When I was at Newark Airport I received a call from my sister.
“Make sure you check out the bathrooms at the airport!”
Not the typical demand one would normally get from their sister while on their way for a visit. Well, the true reason for my visit to Geneva this time was to help my sister, and her two cats, move from Geneva, Switzerland to Houston, Texas.
Now, somehow we didn’t take any photos of our day (or the craziness that led up to that day) but take a few minutes to think about this.
Being stuffed into carriers, taken from their home of 2 years, bundled into a cab with 6 suitcases (one freaked out Mom and one calm and composed Aunt), and surviving 20 hours of International travel. It’s enough to make a regular person a little crazy, much less two cats who have no idea what the hell is going on. Plus, they don’t understand when you tell them to ‘plug your nose and blow’ to pop their ears!
Now let’s back up a few days. After Nicki and I enjoyed pastries and pastas, bottles of champagne and pretty much eating and drinking everything that was left in their apartment we had to get down to the serious business of getting her and her 2 cats packed up and ready to travel.
I kept telling people that I was going to be a Cat Companion (what a sweet gig right?), well it turns out I was really there to be a Sister Slave and also Task Master. I watched my sister pack and unpack and repack her suitcases, move things from one side of the room to the other, from one room to the other, and keep adding things to her list, but never crossing them off. Pretty soon I had to put my foot down. STOP. You need to start crossing things off this list. What’s next? What do we have to do today? We can’t keep putting that off until tomorrow, we’re running out of tomorrows!
Luckily, the apartment was being packed up by professional movers, so we didn’t have to deal with the 150+ boxes that ended up being packed up and sent off the balcony to the waiting moving truck on the street. But because we had to be in the apartment while the movers were there, we ended up being cooped up in a single room with the cats so they couldn’t escape. It wasn’t too bad when I hung out with the cats in the master bedroom, reading and lazing away the day. But when we moved to an empty shell of a room, sitting on an air mattress next to a portable litter box….well, things started to become a little more real (and kind of depressing).
And then came the ‘Cat Chores’ and this is where the Sister Slave comes into play. I didn’t realize that when I showed up it meant that I had to do all of the crappy jobs. I had to clean and disinfect the litter locker, clean out the litter box (daily), chase the cats around the apartment spraying them with dry shampoo and anti-allergen cream. ‘Make sure you massage it in everywhere Traci – especially their butt’ - what?? I didn’t sign up for this.
And then there was the silent screaming… We had to take both cats to the vet a couple days before we flew out and although just 2 blocks away from the house, Moosh (the grey tabby) was so terrified he started shaking and silent screaming (panting) and Oliver (the orange tabby) wouldn’t stop meowing. Needless to say, the vet prescribed some Xanax to calm their nerves – supposed to last 8 hours a dose. Supposed to.
Travel Day FINALLY arrives:
4:00AM: Wake Up Time
6:00AM: Corral the cats and force Xanax pills down their throats and then watch Moosh foam at the mouth and drool all over the floor, before stuffing them both in their carriers. (Here’s hoping the foaming stops before TSA has to look at him).
6:15AM: Cab arrives and the driver looks concerned as he looks at us – two people, two cats, two lap top bags and six suitcases – and then looks at his wagon.
7:00AM: We’ve managed to wrangle our suitcases onto 2 carts and each have a cat. And then Nicki puts Moosh’s carrier on the top of her cart……and he falls off. Whoops
8:00AM: We’re in the gate waiting to board the flight and Oliver sits quietly in his carrier. The drugs have calmed Moosh enough that he isn’t terrified out of his mind and actually knows what is happening and so he’s turning in circles, meowing and trying to claw his way out – yep this is much better than a silent cat.
9:30AM: We are finally on the plane. Cat carriers under the seat and settled in for a 9 hour flight to Newark. And the drugs seem to be wearing off of Oliver and he starts meowing, and meowing and meowing. And if you know orange cats you know how vocal they can be – good thing we brought a pillow case to muffle the sound.
10AM – 12PM EST/6PM (Geneva Time): Cats are meowing. The drugs wore off within the first hour of the flight. There’s attempts to claw and chew out of the carriers. Nicki keeps prodding me and telling me I have to watch the cats. I keep telling her that they need to learn how to self-soothe. And there are multiple times I’m asked to check and see if they peed, smell their butts, soothe them and take them to the lavatory to let them stretch their legs.
12:30PM (EST)/6:30PM (Geneva Time): We made it off the plane and I made it through Customs. Nicki and the cats have to be ushered downstairs to be processed back into the country so I leave her with her two cats and suitcase, to go collect our other 4 suitcases before they need to be rechecked into the next flight.
1:00PM/7:00PM: The last 4 suitcases to come down the chute are ours. I have 5 suitcases stacked on 2 carts and sit down to wait. And then I get a call from Nicki’s husband – apparently she got released outside of the baggage claim area and can’t come back through. I’m on my own with two carts and the line up to exit through customs is growing by the second. Picture me running down the line with one cart, parking it, then running back for the second cart and running it to the back of the line and leaving the first cart on the floor until the line catches up with it. Trying to figure out how to push these two carts at the same time, I make a friend who offers to push one of my carts. Low and behold, 1 person + 5 suitcases = Agricultural Check! I’m about to move these carts over when my sister comes running out from nowhere, waving her hands, ‘that’s my sister, those are my bags!’ - no cats in sight…. Now we both get ushered to the Agricultural check and she says to the officer, ‘Remember me? Remember me? These are my bags, this is my sister!’ I looked at him doubtfully and asked, ‘Do you remember her?’ A couple of questions later he tells us to turn around and exit (and we hear grumbling from people behind us about how we managed to talk ourselves out of the X-ray).
1:30PM/7:30PM: So we’re home free. We take refuge in a family bathroom and release the cats from their carriers. Moosh is starving and can barely wait for me to get some food out of my bag. The drugs have made Oliver mean and he keeps hissing and swatting at Moosh. Nicki lays out a pee pad and sprinkles cat litter on it, hoping to encourage potty time before our next flight. No such luck – so she starts spraying this Feliway spray in and around the carriers to prevent territory marking. All we need to do is go through security one more time, get on another flight and then 4 hours until we arrive in Houston. No problem.
2:00PM/8:00PM: Cats out of the carriers and carried through security. No problem. Hands swiped and tested since we’re traveling with animals. No problem. Oh wait, Nicki has a problem. The cats and I are released and Nicki has to be patted down and analyzed. So we set up camp on a bench, I do a little work, the cats get a little napping time in, and then a TSA officer comes up to me and says, ‘your sister wanted me to tell you that she’s tested positive twice for bomb making chemicals, so we have to call in a specialist. It’s going to take a while.’ Ooookkayyy. 30 minutes later she’s released, and the culprit was most likely the Feliway Spray that she has been spraying everywhere for days.
3:00PM/9PM: Another dose of Xanax forced down and on our way to board. BEEEP. What? Your seats have been
changed, no animals allowed on that row, so you’re sitting in different rows now. Initial moment of panic is easily remedied and the man sitting next to me in the middle seat didn’t take too much convincing to move into an aisle seat. Too bad the man sitting on the aisle looked at us and said, ‘I’m allergic to cats….’ ‘just kidding!’ Settled with both cats sleeping. What? Is this what it feels like not to be traveling with two needy cats (or kids?) We made it until an hour before the flight ended before the meowing, clawing and biting started up again.
6:00PM CST/1AM: We arrive in Houston and the humidity in the air is as thick as molasses as we leave the plane. Yuck. But this time, all we need to do is make a Family Bathroom pit stop, pick up our bags and we’re out of here! The end is so close. Perhaps we lost our focus a little bit. Got a little cocky. As I’m texting our terminal info, Nicki puts Oliver’s carrier on top of her rolley carry-on and goes to get carts. And down goes Oliver. Another cat dropped by their Mama.
7:30PM CST/2:30AM: We made it home!! The cats have been released from their carriers for good after 20 hours of travel. Oliver is still hissing at Moosh, but other than that they don’t seem to be too traumatized from the day’s events.
Moosh finally getting the space he needs
Oliver sleeping off the drugs
10PM CST/7AM: Bed Time. Finally. After 27 hours of being awake and dealing with (and dropping) traumatized, meowing cats, feeling for wet pee pads, being covered in fur, tested (and stopped) for bomb chemicals, the day is finally over. One Sister and Two Cats have been moved 5200+ miles.
Success! Just one more 4 hour flight back to Seattle for me and we’ll call that Sister Favour Complete!