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Moving...my cats are absolutely TERRIFIED, pls help

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I really hope you can offer some advice to us. We moved March 10th because we were tearing down our house and building a new one. My female cat did pretty good with the move to our temporary residence, but my male cat (who is usually scared of his own shadow), really didn't do well at all. For 2 days he hid out in the basement and refused to come out. However, they are doing fine now.

Hoping to avoid scaring them again when our new house is ready to move back to in a month, we took them for a car ride hoping that if we slowly introduced them to the new house and they get used to it, that the move then won't be so traumatic for them.


We got to the house and at first it seemed to go really well. They ran around sniffing everything, but when they went down to the basement that's when all heck broke loose. DH was outside and came in the house through the side garden doors and when my male cat heard him walking upstairs he absolutely FREAKED and went hiding behind the hot water tank. I could hear my female upstairs and yelled at DH that she was up there and I could hear that she was scared as she was scooting all over the place up there. DH tried to go near her (she couldn't see him from where she was, but she could hear his footsteps). She was obviously terrified and must have thought she was being chased cause she just kept running.

I bolted upstairs and as soon as she saw me she bee-lined for me & the basement steps making the awfullest howling I've ever heard. She too then joined my male in hiding behind the hot water tank.

DH & I immediately rescued both of them, put them back in their carrier and promptly took them home. Normally they LOVE car-rides but neither one of them would come out of their carrier during the ride home. They're both sleeping now, but I'm terribly worried about how to help them adjust when we move back.

I'm sorry this was so long. But any tips you can give me that will help ease how terrifying this is for them would be greatly & sincerely appreciated. It breaks my heart to see them so scared like that!
post #2 of 10
Well, when we moved from Miami to Georgia, my cat was freaked out too. He flipped out over any noise he heard and spent most of his time under a bed. But little by little he got used to the house. I think once you put familiar objects and their old toys, beds, dishes, in the new house they might feel better. And makes sure you give them lots of attention and reassurance!
post #3 of 10
I am sorry that you had this rough time with your cats in the new house. Since cats are not fond of change to begin with you will want to minimize the change for them as much as possible. I wouldn't take them to the new house again until it is time to move completely. The biggest problem will probably be with the movers. You will need to set up a confined place for them in the new house before moving day. Ideally a small bedroom away from the main entrance would be good. If you can put in a bed or chairs BEFORE moving day that they can hide under, do so. Put one of their familiar litter boxes in there and don't put in completely fresh litter - you want some of the famliar smell there too - in the room - along with their food and water dishes. Put their toys, their beds if they have them and some of their familiar items there for comfort. If they have blankets or mats that they like to sleep on, put those in there too. Do all of this before the movers arrive or however it is you are planning on moving back in your furniture. Invest ina Feliway air diffuser plug in and put it in the room. Only when this is ready and you are intending on moving back into the house do you take your cats back to the 'new' house. Put them in the room, open the carriers and let them out. If they don't want to leave the carriers right away, don't worry - let them take their time. Keep them in this room until after you have moved all of the furniture back in and generally have it more or less set up. They need to have a 'safe place' or sanctuary. Obviously, you know this won't be downstairs where they will be spooked by noises happening over their heads:-).

For the first few days after you return home I would restrict them to just a few rooms. Definitely close off the basement and keep that door closed. Let them get used to having their safe room available and if they hide under teh bed for 2 days - let them. Go into the room with them and talk and read to them, whatever you do, until they get comfortable. Try to have a few familiar things in each of the rooms so that when they start to explore they will find these things and recognize their smell. You may also want to have a Feliway diffuser on each floor of the house. The last place you will let them explore - and only after they are thoroughly comfortable with the rest of the house - is the basement. And then, only after you have thoroughly catproofed it so that some of those hiding spots like behind teh water heater have been made safe.

Good luck with the move and hopefully all goes well next time. Cats are not like dogs - they generally don't like change and do need somewhere familiar where they can feel safe.
post #4 of 10
Welcome to TCS.

We moved June 1st.
My boy Dexter did OK but Sadie is still terrified of our ceiling fan...
she is doing better but for a week I had to put her food under the couch.
She would eat but only come out to pee & poo at night.

She is doing better but very leery of all new sounds.
I know that soon she will come around and be fine.
I think that if you remain calm as possible, & follow the suggestions from other members and above all....don't panic.
He will adapt over time.

Good luck....
Enjoy your new home.
Let us know how it goes.
post #5 of 10
I am sorry to hear of your problems. Cats don't do well with change and moving house is a really big change.

Several things you can do to help make this move easier for them.
First, don't move them or take them over to the new house until you are actually ready for them to move in. Cats gain their familiarity with places by smell, not by sight, so the new house is going to smell new even if they do visit. They really won't benefit much for pre-visits and as you discovered, can even be scared.

TWo - invest in two Feliway air diffusers - you can find them on line cheaper than in Petsmart. Put one up in your current home, and when the time comes to move, choose a smaller separate room in the new house - like a spare bedroom - that is away from the entrance you will move furniture in at - and is obviously not downstairs:-). Put the 2nd Feliway diffuser there.

Three - just before moving day, set up the spare bedroom with the Feliway diffuser as much as you can. If you can put a bed in, or some chairs with space under them, great! You want to build a 'sanctuary' for your cats. Put one of their familiar litter boxes there (complete with the existing litter - that sense of smell thing, again:-) ), their food dishes, water, their toys, beds, and anything that they like and make them feel comfortable (ie. blankets, etc.).

Four - on moving day, move the cats first before you start moving the furniture out of your old place. Take them over to their prepared new room and let them out. They may not want to leave the carriers for a while or they may decide to hide under the bed. That is fine. You want them to feel safe here - and they will need to be confined here for a bit. Cats are not like most dogs - they don't do well with noise and excitement so you want them to have someplace where they feel safe. Keep them in this room when the furniture is being moved into the house - and even while you are moving it around between rooms and putting boxes, etc. where they are going to go. You may wish to leave them in that room overnight.

Five - when you let them out of the room, do NOT let them have access to the whole house right away - especially the basement. Let them explore a floor at a time, if necessary, or a few rooms at a time. Make sure they have something familiar (furniture, etc.) in each room because they need to have that sense of smell to help them relax. They will explore - and they may skulk around from under one piece to another - that is ok. Let them - just make sure they have access to their sanctuary room as much as they need.

Six - let them explore with you as you open boxes and put things away, but dont' do any big furniture moves with them around - they will find that distressing. As boxes empty and things get put away they may find the boxes fun.

Seven - take time. They have to re-establish their territory all over again. The house may be on the same lot but it is a totally different house and different place for them. They won't recognize it as being the same lot.

Eight - catproof the house. Make sure there are no cubbyholes or openings in the ceiling or behind walls they can escape into. It is probably not a good idea to let them into the basement at all if it is unfinished until they are thoroughly comfortable with the rest of the house. If they are indoor kitties, try to establish perches for them at windows so they can look outside. They may react to any 'outside' kitties who walk by even if they didn't before, so remember, to them ALL of this is totally brand new. Try going through the new house at 'kitty eye' level to see if you see anything that is particularly stressful for them - a new window in a door where they see directly outside (and can come face to face with outdoor visitors, etc.),

Good luck with the move.
post #6 of 10
hmm - sorry for the double post - it froze on me just after I sent the first one and disconnected - it didn't show up when i returned so figured it wasn't there and rewrote it! Ah well, to err is human but to really foul things up takes a computer!
post #7 of 10
Originally Posted by Kathryn41 View Post
hmm - sorry for the double post - it froze on me just after I sent the first one and disconnected - it didn't show up when i returned so figured it wasn't there and rewrote it! Ah well, to err is human but to really foul things up takes a computer!
It was an excellent post ....
worth repeating.
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so much for your great advice! Your ideas are very helpful!!

Hi Kathryn, I've had actually been thinking that we would move our cats last, that way all the noise from moving would be over with and they're not stressing out in an unfamiliar environment while everything is being moved in. Also, the temporary place we are staying was fully furnished so most of our stuff is in storage. I thought if we just put them in our master bedroom (which is about 20'x15'), they are comfortable with it, and there won't be much noise here since we aren't moving out much stuff other than clothing. So if we moved them last, then they wouldn't have to listen to all the racket if we moved them first. Would that be ok do you think?

Also, our basement is fully finished & carpeted. However, after today, I told DH that the mechanical room HAS to have a door on it before we move back so they can't hide in there.

My other problem is that I don't have a way to block off the stairs to keep them on the second story as our banisters & railings are open, so even if I put up a baby-gate, they could just get around it by going through the railing to get to the stairs. Same for the basement, no door & open railing/banisters.

The only thing I could really do is set them up in a spare bedroom with their cat tree in the large window, toys, food, litterbox, and Feliway for a couple days. But as soon as that door opens, they have access to the entire house which is going to freak them out anyways, it'll just delay it for a couple days. I'm not too worried about my female, she's very resilient and bounces back quickly. But my male is EXTREMELY timid...he does NOT do well with change AT ALL. Poor guy.

Oh, and both my cats (they are brother & sister twins) are just over 2 years old if that matters. Thank you again for all your help.
post #9 of 10
Yes, if you aren't doing a lot of moving of furniture out of your existing place, then definitely, leave them some place safe there (your bedroom sounds good), and then bring them into the new place with the furniture already in place. The biggest thing was avoiding all of the noise of moving out because that can be very distressing as well and upsetting an existing 'home' is often more unnerving for them than having being in a safe place but already on edge from a move and having that experience stretch a bit longer while the move is completed.

Hmm, sounds like your new house is very much open concept. I can see your problems. Yes, definitely put a door on the mechanical room so that they can't get there, and then leave them in their own room until you have the majority of your 're-settling' done so that you can devote your time to following them through the house as they go through the house. I think it will be a bit different when they have the furniture and the carpets in the place. The basement won't reverberate the same way with footsteps overhead, and there will be some of their familiar things around.

When you do let them out of the spare room do it when there are no other people around. You don't want them to hear any noises from somewhere strange while they are first investigating or anything to frighten them when they are in one part of the hosue. When they start investigating, stay in the area with them and watch what they do and where they go. Make notes of anything that might be dangerous that you didn't see when you were planning things (ie. like that basement door:-) ). They may find all of that open space somewhat intimidating at first so I wouldn't be surprised if they slink around. Cats are also hard-wired to worry about overhead predators like hawks - hence concern about ceiling fans and their large 'wings' shadows - so they make take time getting used to that. I would definitely invest in feliway dispensers on for each floor and make sure that their sanctuary room is always available for them.

Make sure you give your little boy lots of cuddles and reassurances. Keep any loud noises (banging, hammering to put up pictures, etc.) to a minimum. Let them get into a routine and don't force the issue and he should eventually come around. Keep track of them - you may find yourself getting concerned sometimes because he can't be found - and you will find that he can discover all sorts of new hiding places:-). I moved my 6 cats when the youngest were 2 years old as well - and I can't tell how many times my heart was in my throat thinking the youngest male had got out only to find he had discovered a new sleeping place under the dresser or hehehe inside the fire place! My 'scardy-iest' cat still spends the majority of her time sleeping in our bedroom even though she has the run of the house.

Take your time, try to see things from their perspectives, be re-assuring, andthey should be fine. It will probably take your little boy longer than his sister to adapt but once he realizes that it isn't going to change again, he should be fine.
post #10 of 10
I definitely agree with leaving them in the 'old' place until the new one's all set up, even if it means an overnight (you'll be exhausted and things will still be a mess for a while), plus being in the new place (stressful enough) and listening to all the thumps and stomps of the movers bringing things in will be worse for them I think. And the cat-proofing, and confining them to 1-2 rooms. Great posts those!
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