Taking my kitties and getting the hell out of Dodge
May 30, 2010 9:47 AM   Subscribe

So, I got a promotion and will be moving from Dodge City, KS to Grand Forks, ND in about three weeks. I've moved many times in the past, but this is my first one with professional movers. And with cats. Please help.

I last moved about five years ago, and have adopted two cats in that time period. Kaylee is five years old, and is the typical shy cat who hid underneath the bed for about a week when I first got her. Nimbus is four, and was initially more laid back when I adopted him. But Kaylee's shyness has rubbed off on him (I was hoping it would be the other way around, sigh). So they are both nervous around strangers.

Since my employer is paying for relocation, this will be a full service move with packing, loading, and everything. I also will be in temporary quarters for a month or two at my new location while I look for a new place, so my furniture will be in storage for a while.

Most of the advice I've read online, along with the consensus for this question says to put the cats in a cleared out room that the movers are not allowed in. The problem is I live in a two bedroom, one bath duplex. The only room I can really clear out by myself and stick the cats in is the bathroom. I don't think I can deny the movers (and myself!) the use of the toilet while they are there. Plus the bathroom has two doors (one to the hall and one to my bedroom), Nimbus really doesn't like to be shut up anywhere, and is likely to bolt.

They will be safer if I just board them at the vets. However, they've never been boarded before, and I don't know how well they'll take being at the vets for an extended visit. If I do board them, after the movers leave and I'm still cleaning at the old place, is it a good idea to bring them back to an empty house, or will it just freak them out more? Otherwise they'd be going straight from the vet to a two day drive in a car, then a long hotel stay. That is bound to stress them out even more.

So, if anyone has any suggestions as to what to do with the kitties, they would be appreciated. Or any other tips on dealing with movers. I already have been told to get rid of used kitty litter and other trash, or else the movers will helpfully box it up and ship it for me.
posted by weathergal to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could ask the movers to clear one room out first, then move the cats from the bathroom into that room when it is clear. Hopefully they will get it done before anyone needs to hit the head.

I wouldn't worry so much about the mental health of your cats if you are there to give affection. They will recover and be okay.

As for movers, I consulted movingscam a lot during my last move.
posted by fleacircus at 10:22 AM on May 30, 2010

I've done this many times and also have an extremely shy hider of a cat. Do put the cats in the bathroom, but put them in their carriers and keep the door closed whenever it's not being used. Put the carriers in the bathtub or otherwise as far away from the door as possible. They'll be cooped up, but they'll have the most quiet and hidden space possible while the movers are there. It shouldn't take the movers more than 3-4 hours to pack you up and get everything out unless you have a crapload of geegaws.

Just remember that ultimately it's more important for your peace of mind that the cats are completely secure against escape/hiding and also are ready to go when you are on moving day than it is to keep them loose in their own house. I can tell you firsthand how much it sucks to not be able to find or access your hider cat when you absolutely must vacate the place.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:36 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can put them in a big pet crate in one room. Close the door to give them space, have the movers do the other room first. Then drag the crate into the other room. They'll be pissed, but it eliminates the possibility of run away kitty, and cats are pretty good at getting over being angry. You can probably borrow/rent a crate if you know anyone who does rescue work, or maybe from your vet.
posted by anaelith at 10:40 AM on May 30, 2010

You are going to put them in cat carriers during the road trip, right? So, what I would do is much what fleacircus has said with this addition. Pu them into the cat carriers and put thme into the bathroom while the movers clear out one back room. Take them out of the bathroom and out of the cat carriers and close them into the back room, with a GIANT note taped to the door for no one to enter the room. The cats will get used to the idea that, when you put them in the cat carrier that they will be let back out again. They will feel a little more comfortable being in a carpeted room that they recognize and will be happy to be separated from the movers. Be very careful entering and leaving their room!

If you choose to board them at the vet, they will get along just fine. They will be a little pissed off, but they are really quite adaptable. If you do this, go directly from the vet onto the road to your new home. You might want to consider boarding them at the other end until you find your new home. This will lessen the number of times they have to get used to a new home.

Regarding the movers, get rid of anything that you haven't used in the last year (especially clothes). Period. Next look at what you have left and get rid of anything that you might not use in the next year. These are things you will not need to find a place for at the other end. And yes, they will pack anything in sight, so set aside the things you don't want packed, such as the things you want to take in the car and the things you do not want to be surprised by unwrapping at the other end. (We have unwrapped three day old trash at the other end and it isn't pretty. Also, don't let them con you into an extra fee for "access" or "parking" that suddenly comes out of your pocket in cash. This is a scam that drivers like to use to get some cash that the moving company doesn't know about. If they ask for an additional fee, tell them you are going to call the moving company and verify the amount and"how the check should be made out." This usually makes them reassess the problem.
posted by Old Geezer at 10:44 AM on May 30, 2010

If you choose to board them at the vet, they will get along just fine. They will be a little pissed off, but they are really quite adaptable. If you do this, go directly from the vet onto the road to your new home. You might want to consider boarding them at the other end until you find your new home. This will lessen the number of times they have to get used to a new home.

This is how I would do it, because the least amount of least-harmful things can go wrong this way. You will know exactly where the cats are at all times, and when they are not with you they'll be under the watchful eye of personnel who give a crap about them, which the movers will not.

Your cats are not going to enjoy this, whatever you do. I think making it as simple and safe as you can is the path to their quickest recovery from the ordeal and the most peace of mind for you, which in turn will keep them calmer.

As an alternative to the vet, you might research around and see if you can find a cat-specific boarding facility on one or both ends of the move. These tend to have roomier habitats and sometimes even a playroom where they can be let out for exercise. It's nice if it's an option.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:54 AM on May 30, 2010

I once had to relocate with temporary quarters for a month (super 8). Thought it easier on the cat to just take them to a relative's house for the month and picked her up after unpacking at the new place. Might be kindest if you can find a friend or someone to keep your cats for you for awhile. They could avoid the movers altogether that way. Also on a different relocation (Garden City, KS to Jamestown, ND) we got tranquilizer pills from the vet to ease the stress on our cat.
posted by stubborn at 10:55 AM on May 30, 2010

I would agree with the cat carrier idea. And once one bedroom is clear, you can move them in there. Professional movers are FAST. They will have you all packed up in only a few hours.

And I wouldn't even try to clear out any room yourself, other than the things you don't want to go on the truck. The movers that did my apartment were visibly annoyed by the boxes of books and such I'd packed myself. I think it had to do with the fact that my boxes were not the same sizes they used and it made it more difficult for them. I would put any liquids like lotions, soaps and kitchen stuff in plastic baggies. I did have a bit of a mess unpacking that when a conditioner bottle top came off.
posted by Caravantea at 11:13 AM on May 30, 2010

Thanks guys, these were all very helpful answers. Stubborn, I know my parents can't take them for the duration because of my dad's allergies, and I think most of my friends that are nearby are in pet unfriendly housing. It probably won't hurt to ask them though. Lyn Never, unfortunately, the only boarding facilities in Dodge are at various vet offices. Grand Forks has a couple of places that I'll have to check out.

Thanks again everyone.
posted by weathergal at 8:24 PM on May 30, 2010

Remotes are the keys to your electronics. - don't lose them.

A cat in a box/room/cage might be an angry cat; or it might be out, run away; or get stomped on, or make somebody drop something valuable, or cause a tripping injury...; or it might be safely in a box/room/cage.

I've always tipped after the packing; and upon delivery. A few bucks of gratitude travels good tithings when your goods get handed over to the next carrier.
posted by buzzman at 9:14 PM on May 30, 2010

If I do board them, after the movers leave and I'm still cleaning at the old place, is it a good idea to bring them back to an empty house, or will it just freak them out more?

In my experience cats don't like the empty house. None of their stuff is around, it smells weird, it echoes, there's nowhere to hide, they get antsy. And even then empty old house isn't as bad as empty new house (which they hate), definitely get some of your stuff in there before you introduce the cats. Boxes are fine, just something that smells like home. My laid back happy cats moved several times, the only times they were stressed by it was the time we moved them two days after everything else or the time we took them to the new house a few days before the furniture. If we were able to do it all in one day or board them somewhere in the meantime they were totally fine.

With your cats, they don't like strangers so you really want to get them out of the house the day before moving day. I know too many stories of cats which bolted and missed their ride to the new house (which is actually how I got my first pet cat now I remember, we found out a year later he was a moving escapee), plus what if one of them ends up inside a piece of furniture or something? I personally would not trust a scatty cat even in a carrier unless you have a person who will be with them at all times (what if a mover goes into the room and freaks them out?), particularly not when they have a stressful journey straight afterwards. (I am also a bit of a control freak so YMMV)

Boarding them is generally much easier all round, even if they end up staying there for several weeks. It's like, everything is weird and strange so they adjust whereas watching you pack and having their house turned upside down is both strange and normal at once and it's more scary. Our vet has some double cages so the two cats are together in one cage most of the time, but it can be split into two if they fight or need space from each other and for feeding. It also gives them more room in general compared with putting them both in one cage or into two singles, so see if that's an option. One benefit of boarding them near you is you can go visit them so I like the idea of making any extended stays at the other end, but go for safety and convenience first (a temporarily stressed cat is better than a lost one).

Also look into flying them instead of driving, a couple of hours flight might be better than a two day trip if they aren't happy travellers. I've flown mine a few times and had no problems at all, it so beats listening to them howl as you drive. This would give you some flexibility too as they can stay in the old location then fly to the new one when you're ready at the other end. There should be plenty of companies around able to transport your cat from the boarding place to the airport and get them on the right plane and even back to another boarding facility at the other end (your vet might even arrange it, mine would), and hopefully your company will pay for it as part of moving costs.

People move cats all over the world all the time so whatever you decide it will work out fine. They may be upset for a few days but will recover, and there's nothing like having your pets with you in the new place to make it feel like home right away.
posted by shelleycat at 9:26 PM on May 30, 2010

Thought I'd do an update for the couple of people who marked this as a favorite as well as for anyone who does a search.

I ended up boarding the cats for several days on the move out from Dodge. The original plan was the movers were going to pack me on one day and load the next, and I was going to keep them in the bathroom for the packing phase and board them while loading. However, I found out the day before the move that they were going to do both on the same day (and I got more notice than the subcontractors who actually did the packing/loading). So I took them to the vets to be boarded, and it was kind of nice to have them out of the way during the move and while I was doing some pretty heavy duty cleaning and sleeping on an air mattress.

The vet's office boarded them a little too close to the dogs for my liking, but Dodge City didn't offer many choices to shop around and find something else. The kitties were somewhat stressed by the boarding and car ride, but not enough to stop them from eating and using the litter box as usual. We are now in a motel until I can get a permanent place here in Grand Forks, and while they hide from housekeeping behind the drawers of the dresser/TV stand, they are back to their normal selves when I'm around.

Thanks for the help everyone!
posted by weathergal at 3:39 PM on June 29, 2010

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