If anyone ever tells you that traveling with a pet can be stress-free, please feel free to slap them (and that includes me- but to be fair, I never said it would be as my article was titled on Offbeat Home).
For 3,146 miles or 47 straight hours in the car from Norfolk, Virginia to Seattle, Washington we hauled our poor kitties in the car. For the most part, they were pretty quiet and if I had to guess I would say they meowed for about 15-20% of the time. Which... if you own cats, you know that that is a pretty small percentage for the amount of time in the car.
For the circumstances, Zelda and Ian were really wonderful. It wasn’t their fault that Russ and I were extremely stressed, tired, and emotionally exhausted. It wasn’t their fault that Zelda had pyometra and we were concerned about keeping her alive long enough to reach a vet in Washington. It wasn’t their fault that we ran into downpours, dense fog, snow, idiots, and dark mountains with downpours.
They were real kitty troopers, that’s for sure. And when I look back on the magnitude of this trip, I’m really proud of Russ and I for doing it. It was a chore. The biggest pain in the ass trip I’ve ever taken. I was under the sad delusion that it wouldn’t be that bad- but it was that bad. While under normal circumstances, a trip like this would have been stressful. But, trying to keep two cats alive and healthy and not meowing their heads off- that was a feat. It really tested my strength and patience like nothing else.
GOOD- Here’s some things that worked:
-Getting the cats used to riding in the car ahead of time.
-Using a rubbermaid container as a litter box. It prevented any spillage and kept any smelliness kept tightly locked up, it was wonderful.
-Letting the kitties out of the carrier in a barricaded part of the car for about twenty minutes mid-driving day. They were offered water (though, they were so excited to explore and stretch that they didn’t pay attention). Windows up (or cracked) and doors locked, of course.
-Feeding wet food and giving them lots of water in the hotel room to avoid dehydration.
-Giving them a space to see you and communicate with you and receive sporadic treats and pets.
-Using old table place mats for their food and litter area. It saved many a hotel carpet from kitty messes.
-Taking along air freshener. Having a litter box in such a small area with no air flow can make your room smell rank. We took along our Gain-scented Febreze and the room smelled pretty good when we checked out.
-Since we couldn’t find elastic buckling collars, we ended up getting nicely fitting small dog collars (which were more durable than most of the cat collars we found). I thought it was better to have non-breakaway collars in case they did somehow get away their collars wouldn’t slip off as easily.
-TripsWithPets.com was an amazingly easy way to find great pet friendly hotels along our route. You can input your starting location and your destination and actually follow along your route to find hotels, it was great! Some hotels offered a discount if you booked through tripswithpets.com.
-Taking a portable cardboard scratcher worked wonderfully- they loved being able to use it in the hotel room at night.
BAD- What Didn’t Work:
-Letting them out to use the kitty box. I tried this once with Ian and it was a disaster. For one, they’re so curious to explore the car that they couldn’t care less about potty time. And, putting them in the box only causes them to sprint out and litter goes flying all over the car. Not a great idea.
-Letting the cats out of the carrier before fully exploring the hotel for potential hazards just because you wanted them to stop pawing at the door... (see next paragraph).
THE UGLY- Things That Happened During the Trip That I Thought Would Never Happen/ That I Thought I’d Never Have To Do:
-Cutting a square out of a nice fleece blanket after Zelda took a massive dump and made a mess all over it. Thank goodness Russ brought a Swiss Army knife because I did not want to ask the front desk for scissors to cut up my cat’s poop blanket.
-Screaming and yelling at my cat, “I HATE YOU! I’M GOING TO THROW YOU OUT OF THE CAR! [random obscenities]!!!” Don’t judge me. You’ll get to that point too, trust me. Especially after twenty minutes of scratching and howling to get out of the carrier.
-Having to keep Zelda’s antibiotics in a cooler and cold at all times. And giving her two doses a day. As if I didn’t have enough to worry about.
-Shoving hotel pillows up into the holes torn into the bed box spring so Zelda didn’t climb up into the bed. Luckily only two out of the five hotels we stayed in had this issue. Most “pet rooms” have the bed sitting on a box but not Lincoln, NE Quality Inn, sadly. Thank goodness for the superfluous amount of pillows they provide or we would have been shoving our clothes up there.
-Cleaning cat poop off my dashboard.
-Contemplating why I ever thought adopting a pet would be fun.
-Playing the “Is That Smell Cow Poop or Cat Poop?” Game.
It was the most difficult road trip I have ever (or probably will ever... unless we move again) taken. But, if you love your children and don’t think of them as a pet but rather a family member, there really is no option of leaving them behind.
And if you’ve got a road trip that you’re taking your cat on, godspeed. It’s going to be an interesting ride.