From Texas to Kansas with three cats in tow
A disclaimer before we begin (if you know me well enough to take my word that I always try to do right by my kitties, you can skip to the cat introductions). Much of this story is not best practice for traveling with cats. But it’s a lot more difficult to be perfect about such matters when you’re traveling alone and you’ve got to handle three cats by yourself. Taking three cats at once into the restroom or restaurant just isn’t going to happen, and many establishments would have fits about someone bringing in that many pets. And I didn’t choose to take three cats by myself. I needed to stay in the Texas house until the closing date because the apartment in Platte City was pretty strict about the number of pets (we had five cats at the time), and the goal was to keep the cats split up to avoid infuriating the landlord. My parents took two cats the weekend before I left, and they couldn’t get time off in the middle of the week (the closing date was a Wednesday), so I had to take the remaining three cats by myself. I’d like to think I made the best of an awkward situation.
Meet the cats
Henry is a large, long (over three feet from nose to tail tip) floppy-bodied dark brown tabby. His white patches glow in the dark. He’s my bestest buddy…there’s no question which human he’s chosen as his. Easy going, super affectionate, quirky sense of humor. Just don’t tell him he looks like a certain famous kitty from Japan…the comparison makes him sad. (Although he does love watching videos of Maru.)
Jamie is a petite cobby-bodied orange tabby with the itty-bittiest ears ever. (Having really tiny ears myself, I can relate.) Although I’m clearly Jamie’s favorite human, she’s also kinda sorta claimed my mother too. In many ways, Jamie is the stereotypical ornery feline personality, but don’t let that fool you into thinking she never shows affection, because she can be nearly as affectionate as Henry. She likes to lick fingers, and if she’s really pleased with the human paying attention to her, she’ll give the sweetest doting face ever.
As for Molly, well, Molly is allegedly a cat. She might be from outer space, a weasel in a cat costume, a lab experiment, who knows. Dress up a Slinky as a grayish-brown tabby cat with white bits and you’d get close to Molly’s appearance. At times she can act like a normal cat (and she’s certainly been doing better the past two or three years), but Molly can go absolutely mental at little to no provocation. Savvy vet techs know to have the leather gauntlets on standby when Molly is there. And her sounds are not like other cats. On the cuter end is her meows that sound like a donkey braying. Her crazy shrieks can only be transcribed as “aahng naahng naahng”. She also has a signature move to show she’s happy, where she throws herself onto her side really hard, which I call the ‘timber’, because it’s like a tree falling over.
The first day
Although it was mid-June, it was not as warm as Central Texas usually is in summer. And cooler than normal weather is desirable for transporting cats in summer, but that cooler weather came at a price…Tropical Storm Bill. Take note of the radar animation in that article…that’s what I had to deal with in the evening. My goal was to stay ahead of the storm, so I wanted to get out of town as early as I could, yet not so early I couldn’t take care of the two tasks I needed to do before I left…hand my key to the realtor on the way out, and drop off the cable modem.
Around ten thirty, I finished loading my remaining things in the car, so it was time to give the cats their prescribed sedatives before putting them in their carriers and loading them. This might sound like trouble, but I am an absolute ninja at getting pills into cats. And even Molly was fairly cooperative getting into her carrier…she had taken to napping in the soft carrier in the week leading up to the move. Molly’s soft carrier was in the back seat on the passenger side, on top of the pile (my car was stuffed as much as a car could be without impeding vision)…a position where I could easily see her from the rear-view mirror. Henry’s carrier was a large cumbersome plastic one that took up all of the front passenger seat, and Jamie’s hard carrier was squeezed in between the floor and the front passenger seat, tilted at a bit of an angle (the most stable configuration of the three carriers, but she wasn’t in a spot where she could see much). I took my house key off my keyring and handed it to a representative of the realtor before driving off.
Next stop was to drop off the modem at the cable company’s office. Thankfully it was on the way out of Round Rock and not far off the interstate. As I was getting ready to exit, not even ten minutes into my journey, the familiar stench of cat poop drifts towards me, and Molly starts naahnging her head off. I park the car as close as I can to the cable office, which happens to be in front of a pizza place’s outdoor seating area. I open the car door next to Molly, and unzip her carrier enough to clip a leash onto Molly’s harness before I completely open the carrier. Molly dives under the car the instant she can escape, but thankfully I didn’t lose my grip on the leash. I could find no evidence of poop in the carrier, although I’m not certain a piece of poop didn’t fall out when Molly made her escape, and I didn’t see it in all the confusion.
It took me several minutes of coaxing and pleading to get Molly out from underneath the car. And while I was struggling with the cat, an employee of the pizza place was outside cleaning tables to prepare for lunch. She watched the whole farce of me trying to get Molly out from under the car and back in her carrier with bemusement. I still hope that one day I’ll find her version of the story online. It had to have been one of the craziest things she’s ever witnessed at work. I then leave the car (with windows cracked for airflow) to turn in the modem. Molly was still upset upon my return to the car, so I had to sit with her on my lap for several minutes before she was calmed down enough that I could resume travel.
Around Temple, I glance at Henry and notice his eyes don’t look quite right. I pull over at the Buc-ee’s and take a closer look at Henry and the others. Their secondary eyelids were partially closed (usually you never even see the secondary eyelid). I wasn’t informed of this side effect, so I called the vet in a panic, worried that I might need to turn around to get treatment. Thankfully, the secondary eyelid problem is a pretty common side effect, but it’s spooky enough looking that vets should make certain to always mention it. I removed Henry from his carrier to sit on my lap, but he decided he’d much rather hide under my seat. I wanted to go inside to get a snack and use the legendary restrooms, but I had to wait several minutes for Henry to come out from under the seat before I could go in, because I didn’t want to risk Henry crawling out the windows while I was away. The lady parked next to me noticed I was having cat trouble, asked how many cats I was traveling with, then said, “I also had to move with that many cats by myself, so I understand your pain.”
After getting back on the road, the sky ripped open somewhere between Temple and Hillsboro, and it was raining buckets. Molly’s carrier also flipped upside-down somewhere on this part of the journey, and she was upset enough to pee, so I had to clean up her mess when I stopped for a late lunch. Thankfully a nylon duffel bag was directly under Molly, so most of the mess was on something water resistant. (That being said, my car reeked of cat pee for months afterwards and no amount of enzyme cleaner on the seat seemed to help.) I also sent a text to my parents teasing them about not continuing to badger me with texts about whether or not it’s raining, because I wasn’t getting any rain until they stopped badgering me about it.
As much as it was raining buckets already, the storm got even worse as soon as I crossed the border into Oklahoma. Watching water cascade off the rocks of the Arbuckle Mountains was very pretty (like many new waterfalls sprung into existence), but also terrifying, because it meant the road could flood over at any minute. At Ardmore, the rain was so heavy that visibility was nil. I pulled off the road to sit in a parking lot until conditions improved enough for me to continue. If I didn’t already have a motel reservation in Oklahoma City and the weather didn’t clear up within a reasonable amount of time, I would have considered getting a room in Ardmore. Jamie was the only cat I hadn’t let out of her carrier, so I took her out, and she snugged up to me in my lap while we waited on the weather to improve. The others were merely a bit groggy on the sedative, but Jamie was like a shell of herself that evening. I swore I would not administer sedative to any of the cats the next morning. After about a half hour, the rain had lightened enough that I could see to drive again.
I finally make it into Oklahoma City and reach the motel around 9:30ish. Sadly my room was second floor poolside instead of a first floor parking lot side, which meant it was somewhat convoluted going from car to room. I took the cats to the room, and let them roam free in the room while I finished bringing in my overnight bag and some needed cat care supplies. While I was away, Molly pooped in the bathtub, and Jamie leaped in the tub to pee the second I walked in the room. If the mess weren’t in an easy to clean place, I would have been upset. (After spending about the past month having to clean up cat accidents made about fifteen minutes before I had to vacate the house for a showing, and always right outside of the tub, I was used to cleaning up these messes quickly.) By the time I had finished bringing needed supplies to the room, it was too late to order room service. After setting up food and water dishes and their litter pan, I crashed for the night. My crash was so hard that I woke up about two hours later wondering why I was sprawled across the foot of the bed, still in my day clothes. I then got up to put on jammies and crawled into bed properly.
The second day
I wake up in time to go to the motel’s restaurant for the hot breakfast buffet. Yes, actual hot breakfast, not the standard continental breakfast. I return to the room around ten, and take the luggage to the car and empty the litter pans before putting the cats back in their carriers. Henry was so compliant that I pointed him in the direction of his open carrier, and he walked in on his own. Jamie didn’t struggle, but I did have to place her in the carrier.
Molly, on the other hand, had a fit. I don’t know if she was just ‘done’ with everything moving related, or really liked the king bed and wanted to stay, but she was a fury of naahnging shrieks and flailing limbs. Somehow, in the middle of Molly’s fit I managed to pop another sedative in her. I swore I wouldn’t use the sedative the second day, but Molly was in such a foul mood that I didn’t see any other options. Don’t ask how I managed to get her to hold still long enough to give her a sedative pill when she was already violently lashing out, yet struggled to get her in the carrier. Didn’t I mention already that giving cats pills is one of my superpowers? I had a nervous breakdown over Molly’s refusal to go in her carrier. I was worried that Molly would never go back in her carrier and I would have to leave her behind. I called the front desk in a panic, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to check out on time. Luckily Hotwire had the motel’s checkout time wrong, and I had until noon, not 11am. Molly crouched behind a heavy dresser I couldn’t move, so I needed to find a long pole to push her out. The cleaner was already out, so I went down to her cart and borrowed the duster on a long pole. I was going to ask the cleaner for permission to borrow the duster, but she spoke only Spanish. I could have tried to explain my situation, but the whole situation was insane enough that she probably would have thought I was a crazy gringa who hadn’t a clue what I was really saying if I started in with “Mi gata es muy loca….” I extracted Molly with a few jabs with the fluffy end of the duster, but I still couldn’t grab her barehanded. So I grabbed one of the towels from the bathroom since I didn’t bring any blankets with me, and finally managed to swaddle her in the towel. But the zipper broke in the middle of me zipping up her carrier.
So I held the gap that wouldn’t zip shut and walked down to the lobby to ask if they had any duct tape. The towel had subdued Molly, and unless you looked very closely at the bag and noticed a stray paw or tail tip poking out of the towel, you’d never know there was a cat in there. The lady at the front desk could find only packing tape, which barely stuck to the carrier, but it was better than nothing. I take Molly to the car and cracked a window the bare minimum needed for airflow, then went back to my room to fetch Henry and Jamie. When I returned to the car, Molly was loose. She had calmed down from the earlier struggle, and was in a great mood…she was so pleased about running around loose in the car. I didn’t want Molly running loose, so I looked up the nearest pet store, and there happened to be a PetSmart a few blocks from the motel. Molly rode sitting by my feet on the way to the pet store, and nearly ‘timbered’ onto the pedals on the way over. I offered to walk Molly into the store with me, but she declined my offer and stayed in the car with Henry and Jamie.
I decided on a hard carrier after my trouble with soft carriers for Molly. I thought a charcoal filter would be nice after Molly’s peeing incident. The clerk helped me open the package so I could assemble the carrier before I walked out of the store. Molly didn’t raise a fuss when I put her in her snazzy new carrier.
The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful. The weather was much better than the previous day, and by the time I got to Kansas, there was a little bit of sun, but not too much…it was still a bit cooler than normal, but pleasantly so. I thought the rest of the trip would pass without incident, but there was one more surprise in store for me. I heard some rattling coming from Molly in the back seat, but didn’t think much of it when I was driving. I thought Molly had merely found a great way to use her carrier to make noise. I had no idea what she was really plotting.
I drive past Lawrence (where I was moving to) because the house wasn’t available for moving in, and go to my father’s apartment in Platte City. When I arrive that evening, I decide to haul all three cat carriers up the stairs at once. Molly rustles around, and springs out through the side of her carrier between the top and bottom shells. Turns out all of that racket she was making that afternoon was her jamming her paw between the top and bottom to slide the clamps that held her carrier shut into an open position. So I’m juggling three hard carriers while grasping for Molly’s leash. My parents heard the ruckus on the stairs and came out to help.
We went to dinner, then bought some more pet supplies before sending me off to a motel room with two cats. I took Henry and Bexar, because we didn’t want Molly in the apartment with either of the cats who stress her out.
I spent several days in that motel with Henry and Bexar before moving into the house in Lawrence. It went pretty uneventfully. The pair of cats I had in the motel with me got along reasonably well, and the only incidents I had were with the motel wifi and not the cats. (Never try to run a raid on motel wifi…in one short LFR raid, I managed to DC at least four times.)
After this move in 2015, I declared that I would never haul three cats that far by myself ever again. And when my family moved back to Texas in May of this year, I did get help. Molly went with my father a month or two earlier, and my mother and I drove down together in separate cars…I took Henry and Jamie, while she took Stella. (Sophie and Bexar, the two cats my parents drove to Kansas, passed away in March 2016 and January 2018, respectively. Stella is a newbie.) The move back was fairly uneventful as far as cat handling is concerned.
Oh, and we got rid of the hard carrier I bought in Oklahoma City, because we could never find the right kind of wide zip ties needed to prevent the cat sliding the latches open problem. I don't think it's coincidental that carrier is discontinued now...there had to have been other feline Houdinis who figured out how to escape from that carrier. Not that it was a bad carrier...if it came with the ties needed to prevent the latches from being slid open from the inside, it would have been an excellent carrier.