Q: Since we moved home a couple of months ago, our cat has repeatedly run away. Several times we have found him back at our old home, which is about 20 minutes’ walk down the road. On the advice of a friend, we kept him indoors for a few days after the move, but he was very unhappy, and I am worried that it has just made him dislike our new home all the more. Our old neighbor has now offered to have him. Should we let her have our beloved cat, or can he adjust to our new home?
A: Moving house is stressful eough for humans. For a highly territorial animal such as a cat, the experience is much, much worse. It is not surprising that he hankers after all the old haunts. As you have moved just a mile or so, your cat is likely to come across familiar landmarks when he explores his new territory. Naturally enough, he takes the opportunity to navigate his way “home.” Your old neighbor is clearly keen on cats, so it is likely that he meets a friendly reaction when he gets there – something that reinforces the message that his old home is a good place to be.
You don’t need to give up on your pet yet. Your friend was right to say that cats should be confined after a house move, but a few days is not long enough. You should have kept him indoors for at least a month. You can still try this now. Settle him in one room, where he has food, water, and access to a litter box. Then gradually allow him access to the rest of the home, leaving the door to the room open at all times.After four to six weeks, he should be relaxed and comfortable in the house. Make sure that your outside area is securely fenced, then let him outside for a brief look around. It’s good if he misses a meal beforehand; that way, he will be ready to come in when you signal that it is feeding time after a few minutes’ exploring. Do this several times, before letting him out during the day only.
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