Q: We're having a problem with our cat, who doesn't want to seem to stay put after our move. Our new home is two miles from the old one, and Justin keeps going back to the house where he grew up. The people who live there now keep calling us to pick him up, and we don't know what to do to keep him home. Any suggestions?
A: Because cats bond to places as well as to people, some cat lovers find that their free-roaming pets keep showing up at their old home after a move, especially if the new home, like yours, isn't very far from the old one. My best suggestion for you is to convert your cat to an indoor pet, because crossing streets to go "home" considerably ups his risk of getting hit. Remember, indoor cats in general live longer, healthier lives.
If permanent confinement is not possible, bring your cat inside for a couple of weeks. While he's cooped up, dedicate extra time to playing with him, especially interactive games such as with a toy on a string. This play helps to relieve him of some of his stress or excess anxiety and also aids him in forming attachments to his new home and to the idea of you in it.
After a couple of weeks, let him out for short periods into your yard with you, and take him back in when you go inside again. You should be able to get a feel for when he's starting to recognize the new digs as his home, and increase his freedom accordingly. There are no guarantees, but if you've taken your time to let him adjust, he should stay close by.
Make sure the new people at your old home aren't encouraging your cat to stay. Ask them not to feed him or pet him and to use a squirt bottle or a noisemaker to deter him from staying if they see him around.
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