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On the Move

Why the challenges of moving with cats should not cause worry.

My cats, Sal and Dean, consider themselves the queens of any place I inhabit. (My piles of clean clothes are their thrones.)

But the monarchy comes at a price—we move from time to time, and they have to move with us. It’s an experience that we all dread.

The first time we had to move, the cats had not been outside of our apartment since the day they were brought home as kittens.

Occasionally one of them would sniff curiously at the threshold of the open front door, maybe even venture a paw over the line, but would lose interest in leaving their kingdom at the first sign of unfamiliar scents.

We were moving from Albany to Nyack, New York, about a two-hour trip. (A move of that magnitude is stressful enough without having to worry about the logistics of moving the cats!)

They were frazzled to begin with, seeing the world they knew—all the nooks and crannies and warm spots they’d burrowed amongst our belongings—suddenly and haphazardly disappearing. They knew something big was going down as soon as we started to move, and paced the apartment restlessly throughout the entire process.

After consulting friends and fellow cat-owners, we decided the best course of action would be to take them to the vet, do a quick check-up, and have the vet administer a sedative to each cat that would last the duration of the long car ride. We were assured that they would either sleep or be too zonked to care about what was going on around them.

I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea that I’d be drugging my cats. But in the end, if I could spare them the terror of the trip, and the shame of soiling themselves in fear, it was a good idea.

When the dreaded day of moving cats arrived, we bought an extra large crate so they could be together during the move. We bought a plush pillow to line it for their comfort. We threw in some toys and an old shirt that smelled like my fiancé. If they had some familiar scents around them, it might help calm them.

We managed to lure them both in there without too much trouble. But as soon as we latched the caged door shut, the trouble began. They turned into crazy cats, screaming and shaking and scratching at the crate. Every frightened meow broke my heart!

No sooner did we get them in the car, than one of them peed all over the crate. They stunk to high heaven by the time we got them to the vet. He checked them out, cleaned them up, gave them the sedative (in pill form), and we were on our not-so-merry way.

It didn’t take long for the sedatives to take effect. They were conked out for the duration of the drive down to our new home.

When we finally arrived, we let them out to explore their new kingdom. They were still woozy, stumbling because their backends hadn’t completely come out of the sedative-induced trance. I chuckled in spite of myself at watching them wiggle their little butts to wake up. After all, I was almost as distraught as they were over the whole process.

But as I watched them sniff and explore, I noticed that they no longer seemed afraid. It was as if they understood immediately that this new place was home, and they’d better stake their claim on it quick and resume their positions as queens of the apartment.

Which is why I wasn’t surprised at all when Sal took up residence in my suitcase.

All in all, it was no picnic. And it still took Sal and Dean a few days to completely get used to their new home. But I realized how brave and bold they actually are. Sure, initially they were freaking out, but if I were in their shoes (err, paws), and I’d never gone outside or left home and then suddenly had to move, it would take me a lot longer to get my bearings and resume life.

I still dread our next move, though…

                                                                                                     —Jessica Bloustein

We want to hear all about your cats! Email us at lovedemcats@guideposts.org

Plus: Check out Peggy Frezon’s tips on traveling with pets!

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