No Running Home for You: How to Settle Your Cat After a Move Abroad

It takes a lot of time and expense to move your cat abroad – not to mention the additional worries of causing your pet undue stress. Constant form-filling, quarantine and travel regulations take their toll, and you seem to be constantly seeking vet advice. You worry if you’re doing the right thing, and wonder if your cat would have been happier at home, but these are just nerves talking. For better or worse, you and your pet have started a new life together – enjoy!

The most important thing you can do to settle your cat at your new place is to be aware of limitations that your new home presents. Whether you’ve chosen a flat in a high-rise building, an isolated cottage with a sprawling garden or a suburban semi, there may be some changes to your pet’s outdoors time that you’ll have to agree with a partner or anyone else that you’re living with.

It’s best to keep them inside for the first month, so they can acclimatise to their new surroundings. Cats are very sensitive to change, and even a different water source will signify difference, so it might be an idea to import a few months’ worth of their usual cat food so that one thing stays constant for them. If they’ve just been released from quarantine, be aware that your cat may be confused, distant, and distressed. Don’t take it personally – just carry on being kind to them, and make sure their bed and all their familiar toys are available. It’s also a good idea to give them a secluded, quiet place to hide and get used to their new environment.

Scents and hormones help cats settle in a new home, so take a cotton cloth (or lightweight cotton gloves), and gently rub around your cat’s head and cheeks to collect scent from the glands there. Rubbing doorways and furniture will help them settle faster, as they will begin to see this new environment as home. Products like Feliway can help nervy cats to settle after a stressful situation, when combined with a loving owner’s attention and a safe place to hide away.

A change in temperature, especially when moving to a warmer climate, can distress many cats. Whether your cat is an indoor cat or likes to roam, making sure that they always have a cool place to escape the midday sun and a clean, fresh supply of drinking water is imperative. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, when you first let your cat outside, accompany them. Your cat may be scared by new objects and sounds, so always keep the door open, and never carry them outside. They should be free to explore on their own terms.

Gardens and other cat-play areas should be thoroughly investigated before your cat is allowed to explore them. Make sure there’s nothing sharp that your cat can cut himself on, and no hidden holes or gaps that they could fall behind or get trapped in. If your cat will have a large, open space to explore, make sure you suss it out beforehand and look for potential places for your cat to get stuck in or trapped up. It will make looking for your cat a lot easier if you should, touch wood, happen to lose them.

However, if you decide that your cat is going to become an indoors cat, remember that they will need lots of stimulation in order to avoid boredom and distressed. Hide food around your home to encourage your cat’s natural hunting skills, give them plenty of scratching posts and access to high vantage points and make sure that you play with them for at least one hour every day.