Cat in a box - Traveling with your pet
There’s a certain lure to vacationing with your pets. I admit it. There’s no worry about whose feeding Fluffy or whether or not she’s shredding the curtains while you’re exploring the wilds or surfing in some sunny spot. And, who hasn't heard of Norton, Peter Gethers’ footloose feline who traveled the world, Churchill’s fearless parrot, or a slew of other moggies and doggies that faced peril and high adventure without the twitch of a tail. Even my neighbor’s overfed tabby Ryder became a literal Cat Abroadand now strolls the rues of Paris with as much moxie as he did my backyard.
Taking a cat, or, in my case, cats, with me on a short trip should have presented no problems. After all, all the cats, with the exception of the Kitten, have traveled before. True, mainly their trips have been to the vet or to my parents’ house for an extended stay. But, as a kitten, Lo routinely made interstate voyages tucked happily in his carrier. His initial yowls of displeasure dissipating after the first half-hour or so and giving way to resignation and finally catnip mouse chewing. But, my decision to take my four feisty divas with me to the cabin for our summer getaway didn't take into account cat/dog dynamics, the cruelty of Tig, or the pure and unbridled enthusiasm of one small white kitten.
The trip began well. All four cats were tucked in the respective carriers and strapped into the car. Unfortunately, I had chosen poor cat-placement, as Tig could see the offensive Kitten and began hissing, which, of course, set off a chain of hisses, growls, and other assorted and unpleasant noises. After stopping at a rest stop and redistributing the cats so that Tig could only see luggage and the Kitten could see every other cat while none of them could exactly see her, we set back off.
Then, the gnawing began. Tig had decided that the front of her cat carrier was good to chew. From the sounds emanating from the back seat, the carrier was very good to chew indeed. As the horrifying cat-noises increased, Francie, my sister’s skittish Lasu-Apsu who had been seat-belted into the back seat near my niece, Sarah’s child carrier, began making tiny, frightened dog noises. I didn't blame her. At eight pounds, Tig outweighs her by four and one-half pounds of furious feline and the noises Tig was making did not sound happy. Sarah took this moment to inform me and her mother that “kitty wants out.” This was true, but since the same could be said for everyone else in the car, I could hardly sympathize.
Tig’s attempts at freedom, Francie’s sad whimpers, and Sarah’s fidgeting soon set off a chain-reaction of drooling (on Mooshie’s part,) blanket-chewing (on Nonny’s part,) and general flailing by the Kitten. Soon, the back seat was awash in twitching cats, dogs, and children. Cats, by their very nature, do not enjoy being in boxes. Although car to girl ratio is about the same as cat to carrier, cats generally dislike being in carrier much more than people mind being in cars. Although some cats will resign themselves to being boxed or crated for short periods of time, some have a more vindictive nature.
Tig’s general opinion, in all matters, is that if Tig is not happy, no one will be. If Tig is frightened or angry, she attacks the other cats. Boxed and unable to torment her furry fellows, Tig uses The Stare. Tig is a champion starer and can gaze unblinking and cobra-like for hours. Trapped in the car and unable to chew her way to freedom, Tig turned her baleful gaze on Francie. And, then, the howling began.
The howling of a small dog is like nothing else except the teakettle screams of a six-year old, which we were shortly treated to when Francie continued yipping, barking, and howling. Stopping and walking Francie (and Sarah) calmed them for a bit. But, once we were back in the car, Tig added a low hateful growling to her repertoire. This sent poor Francie into further doggie hysterics and Sarah into complaints of the itchiness, stickiness, and lack of ice cream in the car. Eventually, ice cream was obtained (and spilled.)
After two hours (that seemed like about a thousand years,) we reached the cabin. It was dusty, musty, and filled with small skittering noises—all of which pleased the cats to no end, if not me and my sister. Tig was overjoyed to find a mouse hole near the fireplace. I don’t know if she ever found a mouse. And, since real mice don’t come with feathers and bells attached, I’m not sure she’d recognize one if she did see one. There also some mysterious flying thing that fluttered from rafter to rafter and was the endless fascination of Francie and the whiskered crew. Ichi, the kitten, attempted to climb up twice for a better look. But, alas, her climbing skills don’t match her ability to shred paper. And, eventually, all the cats, Sarah, and Francie ended up sitting on the bed staring up into the quasi-darkness. “Is it a bat?” Sarah asked the cats. The cats did not respond—but secretly, they were hoping for a flying mouse. I however, had the broom close by just in case.
Lady always loved the woods. For her, nothing was better than a good hike, possibly accompanied by bird chasing. But, the cats, I have discovered are at heart homebodies. After the first few hours of exploring and generally getting their noses coated in a year’s worth of cobwebs and dust, they plopped down on the their respective beds and moved only when something small and furry made its appearance in the night.
Then, there would be a mad race around the four rooms of the cabin, a bit of mewing, some hissing and fighting, and finally the return to assorted cushions, beds, and rugs. These are not cats that crave adventure. Unlike Norton, who traveled by car, train, and camel, they would just as soon stay home.
Some cats love adventure, I’m told. My Grandfather had a cat that went fishing with him and perched happily on the side of his boat watching passing fish. I've seen cats in stylish cat carriers, lying happily and observing their surroundings like veterans. My cats are not cut from this same cloth. Some drool, others wail, and Tig stares. Although Feliway helps the drooling and the wailing, I’ve found nothing to stop the menacing staring or the chewing of carrier walls. However, your cat (or dog) may be the adventurous type. And, though they say that curiosity killed the cat, traveling can be relatively painless for your furry sidekick.
Before we set out, I made sure to gather all my veterinary records in one stout folder, along with the name of a recommended vet in our vacation area. Your vet can probably recommend a vet (or a veterinary association) near your summer destination. The AVMA also has suggestions on travelling with your pets that you might want to check out. And, if you plan to stay in a hotel along the way, there are many that are pet-friendly. If you Google “Pet Travel” or “Traveling with your Pet” you’ll find lots of suggestions on where to stay (and even where to eat) with your canine or feline pal while you are on the road. Lots of state parks have dog-friendly trails for hiking and many parks have dog-areas, as well as welcoming dogs in hiking and sporting areas.
If you plan to travel often, you might want to also look at an electronic ID chip for your pet. Many vets do offer this service and if you travel internationally, many countries now require it for animal visitors. And, there are always the basics, make sure you and your pet stay cool. Use sunscreen on your dog if he is spending much time outside and especially around the water. There are now a few doggie sunscreens available. I haven’t found one for cats yet—but my cats prefer an air-conditioned perch to a day at the beach anytime. Provide your pets with plenty of water during your trip—they tend to drink more if stressed by travel. And, make sure you bring lots of staples from home—bedding, toys, food dishes, etc. There’s nothing like a little taste of home when you’re a cat (or dog) on the go!
Not all pets are cut out for travel. Lady loved it. Ichi the kitten is a glutton for new places and sounds. My other cats tolerate it (Nonny and Mooshie) or use it as an excuse to destroy things and torment small dogs (Tig.) You know your pet best. If he’s a daring dog or a cat on the go, then fire up the car and get ready for an adventure. If not, then a good pet-sitter is your best friend. Whatever you decide, I hope you and your pets have fun this summer!