Least traumatic way to move our cats?
August 22, 2005 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Three older, nervous cats; one move from apartment to house in the same city; two possible solutions to keep our cats safe and reasonably unfrazzled. Please help us choose the best one.

We're moving from the Toronto apartment we've lived in for 14 years to a 2 storey townhouse halfway across town. We expect the professional movers will take several hours to load up (here and at the storage locker) and unload at the new place. Our 16 and 15 year old cats have moved only once before. The 10 year old has never been moved. They are shy of strangers and noise at the best of times.

Option A: My husband says we should keep them in our near-empty bedroom for the load-up, then move them by our car to a small office in the new house. We can put food, water, the litterbox, familiar bits of furniture and toys in each room and can visit them occasionally throughout the day to cuddle them. We make it extremely clear to the movers (in writing and in person) that these special rooms are not to be entered. My worry about this method is that the cats will endure several hours of noise, strangers and disruption, half of it at a very new and strange place. In addition, each time we visit the cats we run the risk of them getting loose.

Option B: We take them to a local vet to be boarded in small cages for the day. They hate going to the vet, but are stoic and well mannered about all kinds of undignified medical care and they all have been boarded before. My husband thinks this would be even more disruptive than keeping them in a room as they have to endure both a "vet visit" and a brnad new house in the same day.

Any suggestions?
posted by maudlin to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Option A, definitely. The vet thing will freak their shit out way more than that.
posted by tristeza at 4:00 PM on August 22, 2005

When my roommate moved out, my neurotic cat and I hung out and played in an adjacent, empty room. That worked well. We expected her to freak out, but instead, she took it all very well, just hanging out with Mom.

Maybe have the cats together in an empty room with all the necessary supplies, and have someone that they know and like also spend some time with them in the room, during the move? Probably less scary for the cats than a vet visit.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:04 PM on August 22, 2005

I'd choose option A, waiting to move them over until after the movers have left.
posted by cali at 4:04 PM on August 22, 2005

It's an old wive's tale that cats go with the house, not with the people, but they can try. Be extra careful they don't slip out the door, they may try to go back to the old house.
My daughter had to find a home for a kitten about 50 miles away, and she found it some time later as she made the last trip to the old apartment to get a few last things. The kitten wasn't that old, but it made it to the only home it had ever known.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 4:10 PM on August 22, 2005

In general, I'd suggest Option A - with this proviso: Is there any way you can leave them in the near-empty room until the movers are done at your new place? (Put "Caution" tape across the door at your old place to keep the movers out)
That way, all the noise is over with at the old place, and things will be slightly more sane at your new place. The vet is liable to be too stressful, unless they have a separate, calmer place to keep boarded animals (as opposed to those in treatment).
I've moved two sets of cats lots of times (the most recent set only once), and usually I move them to the new place first, stick them in an empty room with some familiar stuff (and always a t-shirt or sweater that smells like me). I know that contradicts what I just told you - that's just how it worked out for us. Also, my cats haven't been on the fussy/neurotic side.
My experience with cats is that they are far more resilient than we give them credit for - even the old ones. On Preview, what cali said.
posted by dbmcd at 4:15 PM on August 22, 2005

Yeah, Option A. And, when you leave them alone in a mostly empty room, give them something to hide under/behind that it familiar to them.
posted by Specklet at 4:50 PM on August 22, 2005

I have used Option A multiple times. Don't be upset if the cats are hidey/slinky the first few days in the new house - they'll grow out of it.
posted by matildaben at 5:20 PM on August 22, 2005

Option A here too. This is more or less what I did when I moved my last elderly cat: left him in a room in the old place until the last possible moment, then moved him to a room in the new place and kept him there until the moving was done. Especially if you can go in now and then to give them a scritch it should be much less stressful for them to go from home to home rather than home to home via the vet.
posted by biscotti at 5:23 PM on August 22, 2005

A. I was just at the vet with a cat with a fever, and despite her frail condition I was told that cats just don't do well when admitted. You don't want them to catch anything from the sick cats (URI), and being in a small room of their own will help them get used to the new house.
posted by scazza at 5:35 PM on August 22, 2005


If they're really unreasonably upset, the Good Doctors have some advice about what you can do to help them.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:49 PM on August 22, 2005

I disagree with the consensus here. You say that they have already boarded before, and while they don't like the vet, at least they bear it well. If you drop them off at the vet before the moving starts and pick them up after it ends, you avoid the very real risk that mis-informed or inconsiderate movers (or you, inadvertently) would let the cats out of their room, and possibly right out the door. Unlikely, but the last thing you want to do on moving day is have to search the neighborhood for a scared cat.

That said, I think either solution will work fine. As dbmcd said, cats are more resilient than we think.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:02 PM on August 22, 2005

I would choose A with a slight modification- get some kitty sedatives from your vet. We moved our cat 1400 miles by car and sedated him for the trip. It worked out great.
posted by Doohickie at 6:28 PM on August 22, 2005

I have successfully used kitty sedatives for moves and vet visits (I have a really large, crazy cat who hates the vet). However, you'll probably have to get the cats checked out by the vet first if they haven't been examined recently, so you wouldn't be able to avoid a trip to the vet in that case. Probably not worth it for a short move.
posted by gokart4xmas at 11:52 PM on August 22, 2005

I also think option B would be less stressful for everyone concerned - what Rock Steady said. And here is my old wives' tale that actually works for moving cats: when you get to the new house, butter their paws when you open the carriers. They will hate this and you. However, although their instinct is to immediately flee, now they have to sit down and lick the butter off their paws. When they're done, they'll be calm enough to look around and start exploring. This worked through numerous moves with my certifiably psycho cat.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:58 AM on August 23, 2005

I never like exposing my animals to vet boarding unless necessary because I'm all levels of paranoid about them picking up "something."

What I would probably do in this situation is keep the cats in that near-empty room in roomy carriers with food and water while the move is going on. If there is no possibility of the movers entering the room (have a lock for it? otherwise, I agree with the caution tape idea) then it'd probably be safe to let the cats out free in the room. Keep a can of compressed air in your hand when entering the room in case any of the cats look like they're going to try to make a run for it (my cats HATE compressed air - I don't even have to blow it on them, just toward them and they get the point).

Only after the movers are finished unpacking and out of the new house would I transport the cats over there. Under no circumstances would I transport them and leave them in the new home while the move is still going on.

I have two cats I've moved twice and one cat I've moved once, although I've never hired professional movers. I always kept them at the old place in a closed, empty room while everything was being moved out and unpacked at the new place. After that, I put them in carriers, took them to the new place and let them out to explore. It never took more than a day for them to adjust to their new surroundings.
posted by lynda at 9:35 AM on August 23, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I'm printing out the whole thread. My husband has since moved on to supporting Option A1 (move the cats to the new place first thing in the morning and keep them in the empty room while we're loading the apartment and unloading at the house, which strikes me -- and most of you -- as more stressful). I'll be pointing out the arguments for keeping them in the old apartment until the movers are gone from the new place.
posted by maudlin at 9:59 AM on August 23, 2005

Do you have a friend who can look after them at his/her place for a day?
posted by orange swan at 5:57 AM on August 24, 2005

I'm probably too late with this but I also vote for option A:
Put them in a room (I usually use the extra bathroom in the new place unless it doesn't exist, then pick another room) with their litter box(es), food, water, a couple toys, etc. Do they have a bed? If so, add that as well. If not, place a towel or blanket that smells of you in the room as well. Talk to the beasties through the door throughout the day, but leave it closed. Once the strangers are gone and everything is secured (doors, windows, etc.) open the door and let the beasties come out when they're ready. Give them lots of extra lovin', an extra treat or two and free run of the new place. They'll be fine in a day or two.
posted by deborah at 1:14 AM on August 25, 2005

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