How long you should keep cats inside after moving house
MOVING to a new home is a stressful endeavour for everyone, especially your cat.
In the first weeks following the move, it is vital to keep your cat inside – here's what experts recommend.
How long should you keep a cat inside after moving house?
Cats typically have a strong connection with their homes, and can feel stressed and vulnerable if taken somewhere unfamiliar.
If let outside straight away, your cat might become disoriented and get lost, or might start looking for a way back to your old house.
Veterinarians generally suggest keeping cats indoors for a period of 2-6 weeks after moving home, to allow them to get used to their new surroundings and smells.
Depending on the cat's individual character, this period can vary – if your cat seems confident and getting frustrated being kept indoors, then it might be safe to let them out earlier.
If your cat gets easily scared and nervous, they should be kept inside as long as needed.
There are a few things you need to plan for in advance to make sure your feline friend feels comfortable in their new territory, before they are ready to take on the outside world again.
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Windows, doors and cat flaps should be kept closed – your pet might try to escape or be curious to explore the area.
One of the rooms in your new home should become a "safe room" for the cat – a room with all of their food, toys and litter, and where they can retreat if the rest of the house becomes overwhelming.
Once they remember the scent profile of your new house, cats are capable of successfully finding their way back.
What should I do if my cat does not come back?
There is a big risk your cat won't return if let out too soon after the move.
If your cat disappears, check the garden and surrounding area first, as they might be stuck somewhere close by.
Show a picture of your cat to your new neighbours and ask them to check their gardens, sheds and car.
If your cat has been microchipped, let your microchip database know as soon as possible so they can put a note on your pet’s record.
In case you have moved within a few miles of your old house, get in touch with the new tenants, and check if they've seen anything – your cat might have successfully found a way back there.
You can also contact local vets and ask if your cat has been brought in by someone.
How do I know if my cat is ready to go out?
The cat should feel completely relaxed and comfortable in their new home, before being safely let outside.
Most cats will let you know when they are ready to venture out, and you should be there the first few times, to ensure their safety.
Before going out, make sure the cat has some form of identification – a collar with your name, new address and phone number works best.
It is also important to have them microchipped, so they can be easily traceable.
A useful tip to prepare for the big day is to sprinkle some of your pet's used litter around the garden a few days in advance – this will provide a familiar smell for the cat, and also let neighbouring cats know there's someone new in the area.
When you decide it is time, let your cat out just before mealtime so they're hungry and you can lure them in with their favourite food.
Step out together and keep the door open, so your cat can run inside if they become overwhelmed.
In the following weeks, only let your cat out once a day and for short periods of time.
It may take weeks and, in some cases, months before your cat can be allowed outside unattended.
If your new home is only a few streets away from your previous house, your cat may find a way back to it when exploring the area.
It is advised to warn the new residents that your cat might come back and ask them to give you a call if this happens – but warn them against feeding the cat, as this might encourage it to keep coming back.
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