Take Your Cats On A Roadtrip

It seems Lauren is preparing to drive cross-country with her cats and having survived the experience myself I was inspired to share the following story.

The year was 1998. It was the middle of May and I had just put into motion my escape plan from Michigan. The Mayflower truck was already enroute to Phoenix and I was set to crash for the night at my parent&#8217s place. I had traveled many times cross-country, but this would be the first time with cats in tow.

My morning started at 4am. First task give Bailey & Julia the Xanax prescribed by the local vet. My sister had made a similar cross-country trip to Seattle only a year before and she highly recommended this method for cat control in the vehicle. Pilled Bailey without a hitch. Julia was quite a different story. The first pill she just up and spit out. The second pill I held her mouth shut for a minute and after she clawed my hand she spit it out. I tried a third, fourth & final time each drawing more severe lacerations until I needed pills myself to ease MY pain. After 30 minutes I decided I could deal with a howling cat in my car.

With my beat up Mercury Tracer packed to the legal limit, I put the two cats in separate carriers in the back seat. I realized right away I was in for a long trip as after thirty minutes on the road neither cat had stopped caterwauling. I knew I would hear from Julia as she wasn&#8217t medicated, but the surprise was Bailey. His drug induced stupor sounded like a small child drowning as his elongated yowl pierced my ears. Once I got on the highway I turned up my radio in an effort to drown out the cat noise.

After a while the chatter died down a little, but the cats would quickly start over whenever I pulled into a rest area. The vet had told me the cats would be less inclined to pee inside their carriers because of the confined space and I should encourage them to use a litterbox when making an extended stop. I tried this only once. I had just entered Ohio when I pulled into a welcome center. Knowing I couldn&#8217t walk the cats I had placed a small litterbox in the front seat of my car. With the passenger door open I took Bailey out of his carrier and placed him in the box. He immediately laid out spread eagle style. Apparently in his doped up state he was unable to stand correctly. He was so freaked out from being in the car that I realized he probably wouldn&#8217t use the box. It was quite a chore getting Bailey out of the litterbox back into his carrier. A 20lb. mass of fur covered in litter dust wasn&#8217t any fun to handle especially when it was as limp as a wet pasta noodle.

Mid-afternoon I had the brilliant idea to let the cats out of the carriers INSIDE the car. My thought was if they were allowed to move around a bit maybe they wouldn&#8217t be crying as much. It didn&#8217t take long before they both crowded around my feet and Julia wedged herself behind the brake pedal. I pulled off at the next exit and spent OVER AN HOUR attempting to get the cats back into their carriers. Julia proved to be the kitty-contortionist as no matter how many of her feet I had in my hand they all managed to pop out just as I placed half her body in the carrier. I tried the head first method, the butt first method. I tried standing the carrier up and dropping her in. I was lucky that she was too scared to run anywhere, but that didn&#8217t prevent her from ducking underneath my car. I had just finished with Julia when my attention turned to Bailey who I couldn&#8217t find. I was pretty sure he hadn&#8217t gotten out of the car while I was fussing with Big Mama Kitty and after a few moments I realized he was hiding underneath the driver&#8217s seat. I reached under and tried to pull him out, but he was stuck. I pulled a few times before getting a better look at the situation. Turns out his head kept bumping the seat lever whenever I pulled. He let out an elongated yowl and his eyes rolled like a crack baby. Oh yeah, the Xanax was such a good idea. I finally managed to get Bailey unwedged from the seat and put him back in the carrier. That&#8217s when the hornet flew inside my vehicle. Yeah.

Eventually I got back on the road and crossed my fingers in hopes that there wouldn&#8217t be any kitty accidents in the car. 15 hours later I stopped at a roadside motel. It was 1am. The cats got to eat & pee and I planned on sleeping for several hours. The cats made sure that didn&#8217t happen. At 4am I checked out. I passed on any further attempts to dope the cats as the pills only made Bailey&#8217s cries more annoying. I was in Missouri when I stopped. I drove straight all the way to Arizona only stopping for food & gas along the way. I drove like a man on a mission, neither rain nor sleet nor steady inclines which nearly blew out my engine would prevent me from getting to my destination so I could get these screaming felines out of my car.

The only event that would qualify as a similar Olympic sport would be cat bathing.

– Author, Anonymous

Some people say cats never have to be bathed. They say cats lick themselves clean. They say cats have a special enzyme of some sort in their saliva that works like new, improved Wisk – dislodging the dirt where it hides and whisking it away.

I&#8217ve spent most of my life believing this folklore. Like most blind believers, I&#8217ve been able to discount all the facts to the contrary, the kitty odors that lurk in the corners of the garage and dirt smudges that cling to the throw rug by the fireplace. The time comes, however, when a man must face reality: when he must look squarely in the face of massive public sentiment to the contrary and announce: “This cat smells like a port-a-potty on a hot day in Juarez.”

When that day arrives at your house, as it has in mine, I have some advice you might consider as you place your feline friend under your arm and head for the bathtub:

— Know that although the cat has the advantage of quickness and lack of concern for human life, you have the advantage of strength. Capitalize on that advantage by selecting the battlefield. Don&#8217t try to bathe him in an open area where he can force you to chase him. Pick a very small bathroom. If your bathroom is more than four feet square, I recommend that you get in the tub with the cat and close the sliding-glass doors as if you were about to take a shower. (A simple shower curtain will not do. A berserk cat can shred a three-ply rubber shower curtain quicker than a politician can shift positions.)

— Know that a cat has claws and will not hesitate to remove all the skin from your body. Your advantage here is that you are smart and know how to dress to protect yourself. I recommend canvas overalls tucked into high-top construction boots, a pair of steel-mesh gloves, an army helmet, a hockey face mask, and a long-sleeved flak jacket.

— Prepare everything in advance. There is no time to go out for a towel when you have a cat digging a hole in your flak jacket. Draw the water. Make sure the bottle of kitty shampoo is inside the glass enclosure. Make sure the towel can be reached, even if you are lying on your back in the water.

— Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat nonchalantly, as if to simply carry him to his supper dish. (Cats will not usually notice your strange attire. They have little or no interest in fashion as a rule. If he does notice your garb, calmly explain that you are taking part in a product testing experiment for J.C. Penney.)

— Once you are inside the bathroom, speed is essential to survival. In a single liquid motion, shut the bathroom door, step into the tub enclosure, slide the glass door shut, dip the cat in the water and squirt him with shampoo. You have begun one of the wildest 45 seconds of your life.

— Cats have no handles. Add the fact that he now has soapy fur, and the problem is radically compounded. Do not expect to hold on to him for more than two or three seconds at a time. When you have him, however, you must remember to give him another squirt of shampoo and rub like crazy. He&#8217ll then spring free and fall back into the water, thereby rinsing himself off. (The national record for cats is three latherings, so don&#8217t expect too much.)

— Next, the cat must be dried. Novice cat bathers always assume this part will be the most difficult, for humans generally are worn out at this point and the cat is just getting really determined. In fact, the drying is simple compared to what you have just been through. That&#8217s because by now the cat is semi-permanently affixed to your right leg. You simply pop the drain plug with you foot, reach for your towel and wait. (Occasionally, however, the cat will end up clinging to the top of your army helmet. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to shake him loose and to encourage him toward your leg.) After all the water is drained from the tub, it is a simple matter to just reach down and dry the cat.In a few days the cat will relax enough to be removed from your leg. He will usually have nothing to say for about three weeks and will spend a lot of time sitting with his back to you. He might even become psycho-ceramic and develop the fixed stare of a plaster figurine. You will be tempted to assume he is angry. This isn&#8217t usually the case. As a rule he is simply plotting ways to get through your defenses and injure you for life the next time you decide to give him a bath.

But at least now he smells a lot better.

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  • Jason January 21, 2004   Reply →

    I seem to be lacking in my comment making….so here’s comment………Good Story. Period.

  • Rob January 22, 2004   Reply →

    We had a similar experience with our cats when we moved from Charlotte to Boston. We were driving separately and the cats were in the car with the Mrs. and basically spent the entire trip either at her feet or under the driver’s seat. No major issues, thankfully, but it is a major hassle.

    I’m not looking forward to the trip back . . .

  • karen January 22, 2004   Reply →

    Ha ha ha ha! I’ve had better luck with both cross-country cat carrying, and cat bathing, fortunately. For the move, I used some sort of sedative which just put Susie to sleep for several hours. Mona was curious about the car and entertained many a driver by sleeping on the front dash and playing catch with the wipers.

    Mr. Bob, the current cat takes a bath well. He doesn’t like it, but there’s not pain or permanent scarring involved.

    Thank you for the good laugh for today!

  • Jason January 23, 2004   Reply →

    P.S. I’m a dumb ass.

  • Kristen January 24, 2004   Reply →

    Thanks for updating my link! I had to move my blog to that page and it looks like it will be staying there.

  • god January 25, 2004   Reply →

    your post is the cat’s meow.


  • Roland January 25, 2004   Reply →

    Damn, and I thought taking our cats on a 20 minute drive to the vets was bad…

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