How to move kitties across the country?
March 22, 2012 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Mew. How do we get 2 kitties across the country?

We're moving again. DC - Seattle. We have 2 cats. We also have a 3 year old. I don't have a damn clue how to get the kitties to Seattle. (In July.)

Options that I've thought of:

- Sending them cargo. But I've been told that this is often not allowed in the summer months. And also it is not the best.

- Bringing them carry-on. I cannot imagine dealing with 2 cats and a 3 year old, even with 2 adults, on such long flights. Also I understand that you have to take the cats out of their carriers to go through security. The cats would rip my face off, I think.

- One of us drives across the country with the cats and car versus having our car shipped while the other one flies with kid. (Is this worth it financially? Shipping a car is about $1000.)

- Someone suggested to me that we could pay a college student or something to drive them (and maybe our car?) across the country. (Is this a good idea? Safe? How much does it cost?)

- Maybe instead of driving our car, one of us drives a U-HAUL with cats and some of our immediately needed stuff? (How much is it to have a U-HAUL for a week or so?)

- We did PetAirways last time but apparently they're going under.

Are there other options?

(For my own sanity, we're not doing a U-HAUL or anything - using a professional moving company.)
posted by k8t to Pets & Animals (36 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to your veterinarian? Maybe you could bring them carry-on, know...drugged (to get through security and stuff). Like in the poem.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:16 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have done the drive with the two cats- if I had it to do again, I'd take them as carry-on on my flight. My mother flew with the cat, and her vet gave her a sedative for the cat, and that made all the difference.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 10:18 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you checked out Animailers?
posted by hmo at 10:19 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just hit U-Haul's site and the 10-day rate for a 10' truck at 3200 miles is about $1500. This wouldn't include gas or time, since I bet you wouldn't get too far above 60 mph. I schlepped a bunch of stuff from Tampa to Atlanta a few years ago and it felt like it took forever. I think I'd go bonkers on a cross-country trip in one. The creature comforts are virtually nil.
posted by jquinby at 10:19 AM on March 22, 2012

Wow, I'm really sorry to hear that Pet Airways is going under! I honestly think that your best bet is just sort of girding your loins and bringing them carry-on. It does sound like a lot, especially with a toddler as well, but maybe you could find a college student helper who would do the trip for the airfare + a little stipend. A third set of hands could make all the difference.
posted by kate blank at 10:20 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, another option would be 1 adult flies with kid and 1 adult + a friend do carryon with kitties - maybe even on different flights.
posted by k8t at 10:22 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

We went with driving from DC to the west coast as the cost to ship the car which was around what you quoted and the flights would have been more. The stress of involving the airlines - was a contributing factor what with the levels of security in DC.

What's your time frame for this move? One option might be to have 1 person drive the car and cats over. Or have a friend fly to help with the kitties.
posted by oneear at 10:23 AM on March 22, 2012

I've driven one cat across the country. My ex an I set up a soft-sided dog crate in the back of his car and put the cat, a box he liked to sit in, and his litter in that crate. He would use the litter when necessary, and we'd give him food and water at stops. At hotels, we would load him into a little carrier to get him in and out of the hotel, and bring in the litter and food. It was a hassle, but good for him, because he wasn't cooped up in a little carrier and comfortable enough to eat and poop. He hated the carrier, so he was eager to get into the crate each day.

I don't know how it would work out with 2 kitties... maybe a bigger dog crate?
posted by MsMartian at 10:24 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Mr. K8t did drive cross-country with 1 cat and 1 dog a few years ago (pre-kid) and it was okay, but fairly expensive with motel rests.
posted by k8t at 10:30 AM on March 22, 2012

I drove from Texas to DC recently with two cats. I did the big dog crate thing too, and it worked . . . ok. One of my cats was totally chill, but the other wanted OUT by the second day. They also did not enjoy having to figure out a new hotel room every night. I was pretty frazzled by the time I arrived, truthfully.

If I had it to do over, I would definitely fly, and carry the cats on the plane with me. I think you might require a helper though, because I think that you're only allowed one cat per person. I couldn't find any airlines that offered anything else when I was looking.
posted by backwards compatible at 10:31 AM on March 22, 2012

(Its a bit more than 2500 miles from DC to Seattle. If you average 25 mpg, that is 100 gallons, which @ $5/gal would be $500. You would have to spend $500 more on motels, food, etc. to spend as much as you quoted to ship the car. Obviously, your numbers may vary...)
posted by iurodivii at 10:34 AM on March 22, 2012

Response by poster: So if you do fly with cats carry-on, how do you go through security without them clawing off your face?
posted by k8t at 10:34 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could butter the cat, or just get your vet to give you light tranquilizers for security.
posted by jeather at 10:45 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have no idea how financially feasible this actually is, but i've always assumed that if i needed to drive my 3 cats cross country I'd rent an RV and take them in that.
posted by cgg at 11:00 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have to take the cars out for security. This was not that big of a deal for us, but our cats don't scratch, bite, or bolt. The cat has to be under a certain weight, and the carrier has to be an approved airline carrier. Be sure to book the flight on the phone to verify that the carrier allows animals in general and on that flight in particular. Not all do.

Our biggest problem was the crying. One cat was relatively silent and calm. The other cried for the entire transatlantic flight. Nearly eight straight hours. Drove us bonkers, and the seat mates weren't so happy. The flight attendants didn't mind, but we were on a euro airline and they are more indulgent.

And the general rule is to not sedate cats at all. Their circulatory and respitory systems are pretty sensitive, and altitude changes can mess with them. Adding sedation on top is dangerous for some cats, and you don't know if yours is one. Some airlines won't accept sedated cats.

Good luck!
posted by ohio at 11:10 AM on March 22, 2012

Cats, not cars. Don't try to put the car under the seat in front of you!

And feel free to send me a message if you have more questions!
posted by ohio at 11:12 AM on March 22, 2012

Another vote for flying the cats out with you as carry-ons, and enlisting the assistance of a kind family member or babysitter to fly with you. I did it with three cats + 2 friends. Made sure not to feed cats for 8 hours prior. Had Feliway and catnip on hand. Gave each cat 1/8 or 1/4 tablet of acepromazine (sedative) beforehand, and they were fine. (They are seniors, and one has a heart murmur.) For going through security, it might help to have yours in harnesses. We didn't; the cats were so scared that they clung to us as we carried them through (though the drug may have helped). They didn't cry, and in any case the jet engine noise would have covered it. No one likes to do this, but I think that in the end it's less unhappy time for the pets and child than driving for days. Also: we (the adults) all took a small amount of benzos too, and those were a life-safer!
posted by Lettuce_Leaves at 11:18 AM on March 22, 2012

Just wanted to add that yes, sedative use is generally frowned upon for the above-mentioned reasons, so I don't necessarily recommend it; we knew we were taking a risk and we were very lucky. Also: we trimmed their claws the day before. Buttering may help too.
posted by Lettuce_Leaves at 11:28 AM on March 22, 2012

I flew across the country alone with my two cats. I was also very worried about carrying them through security. However, I expressed my concerns to a TSA agent who was very helpful. They let me take the two cats into a separate screening room. I took the cats out of their carriers, one at a time, and held each one in the screening room while the agent ran the carrier through the x-ray machine. If you don't want to count on a helpful TSA agent letting you do what I did, then I'd buy harnesses with leashes for each cat to give you a better hold on them while you carry them through security.

My cats were fine during the actual flight - they did cry a little, but the noise in the airplane muffled the sound. I did not sedate them.
posted by shannonigans at 11:43 AM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

"how do you go through security without them clawing off your face?"

You try to fly when it's not crazy busy, and when you get up to security, you get security's attention and tell them you have a cat who has to come out of the carrier and you want the carrier to go through the Xray machine as fast as possible. If there's a special line for families with small children & people with disabilities, you probably want that line.

I went through by myself first to be sure I didn't set off the metal detector, then came back through and took my cat out of his carrier, which they sent through the Xray quickly while my cat and I wanted through the doorway thingie again. My very calm (but very strong) cat DID freak and DID make like he was going to bolt, so HOLD TIGHT.

Anyway, the key point is you want to be sure you have security's full attention and cooperation to make the screening go as quickly and painlessly as possible, which probably means you are going to hold up the line briefly.

My cat was sort-of panicked by the airport (so many people coming and going!), but was actually really calm on the plane, once he was under the seat -- it was darkish and calm down there, and once the plane was making noise he thought it was purring at him and he just purred back.

You may want to consider one adult taking the child and cats right away to your destination and the other adult waiting for the baggage and so forth. When we got back OFF the flight, my cat got pretty wound up again, and at that point your cat has been confined for a fairly long period and has a lot of crazies s/he's going to need to run off.

On the advice of our vet, we didn't sedate, but our cat is pretty mellow.

I also drove cross-country with two cats. One cried the entire first day, which was excruciating, but they were both fine in the motels. It was only a two-day driving trip so it wasn't awful. I'm not sure for a five-day trip if I'd rather fly the very long flight or drive. But either one is pretty doable.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:45 AM on March 22, 2012

What shannonigans said. I'm doing this by myself with two cats when I fly cross country soon. You can specifically request a screening room and what should happen is just as shannonignas stated.

If you want to be extra sure, contact the airport and ask if they have a private screening room and whether it will be available for your gate area.
posted by vivzan at 11:46 AM on March 22, 2012

I've driven from Santa Barbara to Atlanta, in the summer, in a U Haul (with a cat and a dog, but that's not really my point). If I were set on driving, I'd drive my own car, for sure--much easier to drive, especially in the mountains, more reliable (no fun to break down at midnight in the Mojave Desert), easier to park and turn around (ours had a trailer, so that was no fun).

Do trains allow cats? My wife took the train from DC to Oregon, and loved it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:25 PM on March 22, 2012

I drove three cats from DC to Kansas and back. Both times in the August heat. Nunca mas. I only did it because the sheer number of cats made the cost of flying everybody way too high for me to afford. Oh, did I mention that I had a chinchilla with me too?

If I had it to do over again, I think checking on Amtrak seems pretty appealing. If they'll do it, that might be good for you. You won't have to sedate the cats, worry about altitude, take another person as a co-cat wrangler, or go through as much crazy security.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 12:41 PM on March 22, 2012

If this was me, I'd totally find a friend or helper who wants a trip to Seattle. If it's a college kid, you could pay them to stay for a week or two, to help get you unpacked and settled. Bonus: if they only check one suitcase, you could pay for a second piece of luggage, and arrive with a bit more to soften the blow.
posted by barnone at 12:48 PM on March 22, 2012

Don't drive if it's not absolutely necessary. Road trips are fun when you've got time and energy to explore, and can travel at a decent pace. One person driving across the country, with two animals in the summer heat, will just be super annoying at best. Just doesn't seem worth it, especially when it's really not that much of a pain to bring cats on the airplane.

Ask about lightly sedating them, and TRY IT BEFORE LEAVING. It doesn't work the same on every animal. Get some harnesses for them, so when you lift them out of the carrier, you can hold onto the leash and harness tightly.

If possible, pick a time outside of the airport rush hours. Again, pay extra if a direct flight is possible. It minimizes all of the various annoyances of lost baggage, extra delays or cancellations, and extra time in the carrier for the kitties.

FYI from experience: Make sure you check the animal policy on your airline. Some have started to refuse or limit pets in cabins. You probably have to 'book' the cats on your particular flight - make sure you confirm this before booking your own tickets!
posted by barnone at 12:55 PM on March 22, 2012

Have you checked with your vet? Just in case thing might have more insight about getting through the airports in the DC area?
posted by oneear at 12:59 PM on March 22, 2012

We moved from Salt Lake City back to NJ in 1973. I was 8 months pregnant and had a three year old, and flew with two sedated cats in a wicker basket as carry on luggage. MY husband drove the van with all our stuff. Everyone made it ok, even with changing planes in Chicago!
Of course this was way before all the regulations airlines have now. My friend regularly travels with her little dog in a carry on pet carrier, but has to pay extra for him.

Talk to the airline, talk to your vet about sedation that is safe. Good luck with your move. It can be done but it is hard. I would not recommend driving with the kitties in July.
posted by mermayd at 2:04 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband and I drove our two cats from California to Massachusetts in August of 2009. It was really not bad at all, and we did the same drive--but round trip!--again last summer. I would rather drive than fly with cats, but my cats are pretty easygoing and we like driving.

We had them in an open carrier in the back seat, and they slept almost the whole time. We kept the litter box in the trunk, and they let us know when they needed a potty stop. I take day-long drives with the cats sometimes now, and have switched to leaving the box on the floor in the back.

It took us 5 days and 4 nights, of about 10-12 hours of driving every day. My husband did all of the driving except for the last day. I think it would be hard for one person to do without falling asleep or going crazy. Maybe a friend could drive with one of you and fly back?

Gas was about $350 (I think gas prices were about the same as they are now--~$3.70 a gallon) and hotels were another $350. It was really easy to find motels and hotels that allow pets.
posted by apricot at 3:11 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would never fly with my cat except as a very very last far last beyond last resort. I drove from IL to MD with her this winter (unmedicated, my vet didn't want to give me Valium for her, and Benadryl makes her anxious) and she calmed down after a few hours of driving. I mean, she still yowled when I would talk to her, and I couldn't get her to drink or use the litterbox while in the car at rest stops, though she would eat whatever food I gave her. The trip back was better, as I had my boyfriend with me and we stopped overnight so she had a little break. (8 hours vs. 15 hours in the car)

I think the main reason I would never fly with her is that airlines do NOT want your pet sedated, and she cries constantly when she's in her cat carrier. And I didn't even realize you'd have to take the animal out of the carrier to get through security! Ugh, she would slice me and dice me for sure (and then she'd probably be confiscated as a type of weapon with sharp points, but I digress). Benadryl is an option, my cat is under 10 lbs so the dose for her is 1 children's Benadryl (diphenhydramine), or 12.5 mg/half of a regular strength pill. Ask your vet, and if you do try any sort of pharmacotherapy, try it beforehand to make sure it relaxes rather than agitates.
posted by eldiem at 6:04 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recently brought my cat as a carryon from DC to Seattle. He was a little freaked out that I took him out of his carrier at security, but he mainly just dug his claws into my shirt (don't be like me and wear a nice dress shirt if you go this route) and held on until we were through to the other side. I took a nonstop on Alaska Airlines and he handled it pretty well, even without medication or anything like that. Some quiet mews that no one else heard, but he mostly just lay quietly in his carrier.

It sounds like a better option for you would be to arrive at the airport very early and perhaps ask for a private screening area or wait for a lull in the security line.

Definitely check the airline's pet policies in advance. Fees, health certificates, etc., all seem to vary depending on the carrier.
posted by roomwithaview at 7:56 PM on March 22, 2012

Surely there are other pet moving companies? It might be more expensive than taking them on the plane with you, but is surely worth the reduction in stress.
posted by kjs4 at 9:17 PM on March 22, 2012

We drove cross-country with one cat and a four-month-old a year and a half ago, and are planning to do the same going back this summer, with the cat and the now two-year-old. I expect that the back seat will be complainy but it still seems more pleasant to me than wrangling the cat and the toddler through the airport and plane experience. We did it over several days of not that much driving per day and stayed in motels that allow cats, and had a pretty good time.
posted by redfoxtail at 11:39 PM on March 22, 2012

I think a lot of people on do pets. I know there are a lot of pet movers out there, people who do it semi-professionally. It's often just someone in a car.
posted by bongo_x at 11:48 PM on March 22, 2012

I did the TX-DC drive with two cats. As a point of reference, my cats absolutely hate to travel. The cat carrier is a Kafka-esque device designed to kill them, if their behavior is any indication.

I tried sedating them - half a benadryl works for a medium sized cat (according to my vet) but I couldn't get them to take the damned pill. God knows, I tried. I suck as a cat owner.

I put em' in the car in their carriers and they cried and yelled. After the first three hours, I made a safety-questionable-but-ultimately sanity-saving decision.

See, I'd put harnesses on them (made it easier to get them in the carriers) so I let them out of the carriers and tied the leashes to the roll bar (it's a Jeep) to give them just enough space to wander in the back without getting up in my lap or being a distraction.

And they settled down. Basically, they hunkered in pitiful misery and occasionally voiced their displeasure when I would stop for gas. But it worked. I stayed in 2 different pet-friendly hotels, and I carried a jug of litter, a folding food/water bowl combo, and those styrofoam litterboxes. Each cat was offloaded from car to hotel room one at a time.

They did fine. It was stressful, but it could have been a lot worse.
posted by Thistledown at 5:14 AM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I did some searching and Animalers is too expensive. Amtrak won't work. Hmm..
posted by k8t at 6:42 AM on March 23, 2012

Please call a travel agent and tell them what your budget is. Since you're starting now, every option is open.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:07 AM on March 23, 2012

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