Herding cats a short distance
January 29, 2012 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Please help me move two outside cats a distance of half a block.

Hi all! I have two intractably outdoor cats (have tried to convert them but no luck). We successfully moved them from a 5-acre installation about 100 miles north of here to a 1/2 acre residence here. Now, due to our landlord's wanting to sell our house, we have to move, and fast. We found another place up the block, also on close to 1/2 acre.

The difference is that the place we live now has a screen porch, which is where we confined the cats on our last move, until they tore their way out of it. The new place has no porch at all, and we can't confine them indoors because they hate hate hate being inside except to eat.

What is the best way to acclimate them to our new place so they won't go back to the old place? Have you done this before? How did you do it? Were special food or treats involved?

Thanks for your help!
posted by toodleydoodley to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does your new place have any yard at all, and are your cats willing to wear harnesses?

We have two cats which we never let run free around the neighborhood, but we put them out on leashes and leads which run across the backyard. They're both quite happy wearing the harnesses, and they seem quite content with the roaming distance they do have, even if it is restricted to the length of the lead and the leash.

It might be a good compromise for you, or even a temporary measure you can use to keep them close to the new place for a while until they learn that it is home.
posted by hippybear at 9:20 AM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could you build a temporary screened in "cage" of sorts? Or, could you borrow someone's chain link dog pen? Is there any sort of porch that you could screen in, if necessary using temporary panels? There are many amazing cat enclosures on the Internet that you could view and copy or modify. This would also have the effect of keeping your cats safer and make future moves easier.
posted by Leah at 10:10 AM on January 29, 2012

Growing up we always had outdoor cats. They are surprisingly accommodating as soon as they figure out that their favorite sources of food and love have moved. Will they let you pick them up or could you get them to follow you by doling outtreats? If so, I'd try walking down the street to the new place, where you'll have their food bowls, toys, and beds already waiting. Then hang out on the porch with them for a while, scratch them and talk to them for a while so they know this is where they can find you. It may take a little while to get them acclimated but they're no dummies, they'll figure it out.
posted by slmorri at 11:12 AM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

We had neighbors with two outdoors cats who moved to a house about two blocks from their earlier house. I don't know what their approach was, but their cats do (a) mostly hang at the new house, but (b) do show up at their old stomping grounds on occasion and at times have been reported missing-ish for more than 24 hours and seen in the vicinity of the old house.

So my suggestion would be to make sure that you let the next occupants as well as all your neighbors know about the moving/cat situation so that you can be in mutual contact if the cats go on walkabout for longer than you're comfortable with.
posted by drlith at 11:21 AM on January 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

We moved a few blocks several years ago, and we couldn't keep our indoor/outdoor cat inside the new house for very long. He kept running back to the old house and we would have to go bring him back, but he figured it out after a month. He doesn't even visit there anymore, though that might be because he's getting old.

Even though they hate being inside, it will help if you can keep them locked up for at least a week or so. They will still run off to their old territory, but at least they will know where they're supposed to find you. Most fixed cats have quite small territories, so they might decide that the new place is their new territory, but it's also possible they might decide both places are theirs. You do need to warn the new occupants about the cats so they don't try to adopt them or anything.
posted by lali at 11:34 AM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

When we moved next door to my parent's house that we inherited, we had to integrate cats we had with cats already there, all indoor-outdoor cats. We kept our kitties in at first, in their own room with food and litter pan. I would suggest doing this even if they hate it for a few days, and also like the suggestion of letting the neighbors know in case your cats go back to the old home. Lots of catnip and attention to them in the house was helpful. They stopped going back to the old house pretty quick, as it was vacant for a while and then torn down.

Not knowing where you are or your climate, I don't know if this is relevant but here it was easier to make the move in winter because my cats are mostly indoors when it is cold. I always brought them in at night so they were used to that.
posted by mermayd at 2:54 PM on January 29, 2012

Thanks all, for your help! The fellers have successfully moved. I haven't come back to post because, you know, moving. And working full time. Had my review scheduled same week as the move, and it's not just a meeting, since I'm a middle school teacher - it's a performance you have to preplan, plan, execute and debrief. While cleaning and painting two houses. I'm ranting now, but it was a bit hectic...

Anyway, we didn't confine them, not that we could have - the house, all of 450 sf, has no interior doors except bathroom, and no outbuildings. Fortunately, it's an old frame bungalow with about a 18" crawl space under the house that they were easily able to colonize and defend. The first 24 hours sucked as we waited for them to inspect out to the boundaries of their new territory and hopefully come back, but they did, finally. With raccoons and territory issues, we'd been feeding them inside the house, and that habit restored really quickly, thank goodness.

We carried them over loose in the car because after the last set of rabies shots, you might can catch them, but they'll never go in a crate again. I bought some dried shrimp for a treat, but basically a brand new bag of Meow Mix was all it really took.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:33 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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