Stevie D and I Need to Get Moving!
April 8, 2012 8:55 PM   Subscribe

I need to move my cat with me from Toronto to North Carolina. It's very complicated. What is the LEAST traumatic way to get my kitty to our new home safe and sound? BONUS: Requisite animal pics inside!

I will be moving to Durham, NC from Toronto in August. My awesome little weirdo cat, Stephen Dedalus, is (of course) coming with. I've been poring over various previous AskMeFi threads to try and figure out the best way to accomplish this, but the circumstances of my particular move are....complex.
I will be leaving Toronto at the end of June to head out West for family time/vacation time/not paying rent time. I will be flying. Sometime in mid-August, my (ridiculously generous parents) and I will be driving to Durham on an epic road trip adventure (that may result in one or more of us killing the others....but that's another kettle of fish) which may or may not involve stopping in Saskatchewan for a wedding. I understand this is not the most efficient or cost effective way to move, but for reasons that are too banal to get into here, that is the way we are doing it.
The options for cat travel are thus:
OPTION A: Stephen D stays with his Auntie H (and his best cat and dog pals, Mitch and Poo) while I'm out west and travelling. He then flies solo and we meet him at the Durham airport. While conceptually simple, this concerns me on a number of levels. Not only is it a HUGE burden on his sitters (who will have to go through the stress of getting him to the airport and dealing with airport people, and will also have to get his vet certificate, since it must have been issued within a few days/weeks of the flight), but I have been reading WAAAAYYY too many scary internet people telling me about the horrors of animals in cargo. It sounds incredibly traumatic.
OPTION B: Stevie D comes to BC with me, chills with me at my parents house for a while, and then is a member of our Grand Road Trip company and experiences godknowshowmany days in the car with us. While this option has the wonderful advantage of allowing me to not be separated from my cat and thus be able to monitor how much stress the move is causing him, it unfortunately also increases the stress-levels he (and I) will experience to a pretty catastrophic height. The air travel conundrum won't be avoided (though he will be in the cabin, not in cargo), and I honestly can't see how a cross-continental car trip could be anything but horrifying with a cat who barfs during the 10 minute car ride to Auntie H's house. Not to mention the added stress of my parents' house (where another cat already resides), and the stress of being in a new hotel/motel/relative's house every night during the car trip. This option seems incredibly unfeasible (and possibly cruel) to me....but I'm willing to listen if you think strongly otherwise.
OPTION C: I enlist the services of a pet relocation company like this one. This seems to solve the major issues presented by both option A (they can pick him up from Auntie H's house and save her the trouble of wrangling his ass to the airport) and Option B (he gets to stay in a place where he is comfortable for the summer, and the amount of actual travel time is massively reduced). However, this still doesn't solve the vet issue, and he will still be flying cargo (albeit in a "guaranteed pet friendly" airline....whatever that's worth). Also, being a complete neurotic, I'm veryveryvery skeptical about trusting my guy to companies I know nothing about. I will certainly be looking for reviews of these companies online...but would REALLY appreciate any personal insights or stories that MeFites might have about Pet Relocation companies (including but not limited to the one linked above). And, of course, this option is likely going to cost me an arm and a leg. I'm willing to pay it if this really is the best way.....but let's just say I don't have a lot of disposable income to be tossing around on things that are merely "convenient" for me (I have a nagging suspicion that services like this don't actually reduce the stress of the animal, but merely assuage the conscience of the owner by shifting the grim bits onto a third party. Out of sight, out of mind..) rather than truly BETTER/less traumatic.

What should I do? What options am I not considering? What other cat travel advice do you have for me?
Thanks, kittens.
(see what I did there?)
posted by Dorinda to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Have kitty stay with Auntie for the summer. Move to NC. Fly to Toronto yourself, visit Auntie for a few days, take cat to the vet, fly back to NC with the cat in the cabin.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:11 PM on April 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

Toronto to Durham is what, 13 hours in the car not counting stops? My gut instinct would be to leave him with Auntie H, do what you're going to do with your parents, and then make a special car trip back up/down for him. Maybe you can talk a friend into taking a road trip (or talk someone from Toronto into coming down to visit, all expenses paid)? Cats tend to withdraw when they're scared/upset -- if you get him a roomy carrier and put a towel or blanket over it for privacy, chances are he'll just hunker down in the back seat and recite the Litany of Hatred in his mind for the duration, no big deal.

Two days of driving from BC plus however many nights in hotels is a much, much bigger deal; over that duration I'd be worried that the cat might stop eating, which can be a Very Bad Thing with cats. I'd go with Option A over that any day.
posted by vorfeed at 9:14 PM on April 8, 2012

Roundtrip flights from Raleigh to Toronto in August are less than $500 (plus cost of pet ticket); would it be possible to take a quick weekend trip to Toronto after you've settled in to pick him up from the sitters and take him yourself?

You should also get a relocation company quote. Mine was about $700 for a trans-pacific flight, 2 hour delivery to airport and overnight stay.

Alternately, will your parents leave the car with you and fly home? If so, maybe they can stop in Toronto, put the cat on the plane, and continue on their way.
posted by acidic at 9:15 PM on April 8, 2012

A few folks here have it: kitty goes to Auntie's while you travel. You fly round-trip, RDU to Toronto and back, with kitty in the cabin with you on the way back.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:46 PM on April 8, 2012

Word to the wise: in a similar situation, my family caretaker got angry at me, and refused to do the last minute paperwork necessary for my cat's trip to me. I'm now really gun-shy re: anything involving my family and pets.

So, I would do either option B (which is uncomfortable for everyone and involves more planning, but does mean I have control over my cat's vet visits and travel arrangements) or would plan on flying to Aunt H's house to pick her up, instead of relying on someone else to do so.
posted by spunweb at 11:23 PM on April 8, 2012

For what it is worth: on car trips with our kitty, we leave her in the backseat, outside her carrier, with easy acess to literbox and water. She does fine (on three hour trips). However, she DOES NOT want to STAY in the backseat... not easy to drive with bouncyhyper kitty in your lap.
posted by Jacen at 7:02 AM on April 9, 2012

We've done three days (Texas to New Jersey and back) with cats in the back seat of the car. It's not great, but it is do-able. You will need a second driver to do this well so you can have someone in the car with the cats all the time, while the other person pumps gas, eats, uses the restroom, stretches, etc. I found I was not comfortable leaving the cat alone in the car ever during the trip, even with it being cooler weather and the windows being appropriately cracked to keep temps in the car cool.

However, our cats are not barfers; they just cry and whine in the car. I would definitely be looking at a flight plan for a barfer.

FWIW, my parents flew two cats cargo on a transatlantic flight when we moved home from the UK when I was a teenager and they were no worse for the wear. It wouldn't be my preferred way of moving a cat now, but if it's your least bad option, now you know of two cats who did it and lived to a happy old age afterwards.
posted by immlass at 7:44 AM on April 9, 2012

I think this has been addressed in other cat transport threads, but loose cats in the car are a great way for you and/or them and/or other motorists to die. It is irresponsibly dangerous to drive with a cat crawling on you, potentially hiding in the foot well so that you cannot operate your vehicle.

And if you got rear-ended or had to slam on your brakes, a cat in a carrier is a little better protected than a cat-projectile hitting the back of your seat or your windshield. Stressed cats may fear-eliminate, but otherwise are unlikely to use a litter box, eat, or drink while in motion because their survival mechanisms shut down to the barest essentials. You can take breaks to offer those things a couple of times a day, or at night in a hotel (see those other threads regarding getting cats out from under hotel beds).

It seems saner to fly in the cabin with the cat if possible. You may have to allocate time ahead of the flight to take care of the vet requirements.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:13 AM on April 9, 2012

What is your Durham housing status at the moment? Are you still looking, or do you expect to be spending some time in August looking for housing? Option B is only feasible if you have secured a place that allows cats, and seems undesirable if you were to find yourself scrambling for housing after your arrival due to unforeseen reasons. (I bring this up because when we were looking for housing last year, all of the places said no pets were allowed - this could have been due to the location and/or type of housing we were looking for. Other people may have more information on the pet-friendliness of local landlords.)

Having your cat stay with his Auntie H seems the best bet until the housing situation is firmed up. Then you can decide whether to fly up to fetch the cat or go with Option C.
posted by research monkey at 10:54 AM on April 9, 2012

I can only speak to the option of hiring a pet relocation specialist. I recently contacted several with the goal of moving my dog from one country to another. The services are quite pricey. I don't know what sort of budget you are on, but the suggestion of you flying from RDU, back up to Toronto and back to RDU with your kitty in tow, will be less expensive than hiring a relocation specialist. To move my dog would have cost anywhere from US$ 5000- US$ 7000. One agent I spoke with said that no service between two countries would cost less than US$ 2000 for any species.
In the end, I chose to make most of the travel arrangements myself, and flew on Continental airline with my dog, which is the industry leader in pet transportation safety.
So the trade off there is peace of mind, but a much lighter wallet.
Either way, good luck, and looking forward to the Durham meet-up when you get settled in!
posted by msali at 11:23 AM on April 9, 2012

Oh, and the other 2 times we moved, we actually transported the cat via trucker. We got in contact with the guy using something like uship or craigslist, and he drove the cat from FL (at my sister's house) directly to my place. Each time it was fine -- my sister gave him 100 dollars when he picked up the cat, and Paypaled him 300 when I confirmed receipt of the cat. If you want the details (like the site or whatever) memail me -- I can ask her exactly what service she used and if there's a rating system or whatever so you know you're getting someone reliable.
posted by spunweb at 2:20 AM on April 11, 2012

« Older Gym in West London?   |   Girlfriend has a lot of close guy friends, should... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.