Moving an extremely difficult cat 2800 miles?
January 30, 2012 6:29 AM   Subscribe

Planning: in 8 or 9 months I will need to move from Baltimore, MD to Berkeley, CA. The biggest challenge is my cat, who is a homicidal jungle cat. I need some help strategizing.

Fez is crazy. She can be affectionate but she is very mercenary and I will admit that despite my well-founded fear of getting flayed by her in very stressful circumstances, she's softening up as she ages.

Earlier in our relationship, Fez absolutely tore up my partner after my partner extricated her from a window screen.

For my part, I had a misunderstanding with Fez 6 or 7 years ago which ended up in me having a deep puncture bite in the fleshy part of my hand between forefinger and thumb as well as a prolifically bleeding nose wound that healed up without a scar (sharp claws!).

Fez does not like Change. She yowls, she carries on, she works herself up into either throwing up or hiding for days or weeks (when we catch her, we give her a dunk in a sink bath to make sure she gets some liquids by drying herself off). She is an emo cat. We rarely take her to the vet because it's always seriously traumatic for us (handling injuries, the need to wear ear protection for yowling)and for her (4 days or more of hiding in some crawlspace under a bathroom cabinet - each time a new one), and it almost always ends up with us being charges a difficulty fee. The last time was due to requiring 3 vet techs to hold her down, a 4th to spoon feed her val baby food and the vet to do a blood draw - and she jerked and opened up the vein anyway.

So in 8 or 9 months I will need to get her from Baltimore to Berkeley. And I have no idea how to do this. Are there services that can help me figure this conundrum out with the least amount of bloodshed? I am absolutely fine with starting to plan this now. If there's a reasonable chance that it'll go well I'm fine with flying with her in a carrier in my lap, but if it's possible to also get her sedated or something that would also be cool.

I just anticipate so much trouble that I'm also seriously considering finding her a home here in Baltimore.

Anyone with any experiences like this? I'd love to hear about them.
posted by kalessin to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not your vet. This isn't medical advice.

I think the best place to start with this fractious cat is with a vet. Do you have a vet in the area that does house calls for fractious cats? If so, that would be really ideal for your little one.

If I were you, I would plan to medicate and fly with her in the cabin with some meds on board to take the edge off. Better living through chemistry is my motto, but you also need to protect yourself.
Get a soft sided carrier now, and leave it out in the common area for a month. In March, put some catnip in there. In April, leave some yummy treats. By summer, feed her in there on occasion.

Get yourself some welding gloves and practice handling her with them on. At first it will feel impossible to get a good handle on her, but they will help protect your soft flesh from her sharp bits.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 7:04 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

We moved a very difficult cat across the world -- we got kitty prozac (no really, it's meat flavored fluoxetine). He took it for a month before the trip, and continued during and after the move. it really, really helped with everything.

Fluoxetine or not, once in the new space confine them to one room (preferably with a dark and familiar smelling place to rest/hide) and let them get used to the new place slowly, room by room.

I am not a vet, this is not vet advice, etc.etc.etc.
posted by markovitch at 7:26 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you can't get to a vet that does house calls, get her to a vet anyway. You will need to get her properly vaccinated (check the jurisdiction you are moving into, there are probably requirements) and doing it when she's at "home" will be easier than doing it when you get to an unfamiliar place where she's already mad.

While at the vet with said crazy kitty, talk with them about what to do - you will probably come up with a list of things that is similar to what you've got here. And, after reading the thread about the loose cat on a plane, medication is something I'd not skimp on. And nail trimming.

Good luck.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:39 AM on January 30, 2012

Keep in mind that when you fly with a pet, you have to take the pet out of their carrier and carry them through the walk-through metal detector with them. I nth seeking out a vet to get Fez medicated, either on kitty Prozac (which might help her in general, actually) or on some kind of mild sedative. You will likely want to try the sedative out before attempting to travel with her so you can see how she behaves on it, because a furry ball of flying claw surprise at the airport would not be a good time.
posted by bedhead at 7:44 AM on January 30, 2012

I completely agree that you should try out the sedative before you go on your trip.

When we moved with our cats we got some prescription sedative from the vet. One cat was fine, dopey and sleepy, the way you'd expect a sedated cat to be. The other cat must have been having one hell of a bad trip because she wailed the entire time. It sounded like an old lady moaning in a high pitched voice. Your fellow passengers would riot if you took a cat like that on an airplane.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:58 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

i have a fez-like cat -- i agree that you should try the sedative (should you go that way) before D-Day. my beast just turned into a mean drunk when he was sedated, which really wasn't the goal. (we have a vet who comes to our house now, which is a lifesaver b/c the other vets literally wouldn't even open the carrier when we got there d/t the scary noises he was making.)

good luck!
posted by oh really at 10:25 AM on January 30, 2012

Throwing in a suggestion for using Feliway now and at the new place, possibly in the carrier as well (and I'm nthing the kitty quaaludes suggestions above). Personal experience with Feliway showed a much more mellow Cat #1, and no noticeable difference on Cat #2 (who was already mellowish to begin with, really). Can't hurt to try the plug in now and see if Fez is helped any by it, and if so I'd definitely get one for the new place as well. You have to let us know the outcome in a few months!

[And not gonna lie...I am impressed by the 'dunking' after one of her fits. I'd have NEVER thought of doing that to get some fluids in them!]
posted by PeppahCat at 10:28 AM on January 30, 2012

oh, also, our vet has suggested that the over-the-top responses could be the result of a serious anxiety problem, which you may want to look into if fez is able to be medicated regularly. she suggested that a daily anti-anxiety med would help ours be less psycho, b/c his reactions wouldn't be so intense. ymmv.
posted by oh really at 10:29 AM on January 30, 2012

Aside from bringing her as a carry-on it's also possible to ship her as cargo. It's not typically recommended because it's slightly riskier particularly in hot months. But, it's a lot quieter, and you may not need to take her out of the cage for security screening (not sure about this).
posted by acidic at 11:02 AM on January 30, 2012

I would ship her as cargo, like you do with a dog for 2 reasons: 1- she is going to escape when you go through security and 2- everyone on the plane is going to hate you, especially if you have her in a soft sided carrier and she escapes from that mid flight.

I've shipped dogs many times, just make sure you pick a good month weather wise and then sedate the crap out of her so its not as traumatic. The crew have always taken really good care of my dogs, including giving me updates and making sure they are warm/ watered etc.
posted by fshgrl at 11:43 AM on January 30, 2012

Thank you all for the suggestions, and please keep 'em coming. I've reached out for a quote from OATS, a professional Animal Transportation service, just to see what we're looking at there. They may also have some advice.
posted by kalessin at 12:54 PM on January 30, 2012

I am a vet but not your vet etc. Get a referral from your GP vet to a specialist veterinary behaviorist who makes house calls and go from there.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 2:52 AM on February 1, 2012

Thank you all for your responses. I marked almost all the answers as best answer because they seemed plausible given the background I gave or they reminded me to be sure to involve a vet.

It looks like what I will do is call our regular vet, get some ideas from him, possibly a referral to a vet who makes housecalls or curb calls and get her seen. I will also keep working with OATS (who quoted, for the curious, a base rate of about $850, not including door to door transportation or crate).

While on the subject of professional animal transportation and crate-shipping, you have to measure your animal, both while sitting and while lying down so you can comply to USDA regulations regarding human transportation (they have to have their measurements plus a few regulation-specified inches on all sides - enough room to turn around, stretch, etc.). You also have to get a vet's certification that the animal is both healthy and vaccinated and can be shipped within 10 days of the actual transportation date.

So given how Fez is, despite the recent breading, which took 3 people but there was no blood, I am strongly considering paying the fee and getting her professionally transported.

Again, thank you all for playing along and reminding me of my responsibilities.
posted by kalessin at 6:09 PM on February 17, 2012

Penultimate update: I finalized with OATS after extensive consultation with two homeopathic vets, a normal vet, the coordinator with OATS and comparing what they could do for me compared to what I could do on my own.

Given the challenges of transporting a live animal through security these days, I think that was the final straw for me.

Total cost including door to door service (Baltimore, MD to Berkeley, CA - with OATS) is about $1400, and still it seems like for my extremely loud, high maintenance cat, this will be worth it. I also had to spend about $40 on a travel-approved carrier, modified it a little to allow for cable tie tiedowns around the door, and Fez will be travelling via OATS to Berkeley on Monday 4/30/2012.

I'll report back when I have her final status updates upon arrival and settling in.
posted by kalessin at 10:33 AM on April 26, 2012

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