I recently made a 1,400-mile trip to join my husband. Our cats really love it when the whole family is together, and they really missed Chris when he was gone. I had thought hard about whether to take the cats with me or to leave them at home with a new pet sitter. Here’s what went into my decision-making process. I posted a question about this on a private Facebook cat blog group. The answers were pretty evenly divided. In the end, I went without the cats.
There was a time when I would have said, “No way. It’s hard on the cats.” But with my bunch, I began to question whether they might do better with this long trip, because we’d all be together on the other end.
Here are some of the things I thought about.
Reasons to take the cats on vacation
- The cats had made this trip before without incident, when we moved from Minnesota to Vermont. Each cat had a carrier, and we also had a dog on the trip. I used Rescue Remedy and Feliway spray in the cars. To be honest, the cats did much better than the stressed-out humans. No one got sick and there were no accidents, with the exception of Norton accidentally pooping once in his cage. They basically slept calmly throughout and ate small- to medium-sized meals (canned food, to help with hydration) when we reached the motel each night.
- They ride well. I’ve been lucky to have cats who are pretty calm in the car. I try to stay calm, too, imagining that the cats probably pick up on my vibe. If I had a cat who totally freaked out in the car, then it would be an easy decision not to put the cat through the stress of a car ride.
- We could all be together when we joined my husband. I hate splitting up the family! I think the cats like it when we are all together as well. When one of us has to go away, the cats act a little unnerved and unsettled.
- They had a decent place to stay on the other end. I knew that they would be comfortable and have enough room to relax, move about, and look out windows on the other end of the trip.
- My vet really thought that they’d all be just fine on this trip (and she knows them well). I really respect my vet, who has a lot of common sense and intuition. She knows my cats. I was initially intimidated by the length of the trip (1,400 miles seems very different from a 30-minute ride to the vet!), but she reassured me that she thought my particular batch of cats would do just fine, and that the benefits of having the family together might really be a nice thing for all.
- In a very unscientific survey (i.e., I made several calls to motels along the way), it seems that more chains and independent motels are becoming open to allowing pets for the night. I was honest about the fact that I would be traveling with six cats, and the few establishments that I talked to hardly balked. Some charged a small additional pet fee or deposit ($10-30 total). But, it varies by establishment and ownership. It pays to check around if you will need to spend the night in a motel.
However, after I thought about it, I decided to leave the cats at home. I was only going for a week, and I wanted to see how it went. Here’s what I discovered.
Reasons to leave the cats at home
- The pet sitter turned out to be excellent. I was working with this pet sitter for the first time (she also happens to be a vet tech with my vet — lucky me!). I left it open as to how often she needed to stop by; I wanted to see how the cats did. As it turned out, she only had to come once a day — the cats were great! I felt in totally good hands with a person who understood cats and who had actually worked with my cats at the vet’s office.
- The cats’ routine was not disrupted. They got to continue to stay in their own space, even though their people were gone. When I got home, they were certainly quite happy to see us, but they also seemed very comfortable. I could tell they had been well taken care of.
- Accidents could happen on the way. On a looooong trip, more could go wrong. What if a cat got sick in a strange city or in the sticks? What if there was not a vet close by or if it was after-hours? You can plan ahead for such things by trying to be aware of where veterinarians are on your route, but it would still be very stressful. There is also the possibility that a cat could get loose or lost, even if you took the best of care to prevent that from happening.
- I actually got a break from cat care! I guess that I automatically do so much cat care daily that I forget how much time it takes out of my day. On the other end of this trip, with my husband and without my cats, it felt strange. I kept doing things like making sure that doors were closed or threads were picked up, etc., and then realizing that the cats weren’t there. That was a little disconcerting!
We had a lovely reunion when we got home, that was for sure. The cats made their happiness clear.
Have you ever been torn about whether to take your cats with you when you travel? What did you do about it? Tell us in the comments!
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About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write.