How To Move With Cats Successfully

From turbulent-filled transatlantic flights to 3,000+ mile drives with meowing kitties in the backseat, these four-legged felines proved they can be fiercely resilient in what can best be described as a super stressful experience.

It's unbearable to even fathom leaving our pets behind in the midst of a move, so these five savvy pet owners did what they had to do - they brought their cat(s) along for the ride (or flight!).

The following stories shed an unfiltered, tell-all truth about what you can expect when moving with your cat, plus the item you need that's worth every penny.

We wanted to know, what is it really like to move with your cat(s)?

Girl Cat | Owner: Rachael

Miles Traveled: 9,318
Washington, DC to San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA to Worcester, MA
Worcester, MA to San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA to Los Angeles, CA

(and she meowed the WHOLE WAY!)

Oh, it was agony. Though I think flying with her cross country was actually easier than the 8 hour car ride down to LA from San Francisco. On the plane, everything was muffled (she was in a carrier, under the seat, so it was much quieter). In the car, there was nowhere to get away from her pitiful meows, and she seems to dislike the car much more than she did the plane (bumpier, I suppose?).

Fortunately, though, I had a partner in crime for my move down to LA, so I didn't have to try to drive a car while also wrangling our (now TWO) cats; he was on driving duty, and I was on kitty duty during the long drive down the coast. (I think my job was harder).

As tempting as it is, I would advise against letting your cat out while driving. They're unpredictable creatures, especially when scared, and they can get hurt if you need to make a sudden stop. Even though it hurts your heart to hear them meow piteously, they're better off in their carriers (where they can't get stuck under the brake pedal).

Rachael's Tip:

Trying to drug her with half a Benedryl got me nothing but some painful scratches. Instead, get a cushiony carrier that will help muffle the noise when your kitty is meowing on the plane, and give him or her a natural calming agent instead, like these NaturVet Quiet Moments melatonin soft chews.

Are you moving soon? (Start planning your adventure with our free moving planning journal!)

Dusty and Socks | Owner: Anna

Miles Traveled: 5,924
United Kingdom to Bangkok, Thailand

Moving with pets is a difficult decision. On one hand, I would be incredibly taken aback if someone told me they were going to move and leave their pet behind (like I often hear of in Bangkok), but on the other, I often wonder if moving Dusty and Socks was the correct decision because it did undoubtedly put a stress on them.

I used a company called PetAir, and they sorted the export certificate, the import licence and even arranged for an agent in Bangkok to assist after the flight. It was a very smooth and easy process, although I did flinch with every bit of turbulence during the flight. My poor boys must have wondered what on earth was going on!

They were extremely bewildered when they first arrived, but they have adjusted fine, save it seems like Thai Whiskas cat food is not the same as English Whiskas. They also get called Dusty and Sock Farang by their local vet and cattery, and are apparently "tigers" not cats! Yet whether tigers or cats, they are the most adorable thing in my life.

Anna's Tip:

Try and speak in person to the senior vet at the airport about what is actually required. The information I found on the UK official DEFRA site was five years out of date.

Jane and Austen | Owner: Danielle

Miles Traveled: 1,164
Grand Rapids, Michigan to Denver, Colorado

It wasn't too horrible, even when my Jeep broke down about 6 hours into the trip and we were stuck outside at a Pep Boys for 4 hours. I was really prepared for the trip and had done a lot of research on how to move with cats. Overall, I would rate the general miserableness of myself and the cats as 2/10 for most of the trip. The first hour or so was terrible (just turn the music up, carry on), but after that, they slept most of the day, as cats do.

During our fun time at Pep Boys, and during the storm we slept through in Nebraska, I would say the miserableness reached an 8/10. I felt like an awful, terrible cat mom for having them in the carrier for so long. But honestly, they didn't mind as much as I did. They’re animals, after all.
And they’re very happy to be in our new little space.

Danielle's Tip:

Buy cat calming spray. Yes, this is a real thing. I was very skeptical, but about 48 hours before I moved, Jane and Austen needed something. The lovely manager at Petco suggested this pheromone-based spray, which I coated their carrier and bed with. Honest to god, the best $20 I ever spent.

Harvey | Owner: Chelsea

Miles Traveled: 640
Baxter, Minnesota to Granger, Indiana

I've moved twice across states with a cat. The first time was from Colorado Springs, CO to Baxter, MN, a total of 1050 miles. We had one kitty at the time (Hana, pronounced "Hawna").

After we moved to Minnesota, we rescued a kitty from a shelter so Hana could have a friend. We named him Harvey. By this time we had bought a house and lived in a great neighborhood right by a lake. Hana had become more of an outdoor cat and spent most nights and days outside chasing squirrels and exploring. Our plan was to move Hana and Harvey to Indiana and they would drive with me in my car while my husband drove the Penske truck.

The night before we left, we had a moving party with friends. I put the kitties downstairs in our spare room with food and water and shut the door so they wouldn't get out. After everyone left (around 10pm) we let the kitties out of the room while we cleaned up. Well, my dear husband accidentally left the door to the outside open and the kitties pawed it open and ran into the night! We went running after them and got Harvey (he's kind of like a dog and comes when you call him/submits) but Hana has a mind of her own and a very independent personality. I ran around the neighborhood with a flashlight calling her and trying to find her. She didn't come.

The next morning we went out at 4am calling her and I was in tears because I just knew she wasn't coming back to us in time. We HAD to leave at 5am. With a heavy heart, we loaded up our stuff and Harvey and left MN.

Looking back I think this was Hana's way of telling us she needed to stay. She loved our neighborhood and loved being outside. She would've been miserable in our now tiny 700 square foot apartment with no time outside. I called our neighbors and told them what happened and to please keep an eye out for her. A few weeks later, we were told that she was on our porch of our old house just laying out and basking in the sun (something she loved to do!). So I know she's happy and okay and that makes it a little easier. I miss her everyday but have peace at the same time that this is what she wanted.

Chelsea's Tip:

Make sure they have enough water and stay hydrated. When we got to Indiana, I introduced Harvey to the new apartment one room at a time and he enjoyed exploring his new home.

Brandy | Owner: Louise

Miles Traveled: 3,857
Honolulu, Hawaii to Yokohama, Japan

Even though Brandy is a seasoned traveler (she's lived in New York City, Los Angeles, and Honolulu, before moving to Yokohama) her age and health concerns made for a stressful move. There wasn't a moment on the ground or in the air where I wasn't counting the minutes until I could be reunited with my kitty. But Brandy really taught me how resilient cats can be. Within an hour of inspecting our new apartment, she had gobbled down a meal and staked claim to the window seat over our bed.

The best thing you can do for your cat when embarking on a big move is to prepare, prepare, prepare. I can't stress that enough. There's no such thing as over-planning.

Start early, triple check all the requirements of bringing a cat into another country or region, and when in doubt, demand to talk to a human. It wasn't always fun wading through all the governmental red tape, and I'm sure Animal Quarantine Services never wants to hear my voice again, but it's all worth it to ensure your cat's well-being.

Louise's Tip:

Bring at least a 10 day supply of your cat's food with you. You never know if you'll have trouble finding what your cat is used to eating when you get to your new home.

5 Other Tips We Recommend:

- Ensure your cat gets an annual checkup before you leave. Then, you'll have ample time to find a new vet in your new city.

- If you're driving, bring a leash so you can take your cat on stretch breaks (especially if the drive is really long).

- Before you move, ask for copies of your cat's medical records, shot records, etc.

- Make sure your furry family member has a proper collar and tag on. There are many horror stories about frightened cats jumping out of cars on busy highways.

- Keep your cat in the backseat and in a comfortable carrier.

Are you moving soon? (Start planning your adventure with our free moving planning journal!)

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