JANE: Last week, we were talking about things you found difficult to live without when you and Robin moved. Noticeably omitted were your cats, Harpo and Bess.
When you moved house did you bring the cats with you in the car?
ALAN: No, definitely not. The cats both hate car journeys (I think they associate the car with visits to the vet). Harpo howls and Bess shivers with fear. Both sets of symptoms are unpleasant and upsetting, so there was no way I was going to put either them or us through the trauma of a 300 km journey.
JANE: So what did you do?
ALAN: About a week before we moved, we put the cats in the local cattery. They don’t like it, but at least it’s familiar – they’ve been there many times before. Then we started packing up the house, something else that would have upset them if they’d seen it.
JANE: How did you get them from the cattery to the new house?
ALAN: There’s an organisation called VenturePets who, for an inordinately large fee, will transport and deliver your pets door to door. So once we’d got the majority of our furniture unpacked and ready for the cats, VenturePets picked them up from the cattery, flew them on a commercial flight to the nearest airport, picked them up when they landed, and delivered them to us. The lady in the cattery sent me an email when they were picked up and she told us that Harpo howled all the way down the driveway to the van.
JANE: I know that when my mom has flown with her cat, she’s been required to have it tranquilized. Were Harpo and Bess cats tranquilized?
ALAN: No – VenturePets doesn’t believe in drugging the animals they transport. And a vet friend of mine tells me that the practice of tranquilising animals under these circumstances is much more for the benefit of the owners than it is for the benefit of the animals!
JANE: I presume they both arrived safely?
ALAN: Yes. The lady who delivered them to us told us that Harpo howled at the top of his voice all the way from the airport to our house. She sang nursery rhymes to him to try and make him feel better. But it didn’t work.
JANE: Maybe she didn’t sing them very well. Or maybe he would have preferred folk or filk…
ALAN: No, I think he’s more of a jazz fan…
Have you ever moved with your cats? How did they (and you) cope with the trauma?
JANE: I’ve moved with my cats several times. The first time was from New York to Virginia, the second from Virginia to New Mexico. Maybe because I used house call vets for routine care back when I lived in both New York and Virginia, my cats didn’t react too badly to car trips. Well, I should probably qualify that. I did have one cat, Gwydion, who reacted badly. Precisely forty-five minutes into any car trip, he would get carsick.
ALAN: How did you figure out the timing?
JANE: Back when I lived in Virginia and needed to drive to New York, I’d make the trip via my mom’s place in Maryland. The cats (who loved my mom) would then go stay with her for a few days. The first time we made this trip, Gwydion threw up. Usually, I’d have brought a roll of paper towels, but I didn’t have them. However, there was a roadside stop just down the way, and we solved the problem, cleaned Gwydion up, and finished the trip without further incident.
The next time we made the trip, at exactly the same point, he threw up again. With the store as a landmark, I then calculated back to past trips and realized that we had a pattern.
Eventually, we made good friends in Virginia who would cat sit when we travelled, so this wasn’t a problem until the day I left for New Mexico from Virginia. I didn’t take much when I left, shipped my books ahead, and only took my six cats and a few things that I wouldn’t trust to shippers with me in the car.
ALAN: How far apart are New Mexico and Virginia? Don’t answer that – I haven’t unpacked my atlases yet, but I do have an internet connection…
(Alan goes googling…)
Gosh! That’s a really long drive. You certainly couldn’t do it in one day.
JANE: No, I couldn’t. What I did was drive as far as North Carolina to meet Roger, who had flown from New Mexico, so he could share the trip. This was a several hour drive, so by the time we got there, Gwydion had already done his throwing up for the day.
The cats and I collected Roger, and we drove west until we couldn’t take it anymore. Then we found a motel that would accept pets.
Now, Roger had been diagnosed with cancer by this time. He was seeing an alternative medical practitioner who was doing a good job in helping him manage the side effects of the chemo drugs. He’d mentioned our plans to her, including that Gwydion got car sick. She gave him a tiny bottle of a homeopathic remedy called something like Be Still. We were to give Gwydion a few drops orally, then renew – I think mid-day, but it’s been nearly twenty years, so I don’t remember the exact timing – by placing a few drops on the fur between his ears.
ALAN: Did it work?
JANE: To my complete and utter astonishment, it did. By then, Gwydion was about eight years old and his pattern was firmly established. But with this treatment, he didn’t throw up. Nor was he dopey or drugged. Because of his problems, I’d positioned his carrier so that I could reach him from the front seat, so I could see him easily. He was calm, bright-eyed and alert.
ALAN: In some ways I’m not surprised it worked. My late cat Porgy (the Best Cat Ever) had several serious illnesses during his short life and he was very stressed as a result. The vet recommended something similar to us. We didn’t anoint him with it though, we put it in a gadget which had a heating element that vapourised it. The fumes (said the vet) contained calming pheromones. Initially I was sceptical, but it definitely worked and it helped him a lot.
Rather like your Gwydion, my Bess is a vomiting cat. She generally throws up after breakfast and after dinner because she’s greedy and gobbles her food too fast. Once I had a long and illuminating discussion about cat vomit with the checkout lady at the supermarket who was interested in the brand of cat food I was buying. Isn’t it amazing what subjects break the conversational ice and lead to a lifetime’s friendship?
JANE: Yes, it is… I have a couple more tales about travelling with cats I’d like to share. I’d also love to hear how Harpo and Bess settled into their new abode. However, my current crew are asking me to pay attention to them, I’ll leave my stories until next time.