Traveling with Cat: Smells Like Punishment

My husband is a fan of University of Michigan football.  Ray bleeds maize and blue.

In 2012 we drove to Crawfordsville, Indiana to watch Michigan v. Purdue. Sounds nice…driving to Indiana to enjoy a Michigan game during a fabulous fall day. Of course with us…it’s not that simple.

Here’s The Bigger Story:

Two days before we left for Indiana I was at the vet with our tuxedo, Cookie. It didn’t look good. In fact, it looked like The End.

Cookie had been sick for most of that year from mold poisoning in our home, plus a zillion other allergies I had no idea he had. Despite allergy shots, clearly he wasn’t  going to be around much longer. That day he had a 103 fever and was under 8 pounds. My vet looked exhausted, and I certainly was. If Cookie had to be euthanized, Ray was prepared to leave work to be there for him.  Ray was Cookie’s most favorite human in the whole world. However, after Cookie stopped the doctor from sucking the gook out of his nose, it was determined there was still some fight left in the old boy, and he got a reprieve.

Friday afternoon we loaded our diabetic tabby, Buddy, then age 21, and Cookie, age 15, into our van. Known as the POS Van in winter, and The Steaming Pig in summertime when the livin’ ain’t easy cuz the average temperature is 99 degrees, this van (still running five years later) represents Ray’s upbringing from his father. Why junk it if it still runs? It doesn’t have much heat (only in the back) or air conditioning. At all. The driver’s window does not roll down, and the back vent windows and sliding doors work only when the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars. The backseat was junked years ago (long story). So naturally this is the vehicle of choice to drive to Indiana.

In the old days when I was normal (for me, normal was 6 cats ago) I made snide remarks about parents who carried the whole house into the restaurant because they had a baby. Now, with elderly sick cats, I’d joined their ranks:

  • A bed-size foam pad is placed in the back of the van.
  • On top of the pad is a large flat cardboard box.
  • A low-walled storage box serves as a litter box and is placed on top of the cardboard.
  • Two donut beds are placed behind our seats.
  • On top of those are two self-heat-generating pads to keep the cats comfy.

    Cookie in van

    Cookie gets his sea legs in van

  • One water bowl
  • Two food dishes
  • A cooler containing insulin and needles
  • Cat pills
  • A fork
  • Cans of uber-expensive special diet food for diabetic cats and cats who are sick.
  • Buddy’s ramp because he can barely lift his feet to enter a litter box, so jumping onto a bed is out of the question.
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Paper toweling
  • A pooper scooper
  • Dust pan and whisk broom
  • Luggage (in this case a duffle and an overnight bag)
  • Two cat carriers each padded with a blanket.
  • A super large black trash bag to contain the litter box

The wheels are in motion at 1:30.

At 1:35:

Kim: Oh god. Buddy is pooping.

Ray: We just left!

Kim: *scrambling over seat to push Buddy’s bottom inside box as opposed to over the edge* Urp! Hold your breath. It’s bad.

Ray: I’m being punished. I don’t know why. All I want to do is see my football team…but this smells like punishment.

Kim: Pull over so I can dispose of the trash.

Old Pro

Old travel pro, Buddy

*Two minutes later*

Ray: We were only five minutes from the house. That was a new record.

Kim: Actually, he set the record at Christmas when he pooped three houses from ours. *Looks behind her. Cookie is doing chin-ups to see out the window.* Something tells me this isn’t going to be a smooth trip.

Chin up

Cookie does chin ups

Ray: I want Arby’s. There’s one down here on Goodman Road, right?

Kim: I don’t know. I haven’t had an Arby’s since we moved here six years ago.

Ray: Well, I want an Arby’s. I don’t care how long it takes to find one.

We are only 2 miles from the house. Eventually we find an Arby’s, get food, head for Interstate.

*On ramp*

Kim: *craning neck to see into back of van*

Ray: If you’re looking for Schmucko, he’s under my feet.

Cookie by feet

Cookie under Ray’s feet

Kim:  You’re driving. How did he get there?

Ray: He crawled under the seat. Leave him. He’s fine.

Kim: Unless you have to stop unexpectedly. *Tries to drag Cookie out from under gas pedal. He fights her.* Awww. He wants to be by his daddy.

Ray: *grumbling* I could have painted the porch in the amount of time it took to get on the road. Thirty minutes!

Kim: *Pulls Cookie onto her side; Ray forfeits his shoe so Cookie can smell him*

Cookie with Rays shoe

Cookie’s idea of aromatherapy

*Not much later*

Kim: Is it windy, or are you deliberately weaving the car ?

Ray: It’s the road. It’s uneven.

*Noxious odor permeates the air*

Kim: Oh god!

Ray: Oh god!

Kim: Pull over. Buddy is car sick. He just barfed all over Cookie’s bed. *Climbs into back to clean up mess.* Oh no! He poo’d in his own bed. *Uses half of paper toweling, throws soiled covers aside*

And that all happened in the first hour of travel. What followed in the hours it took to get to Indiana included:

  • Running sparse heat into the back of the van to warm the cats while we froze in the front and a monsoon pounded our windshield.
  • The wipers worked, but without air the windshield fogged, so there was constant swiping at the fog with paper toweling so Ray could see.
    • He didn’t figure out until a couple hours later that by switching from Air to Vent it pushed the cold air against the windshield and evaporated the fog.
      • We had run out of paper toweling by then.

We arrived at the hotel around 10 pm. After checking in, we made eleventy-zillion trips to our room carting the contents of our POS van. A Do Not Disturb sign was posted until we checked out. Hotel maids love us. They are allowed to skip our room, and when we check out we take the garbage with us and have swept the floor so there is positively nothing feline left behind.

So how did Buddy and Cookie do after we checked in?

After nine years of traveling with us because he required insulin, Buddy was an old pro at hotel rooms. He found a cubbyhole in the bedside table and claimed it.

Buddy finds his cubbyhole.

Buddy finds his cubbyhole.

First timer Cookie explored his new “home” while quacking like a duck. Um yeah, he quacked. He especially embraced the bathroom acoustics where his quacks reverberated off the tiled walls. All attempts to hush him were met with louder quacks. After his dinner, he was given his night pill with high hopes he would sleep.

Testing acoustics

Cookie explores his new “home.”

Meanwhile, Ray set up Buddy’s ramp and demonstrates to the half-blind, nearly-deaf old man where he’s supposed to camp for the weekend.

Ray sets up Bud's ramp.

Ray sets up Bud’s ramp.

Not long after we arrive, Ray is sound asleep. Buddy is sound asleep. I take a Melatonin. I have a bad feeling I will not be joining them any time soon.

You left me

Cookie gets reassurance from Ray.

Throughout the night Cookie patroled his new domain, reporting back to me with annoying regularity. He found it distressing that Ray was asleep, and told me about it by hovering over my face, snorting back runny snot. Oh god, I thought. Please don’t let him sneeze in my face.

I slept less than two hours the whole night. Cookie needed his nose wiped, a couple helpings of special food, reassurance that Ray still loved him even though he was blissfully unconscious. When dawn finally peeked over the horizon, Cookie quacked with joy as Ray bounced out of bed, all bright-eyed and bushy tail. I so wanted to smack him.

The rest of our trip went fine. The weather was bright, sunny and chill enough to need jackets. We had awesome seats on the 45 yard line 20 rows up from the field on Michigan’s side. Ray made buddies with the guys seated behind us, and even sipped from one dude’s flask (OMG!) Michigan looked great and did an excellent job of trouncing Purdue Boilermakers 44-13.

Ray with M van

Ray with M van

While we were in Indiana, Cookie improved. His nose wasn’t liquid with snot, and he seemed alert and strong; prowling the room, checking out the window and whatever surface he could jump onto. He was stubborn, determined and very much like ‘The General’ he had been all of his life, keeping order in our family.

The trip home was less stressful. Exhausted from his first stay at a hotel, Cookie slept most of the way. Unfortunately, as we headed south and neared Memphis both Ray and Cookie began snorting and sneezing in unison. Which verified my suspicion that our local air is polluted.

Cookie and Buddy have both since passed Over The Rainbow Bridge. Cookie in November 2012 and Buddy in June 2013 at age 22. Ray and I miss them, but rather than mourn, we choose to celebrate their lives by recalling with laughter the joy they brought to our home.

Cookie & Buddy Thanks for the Memories

Cookie & Buddy
Thanks for the Memories

About the author

Kimberley Koz

3 Comments

  • Kim, you have my deepest respect. This past weekend I moved my 5 cats from one house to another and it did not go smoothly. Three of them went peacefully. Cara needed a bit of wrangling but just a bit. Mitzy tried to kill me! I was a sweat-soaked, bloody mess and when I finally loaded her into the car I sat and cried with relief before driving away. As for Ray? He is truly a saint of a man!

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