15 Tips for Moving Long Distance with Cats

When planning to move, whether you are moving cross-town, cross-country, or to the other side of the world, fur babies are no doubt at the top of your packing list! But traveling or moving a cat to a new location that is far away can be extremely stressful for both you and the cat.

So, how can you manage a less stressful long-distance move for you and your furry friend? The easy answer is preparation.

You need to have yourself, the cat, and the new location prepared as much as possible for the arrival of your cat. Keeping in mind that new environments and situations are always stressful animals, having things ready that you know will offer them comfort is the first step.

How should you transport your cat?

The best way to transport a cat to a new location is to use a pet carrier. This will allow you to make sure your fur baby is safe and comfortable for the long ride. When shopping around for a carrier that is right for your cat, here are a few things to consider:

  • Size
  • Openings
  • Material

What size carrier should you purchase?

A small carrier that your cat can comfortably lay down in is fine for taking a quick trip down the street to the vet, but it does not work well for long-distance traveling.

Think about it this way. if you are going to be in a small confined space for no less than six hours, you are not going to be comfortable.

When you add in the fact that your cat will eat, sleep, and use the bathroom in that carrier the entire time you are traveling, you are going to want a bigger space.

Carriers should be large enough for the cat to stand up, easily turn around, and lay down in a place that does not have poo or pee in it.

How many openings does one carrier need?

It would be wise to purchase a carrier with multiple openings to make things easier for you and for the cat. If going in the front door of the carrier is too scary for your cat, maybe gently placing it inside from the top will be easier.

Multiple openings also allow you to more easily access different parts of the carrier to clean it, give your cat food and water, and even comfort the cat when it is needed. If you get a carrier with at least a front and top opening, you will have more ways to access what you need.

What material should the carrier be made of?

Carriers come in three main styles: soft, hard, and wire crates. Soft carriers are fine for short trips but do not provide stability and are not easy to clean.

Wire crates are very open and will not offer your cat very much comfort. They can also leave you at risk for spills in your vehicle.

The best option for traveling long distances in a carrier is a hard-plastic carrier. This style of carrier provides a safe, enclosed space that offers comfort that is easy for you to clean. Hard carriers are also helpful in keeping your pet safe if something unexpected happens.

What should you do before you move?

If preparation is key to a less stressful move with your cat, then you need to start getting ready several weeks in advance. It is also recommended to check the pet policies of your flight service and get an ESA letter from a licensed therapist if required

Cats are intelligent creatures, and chances are they will realize something is up before the big day arrives. You can use this to your advantage.

Have fun while packing!

It is a well-known fact that cats love boxes! Too many boxes and changes can be a bit overwhelming, though. In order to cut down on some of the pre-moving stress, take time to play with your cat in the process.

While you are packing up your things, you can use empty moving boxes and some of your cat’s favorite toys for a play break.

Do not force your cat into a box as this can be traumatic, but if you happen to be playing around the boxes, and the cat jumps inside. Make a game out of it!

Introduce the carrier early

Even if you are using a carrier the cat has been in before, it is a good idea to set it out at least a week before moving day. You can put food, treats, and favorite toys in and around the carrier to draw your cat in.

Then once they feel comfortable being around the carrier, try closing the door a bit with them inside.

This will help them not feel like trapping the enviroment for the first time when you put them in the car.

The more comfortable they are in the carrier, the more relaxed they will be in the car.

Start using a travel litter box early

It will save you a lot of mess and stress if you use a small litter box in the carrier instead of puppy potty training pads.

If you get a small litter box that will fit in the back of the carrier, you can allow the cat to use that litter box before moving day so that their scent is already there.

 This gives them one more familiar thing that will be close to them on moving day to help alleviate moving day stress. It can also make cleaning up after bathroom uses a lot easier for you.

Take a quick trip to the vet

There are a few purposes for taking a trip to the vet before you move.

First, you should consider talking to your vet to see if they have any specific advice for your cat before you move.

Second, you can take the cat on a quick trip in the carrier they will use for the long trip.

You may also want to ask your vet for your cat’s medical history if that is something they have on file.

This is especially important if your cat takes any kind of medication regularly or has health problems that a new vet would need to know about before administering treatments.

What should you do during the move?

Traveling with a cat does not have to be as stressful as it sounds. Make sure you have the essentials in an easily accessible location.

Things you should bring include:

  • Food and bottled water
  • Food and water bowls
  • Fresh litter and a roll of dog poo bags
  • Small pooper scooper
  • Familiar toys/beds/blankets
  • Carrier with a cat inside

When should you feed and water your cat while traveling?

It is extremely important to keep your cat hydrated. Water is more important than food for people and our fur friends.

If you put water in front of the cat and it chooses not to drink, try spoon-feeding water every few hours to make sure it hydrates.

If spoon-feeding your cat water does not sound like something you can or want to do, you can try feeding your cat a little wet food every few hours instead. This does not have to be a full meal, just enough to moisten its mouth and keep it hydrated.

If you do not want to feed your cats on the road or you know your cat has a sensitive stomach, it is fine to only feed the cat in the morning and evening when you stop for the night. You may also choose to keep your cat on its normal feeding schedule.

For example, if you leave food out for your cat all day, make it available if it gets hungry. Many of the hard-plastic carriers have bowls for food and water that attach to the door on the front so they do not take up space in the carrier where the cat can lay down.

It will not hurt your cat to only eat when the car is not moving or when you stop for the night, but keeping a routine may add a certain level of comfort on the long journey.

How can you ensure safety while traveling?

The most important thing, even more so than your cat’s comfort, is your cat’s safety. There are a few things you can do to help keep your pet safe while in the car.

As mentioned before, choosing a hard carrier is the first step, but you will also want to make sure you can secure the carrier with a seatbelt so that if an accident occurs, both you and the cat will not be harmed by a flying cat carrier.

Giving your cat a collar with their name, your emergency contact information, and any important medical information will help you to more quickly locate your cat if it gets lost.

You may also want to consider getting your cat chipped so that if it is found, someone can easily scan the cat for a chip with your contact information so they know the cat has an owner. This will also allow the cat to be identified, even if it loses its collar.

Finally, as tempting as it will be to let your cat sit in your lap, for your safety and the safety of the cat, leave it in the carrier when the vehicle is moving.

This will help keep it safe if an accident occurs, and it will help to prevent messes or accidents if the cat gets spooked and escapes your grasp.

What should you do if your cat will not stop crying?

How would you normally comfort your cat when it cries? Oftentimes, we talk to our cats, we pet them, and we play with them to get them to stop crying. The same applies when you are in the car. Talking to the cat provides it with a familiar voice, so it does not feel like it has been abandoned.

If you can safely reach into the carrier and pet or play with your cat, this is helpful too. Some studies have shown that gently rubbing your cat’s ears, head, and back can have a therapeutic effect on them, which would, in turn, calm them down and help them to stop crying.

Remember: No matter how much your cat cries, leave them in the carrier when the vehicle is moving. It is for your safety and theirs.

How can you help your cat adjust to its new home?

There are many things you can do to help your cat adjust to the new environment.

Start off slowly

Before you decide to let your cat roam free in its new home, you may want to consider starting your cat off in one room. It’s a good idea to use a smaller room like the bathroom or your bedroom, so your cat does not become overwhelmed.

You can easily set up the litter box, food and water bowls, a comfortable place for your cat to sleep, some familiar toys, and maybe even a few special treats.

Then make sure you come in to visit your cat and play with it in its new environment so it knows you are still nearby.

Surround your cat with familiar things

Even when you have opened up a space your cat can explore, it may still need familiarity to relax and feel comfortable.

Keep a routine once you are in your new home, talk, play, feed, and pet your cat like you normally would, and keep things as familiar as possible being in a new place.

Just give it time

In the end, you just have to give your furry friend time to adjust. If you are taking a five-day trip in the car to get to your new location, the first day or two will be tough, but your cat will start to adjust.

Once you have arrived, the cat might be scared and hide a lot for the first few days, that is completely normal.

Traveling with a cat for several days or even several hours in a car sounds like an unbearably stressful task, but it is not as bad as it sounds.

Prepare before you leave, be ready and flexible when accidents happen or you have to make unexpected stops, and be forgiven as you are not the only one feeling the pressure.