Exploring the neighbourhood
Keep your cat inside for the first two or three weeks to give him time to learn the geography of his new home and to become accustomed to the smells. When you decide the time is right to let him out, withhold food for about 12 hours so he is hungry. If he already associates a particular sound (tapping a bowl or rattling a bag of biscuits) with food so much the better. Choose a quiet time to let him out in the garden, firstly ensuring that there are no other cats about. Go out with him and let him explore for a little while before calling him in for food. Repeat the exercise several times, allowing him to go a little further and for a while longer each time. Cats used to the outdoors generally cope well with a new territory to explore. Timid cats may take a little longer and should be accompanied as often as possible until their confidence builds.
If your cat is spending time outdoors he should be microchipped or have some form of identification – a snap-open collar is probably the safest – bearing his name, your new address and ‘phone number. If your cat is microchipped don’t forget to inform the registering company of your change of address.
Preventing your cat from returning to his old home
If you are moving just a couple of miles you may find that your cat regularly returns to his old home. This is simply because he has not bonded sufficiently well with his new home and has picked up familiar routes during exploration of his new territory.
Ask the new occupants of your old house and the neighbours there to discourage him by chasing him away or by calling you to collect him. Spread the cat’s scent around your home, as described above. Keep your cat inside for a month and then, as mentioned earlier, only let him out for a short period just before you feed him and accompany him on his walk round the garden. In this way he will begin to recognise the new house as a source of food and shelter, both of which are being denied him at the old house.
This period of readjustment may take weeks and, in some cases, it can be months before he can be allowed outside unattended. If all else fails and your cat refuses to accept his new home, you may be able to persuade the residents of your old house or one of the neighbours to adopt him permanently.
But, with patience and a little bit of luck, you and your cat will soon feel like you’ve never lived anywhere else!