Moving cross country with cats? It’s not as hard as it looks. Here are ten tips for prepping the move and keeping them calm on the road.

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Cats, like most pets, hate moving. The hustle and bustle, the extra vet visits, the just-south-of-panicked look on your face 24/7 for weeks leading up to the move. They know that whatever’s going on, it’s not going to be good for them.

And they’re right, in a way. While your new home may have some cat-friendly perks, like more room to roam, getting there won’t be fun for your animal, especially if you’re trucking across the country. That kind of long-haul drive is hard on both you and your feline, but there are some tricks to make moving cross country with cats simpler.

Ready to learn what they are? Here are 10 of our favorite tips to try today!


How to Prepare Your Cat for the Move

To make the move easier, you should prepare your kitty ahead of time. If you can get them (somewhat) used to the trappings of the move, they’ll have an easier time while you’re traveling.

1. Get That Vet Visit Out of the Way

Moving Cross Country with Cats | Go to the vet ahead of time

It’s no secret that cats dislike the vet. Ladling a bunch of poking and prodding on top of the stress of packing is just unkind, so if you can, take your cat to the vet several months prior to your move.

In some cases, it might not even matter, but if you’re going to a state that has different vaccination requirements, you’ll want to be prepared. Rabies, for instance, is a federally mandated inoculation, but the frequency requirements vary from state to state. There are other such laws, so ask your current vet how to seek more information.

2. Get Your Carriers Months Ahead of Time

For obvious reasons, moving cross country with cats requires you put your animal in a carrier. Transferring pets into a hotel room or AirBnB necessitates containment, as does flying across the country.

If you’re doing the latter, make sure youlook up airline regulations. Also note that many airlines have changed their rules, and now limit in-cabin pets to a certain number, so make sure you schedule them on your flight well ahead of time. (If they’re traveling below, it’s a different story, but still schedule ahead.)

Even if you’re just driving, you should break out your carrier and make sure it’s still sound. If not, get a new one that will fit on your seat or the floor of your car/moving truck.

3. Make a Cozy Environment

Moving Cross Country with Cats | Give cats a cozy place to rest

Like humans, cats care about comfort. The right environment can make all the difference for a cat who is undergoing upheaval, not to mention the often frightening experience of traveling on the road and staying in unfamiliar hotels.

The right environment for a cat will include:

  • A carrier that is large enough for them
  • A blanket on the bottom, both to keep them warm cozy, and to catch possible urine or excrement (natural responses to fear)
  • A favorite toy, if applicable
  • Places for food and water (though you will likely want to remove them when traveling to avoid spillage)

If you have a particularly chill cat, you might consider a harness instead. Get aseatbelt attachment that will clip into the car and attach to your cat’s collar, which will keep them from wandering around the car or being thrown in a crash.

4. Introduce Pets to Their Travel Environment

When moving cross country with cats, don’t wait until the last minute to introduce them to their travel environment. No matter how comfortable you make it, they will still feel intimidated if they have to face that alien environment right before the stress of travel.

Instead, get carriers out several months in advance and leave them in the living room with blankets inside. Cats like dark, enclosed spaces, so they will often opt to enter them of their free will – provided they don’t already associate those carriers with the vet. If they steer clear, then start feeding them inside the carrier so they’re forced to enter and adapt.

5. Give Plenty of Love

Moving Cross Country with Cats | Cats need affection while they’re dealing with stress

Naturally, moving cross country with cats isn’t your only concern. Moving also involves a thousand other tasks, all of which require your time and attention. Nevertheless, try to give your cat lots of extra love and attention during the packing and pre-move process. This will reassure them that even though life is tumultuous, you still love them and plan to take care of them. Like children, all they really want to know is that you’ll still be together when this is all over – so take the time to tell them that.

Moving Cross Country with Cats Safely and Comfortably

On moving day, your top priorities are making sure your cat doesn’t escape and throw off the timing of the move, ensuring the movers can do their thing without interruption, and keeping your animal as stress-free as possible.

6. ID Your Animal Properly

Moving Cross Country with Cats | Make sure you have ID tags on all cats

Before the move, get an updated tag reflecting your current phone number and your new address, if you will be there within just a few days. Otherwise, if you will be on the road for a while (yay scenic route!) get them a temporary tag with the address of a trusted family member. Switch the tag out the day of the move after the van is packed, so that if your pet runs out of the house while the movers are there, you still have the correct neighborhood info in place.

7. Warn Movers That You Have an Animal

Most responsible movers will ask if there are pets on the premises for whom they need to watch out, but some will not. Make sure to gather them together at the beginning of the move and let them know about your pets and what the rules are for ensuring they don’t escape. If you can, simply keep your animal(s) locked away until the transfer of possessions to the truck or car is complete. Even better, take them to a friend or family member’s house until you’re ready to depart.

8. Use Calming Sprays

Moving Cross Country with Cats | Cats respond to smells and pheromones

No matter how hard you work, moving cross country with cats is still going to be stressful for them. You can help eliminate some of that stress with calming sprays. Cats respond well to pheromones that signal relaxation, and since they’re widely available, there’s no excuse not to grab a bottle in the months leading up to the move.

Feliway is one of the most trusted brands when it comes to calming sprays, and thiseasy travel spray allows you to mist your animal’s bedding and travel environment for immediate soothing effects. (Do not mist the cat herself, even though the spray is non-toxic.) If you prefer a morenatural option, botanical drops work well. Simply put a few in your cat’s water bowl or mouth.

9. Pack Food, Water, Comfort Items and Litter Within Easy Reach

It’s finally time to hit the road! Before you take the parking break off, do a last check. Do you have:

  • Food dish and pet food?
  • Can opener (if you do wet food)?
  • Water dish and a gallon of water?
  • Comfort items, such as blanket and toys?
  • Litter and litter box?

Pack these items securely within easy reach. Pro tip: Pack everything in a clear tub, placed on top of your other positions, secured with a seatbelt or wedged in place. That way, you can just grab it when you get to the hotel.

10. Get Storage Out of the Way Ahead of Time

Cats are especially sensitive during those last few weeks leading up to moving day. You pack up, taking away all their favorite hiding spots, you’re constantly on the go, and they sorely miss the calm of everyday life. You can make that easier for them by getting big tasks out of the way ahead of time, so you have more hours to spend with them in the runup to the move.

For instance, it’s smart to figure out storage well in advance. If you’re going to leave possessions behind when you move cross country,examine your options andfind the right unit several months before you’re scheduled to leave. Pack up those possessions first, wherever possible, and unload them at the storage unit ASAP to cut down on clutter in your home. This will create a much more zen-like packing environment, which you’ll appreciate as much as your feline!

Moving cross country with cats is no walk in the park, period. But with these handy tips at your side, you’ll have an easier time than ever relocating with your furry friends. Give them a try and let us know what you think!

About the Author

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Sarah Moore

Sarah Beth Moore is a professional writer and published author who earned her master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. A moving and relocation expert, Sarah has even moved internationally to Belize in Central America. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband, two kids and two dogs. When she’s not contributing to the Life Storage blog, Sarah shares her thoughts on writing and location independence on her personal blog, New Leaf Writing.

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