This is Jane (left) and Austen (right). They are six-years-old this year, but don’t let their age fool you. They are a brother/sister power couple that enjoys destroying curtains, christening brand new furniture with their claws, and destroying any and all plants ever created. They are the great loves of my life, and they recently survived a 1200 mile move from Michigan to Colorado. Here’s how.
1. Prepare for weeks. If your cats are anything like mine (i.e. normal cats) they don’t enjoy being in a moving vehicle or uprooted from the home they love and rule over. I bought this pet carrier a few weeks before my move and made it a “safe space” for my cats to be in while I was packing/moving things into storage. I put their bed inside, some of their favorite toys, and a tiny litter box. They didn’t love it or frequently go in it prior to the move, but it wasn’t totally new to them when I locked them in it for approximately 30 hours, and I think that made a huge difference.
2. Pick the right carrier. I debated for a long time if I really needed a 28”L x 20.5”W x 21.5”H carrier. I knew I wanted them to be together (Jane gets really anxious when she’s by herself), and have enough space to move around in so they wouldn’t be laying down the whole time. I also wanted them to have enough space for a litter box and a bed. In retrospect, I could have maybe gone a little smaller and brought more things for my new apartment (like silverware or towels or a 13th box of books). However, they didn’t die, and were honestly pretty chill after the first hour of crying, so I have no regrets. If you’re moving a single cat or your cat likes small, tight spaces, I would suggest a smaller carrier. The important thing to remember is to get one with lots of vents, especially if you are moving in the summer like I did. Even with the A/C on, a plastic carrier can get really hot inside.
2. Buy cat calming spray. Yes, this is a real thing. I was very skeptical, but about 48 hours before I moved, Jane and Austen needed something. They were really stressed about being in a mostly empty apartment. The lovely manager at Petco suggested this pheromone-based spray, which I coated their carrier and bed with. Honest to god, the best $20 I ever spent.
3. Bribe your cats. Jane and Austen typically only eat dry cat food, which is why they are so fat. I mean, look at Austen.
I knew they would be stressed out about being in the carrier and not want to eat anything, and then get hangry, so during the move I mixed fancy wet cat food into their normal food. They thought I was the best cat mom ever. In retrospect, I would have maybe given them a little less, so that Jane wouldn’t have thrown up all over Austen 20 minutes before we arrived in Denver.
4. Safety first. Take your cats to the vet about a week before you leave. J & A’s vet noticed that Jane had a minor ear infection, which might have gotten really bad in the airless car as we drove into the mountains. She also recommended that I didn’t give either of the cats any sort of medication (like Benadryl) for the trip, because both of my cats have weird reactions to medication, and being nervous/anxious can exasperate reactions (which would be no fun for anyone). I was also able to get all my vet records, which luckily, I didn’t need during the drive out, but it’s good to have them just in case. You never know what’s going to happen on a road trip. We spent four hours waiting at a Pep Boys in Mokena, IL after my Jeep stalled in the middle of four lanes of traffic. I was very thankful that I bought a carrier with lots of vents and room for the cats to stretch their legs as we sat outside on a bench for half a day in 75 degree weather.
5. Take lots of breaks, but don’t ever let your cats out of the carrier. Seriously. Don’t let them fool you. They do not need to be in the driver’s seat with you. No one needs to hold them. They’re just going to claw your face and make you get into an accident. My cats are strictly indoor cats, so feeling the wind on their face once in awhile was exciting to them. Any time I stopped to eat or get gas, I would take their carrier out and put it in the grass or on a picnic table and let them get a little fresh air. I ended up not being able to drive straight through because of our 4 hour delay at Pep Boys. When I stopped for the night at my favorite trusty truck stop, the cats naturally thought we had arrived. They were very mad (and sad, so sad…) when I wouldn’t let them out of the carrier. I ended up putting a thick blanket over them for the night, and after an hour or so, they stopped crying (screaming, yelling, sobbing). I was very tempted to let them out for the night, and very, very glad I did not.
Overall, I would rate the general miserableness of myself and the cats as 2/10 for most of the trip. The first hour or so was terrible (just turn the music up, carry on), but after that, they slept most of the day, as cats do. During our fun time at Pep Boys, and during the storm we slept through in Nebraska, I would say the miserableness reached an 8/10. I felt like an awful, terrible cat mom for having them in the carrier for so long. But honestly, they didn’t mind as much as I did. They’re animals, after all.
And they’re very happy to be in our new little space.