have cats, will travel

When Abby and Marco were babies, they were totally awesome on car rides. I could chuck them both into a little carrier and they’d cry for about 5 minutes and then hunker down and sleep for the rest of the hour-long trip between my house and Family HQ. Soon, though, they grew too big to share that small carrier, and so I put them in separate carriers for the next car trip. And that’s when Abby decided to become an anger pooper.

The first time this happened, Sammi was with me, and I began to be convinced that I smelled poo. I kept sniffing the air and asking if she thought it smelled poopy in the car and she pointed out that we were driving by a cow farm and should expect a whiff of poo. I swore Abby had pooped. Sammi didn’t see or smell any poop. I rolled the windows up to keep out the cow poo smell and the interior car poo smell magnified. We rolled the windows all the way down and spent the rest of the trip accusing each other of lethal travel farting, until Sammi glanced back and saw Abby standing like an enraged bull over a stinky little pile of poo.

She would flip out for the entire trip – yowling and scratching frantically at the carrier sides and the door and pooping and peeing and barfing everywhere. By the time I got to my parents’ house, we’d all be exhausted and I’d have one horror show of a pissed-off cat to clean up before she went dragging her nasty self under some furniture to hide for a while. Aside from the inherent discomfort in being stuck in a car with fresh cat poo for an hour, the whole thing was so stressful that I began to dread having to take them anywhere. So I called my vet and asked him what I could do about it.

He told me that some cats just freak out in cars, and that if I wanted to, I could give her Baby Benadryl, but it might work and it might not, and I could give her tranquilizers, but they might or might not work and also I’d have to pill her, but I should start with the Benadryl. He said it might make her foam at the mouth and act weird but I shouldn’t let that bother me. I had this whole theory that if she could get one or two good car rides under her belt, it’d get her over the hump and she wouldn’t have issues anymore. He laughed and said it was clear I’ve never been a cat. This is true.

But just the thought of the Benadryl foaming and weirdness bothered me, so I decided not to go that route. Instead, as I thought about it and considered a few things, I began to think that a big part of Abby’s stress was due to the fact that she was separated from Marco. Abby is very neurotic and prone to compulsive behavior and general freakouts, and aside from being a bit of a chickenshit, Marco’s very calm and stable. Besides, they’ve been together almost every moment of every day since they were born. I figured being back in the same carrier with him would help her calm down. So I headed to the store and bought a big carrier and decided to give that a try.

Everything was totally fine until I took a curvy, hilly shortcut road and Marco got carsick and started hurling. But Abby was totally fine until he got barf on her and then she freaked out because she was dirty. All in all, though, her mental state was much better and she didn’t poo inside the carrier, which was a bonus for everyone involved. But now we have the motion sickness issue.

Weirdly, Abby rarely if ever gets motion sickness. So when she was barfing in the carrier before, I think she was just doing it to prove a point. Marco, on the other hand, gets carsick on nearly every trip these days. I try to limit his food ahead of time and I’ve done all kinds of things to stabilize the carrier in the backseat, but inevitably we get to a point in the trip where he starts to get queasy. I always know exactly when we’ve reached that point because he’ll stand up in the carrier all wobbly like a drunken sailor and he’ll start moaning. The moaning sounds really weird and would probably be hilarious if it weren’t a sign of impending disaster. The last time we went to HQ he started moaning at the very last stoplight before you get to my parents’ house, and I turned down the radio and tried to talk him out of blowing chunks all over Abby, as if that would help. I was all like, “It’s okay baby, we’re almost there, settle down, blah blah blah” in the hopes that my voice is so soothing that it actually cures feline nausea. For the record: it isn’t.

And fresh cat puke smells almost as bad as poo.

So then I thought well, maybe for this trip I should go ahead and at least try Marco on the Benadryl, so he wouldn’t have to feel so yucky. Last night I went on a mission to find Baby Benadryl, and couldn’t find it anywhere. All I saw was Children’s Benadryl. I was afraid to buy the Children’s Benadryl because I didn’t want to OD the cats and kill them. This is what I finally told the pharmacists at CVS, sending them and all the waiting customers into fits of laughter. They assured me that there was no such thing as Baby Benadryl, that Children’s was the kind to get, and they even gave me a free syringe to use for administering the medicine.

I thought the vet said 5 mL, which is the standard dose for children. That seemed kind of high, so I looked back through my phone notepad until I found the call and saw that he’d said 5-10 mg. Totally different. I spent an hour trying to figure out the mg to mL conversion and, in the course of doing so, found about a million horror stories of cats who’d reacted badly to Benadryl. Of course, these are mostly coming from the sites where people say that if you don’t have the time and money to feed your cat frozen dead mice every day, then you have no business having animals, but still. It worried me.

And I just figured out the conversion while I was sitting here typing this, because duh, right on the bottle it says the 5 mL dose contains 12.5 mg of medicine. So I did the math and figured out how much to give each of them, but now I’m seriously worried that I’m going to kill them.

Instead, I’m going to go to Family HQ late tomorrow morning, at a time when Abby and Marco are usually sleeping anyway, and I’m going to cover their carrier with a towel so they can’t see out. Some sites suggested that they would not be so motion sick if they couldn’t see out. We’ll see how that goes.

And if this entire thing isn’t enough to convince you that I’m an insane person who should definitely never have children, I’ll also share that I’m taking along some of their food and their pop-up tunnel so they’ll be more comfortable once we get there. Because, you know, we’ve never gone to Family HQ before or anything.

17 Replies to “have cats, will travel”

  1. LOL, awwww. :) Hope it works out with the towel…My cat Scout absolutely HATED car rides until her last vet trip, when I put a little fleece blankie in her carrier. I dunno what it is about the fleece but it seems to really soothe my cats.

  2. Ha! I love this…in the same way one adores other people’s children. The real responsibility is not mine.

    Don’t apologize for bringing the pop-up tunnel. C’mon! No contest! (Honestly, I’d probably try to trick the cats into traveling in the pop-up tunnel in the car, thinking they would love to play in there during the trip, but I’m also an idiot. It’d probably traumatize them.)

    But let’s not discount the possibility that Sammi was actually travel farting. I mean, cow farms? a maniacally shitting cat? Two sisters confined together on a journey? It’s a perfect setup. It’s just like in the moving pictures when someone commits a murder by gun during a fireworks display. It’s that easy.

  3. Travel farting! Ha… But alas Sammi totally claims her farts, as most of us do.

    Have fun at the HQ, If you took me, I would promise not to poop and puke in your car.

    Just a thought, would it be a totally terrible idea to let them wander around the car? I’m betting yes.

  4. okay, the way you described abby each time was hilarious.

    one question: can’t you just leave them at home?

  5. “Of course, these are mostly coming from the sites where people say that if you don’t have the time and money to feed your cat frozen dead mice every day, then you have no business having animals”

  6. Maybe you could stop and take a break half-way to family HQ. Take them out of the carrier, pet them, give them some air, then be on your way. Then it would be just two short 30-minute trips (or a super-extended nightmare trip). Good luck with all of it, I hope it works out.

    P.S. My cat in the car ride from Texas to Colorado was perfectly fine and quiet until I turned on any music, talked or opened the window. I kept her in the very back of the Jeep so she couldn’t really see me. It’s like as soon as she heard anything she realized I was in the car and needed to get her the hell out of that carrier.


  7. One answer: if she didn’t have to leave them at home while she’s at work, she wouldn’t.

  8. I say cover every surface with towels and let them roam the car – they’ll be so surprised and curious that they won’t remember to poo or puke. Happy Turkey to All!

  9. Hey! I actually do leave them at home if I’m going to be gone for less than three days. They have a self-feeder and they do just fine. But I start to get tense at the three-day mark and I’m definitely not okay leaving them at home for five days, which is how long I’ll be gone this time.

    It would be cool if I could take them to work, though.

  10. Well, you are officially NOT a crazy cat lady then, which I think our generation fears becoming more than they fear almost anything.

    I was going to suggest taknig walk breaks at rest stops. Then I remembered I am a dog person.

  11. usually long trips involve highways and highways involve rest stops.

    note: at least half of all the coffee i have consumed in my life has come from the rest stop’s sister, the truck stop. growing up in the boonies meant that this was the only place open 24 hours, so that’s where we went. so maybe this is why i said rest stops.

    DON’T MAKE FUN I’VE ONLY EVER BEEN ON AN AMTRAK (and on ten minute break from the train) THROUGH VIRGINIA. :-P

  12. I have two cats now. Punkin is 4 yrs, and Nibbles is 1 yr. Punkin is a great cat to travel with. I started riding him around for short trips, and worked up to longer ones. He can ride up to 4 hrs before getting anxious. The chloral hydrate works wonders but it gives him a vicious hangover, and he acts it out. Nibbles is a disaster from the get go. He freaks out. I don’t travel with either if I can help it. If you are only going to be gone a short time, leave them at home. I like traveling with mine as well, but for their comfort I leave them at home. I completely sympathize with your story. My cats are my children, and all of their odd habits remind me of humans.

  13. I lived with 7 cats in an RV for 5 years and traveled extensively. Cats do get used to riding and even enjoy it. Being cooped up sometimes will cause the problems you are talking about, but you probably can’t let run free like I did. If you have a Station Wagon, SUV or Van then try a large open wire cage (a collapsible show cage works well)with both cats together complete with litter box and non-spill travel water bowl. A cat bed from home they like will help. Being cooped up in a small travel carrier even caused my “Car Cats” to get sick and pissed off when I had to isolate them, usually for medical reasons, when they couldn’t see out or move about freely. I wish you luck!

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