Moving Home With A Cat

Ask A Vet: Jo Lewis BSc BVMS (Hons) MRCVS

 Ask A Vet

We moved into our new house last week with our two cats Minnie and Max.

I’m rather nervous that when they go outside for the first time they might run away as the old house is the only home they’ve ever known. We’ve read the old wive's tale about wiping butter on their paws but wanted some proper advice on how to help us pluck up the courage to let them out!

 animated cat image

Congratulations on the move – I hope it all went smoothly. It can take us all a while for new surroundings to feel like home can’t it, but having cats around is certainly makes a good start! >^..^<. Rest assured that most cats will settle in their new indoor surroundings given time and the right approach. To start with it might be worth considering how well Minnie and Max have coped with the move so far?

This will have been influenced by lots of things like their background, temperament and hopefully, the measures you've taken to reduce stress by making your new home "cat-friendly' e.g. calming plug-ins, secure hiding spots, etc. For further tips please see my dedicated webpages - Avoiding Stress

First things first though – be sure they both have micro-chips and a collar with a safety release. Are their vaccinations and parasite control treatments up to date so you are all protected from any outdoor nasties?

Cats are creatures of habit and tend to feel secure once they have developed a routine that they feel comfortable with, which inevitably takes time – it will not happen within a few days. As a rule of thumb I would not advise letting any cat outside unless they have settled indoors first and this takes in most cases at least 14 days and in many cases, a month is better. As tempting as it may be to let your cat(s) out sooner, you do run the risk of them fleeing if startled without yet knowing how to return home.

Unfortunately, there is no truth in the old belief that smearing butter on cats’ paws will discourage them from straying. Most cats do not like having wet/sticky paws and the experience will only make them feel even more stressed. On the subject of wandering though, if your new home is only a few streets away from your old one, then there is a chance Minnie and Max may return to familiar territory. Cats have been known to travel long distances to their old home. Before moving, ask the new owners of your old house and any neighbours who knew your cats to keep a lookout in case they come back. Always make sure that they have your telephone number in case you need to come back and collect one of them. Ask them not to welcome and encourage your cats (eg no feeding or stroking). Sometimes they may even need to deter them with a few flicks of water.

There's a lot more I could say to help so for a more comprehensive “How To” on letting your cats outside I have previously set up a dedicated advice page on my website that you may find useful. Letting your cat out for the first time

Best wishes

Jo Lewis BSc BVMS (Hons) MRCVS - The Cat Vet