Moving 120 Miles by Vehicle With Four Cats

  • 01 of 03

    The Challenge of Moving Multiple Cats

    Picture of the
    Backyard of Our Former Home on the California Delta. Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy

    Let's face it: most cats hate to be caged in a car because it rarely happens except in visits for veterinary care. Thus, they have had few reasons to enjoy the experience, and strong reasons to dislike it. Yet we had to come to grips with the fact that we were going to move almost 120 miles with four cats all caged in our car.

    Even before my husband's death in 2008, I knew the time would come when I'd need to down-size from our 2700 square foot two-story home and buy something smaller....MORE We'd lived in our waterfront home in the California Delta for 26 years, and the time had come for my youngest adult son, Lance, and I to move with our four cats to a location over 100 miles away from our old home.

    From the date the sales contract on our current home was signed, we had 30 days to locate a new home and move. We were lucky to have the best real estate agent in our area to sell our home and help find us a new one, and he had already driven us hundreds of miles scoping out the market for the kind of home we wanted. My son, Lance, and I wanted to live on a property with some acreage, in the California foothills, where we could have some forest and the wildlife that went with it.

    Just when we had reached the point of desperation, my son and I separately, but simultaneously found the ideal property. The house is quite a bit smaller than our existing one (which was also part of our plan), and is on almost two acres of forested land in the foothills of the California Gold Country. It was a bank-owned home, another of the tragic foreclosures which result from an economic downturn. Although many foreclosed properties are left in sad repair, either intentionally, or because of the haste of moving, this home was advertised as "immaculate," an adjective we all were skeptical about until we saw it. The minute we walked inside, I wanted this house. Through a series of breathtaking miracles, I was able to buy it for even less than my original offer (banks love all-cash, short escrow offers).

    The challenge was one of actually moving four cats almost 120 miles by vehicle. Joey had plenty of experience in traveling long distances in a cage, as we had made several round trips to the VCA Hospital in San Leandro, about 40 miles from our old home, for radioactive iodine therapy for hyperthyroidism in June of 2011. These trips had been particularly stressful for Joey. Jaspurr and Jenny had also had several trips to the two veterinary clinics we used in the past eight years. And poor little Billy had only been to the veterinarian once after his initial appointment when we first adopted him at five months. Subsequent appointments had been canceled because he had flung himself about so wildly in the crate that we were afraid he would injure himself. Billy has always been a fearful, timid cat, afraid of everyone except Lance.

    The fact that all the cats had already been subject to the stress of having strangers in and out of the house regularly for several months was also a definite concern. We had had a veritable swinging door of tradespeople: plumbers, carpenters, and painters, completing an interior remodel, followed by "open houses" almost every weekend. We had a system for the latter: locking Joey, Jennifur, and Billy in the downstairs master bedroom, and allowing Jaspurr to stay in the great room area. We hung a sign on the front door which said, "OPEN. Please ring doorbell before entering." We knew that the minute the three isolated cats heard the doorbell, they would run under the bed and not come out until the strangers had left.

    And, of course, the act of packing away everything but the last minute essentials prior to the move, just added to the existing burden of stress for all of them.

    Continue to 2 of 3 below.
  • 02 of 03

    Preparing for the Physical Move of Four Cats

    Four Dog Crates, Stacked
    Four Dog Crates, Stacked. Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy

    As we approached moving date, it was time to decide the means of transporting the cats. we weighed the pros and cons of renting a motor home or putting our four carriers (two sizes of dog crates) into the back our our medium-sized SUV (a 2007 Dodge Nitro). The decision was made for us when the logistics of picking up and returning the motor home became too complex, to say nothing of the expense. We reasoned that our cats except Billy had all ridden in those crates in that vehicle at one time or...MORE another, and the close proximity of other family cats might tend to keep them calmer.

    The four crates (pictured) are manufactured by Petmate, and are actually dog crates, two slightly larger than the others. We placed one on the floor in our great room, next to a cat tree, and sprayed the soft pad liner liberally with Feliway Comfort Zone Spray. Feliway is a product which mimics the "friendly pheremone glands" cats use to mark their territory (including the people they love). Then we put a few Pet Calming Chews inside, and left the door open. Sure enough, Billy ventured inside a few times, but quickly exited if either of us approached the area.

    You may be wondering why we chose such large crates. What is the normal reaction of most cats when you try to put him in a small cat crate? In my experience, he will spread out all four legs wildly, clawing and grabbing at anything within reach to avoid being incarcerated inside. The openings on these dog crates are big enough that this aversion method simply doesn't work. We practiced beforehand with one cat at a time. Lance would put a crate on top of a table or the kitchen counter with the door open. Then one of us would fold up a blanket and quickly wrap it around the cat like a papoose and drop the cat inside, while the other would immediately close and latch the door.

    As moving day approached, I made an appointment with our veterinarion for Billy for the day before our move, explaining our fear that the stress of the drive could have a disastrous effect on him. Surprisingly, once we got Billy in the car, we covered the carrier with a blanket, and he was relatively quiet during the short trip to the vet clinic. Also surprising was his demeanor in the office during the examination. Dr. D prescribed a clear liquid sedative, Buprenex, to be given in a 1 ml. dose one hour before leaving on our trip.

    As fate often has it, the Saturday before our Tuesday move, Lance noticed that Jenny was carrying her tail strangely, and that she would not allow him to touch it. We both surmised that it was a bite wound, although she wouldn't let us get close enough to it to handle it. I called early in the morning on Monday, asking if we could fit in Jenny at the same time as Billy's appointment. As Dr. D. had surgery after lunch, the receptionist consulted with him and he said we could bring her in at the same time as Billy, and they would keep her there and squeeze her in sometime between other patients. As it turned out, Jenny had multiple bite wounds at the base of her tail, with a small amount of abscess present already. The ideal treatment would have been a drain, with a "cone collar" to prevent her from pulling the drain out. I opted for the less stressful treatment of cleaning of the wounds, combined with liquid clavamox and twice-daily soaking of the wounds with a warm, wet washcloth. Dr. D. also prescribed Buprenex for Jenny, for the pain.

    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
  • 03 of 03

    Moving Day: Moving Four Cats 120 Miles to a New Home

    Photo of Backyard of Our New Home
    Backyard of Our New Home. Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy

    After being up until after midnight with last-minute packing, we were up before dawn on moving day. We fed the cats a light meal first thing in the morning and gave each of them a small dose of the Buprenex, as approved by the vet. He could do so because he had seen all of them quite recently. We wanted to leave as soon as the movers arrived, so that we could give the cats time to relax in their new home before the noise and activity of the movers began. One of the moving crew was to drive one...MORE of Lance's cars, so we had to wait to give him the keys and instructions, and to give last-minute instructions to all three movers as to what to take and what to leave. We watched for the van to arrive and asked them to wait outside until we had rounded up all the cats into their respective crates. We had left all of them in the master bedroom, and they were all fairly relaxed and easy to load into the dog crates, which were waiting with open doors in the adjoining room. We had also purchased a new Feliway Plugin, and plugged it into the AC outlet behind my SUV's front seats. Billy and Jenny each went into one of the smaller crates, facing each other, directly behind the front seats. Jaspurr and Joey were side-by-side in the larger crates, facing the front. We draped lightweight blankets over Jenny's and Billy's crate to help keep them calm. We also brought our biggest litter box, a bottle of water, bag of food, and bowls with us.

    Once we were on the road, all of the cats settled down except motor-mouth Jenny. Jenny is a typical torti-calico girl; she wants what she wants, and she definitely wanted out of that crate. I turned around as far as I could in my seat and nuzzled her cheek through the bars in the front, while Lance searched for a soft jazz station on the radio. The music and my attention finally quieted her, and we traveled the remaining half of the trip in comparative peace.

    The real estate agent who had listed our new home had agreed to meet us at the house with a key and the garage door opener. The moving van was not expected for several hours as they had to load the contents of seven rooms plus boxes filling almost half of our deep two-car garage from floor to ceiling. Consequently, once the cats were uncrated, fed, watered, and used the litter box, they had plenty of time to roam the house in peace. And roam they did, their eyes wide with excitement at all the flora and fauna they could see through the windows, and all the nooks and crannies to explore in the rooms.

    Once the guard at the gate house called to confirm the moving van was expected, we herded the cats into the two bathrooms. The boys all went into the master bathroom (inside my son's room), and Jenny went the the hall bathroom, which is mine. We put a litter box in each bathroom for them, along with their food and water bowls. The owner of the moving company had agreed to drive up separately and drive Lance back to our former home to pick up our final vehicle. While he was gone I sat outside in the darkening day on the edge of a planter box in the driveway and when the movers had questions about boxes I directed them to the designated rooms and had them put the questionable ones in one side of the garage.

    It was after eight p.m. before the movers unloaded the last box and left. Lance arrived back home shortly thereafter, and we made our beds with the basics, and put away some of the essentials. He had stopped at a deli in the small town a mile from our community and we dined on sandwiches, while the cats scarfed down a can of food. It was just two days before Thanksgiving, which we celebrated then with a pizza. However we all know that Thanksgiving is not about food. It is about giving thanks for the blessings of life. That year we had so many blessings. We had our four precious cats, dozens of loving friends and family, and a wonderful new home. And the night of our move, we looked at each other with beaming smiles and said spontaneously, "Home at last!"