Adult Cat Moving to a New Home

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Newly adopted adult cat keeps running away

Feb 2014

After our beloved cat passed away last year, we pretty quickly adopted another adult cat. He is a very nice cat, but he does not seem happy living with us and I don't know what to do. When he is inside he spends all of his time trying to escape. He claws and meows at the back door for hours until we finally let him out or our toddler lets him out without us knowing. He even pulled himself up and crawled through a very small opening in a window to escape last week. It would be okay if he would stay in our backyard, but he manages to escape from there as well. He is a HUGE cat but somehow he climbs up a concrete post over our very high fence to get into the neighbors yard to roam the neighborhood. The only way he ever comes back is if I catch him; he has rarely voluntarily come back. Once he is inside, he eats a bit and then begins working on his next escape. I don't know what to do. I am a cat lover and want a pet who is....a pet. An animal that will give love and receive love. Plus, it is very stressful dealing with his escapes (he has often come back with injuries). We try to keep him inside but he always finds a way. What would you suggest? I'm considering trying to give him up, but not sure how I would do this or find the right home for him. I want him to be happy and safe, but he just does not seem like the right cat for us. I want a cat who wants to be with us. Thank you!

Hi there, I just responded to the person before you who is also having cat troubles, so this is somewhat repetitive but check out Arden Moore's books (''Happy Cat, Happy You, and ''The Cat Behavior Book), as well as Annie Moore's ''Cat Be Good.'' I do know that you cannot reward his behavior of clawing and meowing at the back door. Do not, under any circumstances, let him out when he does this. If you are going to have an indoor/outdoor cat, which it sounds like you are, then you must let him out at certain times (7am and 7pm, for instance) and only when he is waiting patiently and not begging. Do you have a cat door? Maybe this would be a good option too. Though, you said he rarely comes back on his own. This is something they talk about in the books - you need to make your home your cats favorite place in the world. This means talking to him, loving him, petting and massaging him, giving him treats to reward good behavior, giving him nice clean beds throughout the house, getting him multiple scratching posts and climbing structures, PLAYING with him, a lot. He may need another cat friend, if he is a highly social cat. I also do not know how old he is (but good for you for adopting an adult cat!). And, do you know if he was allowed to go outside in his previous home? Or, if he was recused from the street, then its a whole other story.....

If you really want to give this your best shot you have your work cut out for you. I hope you don't give him up - it sounds like there are just some issues that need to be figured out. That said, not all cats and people are the right match, so if you come to truly feel that, maybe you should look into ''giving him up'' but not if it means he'll be put down! And when you get another cat try doing a ''foster to adopt'' situation so that you can have the cat for a month or so without officially adopting him and see if hes a good fit. - Cat Lover

I am going to ask a stupid question, but I feel that it is a foundational issue -- he has been neutered, right? Because male cats, when not neutered, are much more prone to wander (and father kittens!). Another, less obvious question: has he been marked on one of his ears (that is, has the corner of one of his ears been neatly cut away)? I'm not talking about battle scars, but a surgical removal of a little piece of ear. If so, he used to be a feral cat, and that would give you an idea of his earlier wild habits. I would first consult with a vet, to see if there is anything to be done that would calm the cat and make him less likely to wander. And if not, I would go back to the place where you adopted him and explain the trouble. Having said that, some places are not likely to be sympathetic -- I adopted an adult cat from the Berkeley Humane Society, and when, after two weeks of the cat hiding in the closet and hissing whenever we went near him, I returned the cat, they were angry and refused to consider offering us another cat. But I feel that it would be better for you and the cat (if it seems clear that he is not going to change) for you to return the cat to the shelter (or a no-kill shelter, if the one where you adopted him was not a no-kill) and look to foster an adult cat for a couple of weeks before committing to adoption. Good luck to you in finding a good fit! cat lover

I shared your pain and puzzlement, having tried for 6 years to love an equally difficult cat. When I finally decided to find a new home for him by asking around no-kill shelters, I was told to call the place he was adopted from (Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society) and ask if I could ''return'' him--which I could! Note that I had to specify that he had been adopted from there in the first place, as many shelters won't take owner-surrendered cats otherwise. Anyway, the BEBHS adoption team were very kind and sympathetic, and quickly found him a couple who were delighted to have a cat who so resembled their late pet.

I don't know how long you've lived with this animal (I assume he's fixed) and you might want to give him more time, but keep in mind that some shelters do accept returns. It's also helpful to find a cat who's been previously fostered and/or has some sort of history that tells you more about her personality and habits. Good luck. A Cat Person, Usually

Clearly something is going on with this cat--why not try to find out what he's running to/from? My sister-in-law is an animal communicator who specializes in helping pet owners troubleshoot these kinds of behaviors. Maybe she could help you figure out why your cat is unhappy in your house and what to do from here. Her website is Hannah

I am by all means a devoted cat owner, in my 60's and have had several who lived long lives. When I was younger, I kept my cats inside, and it was a lot of trouble. My current 2 cats go outside somewhat, but all come in at night. About 18 years ago, I had ONE cat for about 6 months that just never bonded with us. She just didn't seem to want to be with us. She actually ran out one day and I never found her again. This was before the days of microchipping, but I tried very hard to find her. So I identify with you. I think if I were you, I would make sure this cat is neutered, microchipped, and a collar with a tag, and I think I would just let him go out maybe early in the day (before you feed him) hopefully he would come back when he's hungry. As much as I love them, cats are weird. They CAN be trained, but in another sense they can't be trained. I think I would let him go out, and then try, especially before dark to get him back in (sometimes you have to go call them), and when he comes in, feed him, and keep him inside for the evening. As a pet owner, I commiserate! Cat owner

We found it took a month for our new to us 3 year old feline adoptee. We covered lower windows with thick frosted plastic that could not easily be scratched off to remove the view or where he wanted to be. Windows within reach had to be kept closed - even the top. Lock / deadbolt the door to prevent your youngster from opening. Lots of attention helps & playing until he tires. He needs to like you more than the outside. Might try Feliway (best price on-line) relaxant where he sleeps. The first 3 week were agony for all but then he settled in. Any new home you would find for him would need to go through the same ordeal. - Andrew


Let him be who he is, an outside cat. Let him go. Feed him if he comes back and asks, leave water. Help him with any major injuries. Treat him like a distant relative and look elsewhere for the kind of family cat you want... there are plenty of affectionate, shy, obedient, homebody feline personalities out there. It would be ideal if you had an enclosed porch area with an entrance exclusively for him. That way you could leave food and water and pillows and let him do his thing. - It takes all kinds!

It sounds like you adopted a cat with a proclivity to be outdoors. We have a cat like this, and he now lives outdoors with all the ensuing dangers that go with it. More to the story: We were in the same boat as you. My beloved 18 year old cat passed away in 2007 and within 6 months we were at the shelters looking for another cat, mostly for my then 10 year old son, who never got along with my cat, even though I did everything I could to train him how to treat cats since he was born. The cat we adopted, a 2 year old big strapping male tabby, was great at getting to know my son at the shelter, but as soon as he came home with us, he went very skittish on my son. Turns out I never really turned my son into a cat person, that I had hoped. He just scared the kitty. His every movement was frightening to the cat. This is the cat that now lives outdoors and he is now officially my cat

You say you would like a cat to be more of a pet. I'd also like to offer some insight as I have worked in animal welfare as a cat behaviorist and adoption counselor. While I'm sure your intentions were noble, especially kudos to you for adopting an older cat!, one thing I think isn't well understood about cats and small children-- is that, unless you find a ''do me'' kind of docile type of cat--the kind you refer to as a ''pet'', most cats really don't like rough-housing, loud noises, sudden movements, all by nature the behavior of toddlers! I would always counsel the public to wait until their child was at least 8. Anyway, that being said, if you still are intent on getting a cat to get along (and not be scared all the time) with a toddler, I would recommend searching for one on craigslist or through a cat rescue organization like the one I absolutely adore in the South Bay called Homeless Cat Network (, where they really get to know the cats well, have them in huge cages and let you try them out at home, and can find you that docile cat that is OK with small children. They are out there! I thought I found one, but since he was from a shelter, and since shelters are such artificial of environments, it is really hard to get to know the kitty with the little bit of time you can spend there with it. I hope this helps and you are either able to find a kitty and give it a forever home, or wait. kitty mom

Hi, your cat sounds exactly like my beloved kitty. We rescued him when he was 8. He spent his days trying to escape - running from front door to back door all day. Not affectionate, only wanted to get away. It bummed me out, so I tried many things: supervised outside time, outside with a harness,etc. I even got him an enclosed stroller. But. eventually we just stopped stressing out about it. He's safer inside. We just made the house super kitty interesting- places to climb, hide, cat trees, cozy napping spots, window seats, lots of playtime and cat toys. We just let him come to us for affection, too. Fast forward ten years, and our cat is the most loving, affectionate, sweet old kitty grandpa. Everything is on his terms, but he's a cat!!!! My point is, he's your cat, and you don't really get to decide what kind of a companion he is. Please give it time. There has to be a way to keep your door from being opened by your toddler. Kitty is gonna escape now and again, so you could get a kitty collar gps? But please don't abandon your cat. Make your house as interesting and inviting as possible, play with him a lot, and just let him be a cat who wants outside. I think he'll come around. Mine did. It took a while, but we worked it out! Good luck! Anon

I would try to rehome the cat. Can you bring the cat back to where you got him from? Some people really like independent, outdoor cats, and might love your cat. In the meanwhile, you can pick another cat that is a lap cat and a homebody. We have two and they are just heavenly.

Tips for moving cat to a new home

Nov 2013

Need advise about moving my cat to a new home. I am separating From spouse and taking my beloved cat with me to new home. Are there transition ideas I need for my cat do he dosen't stress and mark His territory in the house? Thanks Anon

I am so glad you are taking your beloved cat with you upon your divorce. As a divorced single mom, I have had much comfort/stability due to my pets. Your cat will do fine with a move. Most people tell you to keep your cats inside for a couple of weeks so they know this is your new home. I think the biggest danger with cats moving and running off is the owners don't wait long enough before they allow their cat its freedom. And be sure to label and chip your kitty, even more important since you are moving. We wish you the best of luck. cat/dog owner

I recently moved with my cat and used a Calming Aid, I think that's what it was called, that I purchased at Petco. It worked really well without drugging him. He just got really mellow. You give it 30 minutes before a stressful event. Good luck. You can also put Rescue Remedy in your cat's drinking water. Cat lover

I know with fostering cats, which I've just started doing, you start them in one small room, even the bathroom, and give them lots of love and attention and let them get to know that scent and feel comfortable there, of course litter box, water, etc. Small spaces and darker light help animals feel less scared, in general. Then after a week or so when he seems okay, you move him into a bigger portion of the house, if theres a way to separate bathroom/living room only, for example. gradually introduce him into whole house over time. C

We kept our cat confined to a single room or bathroom that was just hers until she adjusted. Once she felt comfortable in the smaller space we started extending her access into the rest of the house. is a good resource. Jennifer

Keep them in one room or a small area of the home for one week (I used my bedroom and bathroom), then confine them to the house for the second week, then give them free range. I got this same advice before moving and both my cats adjusted marvelously to my new home. I was really worried about the move because one of my cats was extremely bonded to my neighbors (I thought he might try to run away to the old neighborhood!) but he is even happier here now than he was before. happy cats

I've done this a few times. Here's what we did -- try to bring the cat once all (or most) of the furniture is in place. Cats can freak out if on top of the new environment there are movers carrying stuff, making noise etc.

-- bring things that the cat likes and have their smell on it.. their favorite pillow/bed etc.

-- give your cat a few days to explore the new place. If this is a house (not an apartment) make sure they don't escape

-- have some yummy cat treats available

-- if you have a backyard, then expose it to the cat gradually and only a few days after he/she got familiar with the new home. note this means that you may need to get a litter box for a few days until your cat can go outside. After a few days, start taking the cat outside. Increase time and distance gradually. I even bought a dog leash once, and took my cat with the leash to make sure she doesn't run away cat lover

Take our cat with us to Mexico for a year?

June 2013

Help, please, cat enthusiasts and Mexico-knowledgeable people!

Our family is moving to San Miguel de Allende for a year. We are very excited, except that it means major disruption for our lovely 3 year-old tabby cat, Cozy. We fostered his stray mother, raised him from day 1 in our home, and he is just the gentlest, mellowest guy. He is active, loves the outdoors, but always comes back to snuggle at night. He has a very serene nature and avoids trouble with other cats, etc. Not confrontational at all.

We are planning to sublease our rental in El Cerrito starting in August, with the intention that the family that moves in takes care of Cozy for the year. But if we cannot find renters who adore him, what do you think of us bringing him to San Miguel? I worry that it will be so stressful for him-he has had an idyllic cat life with a HUGE wild backyard to roam, chickens to guard, and children to love. Forcing him to travel and adjust to a completely different environment just seems wrong. But on the other hand, he adores us, so we would be a comfort to him.

Another option is to find a friend to take him for the year. That would also force him to leave his territory (and us), which would be stressful, but maybe less stressful than an international move? And I imagine that anyone who takes him will fall in love and not want to give him back!

Please let us know what you think we should do and why. I love this cat so much that I am willing to let go of him to make him happy-he's a real gem. But I hope not to. Advice on relocating a gentle cat is welcome too.

Thank you for helping us figure out Cozy's future. Cozy's Mama

Your kitty sounds so special, and if I'm reading you right I had a cat much like him - gentle, mellow, and he really loved his humans. I don't typically respond to the Advice Wanted posts, but when I read your post I thought, "My kitty would want me to tell you to take Cozy with you!" So I'm writing this on behalf of my kitty

Essentially, I think that if Cozy is strongly connected to your family - well, that connection is strong, and it is important to him. I don't know what your Mexico living arrangements are, but if they're safe, if Cozy would still be able to go outside and play - then from my perspective it would be fine to take him with you. My two "best-friend" kitties didn't love traveling but they were always happy and adapted very quickly once we landed. They really seemed to appreciate being included. Of course this decision is harder if you're going to a place with obvious factors that would impinge on the cat's well-being. But if there are no obvious factors and it's just a matter of adjusting to a very different environment, I think he'd be better off with you. Good luck, k.e

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras and while there are difference between Honduras and Mexico, I don't think you should take your cat. I have family in Mexico and have traveled there extensively and given my experience in Honduras and Mexico, I don't think your cat will adjust well to living in another country. For your cat's safety, you would likely have to keep Cozy inside all of the time and it sounds like he is cat who loves the outdoors.

In Honduras, at least, it wasn't common for people to keep cats as pets, so they weren't as respectful of cats. There were a lot of strays, both cats and dogs, and I doubt being outside would be comfortable or safe for Cozy. Also, the one cat I did have in Honduras, was stolen. I think because people thought the cat was so pretty and healthy because of some genetic difference and not because I fed the cat.

I encourage you to find an alternative situation for your cat, either with tenants or friends. And I think, even though anyone would love Cozy, that your friends will return him to you when you come back in a year. Good luck, have a great year in Mexico and best wishes to Cozy. Hoping for the best for Cozy

Cats are very territorial and very attached to their territories. I would find a housesitter willing to take good care of your cat while you are gone and let him stay at home. I think he will be much happier. Moving him to Mexico for a year will stress him a lot more than missing you, especially if it means changing him from an outdoor cat to an indoor one. Best choice would be to let him stay in your home, second best give him to a friend to take care of for a year (but the friend should be very cautious about letting him go outdoors at first, or he may just return to your house regardless of who is living there). Fran

I know what I would do. I'd take Cozy to Mexico. A year is a long time - for kitty to be away, for you to be away from your beloved cat, and not to know the nuances of the outcome of kitty being placed in the right spot. Even with all the risks of the new environment, the constant would be his loving owners being involved, and that is the best possible outcome. I don't think it would be so traumatic even if he enjoys the outdoors, for you to keep him inside for as long as it takes for him to adjust and for you to guage the safety of his new environment. Best case scenario is he gets to go outside eventually, just like if you were to move to a new home in the states. Worst case is he never gets to go out but at least he is with you. Cats get very attached to their loving owners. My advice is to take Cozy to Mexico! Though I imagine there might be a quarantine period, and that the trip won't ne without its challenges. But its worth it to have your kitty be with you- everybody's happy! kitty mom

I agree totally with the person who was in the Peace Corp in Honduras and had her cat stolen. Do NOT take your cat to Mexico, unless you are 1000% committed to keeping the cat indoors. Pets are not treated in many countries as well as they are here! I have been all over Central America and (while I enjoy it) I would not bring a pet there. It's not a whole lot to ask of a friend to keep your cat for a year - if you supply the food, any vet expenses, etc., it's not a HUGE favor to do for a friend. Cat owner

Dogs attach to the people, cats attach to the place.  Don't take your cat to Mexico!