“Schrodinger isn’t meant to be around dogs, or out of the house. He’s fragile, remember he stopped eating when we took him to the cat hotel?”
“I think he’ll be stronger than you think.”
“What if he gets depressed or something? And despondent, and withers away.”
“Part of going on an adventure means Schrodinger has to go on an adventure too. Maybe he’ll be better for it?”
I realized most of the fears I was putting on my cat were my fears for this trip, but it didn’t make me feel any less panicked about their welfare. Schrodinger was ten years old this year, clingy to a fault (and has been as a kitten), Leo was a more independent cat and we had little worry about him.
I continued to shop for the perfect cat tree (when leaving your cats, helping them “get vertical” eases separation anxiety according to some cat blogger that is probably as well versed in how cats think as me). We were leaving tomorrow.
They had thrown up the sedatives, so both cats were live and in top form as we rode the shuttle bus to the airport the next day.
“Are those cats?”
“Yes.” I was exasperated, listening to them cry was exhausting.
“I’m allergic.” A man who was sitting next to us said, getting up.
“Those are cats?” The driver called back to us as the allergic man rubbed his nose.
The cats were meowing desperately, I thought it was obvious. I sighed, aggravated. Air travel seems to bring out the worst in people. Including me. “Yes, two cats.”
“Oh, I’m allergic.”
I realized I must be peak Portland when I was at the TSA telling the officer that I didn’t want my cats to be radiated.
“Well, you’re going to have to take them out then.”
“You have to take them out.”
I dragged my cat out of the carrier, and I was suddenly very aware of how loud the checkpoint was, a thunk of luggage on metal, claws in my arm as the cat desperately tried to get out. We went through the scanner in a special type of security theater that drew blood.
Schrodinger, much to my surprise was desperate to get back into his carrier after we were done.
“Are those cats?” The flight attendant said after we slid into our tight seats near the back of the plane.
“So I’ll be avoiding you.”
“Are those cats?” A woman sitting next to me in Denver asked.
“Aren’t they hot in there?” She asked, touching the carrier as if they were ovens, Leo meowed.
“No, it’s ventilated.”
“Not very well.” She said leaning in to take a look at the cats.
I sipped my water. “Yeah, I think it’s fine though, they are TSA approved.”
“Oh, well then.” She seemed offended
The longest plane ride from Denver to Pittsburgh was punctuated by Leo crying non stop from underneath the seat in front of me. It was the ghost of every child I had ever complained about on the plane coming back to haunt me through non stop angry cries of a very fat, very frightened, Russian blue.
I laid across the open seat and reached my hand into his carrier and pet him while he cried in hopes that I wouldn’t become that passenger that everyone complained about on the plane.
Nothing was working.
I ordered a drink and continued to try and placate him.
After the plane had landed I heard the women behind me complaining about the two month old in front of them who would never stop crying for the whole flight. Embarrassment and indignation I turned around.
“It’s a cat, and it’s his first time flying.”
The woman had the modesty to look a little cowed. “Oh, he was just crying so much-”
“Yeah. I know.”
I had learned my lesson to never complain about a baby on a flight again.
The cats fought all night, reinforcing that I had made a mistake bringing them there.
Half asleep I pet Leo who had won the bed.
Schrodinger knocked over the laptop in retaliation.
Schrodinger made first contact with the other animals in the menagerie, sitting on the stairs, behind the child gate staring at the golden retriever that would inhabit his home.
He would make first contact several more times, with the other cats, personally with the dog, and then personally with the tom cat.
Hissing turned into casual indifference, and he cried pitifully every time we separated them. He was trying to ask me questions I’m sure. “Why are we doing this?”
Maybe that was a projection on my part.
On the day we left, Schrodinger walked happily beside me as I was packing my bags, asking questions, chirping about this and that. I had cried in the bathroom a few times, hoping to make it through packing without showing how upset I was to him. Leo was flicking his tail around as I zipped all our belongings. All the things I had purchased for them out of guilt over the past few days littered the room.
We had read about twenty articles about “leaving your pet for long term travel” and most of them gave the same placating lines:
“Your pet lives in the present and does not worry about the future like you do.”
“It’s only anecdotal but…”
“Your cat will have no trouble adjusting as long as they’re getting fed.”
“Your cats won’t forget you.”
I shut the door to the room they were living in. Lines were just lines, after all.
On the plane ride home, I briefly got excited about seeing my cats again, a reflex from traveling so much and coming home to them.
“So, I was thinking.” He said on the way home, it was almost midnight, I was tired, and a bit depressed. “What are we going to call home while we’re traveling? Is it going to be home base, or will it be home.”
“I guess just home.” I said watching the famous Portland sign flicker from the highway as we passed.
“Yeah but it’s not really.”