Wednesday, March 7, 2018

moving with cats - part 7

We continue to unpack and settle in to our little apartment.

We're on the second floor.
Our trailer of possessions arrived at our storage place on Tuesday. Laura had the brilliant idea to hire some movers to do the unloading! The trailer had to be parked quite a distance away from the storage unit, so having the help made it go much quicker and was much kinder to our tired bodies. Thankfully, there was very little damage to our stuff.

We were eager to get the trailer unloaded on Tuesday, ahead of the big winter storm forecast for Wednesday and Thursday (1-2 feet of snow was predicted!) I'm so grateful this huge task is complete. Now it's a series of little tasks, like getting internet service, securing an office for my work, moving stuff around, etc. I'm really feeling we are over the stressful hump, the rest is settling in and establishing routines.

This will be the last installment in the moving with cats series. I thought I might go back and highlight some of the little things that really made this move go smooth for the cats and thus the humans.

Having a sturdy platform in the back of the van allowed space for the wire cages on the top and lots of space for storage down below. I measured the height of the cages and made the platform so there was just enough space for the cages to slide in.

I attached D-rings to the top of the platform using bulk D-rings and stainless steel plumbers strapping screwed to the platform to hold them in place. It allowed me to add D-rings wherever I wanted to attach and organize things.

I particularly wanted to secure all the wire cages to the platform so they wouldn't slide around. I used a combination of bungee cords, velcro straps, and zip ties to keep the cages from moving. When I arranged the wire crates, I removed some of the panels so they would fit together better. I then used zip ties to secure the cages together, so it was tight fit and cat's couldn't escape.

I also used a wood square and rectangle (that I had built a long time ago for a different purpose) as supports for the small carriers in the living space cage. They were sized and positioned so the cats could access the space underneath them and were the exact size for tightly holding the carrier to the roof of the wire cage. I used zip ties to be sure the carriers were secure to the wire cage and not going to move around.

Pierre enjoying his safe spot
I wanted small carriers in there, particularly to provide Pierre a safe, dark place to retreat to if he felt scared. I've never handled him, nor do I think he would take well to being picked up. Training him to use the carrier as a safe place makes it super easy when it comes time to move a feral or semi-feral cat from such a large enclosure. When a feral gets scared, they look for the smallest, darkest, safest looking hidey spot to retreat into, so providing him a small carrier as such a spot works perfectly. To move him, all I have to do is uncover the litter box side of the cage, which scares him, he retreats to the safety of the carrier which is on the opposite side of the cage setup, I undo the velcro strap that is securing the carrier door open, close that carrier door and he's secure and ready to be moved.

The addition of the curtain helped reduce anxiety, because it gave the cats the option to retreat behind it and not be seen by the humans. I used little metal binder clips to hold them to the top of the cage. I was really glad I thought of this as I think it made a big difference giving the cats power to regulate their exposure.

I bought a pair of these Midwest Stainless Steel bowls that attach to the side of the wire crates. They attach with two wingnuts, so they don't move around. I wanted something that wouldn't tip over and they couldn't knock over. I used them for water in each crate with a wash cloth underneath for any that might slash out when underway. I didn't keep them very full when we were moving, but I did want them to always have access to water.

We kept all the kitty meds in a small little plastic container. It made it easy to find and bring in hotels when needed. It also allowed us to always know where Marvin's inhaler was in case we needed it in an emergency.  We also organized the other cat stuff, one box for litter box related stuff, another box for food and bowls, and many boxes of towels and fleece. We brought way too many towels and fleece blankets that we didn't end up using. We didn't know if the cats would get car sick or would soil their bedding, so we wanted to be prepared. Amazingly, the cats never did either, so we had plenty of clean bedding when we arrived! Our vet had given us a supply of Acepromazine (sedative) that we dosed in pill pockets as needed.

The cats usually use a large covered litter boxes. We had one with us, but it was too big and bulky for daily use on the trip. We used covered because sometimes Nahum gets elevator butt when peeing and it makes a mess or Theo will spray in the litter box. Our solution was to use blue painter's tape to tape up a pee pad to the wall surrounding the litter box. We used towels underneath to catch the stray litter. The wire cage in the car that housed Nahum's and Theo's litter box also got completely walled in with pee pads, just in case. We brought out little bucket for collecting the used litter - I wanted to toss the bags of litter in the outside hotel trash, I didn't want to leave clues that there were more than two cats in the room.

The little brush and dust pan came in quite handy to clean up litter out of cages, the floor, or just about anywhere. I grabbed this for the car last minute and was very grateful to have it.

I used a small power inverter that plugs into the car's cigarette lighter and an extension cord, which allowed us to use low watt heating pads and a Feliway diffuser. We experienced very cold temperatures on our trip (coldest was 10 deg F). For the super cold nights where we didn't have electricity available to plug in the heating pads, I got up several times in the night and went down to start the car and run the heat for awhile. I also covered the back crates with many fleece blankets as insulation. 

We brought six litter boxes on the voyage. Three were always available in the minivan and one we brought in to the hotel or friend's room.  The other two were different sizes that were just in case. We also had two soft sided Portable Pet Homes that fold down into a small flat bag. One was used for Marvin, it fit perfectly under the platform at front, so we could access it between the seats. He had a small litter box, bowl of food, and heating pad in there too. We had two soft sided Sturdibag Extra Large flexible pet carriers. I love Sturdibag products, those who frequent cat shows will be familiar with their stuff. We used these carriers to shuttle cats into hotels. We also had three rigid carriers on board and one soft sided one in Rose's crate. I wanted to be sure we had enough carriers for each car just in case something horrible happened - thankfully, no such thing happened. We also had a smaller wire crate, again just in case and two very large crates that we would be using for acclimation. I wasn't sure how the cats would ride and I wanted options in case I had to separate them out. We also took so much stuff, because we needed to have everything to help acclimate the cats to the new space for when we arrived as we were told it could be several weeks before we got access to our possessions that were coming via freight hauler.

My goal was to have the cats be as comfortable as possible. I wanted them to always have access to a litter box, water, and food (Pierre, Oliver, and Marvin). I didn't think they would use the litter box when we were moving, but they all did. It was great to be able to stop in for lunch somewhere and know the cats had everything they needed to be okay. Having their needs taken care of like that really allowed me to relax and enjoy the trip more.

I also wanted to be able to access the cats in their wire cages with all the vehicle doors closed. I never wanted to encounter the possibility of a cat getting lost because it darted out of an open cage and door. I was able to access the cats from the front living space cage from the front seats and I used the large wooden fork I built to keep the cats from accessing the litter box crate when I was servicing it through the back door. It wasn't easy using the fork with the cages covered and in time as I watched how the cats huddled toward the front of the cage, I stopped using it for sake of expediency. Theo was the exception, if he was in the cage and I opened the back, he would meet me at the back to see what I was up to.

I've been thinking about what I might do differently if I had the opportunity to do another long distance move with cats. The only thing I can think of is maybe to set everything up and do some test drives locally to see how the cats do. If they do well, then less contingent-based stuff would be needed. Amazingly enough, there was never a moment when I thought, "if only we had brought..." I felt like we had everything we needed to make it a success and it was a huge success! That's all I can think of right now regarding the particulars. If you have questions about anything, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

Meanwhile, as we settle into the apartment, the cats are also settling in nicely. Although Marvin continues being a monster, but that's a story for another time.

No one would ever suspect there's a Theo hiding behind the sheet that is acting as a curtain!
I'm still not used to seeing Oliver mixed in the general cat population. Every time I see him hanging out somewhere, I notice him, and my heart melts. I've always had the sense he wanted to be an inside kitty and now he's getting his chance and he's loving it. He's been a perfect gentleman. Back when he used to patrol his yard, he was very dominate, but inside with the other cats he's gentle and passive.

Oliver and Marvin cuddling with Laura last night
Inside kitty just chillin like inside kitties do! Go Oliver!!


  1. MY heart melts too with Oliver's transition. Back a long time ago, seeing the pictures of him at the window, looking in and wanting to be with his dad used to break my heart. I cannot deny them and I know you would have let him in longer if only he would be a gentleman. I have eagerly read every single word as to how you two and the fur family made it for every mile you chronicled. I am so grateful that all of you made it to your new location and your apartment. You all are admirable to me. That includes the cats. I never I this world would have thought they would do as well as they have. Your preparation made that possible; and their love and security with you two played just as strong a part. I am blown away by this journey's story. xo

  2. That was such a well planned trip and we're so glad you made it safely and that Oliver is doing so well!

  3. I've been blown away by this whole journey too, just from reading your accounts! I can't imagine anyone more thoughtful and prepared than you were. And like "Katie", I never imagined a day when Oliver could be integrated with the household. New, neutral territory has made all the difference, along with your mutual love, and trust on his part. Congratulations to you all on this successful transition!

  4. Oliver is so special and the way he has worked into the general population is amazing. Great job!

  5. It is just amazing how well everything went but with all of your great thinking ahead definitely made for a positive and wonderful result. Glad everyone is settling in and that things are moving ahead as planned.

  6. I think you did a fantastic job moving with cats and keeping them stress free. I did wonder how the ones in the car managed at night when you were in the hotel, but you answered my question in this post. Sorry Marvin is being a monster.

  7. are there! Everyone made it, and your plans worked out...good for you!

  8. Dang it, my comment didn't post! Anyhoo, I give you serious props for making this trek, and for telling us all about it! We look forward to hearing how each and every cat adjusts to the new living quarters.

  9. wow- what an adventure and we are sure you are all happy to be settled. glad everyone made the trip safely.

  10. guyz...yur new a part mint iz awesum N we iz buzzed happee ya settled in N yur doin grate.....speekin oh grate; how yur dad helped ewe move iz total lee grate; him shuld ritez a book a bout thiz ....trooth !!!!! ♥♥☺☺

  11. I'm happy to see you are off the road and settling in. You did a great job keeping the cats safe and comfortable. :)

  12. Wow!!! I am so impressed with your move! And so happy that Oliver is settling in!

  13. I'm so happy you all made it safely. And it sounds like you have a new calling- Cat transport consultant!

  14. If I ever have to move across several states, I am so hiring you!

  15. You are the MASTER PLANNER!!! This was wonderful, thank you for doing such a fantastic job! Nancy


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