your cat comes into the room and then turned off, since some cats do not like the smell of the warm plastic of the device when it is on. Keep familiar toys and blankets unwashed so that they have a reassuring smell of home for your cat. Your pet should be protected from becoming stressed by excited children and unfamiliar visitors while she settles in.
You should not let your cat out of the house for at least four to six weeks after moving home and then it should only be during the day at first. (Road traffic accidents tend to occur at night and initially your cat will be unfamiliar with the surroundings and therefore at a greater risk on the roads.) When letting your cat out for the first time I suggest that you miss out giving a meal and then open the door for her to go out if she wants. Allow her to take her time, perhaps just sniffing around the door at first and then taking a few tentative steps. Stay around and allow her to go a little way around the yard or garden before calling her back for a food treat. Keeping her slightly hungry will hopefully ensure that she will come back for food and not wander off too far. Repeat this a few times before allowing her out on her own during the day.
Remember that your cat will have to explore the new area and integrate with felines which are already in residence once she is allowed out. There will almost inevitably be a few fights as this happens. Also your cat will have to learn about the new area and may be stressed by the move in general; therefore I would strongly advise that any new pets are not introduced for at least three months following a house move.
Generally most cats will settle well into their new home eventually. However, you should expect a few problems to begin with, such as urine marking and fighting with other established cats in the area. Hopefully these problems will quickly subside. If they do not you should consult your vet who may decide to refer your cat to an animal behaviourist.