Destressing a Possible Coast-to-Coast Move (about a year from now)

jcnassoc

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Hello all -

Not sure if I'm more concerned about stressing my little girls or me, but we are considering a relocation from the right to left coast. I've started reading the great posts here (theCatSite ROCKS!) and have already gathered some tips that will help. I've not, however, come across threads about long-distance relocations that weigh options such as flying (quicker, less work, more risks) v. driving (more control / safer, but obviously much longer).

I'm just starting to gather thoughts so everything is subject to change, but here are some I'm working with or considering.
  • Like many others’ furballs, our girls hate even short road trips; one of them will tolerate somewhat and not totally freak out; the other essentially goes ballistic.
  • I’ve never had to use anything to “calm” my kitties, but am open to it if it’s safe and helps.
  • If flying: I’ve read horror stories of kitties getting lost going through TSA checkpoints (where they come out of their carriers) and getting lost in airports. This freaks me out, especially with the one that will not just let me hold her when she’s scared—can almost guarantee she’d squirm free.
  • If driving:
    • Will (based on tip found here) have them in a large cage that takes the entire back of a large SUV. There they can have their bed, food/water (at least when we stop) litterbox, etc.
    • We’d probably have 2 or 3 drivers, so thinking non-stop driving, so no hotel stops.
  • Either way: Prior to the relocation will have shipped their favorite toys, beds, blankets, a litterbox, etc., so when we arrive the girls transition room will have things familiar to them.
By the way, my girls are sisters and are 4 years old.

Appreciate any thoughts anyone might have about the above.

Be well and stay safe!
 

Kieka

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I follow someone who a few years back moved from coast to coast by renting an RV so they could transport their 8 cats. They didn't want to fly because it would be several flights to get all the cats across and driving their car wasn't enough room (they either had their car transported or one person drove the car and the other the RV, I forget which). So they rented a RV, put a travel dog gate behind the driver so the driver didn't have cats underfoot and another by the door. By the second day all the cats adjusted and were fairly normal according to their postings. The RV meant they didn't have to stop at hotels, just campgrounds. Although you could skip the campgrounds by stopping a rest stops to sleep (most allow RVs to park for a specific number of hours, Walmart actually don't all allow overnight parking anymore) and stopping at truck stops for showers if you don't want to shower in the RV or want everyone to be able to shower without having to refill the tank. Back of a SUV in a large cage is a viable option too but I think I would do RV so the cats have more space or can hide based on their preference. Although with an RV you would want to do a safety check for spaces a cat could wriggle into before hitting the road and block them. Even a large kennel in a RV I think would be preferable since you wouldn't have to unload them all the time and worry about transporting too and from hotel rooms.

I know the Kitten Lady moved from DC to San Diego not too long ago. They chose to fly because with three cats it was the quicker option. She spent a few weeks before getting the cats acclimated to their carriers if I remember right and checked with best security screening processes in advance. I think I've heard a leash on the cat on inside the carrier is best to prevent mishaps. That way you can hold the leash when opening for TSA in case the cat does bolt out or if you need to open it at other times.
 

daftcat75

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If driving, please confine them to individual carriers for yours and their safety. Take rest stop breaks for food and bathroom and let them stretch their legs inside the larger cage or inside your SUV if you think you can herd them back into their carriers easily enough. They likely don't have "sea legs", and wouldn't appreciate all that space inside a moving vehicle like you think they might. And they can pose a distraction to you if they do spook, become active in an unexpected way, or their food/water/litterbox tips over. Cats' natural reaction is to hide in stressful situations. A carrier with a blanket will actually make them feel more secure than a larger cage. An iPod or old phone or any kind of music player with http://www.musicforcats.com will also go a long way to calming them down.

Since you have a year, you can practice desensitization trips around the block in their carriers with Music For Cats. Bring someone along who can reach in and give them scritches and treats. I would prefer that the carriers ride on the seats directly or in the foot wells rather than in someone's lap. But this is something you can work out over the next year to see what's safe, what's comfortable, and what works with however much other luggage may be in the car with you.
 
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kittenmittens84

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I moved cross country recently. 1000% take the flight. If you plan ahead you can mitigate those risks of airport escapes, and it will be far less stressful for the cats just because the length of the trip is so much shorter. Especially if the one cat already freaks out big time on shorter car trips.
If I were you, I would talk to your vet about a pre-trip calming medication that can be given a few hours beforehand to reduce anxiety. There are good options for cats that don’t depress breathing like opioids do (gabapentin is a popular option), and can help cats be less scared without completely knocking them out.
As far as airport security goes, you definitely want to put a harness and leash on your cat before you put them in the carrier at home. When you get to security, you can either hold the cat in your arms (loop the leash around your arm!) while they inspect the carrier, or you can also request a screening in a separate private room if you’re especially concerned about squirmy kitties. I’d recommend a soft sided carrier like the Sherpa, they’re much easier to carry and fit under plane seats better.
I lined the bottom of the carrier with puppy pads before our flight and brought some extras (plus pet safe wipes!) in my bag, but we didn’t end up needing them.
 
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jcnassoc

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I follow someone who ...
Kieka -

Thanks so much for the wealth of information. You've presented a lot of new thought paths for me to follow. Very much appreciated!
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____/ al
 
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jcnassoc

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If driving, please confine them to individual carriers ...
Daftcat75 -

Thanks for the reply; totally interesting issues you raise, and I can understand what you mean. I'll have to consider if keeping them mostly in their carriers might be better, and just have a kennel in the back to let them run around a bit when we pull over to eat, etc.

Thanks for the great advice!
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____/ al
 
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jcnassoc

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I moved cross country recently. 1000% take the flight. If you ...
Thanks for the tips kittenmittens84. I especially like the idea of the puppy pads and pet-safe wipes. I used to have collars on them but took them off permanently when one of them (the squirmy one) somehow got her lower jaw caught in it. Luckily I was able to get it off before any injury.

And like you and others have said, given the time we have I can probably get them used to a harness (which I assume is almost escape-proof). Oh, and didn't even realize one could request TSP checking be done in a private room... Good stuff!

This is a great site. Thanks everyone... really appreciate it!
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____/ al
 

kittenmittens84

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Thanks for the tips kittenmittens84. I especially like the idea of the puppy pads and pet-safe wipes. I used to have collars on them but took them off permanently when one of them (the squirmy one) somehow got her lower jaw caught in it. Luckily I was able to get it off before any injury.

And like you and others have said, given the time we have I can probably get them used to a harness (which I assume is almost escape-proof). Oh, and didn't even realize one could request TSP checking be done in a private room... Good stuff!

This is a great site. Thanks everyone... really appreciate it!
________________
_____/ Regards,
____/ al
The other nice thing about harnesses is lots of cats’ reactions to them seems to be to flop over and pretend they’ve lost all ability to move, which is a big perk when you don’t want your cat squirming around!
 

Furballsmom

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Hi!
There might be something here if you haven't seen the article already :)
Traveling With Cats [Inc. 36 actionable tips] – TheCatSite Articles

A note about the carriers - however you decide to go, you might consider adding plastic cable ties if possible, to ensure the top stays securely attached to the bottom half so that in case one falls any distance, it won't come open.
 
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jcnassoc

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The other nice thing about harnesses is lots of cats’ reactions to them seems to be to flop over and pretend they’ve lost all ability to move, which is a big perk when you don’t want your cat squirming around!
That's interesting. I feel my squirmy one will not fall in line that way, but I can hope!
 
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jcnassoc

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A note about the carriers - however you decide to go, you might consider adding plastic cable ties if possible, to ensure the top stays securely attached to the bottom half so that in case one falls any distance, it won't come open.
Hi Furballsmom -

Thanks for the tip. I like it!!! Great/simple idea for making sure a zipper on the soft carrier doesn't get caught on something and accidentally open up. And on the plastic "clam shell" carriers there are actually pre-drilled holes for that.

Thanks for the link, too. Will read it now.

Be well and stay safe!
 

Katdog

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I moved cross country recently. 1000% take the flight. If you plan ahead you can mitigate those risks of airport escapes, and it will be far less stressful for the cats just because the length of the trip is so much shorter. Especially if the one cat already freaks out big time on shorter car trips.
If I were you, I would talk to your vet about a pre-trip calming medication that can be given a few hours beforehand to reduce anxiety. There are good options for cats that don’t depress breathing like opioids do (gabapentin is a popular option), and can help cats be less scared without completely knocking them out.
As far as airport security goes, you definitely want to put a harness and leash on your cat before you put them in the carrier at home. When you get to security, you can either hold the cat in your arms (loop the leash around your arm!) while they inspect the carrier, or you can also request a screening in a separate private room if you’re especially concerned about squirmy kitties. I’d recommend a soft sided carrier like the Sherpa, they’re much easier to carry and fit under plane seats better.
I lined the bottom of the carrier with puppy pads before our flight and brought some extras (plus pet safe wipes!) in my bag, but we didn’t end up needing them.
thanks so much for sharing this. I’m planning to take kitty home for the holiday and the whole leash part stressed me out as she’s not trained. Maybe I can before the flight on Xmas day but quite skeptical. The private room screening may be the way to go for me…hopefully won’t add that much more to the security time but nonetheless a viable option.
 

Cat McCannon

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...I can probably get them used to a harness (which I assume is almost escape-proof)...
Some harnesses are more secure than others, but none can be considered almost escape proof. A cat determined to get out of a harness will do so. All they have to do is get turned so they can back against the harness and they'll wriggle out faster than you can do anything about it.

The best thing to do is get your cat harness trained to reduce the chance they try to bolt in the first place.

When I put Belle in her harness, she acts as though it's crippled her. But if she gets spooked and bolts, she's gone.
 
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