Back in 2008, our family made the 2,800 mile trip from a small seaside town in Maine to the great urban expanse that is the Phoenix Valley. Making the journey were myself, my husband, our daughter, and our two cats – Jake and Fear. We knew it would be interesting to travel clear across the country with two felines, and it definitely was. It wasn’t nearly the hassle we thought it would be, though. They actually provided us with some great family memories.
So we were all packed up in our family sedan and set to go (we had hired a moving company to transport the majority of our belongings – wow, it was so much easier than driving that big truck ourselves). The trunk was filled to the gills. The backseat contained our daughter, her road trip gear, the two cats, the cat litter box, the cats’ food and water dishes, and one standard cat carrier. We figured the one cat carrier would be good for Fear (our more timid kitty) to hide away in when he was frightened. Looking back on it, I feel like such a horrible cat mom to have let them roam freely in the back. I realize now that our feline kids were only one hard brake away from injury (PetsWeekly has an awesome article on preparing for travel - see their Checklist for Pet Travel Success), and I’m very thankful that nobody was hurt.
Within the first five miles of our trip, Jake decided he needed to poop. While we were glad that he was comfortable enough to use the cat litter box, our noses were not at all impressed. Fear, on the other hand, when we stopped at a red light, put his white little paws on the window sill and yelled out to the world beyond the glass. We believe that he was attempting to alert anyone within hearing range that his mean humans were making him leave his favorite bugs and everything! Before 50 miles had ticked by, my daughter and I needed to use the bathroom. We were in another small seaside town in Maine, and there wasn’t anywhere convenient to stop – until we saw the porta-potty. We had to go badly enough, so my husband pulled over, and away we went.
At that point, neither of the cats had been using the cat carrier. Fear had decided that the floor was the best hidey-spot, and we decided that it wasn’t serving a purpose and was taking up too much real estate in the back seat. Unfortunately we didn’t have one of those neat collapsible cat carriers that we could just tuck away somewhere, so we opted to leave it by a dumpster we had seen when hitting the porta-potty. I still rationalize that maybe someone took it, sanitized it, and put it to good use.
Everyone was settled in for the long haul by the time we got out of Maine. I was actually surprised at how easily the cats had adapted to traveling in the car, especially since their only other experience with cars before was to bring them to the vet where people they didn’t know stuck things in them and generally man-handled them.
Jake became so comfortable in fact, that he decided it was perfectly okay to clean himself in front of the back windshield. Anyone close enough could see him (again, I know, I cringe when I think of how dangerous it actually was). And, being a cat, he didn’t give a hang if they liked it or not.
We brought (sneaked, mostly) the cats and their accoutrements into hotels with us at night (I wish we had known about GoPetFriendly before the trip, it would have saved me a lot of guilt). Again, to my surprise, they handled the change excellently.
One of the funniest things to all of us was how Jake would “guard” the car when we went into various stores to get food, gas, use the bathroom, etc. It was October, so there was no risk of them getting overheated (until we hit Phoenix), so we would roll up the windows and lock the doors, and head off into the store. We’d come back out to find Jake sitting in the driver’s seat, and looking quite serious. I’m sure we were just imagining things, but who’s to say he wasn’t trying to convince us that we didn’t have any need for a dog?
Finally, road weary and hungry for something – anything – other than road food, we rolled on in to Arizona without having had any major incidents or accidents. I’m glad to have had the experience of traveling with my cats. Their presence actually made the trip more memorable. I would definitely travel with them again – and if that chance or need arises, I’ll be sure to buy the right items to keep them safe while we gallivant.
And some nose plugs…definitely nose plugs!