Cross-Country Cat Herding

picture of a white cat

This is Gracie. The cat we are trying to keep from crisis mode.

We are a little behind schedule with getting our house ready for the market, but still planning to move to the Pacific Northwest this summer. I’m a list-maker and I have a list for everything. But last night when I crawled into bed something happened that made me feel completely unprepared. Gracie, our 15-year-old cat, jumped up on the bed and curled up beside me. She looked so sweet and trusting with her little head across my arm like a pillow. Oh no. How are we going to move Gracie?!

picture of cat cuddling with person both are asleep

Gracie never leaves my side, even when I’m home sick and the sleeping positions are unfavorable.

When we took our research road trip last summer I left Gracie at home with a sitter. Our two large dogs came with us and they loved it. We camped under the stars and scheduled stops across the country at dog parks and beaches and dog-friendly cafes. It worked great with us and the dogs, but how do we make it work with a cat?

For the better part of 15 years Gracie has been at my side. Through different apartments, roommates, relationships, dogs, and houses. In many ways she is the one constant in my adult life. But none of these changes ever put her in the car for more than an hour or two to complete a move. It hadn’t occurred to me until last night that I would need a game plan for how to get her through a car trip that would last a few days. She’s an old lady now, and the stress of it could compromise her health.

cat and person cuddle asleep

Exhibit A – proof that men and cats enjoy cuddling

I’ve been reading tips for moving a cat and have concluded we need to immediately start training Gracie to associate cat carriers and harnesses as positive things. Tonight we are setting up a new space in our master bathroom for her. The food dish will start in the same room as the cat carrier, then get progressively closer until she learns to get in for food. We’re going to start her sun-basking journeys to the sun porch by putting on her kitty harness. I’m even thinking of spending a few nights with her in our Subaru while it’s parked in the garage so she can become comfortable with a vehicle she has never set paw in.

Can anyone attest to the butter paw theory? One post said if you put a little butter on a cat’s paws they stop everything and clean it off then and there. This gives them a place to channel their attention and nervousness and the process of bathing makes a foreign place seem more familiar and comfortable. I’ve never heard that one before, and I’m wondering what butter does to a cat’s stomach?

cat steals dog bed dog sits on floor next to bed

Gracie is the smallest in our house, but still the alpha animal. She will steal as many beds as necessary to prove this point to the K9s.

Over the course of her life Gracie has exhibited different car behaviors at different ages. As a kitten she bored of the car quickly and fell asleep in the passenger seat. As a young cat she would meow endlessly, pant and shed profusely until we arrived at our destination. As she got older she remained talkative, but would take turns sitting on the console to watch out the windows and chill in my lap. It’s been a while since she has been in a car, so I’m not sure what to expect at this stage of her life. With older age and living with large dogs she is less skiddish, but what do we do with her when the dogs need to run around for a bit?¬†Do cats camp? Where do you put a litter box in a car (the back seat will be folded down to make one large flat surface for the dogs and their beds)?

Anybody moved a cat long-distance with other pets? I’m all ears.


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