Travelchick

My adventures and mis-adventures as I travel here and there

Traveling With Cat in Car: not recommended at any time

Feline, kitty, purr-box, mouser, tabby, tiger, tomcat…. Call it what you like but a cat by any other name is still a bad travel companion! Oh, yes I know there may be some of you out there whose cats are perfectly docile when in an enclosed space hurtling down the highway at seventy miles per hour. I unfortunately am still waiting for the pleasure of that experience and there’s a story to tell. But let me start at the beginning.

This summer I spent two months at a marine station on the Puget Sound taking the very last class of my graduate school experience. While there, my cabin mate and I adopted a gaunt-looking stray. He was a large black and white hunter with a loud and pleading call (the meowing did, incidentally, nearly cease once we started feeding him!). We named him Pleoh.

Pleoh wasted no time in making himself right at home

Pleoh wasted no time in making himself right at home

He immediately began to bring us almost daily gifts. I presumed that it was in thanks for the rescue, but I had to sit him down and tell him that there were other, more effective, ways to reach me. Unfortunately I don’t speak Cat-ese… Barring the rodent gifts, Pleoh turned out to be a more-than-wonderful feline companion and we both became quite fond of him.

Toward the end of the summer we began to discuss the fate of Pleoh since we both had rather territorial cats at home and didn’t feel we could add another kitty to the litter. I put up an add for a free and adorable cat and waited. And waited. No one wanted our poor little guy! My cabin mate was flying to Michigan and so it fell to me to transport the cat six hours to Walla Walla, via Lester. I was not excited and my previous experience traveling with cats did nothing to pique my enthusiasm. As a test, I introduced Pleoh to my car and drove a few feet through camp. He went berserk! Yowling and clawing, he attempted to force his gangly body through the small opening in my back window.

I did a Google search on making travel with cats more bearable to find some (hopefully) lifesaving tips. Advice was to accustom the cat beforehand to its leash, harness, and travel carrier. I had only a few days to work with, but I got a harness and put it on him in the cabin. He walked in a funny stilted manner for awhile but finally got used to it. Then I attached the leash and let him drag it around. “What’s that blasted thing following me everywhere I go?!” his face seemed to say, but he dealt with it. I looked at pet taxis, but his size cost $25 and jobless me could only think of the meals I could eat with that money. I ended up purchasing an $11 fold-up cat carrier. It was like a cat tent and really cute! Pleased with myself, I introduced it to Pleoh who, to my surprise, sat contentedly in it for more than a few seconds. It was enough to lift my spirits considerably. Perhaps this trip would not be so bad after all! Trips to the vet with my beloved Ami were always noisy, panting affairs that left us both shaken, and the cross-country trip I had once taken with my friend’s cat, make that my friend’s sedated cat, was anything but peaceful, quiet, or free of cage-soiling. Nevertheless, I foolishly told myself that this time it would be different.

The great day arrived. My cabin mate kissed Pleoh goodbye and I stuffed him into his tent with his harness on. He immediately sensed that this wasn’t a test run. We started to drive and the yowling began. And the panting. And the clawing. “He’s going to tear that tent to shreds,” I warned myself, but miraculously it held up. With each pull of his claws, it yielded to the pressure. Kudos tent for being resilient! But Pleoh didn’t care; rolling, yowling, tossing, and crying, he made himself a miserable mess of panic. Always one for good eye contact, Pleoh pleaded with me with wide terrified eyes to stop the torture. After a few close calls on the road, I apologized for ignoring him, but maintained that I must focus on driving lest we both die. “You,” I reminded him, “are actually NOT going to die in there.”

But I wondered if I might. How much of this could I take? Six hours much? Heading toward Seattle, we hit traffic almost immediately, and I found the distraught cat beside me to be quite a distraction. A few times he wrenched the stiff supports out of place, turning his tent into a sack. There wasn’t much I could do to help him. Then I looked up and saw that the sunscreen in front of my sunroof on my stupid car was coming off! One end of it was gyrating freely in the breeze, a heartbeat away from flying off and hitting the truck behind me! So there I am, holding the sun thing on with my right hand, driving with my left, trying to ignore the flailing cat beside me, and attempting to pull off the road in thick traffic! That was the first stop. I took the stupid sun thing off- what is it for, anyway?

Back on the road, Pleoh got more and more frantic. A couple of times he even catapulted himself and his tent over directly into my lap. That’s when I noticed that he had peed in his tent. I guess terror negates bladder control in cats. Great. 5 1/2 more hours with a urine-soaked cat. I was just glad I had protected my car seat with an old blanket. (BTW a tent in ones lap does not bode well for steering control)

Just as I was wondering aloud how much worse it could get, Pleoh popped out of his tent! Apparently the tent’s weak point was it’s zipper. He literally broke it! In the stunned moment in which he sat in disbelief to comprehend his freedom, I was luckily able to grab his harness. This also does not assist steering ability in anyway. Make that the sixth time I almost broadsided someone. Another stop, a stowed tent (it was urine-soaked anyway), and Pleoh was firmly leashed to the passenger side door (uh… on the inside, mind you), keeping him in the other seat, I hoped.

On the road again. Traffic is really bad. Pleoh is still terrified but mostly quiet. He looks wild-eyed out the window and then tries to claw his way up the back of the seat or over onto me- ouch! But not else bad could happen now, right? I just need to keep my eyes on the road and trying to ignore the acrobatics unfolding on my right? Not exactly. With one strange twisting flipping crunching maneuver, Pleoh (aka Houdini) slips right out of his harness, collar, and leash!!! Aaaaah! Maneuvering in Seattle traffic and holding a yowling, scratching, clawing, biting, urine-soaked monster by the scruff on the neck, I wanted to cry. Moreover, I couldn’t seem to get over to a place I could stop. Road rage took over, “MOVE IT, PEOPLE! Can’t you see I need to get over??!”

But then, like a soft fog descending into a valley at dusk, Pleoh crawled into my lap, hid his face in the crack by the seat, and lulled himself into a sleep (or trance or coma, but who cares!). I held my breath. Barring the occasional wiggle, he stayed calm. And that was my strategy for the rest of the trip. Every time I started the car up again, he panicked briefly, but as long as I could keep him down in my lap, he seemed to be able to shut out the horrors. It took him hours, though, to relax long enough to drink any water or stop hyperventilating.

Traveling with cats. Just don’t do it. I won’t do it again unless I have a cat in a pet taxi with heavy sedation and a catheter. I can’t describe to you how many times I almost died on that highway and I probably scared countless other drivers to death. Just so you know, Pleoh has made himself quite at home here, waiting for my cabin mate to pick him up in a few weeks. He also hates my Ami and tries to attack her, but that’s another story…

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August 25, 2009 Posted by | Car, Cats, Cities/Regions, Pets, Puget Sound, Transportation, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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