How on earth do you move with an outdoor cat?

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By: Tomi Tapio KCC BY 2.0
I was wondering, how on earth you move with an outdoor cat? In our current home, we leave the window open and she comes and goes as she pleases. However, we’re looking to move to an apartment about four hours away. She doesn’t adapt to change well (was hoping to somehow have her asleep during the drive), but I know that a lot of outdoor cats try and find their way back to their old home.

We were thinking of transitioning her to an indoor cat, at least for a while, but she’s never even used a litter box before. When, if ever, will it be okay to let her out again? -Kirstin

Comments on How on earth do you move with an outdoor cat?

  1. I moved three times with an outdoor cat, though always within 20miles of the old house, and all we did was as soon as we arrived at the new house we took him inside and fed him. The first time we read we should also try to keep him inside or closeby the new house for 24 hours, but he wasn’t having that, he loves to explore too much! So we gave up on that part, the feeding did the trick anyway. I don’t know if it’s true of all cats, but for Charlie, once he ate somewhere, he knew that is where he had to return to for more food, and to be with us. He’s moved a fourth time since his cat-daddy and I broke up, and now lives on a boat!

    • i have tried to catch him from our old address but as soon as my daughter opens the door for him he runs away he is being fed but now getting cold how can i get him and bring him to our new home to join his brother

  2. We moved a couple times when I was a kid, and we only had one cat who tried to make her way back home. I think what we figured out worked best was:

    1. Make sure kitty is hungry when she arrives at the new house, and feed her from her own dishes when she gets to the new place.
    2. When transitioning to a litterbox, there may be accidents. Soak up/pick up the mess with a paper towel and put it INTO the litterbox. The smell will help the cat learn where to go, in addition to its natural instinct to find a quiet and absorbent place to go. Start practicing now.
    3. Once kitty has “settled in” to the new place you can probably let her outside again if it’s a safe place, but make sure it’s awhile after the house is unpacked and settled, and a place where she feels secure.

    • I’ve never thought of putting the accidents into the box. That might work, thanks!

    • While I agree that indoor cats live much longer lives some times that just isn’t feasible. I adopted an adult cat from a shelter a few years back. I live on a busy road in a city so even though I have a nice fenced in yard I decided she needed to be a 100% indoor cat. ( I didn’t want to come home to a squished kitty on the road!)

      However, she was used to being outside. She was happy coming in but when she realized that any attempts at escaping were thwarted she became very aggressive scratching and biting anyone who came near. In the summer months she figured out how to kick the screens out of the windows. She darted out of any open door.

      I ended up giving her to my aunt who lives in the country. She is now a very happy cat who comes in at night and cuddles on my little cousins bed.

      Some cats just need to be outside.

      • I agree with this. We have a cat we tried to keep inside and she became an escape artist and wouldn’t come inside for months. If we’d try to bring her inside she’d have a panic attack. When it started getting cold and raining – her mood changed and she started coming in again. Now we let her come and go as she pleases, and she’s much happier.

        I worry about cars, but I’ve watched her look both ways before crossing the street many times. We have a smart cat. 🙂

      • Quality of life vs quantity of life. Some cats are just not happy living indoors. I know that if I were given the option of living until 80, but never going outside, or dying at 40 I personally would pick 40 with out any hesitation. You have to do what is best for you and your cat. If they CAN transition to being an indoor cat, go for it, but accept that some cats just can’t.

      • Yeah unfortunately I think “indoor-cat-ism” is something you probably have to start at kittenhood, for a lot of cats. They are much safer and it makes me sad to see cats running around in relatively traffic-heavy areas, but sometimes they get that taste of freedom and you’re screwed ;-P (Nevermind the havoc they wreak on wildlife… apparently they’ve hunted several species into extinction.)

        • Yup kittenhood is the place to do it! My new cat has ZERO interest in being outside, its scary and terrifying and often wet. But he’s been inside since day 1 (Momma was pregnant when she came into the shelter).

          • My cat as well. I got him as a kitten and have kept him indoors ever since. However, he does try to slip outside once in a while, because he is very keen to explore. My husband and I lived in a camper last summer, and I recognized that the space was very confining for my Ollie…..so I leash walked him. As silly as it felt to be that person who walked their cat, Ollie loved it and would meow excitedly anytime I took out his harness. We’re in a bigger apartment now that adjoins an enclosed barn where Ollie can roam at night when the doors are all closed up.

        • Yeah, she’s been an outdoor cat since before we got her. She found us and decided we were her new family. She’s been an outdoor kitty for at least 9 years (and surprisingly I don’t think she does much hunting – all our “gifts” have been from the other cat)

        • Cats should always be indoors. They will get used to it. If you love your cat, you will keep them inside. There are too many dangers for them outside, not just cars, but dogs, snakes, people, falls from trees, Bobcats, other cats and a host of other things that can injure or kill a cat. I have 5 cats who are strictly indoor cats who used to be feral cats. It was VERY difficult at first to get them to accept indoor life, but they eventually did, and are happy. If I can do it with feral cats, then anyone can do it.

          • It’s unrealistic to expect everyone in the world will have the same opinion or even opportunity to keep all cats indoors. The same dangers that you mentioned that are outside could be seen as a potential threat to humans as well. Its good for you and your cats for what you’ve done, but laying the blanket statement that all cats belong indoors is absurd.

          • Michelle, I am very curious about how you did it. I have showered both my cats with love and attention and hours of play time, but they were so energetic and curious. I ended up letting them explore a bit and they loved it. Unfortunately we lost one of them to a car accident which devastated all of us. The other cat is still indoors and outdoors and I suffer from constant anxiety. I have tried keeping him indoors for extended hours but when he wants to go outside he makes a big scene. he also not longer uses his litter box. We are in the process of moving and I really would like him to be an indoors cat. So any tips would be appreciated.

          • Well, I posted in this forum a while ago because I was moving with a who was outside for years and then when I owned him he was outside a minimum of 12 hours/day on average (winter/summer fluctuations). I got really lucky and maybe this will help some of you. I got lucky in that there are 4 windows in the nicely finished basement that are 5 feet in the air. I expanded the shelf in front of the window to about 20 inches. I have a table in front of one, bar stool, desk, freezer in front of the others so he has to jump to each level. In the mornings I put bird seed in front of each window which is hilarious 🙂 I kept a few boxes out from the move and change up their location every couple of weeks. I’m taking some courses, so I work from home right now. So I made a deal with Marvin the Cat 😛 ….that if he’d stay inside, which would help with my sanity and worry, that I’d cater to him. So during the day it’s a little chilly in hear but I keep the windows open if he’s not napping. If he goes up to a closed window I get my ass up and open it for him. It makes a big difference. He immediately starts smelling the air which is obviously important for cats. Especially during their witching hours that can be at like 4am I will try to leave at least one spot open for him. Lastly I created places for him to hide and places for him to sleep (his own Lay Z Boy). It’s been about 6 months now and he’s just fine. You can’t play with them 24/7, but what they had outside are places that are 100% their own. You can’t force them to be comfortable. There were studies on chimps in captivity and it took them about 2 weeks to become comfortable in captivity. They are also prey animals so let them hide for a while. But you’ll need to sacrifice decor to cat-ification and some comfort for fresh air in your home.

          • Elcin, moving is a great time to convert a kitty to indoors! When you move, he wont have all of his old habits, and sometimes it takes them a while to even figure out where the door is. The new layout of the new place and the new environment will make it that much easier to keep him in. Just start fresh at the new place, not letting him out, give him lots of stuff to climb on and play with, and see if he forgets about his vagabond past. 🙂

          • I have a outside cat that never comes inside, and takes care of all those snakes and moles, and mice that come around the house…she leaves all kinds of snake heads and dead mice at our front door…she is a great cat

          • If you love your cat, you’ll put your own selfish needs aside and allow the cat to live its life to the fullest. Confining a cat to the walls of a house for its entire life and depriving it of nature and fresh air is unbelievably cruel. Bordering on abusive, I would argue.

            Unless your cat is severely disabled or ill, keeping it inside makes you a cruel and selfish owner, and you likely do not love your cat enough.

          • That is such bullshit. Have you taken a survey of 1000 cats to gauge happiness? Just because your cats eventually adapted to indoor life it does not mean they are happier. For every story like yours there’s another story of a cat becoming bored, fat and angry. My cat would go out in the morning, bask in the garden and lie on his back for a half hour. Then he’d greet people on their way down a nearby path on their way to work. He’d run full speed at trees, leap and attach himself to the side like he was Spiderman. He would run in a nearby open field. Not a short sprint like in a house but get up to full speed. He used to run full speed at the house, jump on to the wall and in mid air turn 90 degrees on to the fence. He would chase birds and hunt mice. He’d come in a night and purr ridiculously loudly after a long day. You could hear it in the next room. Conversely, he fought with other cats on occasion, had enough close calls with cars that it would make me ill, ate harmful, rotting things and got stuck on a roof for 12 hours. It was such a nightmare, I got a GPS collar which worked fairly well. Since moving he has adapted but isn’t as happy. Less stress for me that’s for sure. But he grew tired of laser pointers, barely looks at the birds outside and won’t chase a single toy. I’m lucky that his wonderful temperament hasn’t changed but to proclaim he’s happier because he has adjusted is crazy.
            To your point, 8 months ago a kitten followed me home. She is ecstatic to be inside. She has no desire to go back outside whatsoever. She was in a pack of 4 or 5 cats who fought over food like crazy. She came in and saw the different food bowls, places to climb and lack of snow and she was all in.
            Absolutes are rarely correct and even less correct in this instance. This isn’t mathematics. This comes down to would you rather lead a short, excitement filled life, or a longer more boring, but stable and hopefully loving existence.

        • I agree with you. I have an out door cat and she loves it. She has so much room to play around. Agree if you love cats.

        • Cats fur ever. What kind of name is that! I’m a doggy person. Who needs cats in their life. They scratch, bite, poop everywhere! I have to put a mask on all day . Ugghh I hate cats!

          • Whoa stop being rude. All I’m saying is that my cat loves being outside. I get its your opinion but don’t be mean about it and she only does her dropings in one place. cats are very smart animals. I also have a dog. He is a rotweiler and he does his droppings everywhere. I prefer cats better than dogs, that is my opinion though. So don’t be causing a war.

    • I’ve struggled with this (outdoor vs indoor) and please tell me what you think, but it’s quality of life in my eyes. I live in a fairly quiet area and found my cat outside when he was about two. He loves it out there. He runs a million miles an hour, up and and down trees, kills little birds, runs along fence tops and chases pigeons away. If I kept him in the apartment, he’d be chasing a duck on a string when I had the time to do it or bringing water bottle caps to the bathtub. Could he be hit by a car, sure…could he be killed by racoons, dogs, cats or other animals, sure. I follow a few rules that I do to “raise the odds” of survival. I do not let him out at night…ever. This was a tough one for him as he did have a few buddies/enemies that he wanted to deal with, but after a couple months he was fine. At least in the daylight cars can see him and people seem to be of the friendly sort. If he’s not in by 6pm I go get him. He knows what’s coming and tries to run on occasion, but your resolve has to outweigh his 😛 Every time he walks in the door for the night he gets some sort of treat. I really don’t know if cats experience emotion or to what degree, but if my guy is out for the day running around he seems to be in a much better mood. Now by “mood” I mean relaxed, affectionate, curious…all healthy cat behaviours. He’s never hissed or swatted at anyone in his life minus the growls at thunder. You see so many cats that are overweight. I think that is a terrible thing to do to an animal. Yes, it may be alive and studies show that after a short period of time indoors, cats are not stressed by thins new environment in the least, but the snow is nearly gone here and I’m watching my cat explore all the new found surfaces that have revealed themselves after a long winter. I am a firm believer in cats and dogs needing to run to be happy. I have never seen at cat or dog at full speed that didn’t look like they were having a blast. Am I projecting a human spin to a pet? I suppose, but my brain and not my heart tells me that freedom with boundaries is best. If he is hit by a car my heart will break but so be it. Do I take this animal that sprints full speed at trees leaps 10 feet in the air and sticks to the side like Spiderman and put him inside so he can live longer? Not a chance.

      • Hi, I, too, agree with your policies on outdoor cats vs. indoor. I just have one question that I hope you can
        answer. My cats (2 rescues) have always been indoor/outdoor cats. I will need to move soon and I am
        soooo stressed over getting a landlord to allow my cats access to the outdoors. I do have a fenced in yard;
        however, both cats do roam the neighborhood In fact, I have walked my cat, around the neighborhood,
        unleashed, for 8 years. They love their walks and will stay by my side — mostly my Tiger cat as opposed to
        the black one for will dash underneath a bush when a car goes by ( which is good, right??) Simba, the Tiger.
        is like a dog and will just stop by my feet and wait.

        You say your cats have been outdoors all day running and having fun so there is no issue or problems with
        bringing them inside for the night. How does this work?? I mean, cats sleep during the day and are noctural.

        I cannot stand the thought, either, of keeping them locked indoors; however, both cats will need to be
        contained for possibly 2 weeks after our move. I will not, if I can help it, consider a condo or an apt. These
        cats have tasted freedom for years and I have had no issues with the neighbors. So how am I ever going to
        tell a Landlord: “Well, yes, I have 2 cats but they also have been allowed outdoors for their entire lives.

        I would truly appreciate your advice and/or comments. Thanks so much!

        • It’s funny it took about two weeks and my cat adjusted to going out during the day VERY quickly. He sleeps right through the night in a couple of different spots and he wanders beside me in the early morning so he knows the second I get up. It’s not perfect. During the summer he knows that around dusk it could be his last time so he’ll stretch it as much as possible. I’m pretty diligent about finding him but you really can’t make a big deal of it. I’d say 9/10 days it works just fine. There are many studies on other animals that show they are pretty stressed for a short period of time. I think this is why zoos haven’t been outlawed yet. I believe firmly that the animals are not as happy, but I also believe they adjust and adapt to their surroundings much easier than humans. They just figure, “okay, this is the way it is” and continue. We found some things to do inside. I live in a large apartment complex so on the weekends at night I’ll take him on tours through the hallways of different floors @ 3am. He just loves it. You may have to carry them back down the stairs…there’s a trick for that too…you can’t carry them like a baby they have to be faced the same way when going down stairs. Anyway, the short answer is if it gets dark at 6pm then whenever they roam by the house after 5pm they are done.

          • My cat is the same way. At 5am he is swatting me in the face to get up and let him out. He plays all day and is in and out through out the day. He stays out until about 8pm and then I let him in for the night. He really has no issues with it at all. He curls up in my bed and sleeps (as far as I know) all night long with me. He is a very happy cat. He loves our “cuddle” time during the day while the kids are at school and in bed at night. He does bring me home “presents” every now and then and he has only come home 1 time with a wound on his head which was from the neighbors mean cat. When he is outside its as simple as saying “ziggy” in a normal voice and he comes running. He is never far from the house at all. When he goes to the neighbors across the street to play with their kids he literally sits and waits before crossing to make sure there are no cars coming. He does not own a litter box. He meows at the door when he is ready to go out to potty and is back in a minute later if its raining or cold. He knows his limits. I would never housebound him. It would probably kill him if I did.

    • Sometimes it cant be helped. We did not go and get a kitten and put it outside. “Cat” (Our 4 year old named her lol) found us. She just showed up and claimed us one day. She hates to be inside. After we got her fixed we had to keep her inside for a few days and she HATED it.

    • I really don’t like the idea of making cats more like us. We removed ourselves from our proper place in the world and look what a mess humans are. It seems so horrible to force an animal to stay separate from the natural world and to deny it the chance to be in nature. It would kill me if someone did that to me; I don’t want to be the one to do it to another.

  3. We moved from a couple of acres out in the country to the smallest yard ever. We tried keeping our cats in but they were so used to a cat door that they drove us crazy, especially at night, one of them paced the house and yowled at night. So we gave them access to the back yard, it has a privacy fence all the way around it and we had to just cross our fingers.
    Well, one of them did go missing for 12 days shortly after we moved but he found his way home (to the new house) and has been here with us ever since. They both settled in after a while. I could tell they missed their big yard but that fades over time.
    As for the litter box, one cat refused to use it for the first day, and the other one was ok with it. We only lasted for about a week trying to keep them inside so they both went back to going to the bathroom outside once we started letting them out again.
    Be patient. Spend time playing with your cat and feeding him special treats. If he does have an accident in the house use a mix of baking soda, peroxide, water and dish soap to clean it up. (be careful if it is carpet or fabric though, it may not be colour fast) You can find the amounts to mix up on line, it gets rid of any smell and doesn’t cost the earth like some of the specialty products that are sold to get rid of the smell of cat urine.
    Good luck, moving our cats was one of the most stressful parts of our move and we made it, with two country cats that are now city cats.

    • Kat, your situation sounds very similar to mine. I am concerned
      about my cats who love to wander our acreage being miserable.
      The new yard has a privacy fence but I feel I will have to do
      something to keep the cats in. What did you do. OR ANYONE
      ELSE READING THIS. The cats now live in “cat heaven” but
      the property and grounds are a lot to keep up. Also, there are
      two cats who are ferral and don’t want to be touched. I did
      manage to catch the female and have her spayed. The male
      is handicapped with a bad paw and looks awful because he comes
      home all beat up. I HAVE NOT BEEN SUCCESSFUL CATCHING
      HIM IN A LIVE TRAP. I DRUGGED HIM WITH VET DRUG
      BUT STILL COULD NOT CATCH HIM. HE DOES CONTINUE
      TO RETURN FOR FOOD. I AM AFRAID HE WILL STARVE
      WITHOUT BOTH OF HIS FRONT PAWS FUNCTIONAL.

      • Look into Purrfect fence. It’s a fence extender that leans inward to keep cats in the fenced yard.
        To catch the injured guy, try leaving the trap out, not set, just sitting there, and feeding him closer and closer to the trap every day. Then open the door, tie or wire it open so it doesnt snap, and feed him a little further and further into the trap every day. you can put cardboard or straw etc on the trap bottom to “disguise” the wire to his feet. Then after he’s used to eating in or around the trap for a while and thinks nothing of it… then you set it one day!
        Also you could google/ask around to local rescues to see if anyone knows of a TNR group near you that could help you with tips on catching a “trap savvy” cat. That’s what we call them in the biz. 🙂

  4. I’ve heard that most cats figure out the litterbox thing pretty quickly, because it’s ingrained in their heads to hide the signs that they have been at a place in the wild. So the whole burying of poop is instinctive. I do know that when we adopted two cats who had been outside/feral cats, they took to the litterbox immediately. They were both under a year old at the time, but I think that older cats would likely adapt as well.

  5. while I’ve never moved an outdoor cat, I have transitioned one to using a litter box on occasion. We would get a box and fill it with dirt and leaves for the cat – it was always just a temporary arrangement due to things like post medical procedure or a blizzard. He didn’t know what to do with cat litter, but he recognized the leaves as being his spot as it were.

    • its good to know they can transition fairly easily. I’ll try the dirt and see if that helps 🙂

      • It was the only way I get our Kitcat to use a tray. He was a feral, chose us as his family at about a year old and has always been an indoor/outdoor cat & very happy. 2 weeks ago the neighbours vicious cat got him & left him with 2 very nasty abscesses, obviously he can’t go out until the open wound is healed. As I say he’s using the litter tray, now half litter half soil, leaves etc. But he’s desperate to get out, especially at night. Lucky if we’re allowed 5 hours sleep before his continuous prowling, mewling and scratching at the door, even hanging of the door handles commences and this goes on for hours. He is clearly very distressed & unhappy even with lots of treats & attention, he just wants to go outside!

  6. My last cat was adopted from a shelter by my family, and was an indoor outdoor cat during that time. We moved once with her about an hour and a half away… I believe our original plan was to keep her indoors for one or two weeks while her ‘homing’ sense to our new home. I think the reality of what happened was that she spent a day hiding under the bed and being very angry with us, and then coming out and deciding on her own when she was ready to go back outside.

    When my husband and I moved into our own apartment, we took her with us then, too. She had to transition to being an entirely indoor cat, since we lived on the second floor with no easy cat access to the ground. She took to that move very well, and became more playful and active for it (part of that might have been moving from a three cat home to a one cat home, too).

    Unfortunately my dad was diagnosed with a terminal disease, and so my husband and I had to make the difficult decision to leave her with a family member while we went across country to be with my dad. She was turned from a spoiled housecat into an outdoor cat with minimal attention, and I’m afraid that when winter came, she passed away. I still feel guilty.

    All I can say is it probably depends a lot on the temperment of your cat, how well they’ll take to a move and changing from outdoor to indoor. My cat was calm and peaceful and getting older, so for her, indoor-only worked.

    But I know cats who just have to explore and don’t like to be stuck in a small area. Just pay attention to your cat, make sure that they know that their new home is where their food, toys, and any special places (a cat bed, a pillow they liked, your lap…) are, and then just try to keep an eye on them.

    As for litter training, it shouldn’t be too difficult if you’re patient enough to deal with a few messes in the training process.

    • I feel like she’ll be happier in an only-pet house (she’s learned to tolerate the other cat, but won’t leave my room during the day when the dogs are up) but she doesn’t adjust to change well at all (when we got a new dog she refused to come inside at all, and I had to feed her outside for quite a while.)

  7. As for the travel, no matter how much they yowl, keep them in their carrier, its actually less freaky for them that way. Try rescue remedy on the nose before the trip to calm kitty. Keep kitty inside for 24hrs if possible and feed them before letting him/her outside again. They figure it out pretty quickly. Also- I have a kitty that ended up needing to be outside one summer.I got pregnant and she starting pissing EVERYWHERE like, no matter what we did. We let her outside finally after 5 years of being an indoor cat and she didn’t pee inside again until winter (as in, in her litter box). She did all her rage peeing outside. Sometimes I guess there are just things a cats gotta do. Then we moved her to a new apartment that didn’t have access to the outside, third floor, lots of stairs- and she isn’t interested in being outside at all. Enjoys her window time. Hope that helps! Our kitty hates moving too. Be kind and pray they will adapt?

      • Regarding the car trip, it may or may not be helpful to put the cat in a carrier in the car but with the door open (ideally in a less than super accessible way). I drive half way across the country with my two cats at least twice a year and if the doors to their carriers aren’t open, they would howl for the entire 18 hours. If the doors are open, they don’t feel trapped but stay in the carriers the entire trip just because it’s a comfortable, safe space (I also throw their favorite blankets that smell like home on the bottom of the carriers).
        All in all, do what works best for your kitty, you know them best!

        • I’m so glad I saw you reply here and hope you will see my question…I am moving across country diagonally, so, a 35 hour trip!! How do you deal with the whole pee and pooh situation when you travel with your cats? Also, have you staying overnight with them in a hotel? How did that go?
          Thanks much!

      • Rescue Remedy is an herbal treatment that comes in dropper form that you can add to their food or treats prior to stressful events. You can buy it on Amazon o just about anywhere. I’ve used it with my cat and dog, but I’m not sure how much it made a difference.

      • Kirstin, I moved across country with my kitty (3.5 days of non-stop driving!) and she did remarkably well. I bought a big wire cage/carrier (so she could see out and see me better, plus room to get up and stretch her legs) and lined it with absorbent puppy pads in case she had an accident between litter box stops. I had originally planned on putting her litter box in the cage with her, but there wasn’t enough room — she was fine holding it until we got to our nightly motel stop. She cried for the first hour or two on the first day, and then basically slept the rest of the way. Good luck with your drive — 4 hours will go by fast!

  8. We always kept them inside for the first week (the goal was two, but when there was three of them we didn’t always make it that long as they would start fighting amongst themselves when cooped up). That always seemed to do the trick. As for a litter box, as long as you show him where it is, its easily accessible and the most inviting place to pee (DON”T leave piles of laundry on the floor for instance) he should be fine.

  9. My cat was an indoor-outdoor cat, she would come and go as she pleased and we moved not only houses but countries. We microchipped her and put on her collar in the mornings, then open a window so she can go outside and explore, she returns quickly: it seems she doesn’t like this colder northern climate that much! She adapted quite well and is almost all indoor now.

    Also, I can’t say enough good things about Feliway (a plug in pheromone diffuser) It made her accept the new home as a nice safe place, since she was coming from an interim housing arrangement where we had to stay with my inlaws and their two cats, so she was already quite stressed (and from air travel as well) but with that feliway, I swear I could see the stress just leaving her. We no longer use it, and she’s settled in nicely!

  10. We moved when I was young with an outdoor pseudo-feral cat. She would have gone insane if she was kept inside, so I remember my parents kept her trapped in the garage for a few days to get used to the new sounds and smells.

  11. I adopted a stray tomcat, and he’d never been in a litterbox. My stepmom reminded me of how my times my visits to sandboxes as a kid were interrupted with little surprises in the sand. They just know what to do. After setup, I placed Pete in the litterbox, and the rest was history!

  12. A move is a good opportunity to transition an outdoor cat to being indoor full time. If you will have a balcony at the new place that the cat can’t escape from or a screened in porch, that could help with the transition. There are also enclosures available to let cats outside without letting them roam free.

    I agree with the earlier commenter who noted that indoor cats have longer average life expectancies than outdoor ones.

    • I’m interested in this and other comments about keeping cats indoors. Is this the norm in the US? I have never heard of anyone doing this in the UK, and nor have I heard that there would be health benefits (in fact, the RSPCA says here that it may even be bad for the cat, causing problems like obesity, particularly if it’s used to being outside: http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/pets/cats/environment/indoors).

      I’ve never moved with a cat, but we did once adopt a cat from a nearby animal shelter. To prevent the cat trying to return to its old home, we were advised to keep him inside for a week or so, slowly transitioning to more time outside. (Though he could use the litter tray, so that doesn’t solve your problem there.) Also giving the cat his own corner within the house where he could go if he was stressed out by the new environment was important.

      • It’s encouraged in Australia as well. It’s no so much “health benefits” as a decreased chance of being run over or hit by a car, getting into fights with other cats or dogs, or picking up diseases from other animals.

        Also in Australia we have a lot of small native animals, many of which are already endangered, that cats like to hunt, so there’s an environmental aspect to keeping cats indoors.

        There’s also a courtesy aspect I suppose, in that an indoor cat is one less cat wandering around and potentially spreading diseases and fleas, and pooping in other people’s yards.

        De-sexing of all pets is also strongly encouraged here, as we have a massive problem with ferals, strays, and full shelters. That does come with actual heath benefits though, such as decreased risk of cancers and various skin condtions, and lower levels of stress and aggression.

        • Yes, neutering and preventing fleas/diseases of course always make sense!

          I hadn’t even thought about cats killing endangered animals though, that’s so interesting. Our wildlife is just kind of boring. 😉

          • It’s not just about endangered animals:

            Americans keep an estimated 60 million cats as pets. Let’s say each cat kills only one bird a year. That would mean that cats kill over 60 million birds (minimum) each year – more wildlife than any oil spill.

            Scientific studies actually show that each year, cats kill hundreds of millions of migratory songbirds. In 1990, researchers estimated that “outdoor” house cats and feral cats were responsible for killing nearly 78 million small mammals and birds annually in the United Kingdom.

            University of Wisconsin ornithologist, Dr. Santley Temple estimates that 20-150 million songbirds are killed each year by rural cats in Wisconsin alone.

            From http://library.fws.gov/bird_publications/songbrd.html#Cat

            (I don’t have a pony in this race since I don’t have a cat, but figured I’d share.)

      • It is the norm in the US. The UK seems to have different norms, probably due to the fact that walled in gardens are more common there and there are fewer predators that are dangerous to cats. I am aware that the RSPCA is hesitant to adopt to people who will not allow their cat outdoors, and it still seems odd to me since cars are still a danger. Different countries have different norms though.

        • The UK also has stronger laws about not hurting a cat in your yard, even if it’s not yours. It is expected that cats will be outside and they will roam. Here, if your cat is in someone else’s yard … well, we technically have cruelty to animal laws, but overall you just have to hope they’re not mean-spirited. And if they are, there’s unlikely to be any penalty.

      • I find it interesting that so many people are pro-outdoor cat, but pretty much no one is pro-outdoor dog or other pet. Why is that? To me, the problems with both are the same – outdoor animals are less safe, live shorter lives , can wreak havoc on wildlife, and can be nuisances to neighbors.

        • I think if you’re really worried about these things, then don’t have a cat. I think it’s cruel to have a pet because you want entertainment but not let it live as close to it’s natural life as possible.

          • It is also not natural for my dogs to snuggle with me on the couch, but I hardly think that is cruel. Nor is it cruel for my 4 cats to live a safe life filled with windows, clean food and water, and cat trees instead of fights, predators, and disease.

        • Well, you say that… but I don’t know anyone who keeps their dog inside permanently, and people seem to be suggesting that for the OP’s cat. And lots of people have rabbits they keep outdoors. Smaller things, sure, not so much.

          I don’t actually have any pets any more, so it’s not something I worry about personally. It’s just so interesting that the norms are so different!

        • I’m a vet so I can maybe answer that question Angela. Basically dogs are “infantized” versions of wild canids. Humans have bred and removed the domestic dog from the wild dog many times over. The cat however, is just one generation away from feral. Meaning, a cat can revert back to it’s “wild side” much quicker and easier than a dog can, and indeed we see this in feral cat populations. Feral dog populations are not as common. Cat’s can usually “take care” of themselves, whereas dogs depend on humans for the most part for both security, food and attention. Cats can usually get their own food if necessary, and can be indifferent to human attention, hence them being so pernickity at times!

          Hence I would have an outdoor cat, but not an outdoor dog.

        • Every dog I know is an outdoor dog. I don’t know anyone who keeps their dog stuck in the house every hour of every day. And I cannot do that to my cat. She loves to be outside and would be miserable staying in forever. Yes, there are dangers outside. But, to me, there are far worse things than the chance of being hurt or killed. Being made a prisoner is one of those things.

      • I think it is more the norm in the US, for sure. We’ve always had indoor cats in my family. I have had some friends who let their cats out, and when I was living in the country I knew a lot of people who had “barn cats”, aka the mousers that they fed that slept in the barn but were free to come and go as they please. But country cats have to deal with things like feral dogs, coyotes and coydogs, and the occasional bear (well, there were bears, I don’t know if they’d bother with cats) where I’m from, so it’s never something we did. And when in a more urban area, there was the ever-present car risk. I wonder if it’s safer for cats in the UK? Do you guys have anything that would be predacious to cats? (Other areas in the US have things like wolves, and other large cats like lynxes and mountain lions that might be a problem too, I imagine.)

        Is it really like unheard of to have indoor cats in the UK? It’s interesting, because I know a fair few people in the US who give people who let their cats go outside some serious side-eye. A lot of people think some people only have indoor-outdoor cats so they don’t have to deal with litter boxes, and that letting cats outdoors is irresponsible to cats and local wildlife. So the implication a lot of people make is that if you let the cat outside, you don’t care about it as much. I’m not sure how I feel about outdoor cats, really, other than it not being something I’d do, though. But that’s one of the arguments against it, at any rate. (Though, I’m sure lots of people with indoor/outdoor cats adore their kitties, so I’m not really comfortable with generalizing a whole group.)

        As to the OP, if you find out what to do with the long car-ride of a move, let me know. We might have to do that ourselves in a few years and I’m DREADING it.

        • Well, obviously I can’t speak for everyone. But I happened to bring up this comments thread with five friends yesterday at lunch – and when I said that in the US people often don’t let their cats outside at all, none of them would believe me.

          • Oh wow, that’s so weird! (I’m sorry, I just think these small cultural differences are just SUPER interesting.)

        • Here in Maine cats are prey for coyotes and fishers (large weasels), primarily. I imagine a fox might try to tackle a small cat, and the same MIGHT go for larger hawks or even owls and eagles. I know that growing up we lost many of our outdoor cats to the local fishers in the area. I’d say that on average, our cats probably lived about 3-4 years before disappearing. We’ve only had one cat that ever died of old age (at the rickety age of 15 or so), others would disappear at some point and that was that. Some vanished quite young, others might make it to eight or ten years. Because of this, I always had a lot of dread about letting our cats outside, and I would wake up terrified if I heard a fox barking outside at night (you should listen to a recording of a fox bark; very eerie). To this day I STILL have dreams about long-last cats returning home. Now an adult, I keep my own cats indoors unless they’re on-leash with me or in an enclosed area like a barn.

      • An indoor cat statistically will live much longer than an outdoor cat (especially an outdoor cat that isn’t spayed/neutered) because the outdoors has so many hazards. Dogs, traffic, wild animals, toxins, harmful substances from neighbors’ garbage (like chicken bones). If cats are NOT spayed/neutered, then obviously there is the reproduction issue, and the accompanying problem of strays and overpopulation. Many cities here in the US have ordinances that say that free-roaming cats MUST be spayed/neutered and have a collar with a license tag identifying them as an owned free-roaming cat. Some other cities also have leash-only laws, which say that cats may not roam free AT ALL. These laws are in place both to prevent an overpopulation of strays, to lessen the number of free-roaming cats that cause problems (footprints on cars, peeing in gardens, etc), and to protect natural wildlife.
        I don’t want my kitty to die an untimely death by a car or by a predator like fishers or coyotes, nor do I want HIM killing songbirds and such for fun. So he stays inside.

  13. I’m sure you’ve figured this out, but if she’s not already microchipped, this would be a very good time! I know some cats won’t “do” collars or tags but at least if she’s chipped, and wanders off, anyone who picks her up will be able to find you.

    • getting her chipped would be a good idea. She tends to remove her collar. We usually dont bother with it, since she spends most (if not all) all her time around the house even when she’s outside.

  14. I think it depends on the temperament of your cat. Some cats (most, even) are really just concerned about a warm place to sleep and some food, other cats are really attached to a specific environment and will do anything in their power to get back to that place. Most people I know who have moved with outdoor cats had a smooth transition, but not all. My best friend moved with her indoor/outdoor cat a couple of years ago. She kept him inside for a while after the move to help him adjust, but unfortunately, the first time she let him out was the last time she saw him. He never came back. This is of course not a common occurrence, but you have to be braced for that possibility.

  15. You can ask your vet for a tranquilizer before your trip. They’ll give you the correct dosage, and he’ll be kind of groggy and sleepy the whole time. My mom traveled nine hours with her young, energetic fox terrier this way.

    • I was hoping something like that was available. Do you know how expensive it is? I just know the car ride would freak her out more than anything else.

      • Our vet gave us something for when we moved our two cats and extra doses just in case our flights were delayed, all together it was under $30 and worth every penny.

        On a side note, did you know that when flying with a cat in the cabin you have to remove your cat from their carrier and carry them through the metal detectors? Fun times…

        • When flying, it’s not recommended to do tranqs, at least by some vets, since the change in altitude can actually wreak havoc with the effect of the tranq. My kitty is an experienced flyer. I use WestJet when I need to travel with her and she has to be in a soft-sided carrier, under the seat in front of me. She might meow but she’s quiet enough that the engine noise (we are always seated near the engines) covers it up.

    • If you get valium, give the kitty a test dose before leaving on your trip. Most cats calm down on it, but on some it has the opposite effect.

  16. Whatever “stuff” you have outside of your house, take some of it with you: Welcome mats, potted plants, even some of the gravel or bark. When you let the cat out of the house, it will smell and feel like home.

    • Unfortunately it’s moving out of my moms house, but im sure I could take some dirt or something with me

  17. Maybe ask your current neighbors to keep an eye out for the cat after you move, if you do decide to let her out. There was a neighbor-cat that used to visit my parents’ house at least 5 days a week. When his owner moved across town, the cat apparently walked back to his old house… and when he found it wasn’t his house anymore, he came to us instead. We sheltered and fed him until his owner picked him up. Of course, the cat did this whole process a second time, but then he seemed to get it.

  18. We moved a couple of times with our indoor-outdoor cats. The biggest thing is for them to know where the food is, of course. I think the general recommendation is to keep them confined to a small area in the new place so they get used to it–and cats are generally super smart about learning to use the litterbox, since they tend to be naturally tidy. The cat I grew up with, who was a wild outdoor-indoor kitty for most of her life, has lived in four different houses, moving from a rural area into an urban one, and has done pretty well for herself. Now that she’s ancient–18 years old!–she’s transitioned to being mostly indoor, and has taken to using the litter box well.

  19. Definitely let your old neighbors know so they can keep an eye out if the cat tries to make it home — my partner’s former housemates lost one of their cats to the next door neighbor when they moved (the neighbor was feeding him raw liver; definitely preferable to the kibble his owners were offering). He wandered back to the neighbor within the week.

    Those same friends have indoor/outdoor cats, and what they’ve always done is keep them inside for the first week (or however long it takes for their old man cat to start peeing on things that aren’t in the litter box, which is how he expresses annoyance), and then one of them kind of gives the cats a tour of the yard, talking about how this is where they live now, and here’s where the entrances are. It seems to work well for them.

  20. I think it’s also important to recognize that your cat will be stressed, and that’s normal. It does not mean the entire thing was a mistake. 🙂 He may not eat for a day or so. One of mine expresses her stress at moving (she’s done it 3 times) by hiding in a closet and making herself as flat as possible. We call it her flounder impression, although she looks more like a fuzzy bathroom rug! But she always recovers. So I would try to keep him inside until that first crazy stage passes and he starts acting more like himself. (This is different from the 2nd crazy stage when he’ll start trying to get outside more.)

  21. I very much support the idea of using this move as an opportunity to transition your cat to indoor-only life! Heck, why not start early? Give you both some time for her to learn how to use a litter box!

    Best of luck with your move. 🙂

  22. A year ago I moved from my parents house in the country to a city house with my husband. I have 4 cats that came and went as they pleased through a window. They rarely used the litter box I had and were avid hunters. I can’t bring myself to let them outside since I now live in a city. I thought the transition would be rough but they went along with it. I set up cat towers by windows so they could look outside and enjoy the sunlight. It took me awhile to figure out they needed toys now, though. Since they couldn’t hunt anymore they were very bored and took it out on my husbands shoes. They’ve only recently become interested in the front door and it’s only a vague interest. They’ve never attempted escape, despite the neighborhood cats taunting them through the windows. I hate not being able to let them run around outside anymore but I just couldn’t live with myself if something bad happened to them and I could have prevented it.

    • Have you thought of putting up bird feeders near the cats’ windows? I have a hummingbird feeder and another full of mixed seeds. Our own four cats often sit in a row watching the action. The birds don’t care – the hummingbird feeder is actually touching the window glass (I read that was the best way to keep the birds from flying into the window) so the cats and I get a much closer view than we otherwise would.

  23. Our darling marmalade who was the king of the neighborhood had to transition back to indoor cathood about a year ago. He had been confined indoors due to an injury for about 3 months before the move so he was somewhat resigned to it. After the move we had to make sure to train ourselves to shut doors quickly and yell at guests to hang out in the doorway to smoke. We also made sure to get him several new toys and spend time each day to play with him so he gets lots of exercise. We got him a waterfall drinking bowl and it seems to get him to drink more water to replace the moisture he was getting from nibbling grass and bugs and stuff. He still tries to bolt if the door is open but he seems okay if he gets sufficient attention and exercise. He looooves the laser dot! Good luck!

  24. My mom thinks our kitty should stay at her house and just adopt a new cat because the stress will be too much for her. I personally think she’d be happier in an only pet household (she refuses to leave my room when the dogs are out, so she only ventures into the rest of the house early morning and late nights), but my parents say she’s doing fine there.
    However, I feel bad for her sitting by herself in my room most of the time. Do you guys still think I should transition her to an indoor home hours away, or let her stay where she is? =/

    • Most cats can adapt to being around dogs, it just takes them a while to realize the dogs just want to play with them not do them harm.
      Could you do a test run at the new place and if kitty seems too miserable being indoors (and you don’t want to do outdoor type kitty at the new place) then let kitty stay with your parents (and dogs)?

      • It’s been years and she still won’t go anywhere near the dogs unfortunately. The dogs are fine with the other cat but freak out when they do see her simply because she’s never around them and they don’t know her

    • I would move her. Yes, she’ll be really stressed for a while when she moves. Yes, there’ll be accidents, and weird behaviour until she gets more used to it. And there is the very small possibility that she might disappear and you’d never see her again (though I don’t think this is very likely – most cats manage it fine).

      But the alternative is leaving at your mum’s where she’s clearly unhappy with the dogs (how long have your parents’ had their dogs for? If it’s been a while, it won’t get any better). And, more crucially, without you. She probably misses you something awful.

      I’d rather have a crazy stressed out cat for a while than a lonely miserable cat for a long time.

      • They say she’s doing fine but I know she only gets company early morning. Possibly night as well, but my family goes to bed pretty early.

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