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Arrive Alive - The 10 Most Important Things To Know Before Travelling With Your Kitty
September 2006 - Moving Day
Object: To fit contents of one household into back of U-haul truck, load small car onto trailer attached to U-haul truck and catch four cats, stuff them into carriers with the intention of travelling 2,624.52 miles (give or take) across country to our new home.
Sounds like fun, huh?
Well, as intimidating and impossible as it sounds...that is what I did. Lucky for you, I survived the experience...and now, I will share with you the secrets to traveling safely from point A to point B with your kitty...
1. Kennel -
This is by far the most important piece of equipment for your journey. It will need to be roomy enough to accommodate your feline comfortably, but small enough so that it can't turn around fast enough while you shove the cat in and slam the door. You may want to put a small towel or blanket on the bottom as this will absorb any cat pee or drool. Nothing is worse than taking a sharp right hand turn and having a nasty smelling waterfall of piss and saliva landing in your lap. It should have a grated door so that you can stick your fingers in occasionally to comfort your kitty...but make sure you can easily extract your precious digits in case of hostile action.
2. Food & Water -
Eventually your kitty will be hungry. Perhaps not the first day...nor maybe the second...but eventually. It's amazing how guilty they can make you feel by not eating! While you may be perfectly content to snack on cheese doodles and dine on McDonalds, your cat will want something it's accustomed to or perhaps not. Either way, you'll have to be prepared for any eventuality. Luckily, my cats cannot resist the siren call of canned food and they quickly adapted to dining at the local motel 6 as long as it was their bowl and moist food. Bring along a can or two for sound effects...but the pouches work just fine. Once a can as been opened in their presence, they won't know the difference.
As for water, unlike dogs, you can't just pull over on the side of the road, fill a bowl and expect that your cat will indulge you by drinking. However, please feel free to make the attempt as it will make you feel better. Once you have settled in for the night, leave the bathroom faucet running...they'll be giddy with delight and decide this road trip stuff isn't so bad after all.
3. Litter Boxes -
Sure you can pack your cat's usual litter box, fill it with litter every night only to rebag it or toss it out the next day...but why bother? Instead, buy a couple of those disposable cat litter boxes and bring along the scoop and a trash bag. Just make sure if you leave the litter box behind to tip housekeeping...
4. Drugs -
While an appealing idea, in the long run it has never worked out with me. Without drugs I have a cat that cries constantly, drools and sheds a lot of fur. With the drugs, I have a cat that cries constantly, drools, sheds a lot of fur and has their inner eyelids hanging at half mast like they're some sort of cat zombie. When it comes to kitty downers...I just say no.
5. First Aid Kit -
Keep it stocked with things like bandaids, antiseptic, Tylenol, Jack Daniels and ear plugs. There will be times when kitty just doesn't want to go in the kennel...trust me.
An Excellent Example of "The Cat Drag Method"
6. Room Hazards -
Before releasing kitty from the kennel into your motel or hotel room...get down on all fours and see things from his or her perspective. What seems an impossible fit to you is guaranteed to be the one place kitty will be able to squirm their way into. As a pre-emptive measure, just upend the second bed, if there is one. This is where the cat will end up anyway, and nothing is worse than lifting the box spring to find kitty tangled up in the springs like some prisoner of war. Should kitty become entangled, grab the first aid kit...you'll need it. Once you have the spare bed tipped over, kitty will love the lean-to effect and be perfectly content. Just remember to restore the bed to its previous condition before checking out the next day.
7. Harness & Leash -
Before placing kitty in the kennel, be sure to wrestle them into a harness, keeping the first aid kit close at hand. While you might be tempted to make it as snug as possible, avoid the python effect. If kitty's eyes begin to bulge and he or she is making little gasping noises, it is too tight. Loosen it up a bit...but watch for telltale signs of fake gasping as this is a ruse to lure you into loosening it too much. A great way to test snugness is to pick up your kitty by the harness as if it were a cat-handle. If the kitty slides out...it's too loose.
Once you have the harness on your kitty, do NOT remove it until the final destination has been reached. It may be the only thing you are able to grab as kitty wedges himself into the box spring or dashes for the door when you are looking elsewhere. It also makes them a lot more portable, sort of like a furry little dufflebag, when you have to carry other things. If your hands are already too full, with the addition of a leash, you may be able to employ "The Cat Drag" method if kitty isn't feeling particularly cooperative.
8. The Radio -
No vehicle transporting a feline should be without a radio. You may have to experiment with things like station and volume level to ensure an appropriate ratio of cat yowling to music, but once you have it, a sane trip is virtually guaranteed. In my experience, talk stations and classical music should be avoided at all costs as they don't meld very well with the sounds a cat is capable of producing. You may want to think more along the lines of Def Leppard, Twisted Sister or Kiss.
Should you find yourself unfortunate enough to be radio-less, you may opt for a lesser known practice called the kitty sing-a-long. When timed just right, your cat's god-awful wailing can actually be seen to have a particular rhythm and can be inserted safely into songs such as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and the ever popular "Kumbaya."
9. Lint Remover/Roller Thingie -
Wherever you are going, sooner or later you will arrive. Whether it's a mere pit stop for a meal, a bathroom break or your final destination make sure you are presentable. People do notice when you walk in wearing a rug on your t-shirt and you definitely don't want to be mistaken as a fur-wearer by an angry PETA person wielding a spray can of paint. Take the time to groom yourself...your cat does, and so should you.
10. Cat Treats -
I recommend the kind that comes in a can. When check out time is looming and you have yet to find kitty's hiding place in the hotel or motel room, a mere shake of the can will usually bring kitty running. Some cats will consistently fall for this ploy, while others are more cunning. Try to save this method as a last resort.
Why You Should Never Leave Kitty in the Car Alone
And remember! Never leave kitty alone in the car. If you simply must, make sure to take the keys with you. You may just be stepping into the convenience store for a slurpee...but that's all the opportunity your cat needs.