Moving house is one of the most stressful situations people can go through, so just imagine how hard it can be on your cat. Territorial by nature, the cat marks her environment by rubbing her scent over objects in her home. This "scenting" lets other cats know that it is her territory and defines your cats boundaries. When a cat is taken from her known environment and deposited in a strange place, the experience can be quite terrifying for her, especially if the new home has cat scents from the previous owner. Be sure to thoroughly clean the room where your cat will be staying. It is up to you to make the transition to the new house as easy as possible on your cat.
The first thing to remember is that cats can be upset by anything that is out of place in their environment. Packing boxes and moving furniture can confuse and frighten the cat. When packing, leave one room until last, for the cat to feel at home in. Make sure that removalists are aware she is locked in the room so they know not to open the door and accidentally let her out. To be extra sure, stick a note on the door.
During transit, make sure your cat is safely locked in a cat carrier, and wrap a seat belt around the carrier. If your cat is an especially nervous traveller, it may be worth speaking to your vet prior to your move about the possibility of giving your cat a mild sedative. Alternatively, you could ask your vet about Rescue Remedy.
When you arrive in the new home, she should be confined to one room until unpacking is completed. Feliway which is a synthetic pheromone can be sprayed in the new environment. This may be reassuring for your cat. Make sure there is fresh food, water, a litter tray and your cat's favourite blanket or bed in the room, and ensure the windows are locked to prevent accidental escapes. If you have more than one cat, they should be placed in a room together so they can comfort each other. You may want to leave a closet door open or the cat carrier in the room so she can have a place to hide. This will help your cat feel less threatened. Don't let your cat out of the room until the removalists have finished and left.
Unless your cat is exceptionally mellow, it will take quite a while until she feels comfortable enough to venture out into other rooms of her new home. This may take several days in fact. Talk to your cat and pet her often during this time of adjustment. Try to stick to as much of a routine as you possibly can. Leave food and water close by, although she may not want to eat or drink anything for the first day.
As a safety measure, before you move make sure your cat has appropriate identification. This can be in the form of a permanent microchip or a collar with your home or mobile phone number on it. Obviously, notify the body in which the microchip data is stored of your new address and phone number. They should the worst happen and your cat does manage to escape, it will be easier for you both to be reunited.
Eventually your cat will want to explore the new environment. Let her do this at her leisure. If your cat will be going outdoors at the new home, check first to make sure there are no dogs nearby. It is best to keep your cat indoors for the first few weeks. Let her really get to know her new home before letting her explore outside. Check with your local council in regards to their laws. May councils in Australia now have cat curfews.
A little forethought and planning can make a big difference in how easily your cat will adjust to her new home.