That said, I'm going to present to you the illustrated story of traveling from Florida to Massachusetts with a moving van that is towing a car on a trailer, and a minivan full of six cats, in a straight-shot drive-through of 35 hours (which should have been about 22). For anyone considering this, I don't recommend it.
We begin at our old house, with the Penske truck almost fully loaded, save for the last bed, and a few other things. After months of careful packing, we had put all boxes and things, roughly ninety percent of which were my father's electronics, onto the truck first. The result was that we had lots of boxes, and no room for furniture.
Cue my father's tile-guys crew, who had been helping us load the truck, and him spending HOURS trying to creatively shove things into every single crevice of the truck, my sister's car, which was being towed on a trailer, and what little of the mini van we could use.
The minivan itself was decked out with several pieces from various metal dog crates, carefully tied and arranged together to form one large cat cage, with padding around the joints to cut down the noise, a fluffy soft blanket on the bottom to try to comfort them, and litterbox with a hood and food and water. The result of which was that we looked like we had a cage for a tiger in the back of the mini van. This proved to be more accurate than we would have liked.
As we're loading the last of the bags and trying to decide what furniture we'll have to leave behind, my sister, who had been sick the night before, leaves with her friend an hour before we're meant to pull out, to go and pick up a last minute prescription for some nausea meds.
My sister, being my sister, proceeds to vanish for six hours. During which time my mother freaks out, and my father and his guys - who worked absurdly hard - continue trying to stuff things into the moving van. Finally they reach the point where there can be no longer added, the van is as full as it can be, and we have nothing to do while we wait for my sister.
The seven cats are meanwhile locked into the bathroom, and when my sister says she's on her way home, my mother - desperate to DO SOMETHING - sends me in to give the cats their tranquilizers. The vet had provided these pills to help calm them down. I protested doing this before we had actual visual sister confirmation, but arguing was fruitless, and into the bathroom I went, armed only with a cat pill popper, small tranquilizer pills, and Manuel's (one of my dad's crew) seven year old daughter, who was afraid of cats but insisted on helping. Many, many failed attempts later, I was down to the last cat, the Little Butt, who was Very Much Against the idea of pills, but was not horrifically bad. I ended up with a few war wounds, and covered in cat hair, but emerged triumphant.
Two hours later, the sister finally arrived. I had only given the cats one pill, afraid to give them two until I saw how they reacted. They were mellow, but not overdosed, so we decided to give them another one as we loaded them. (Instructions were for two, but to play it by ear.)
Or they were all mellow, EXCEPT for the Little. I had informed the sister that since I did the pills and she fucked off for six hours, SHE got to do the second pill. While the rest of the cats were lying around in varying states of durrrrr, the Little had seemed to have an opposite reaction to the pills, as we opened the bathroom door, and she came TEARING out like a tiny torpedo.
We try to catch her without further scaring her, but she was having none of it, and when my sister finally grabbed her, she turned into a spitting, hissing, growling instrument of clawed death. There was no possibility of a second pill, and when we finally managed to fling her OFF of my sister's hand, where she had sunk in claws and teeth in a panicked rage, we sat there, bleeding, sweating, and contemplating with growing horror the idea of putting her in a large tiger cage with six other cats and at some point having her possibly GET LOOSE and have to deal with her on the trip.
There was no way. We called Chelsea, and tearfully told her that we'd have to leave the Little with her. She was actually Chelsea, my adopted sister's, cat, but we'd wanted to take her to keep her with the other cats whom she was friends with, to try to keep things the least traumatic as possible all around. But all I could picture was trying to add some water on the road at some truck stop, and her tearing out and us gamely and frantically following her around, trying to get her back into the cage without having our eyes clawed out, and finally seeing her SPLAT under a truck wheel. Having to go without her buddies was better than smushed.
So we arranged for Chelsea to get her, and then loaded the rest of the cats, who were in varying states of shock and dismay. We managed get the moving van door closed, with some effort (and concern that we wouldn't be able to open it again), and mom and dad climbed into the van, and my sister and I into the cat car, and off we went.
(I didn't get pictures of them after they happened, so you can't see them as well, but here are some of our war wounds. Or the ones on our hands and arms at least. There are some others that are boob-adjacent and thigh-adjacent that we're not sharing. You can't see how deep or nasty they were, but suffice it to say my sister's hands looked like she's been in a fight with a weedwhacker right after it happened. She had to drive half the way with bandaids, neosporin, and gloves to cover her hands.)
The tranquilizers worked well, on four out of six cats. The oldest, Gatita, and Pyro were dopey enough to sway, but not enough that they were QUIET. The trip began as it would continue for the next thirty-some hours, with the odd break in between. In meowing. Constant, every-breath meowing.
Pyro proceeded to sit directly behind my seat, pressed up against the front of the cage, doing the equivalent of this, without the giggling. He couldn't understand WHY I wasn't taking him out and putting him back where he wanted to be, and goddamnit it, he was going to keep talking UNTIL I DID.
Gatita, meanwhile, who is ancient in cat terms, talked almost as much, but also paced the entire length of the cage. The other cats were lying around, dazed/sleeping/drugged, and Gatita didn't care. She walked on top of them. She stepped directly on their faces, and when they moved to protest, SHE would hiss at THEM.
The hooded litterbox proved to be a mistake, as it became The Safe Place. Sam moved into the litterbox and refused to come out. And when he DID try to come out, he was dopey enough that he couldn't remember how to come out of the door properly, and would push up on the top instead of the bottom, trying to squeeze his chubby body through the tiny opening there until he gave up. The door was broken off within an hour of leaving.
Dean, when he roused enough to care, decided that he wanted to look out the windows, and climbed onto the litterbox, declaring himself King of the Litterbox, and all other felines must pay him tribute to use the litterbox. (Once Sam was out of it.)
Dean got bored with that after a while, but Pyro had noted that playing King of the Litterbox seemed to garner my attention. (Namely me telling him to GET DOWN and LET PEOPLE IN THE LITTERBOX YOU STUPID CAT.) So he went up there. Dean is a heavy cat, and fairly well balanced. Pyro is much lighter, and also not terribly graceful, for a cat. So whenever we hit a bump in the road, Pyro fell off, usually interrupted mid-meow and then falling directly on the head of one of the other cats. There would then be a flurry of hissing and arguing and then the cycle would repeat again.
I finally got Pyro to settle by contorting my body and twisting, while Shauna drove, so that I could reach back through the cage and scratch his chin, which would not shut him up but DID get him to hold still for a while.
Because of my nighttime schedule, at this point I had been awake for a full 24 hours at this point, and was migraine-adjacent, so we pulled off for gas about four hours into the drive, and I switched into the van while dad drove, so that I could catch some sleep. It is saying something that the noisy, bouncy truck is MORE conducive to sleep than the cat van.
Back on the road and I caught a little nap time and came down from wanting to commit cat homicide.
It's worth noting at this point that while preparing the cat cage, I had noted a small space between the floor and the bars and was worried about them getting out, so I had stuffed a small pillow in that space. It worked, no one got out there. However, I failed to check the roof of the cage, where there was a tiny space through which Pyro had climbed out, and spent several minutes walking around the top of the cage, yowling until mom managed to grab him, cuddle him for a few minutes, and then put him in one of the crates we'd tucked behind the seats in case of emergency.
An hour later, Kaylee had climbed out through the same space, and we had to stop, extract her, fix the cage with some creative tying and tarping, and put Pyro and Kaylee back. The other cats were not thrilled to have him back.
The vast majority of the cat arguments came about because of Gatita walking on their faces, and Pyro pacing and talking and annoying everyone else. Trouble, meanwhile, was almost catatonic with horror, her face pressed into the waterbowl, unmoving to the point where we were afraid she died, but she was just frozen, for hours and hours on end.
We decided to leave Pyro in the crate for a while, and then swap him out for Gatita. Which is FUN in the middle of a truck stop when you're afraid any one of them might try to run the hell out past us. With one of them out of the cage at a time, the arguments, face-walking, and such died down.
The other cats roused eventually, and there was much climbing the sides of the cage, looking around, and swapping in and out of the litterbox, while talking. THe litterbox was The Fort, which naturally meant that when they all eventually DID get out of the car, they would smell LOVELY. There was talking and poking and general Getting Everywhere.
Somewhere in this, we got to the hillier sections of the road, and found out that the truck (dubbed Timmy the TARDIS, because he must be bigger on the inside to fit all that shit), could only go about 40 miles an hour when he was heading up hill. We found this out during my first shift driving him, which was INTERESTING. We also debated whether or not to stop at a hotel, switch off sweeping in the van with the cats. We elected to drive straight through. This was not our wisest decision.
My mother had been running on high-gear for days, packing, worrying about every aspect of the trip, and then worrying over where the hell my sister vanished to for six hours before we left. So she had been getting steadily wound tighter and tighter, and she can't sleep in the car so unlike the rest of us, she couldn't really let down and relax for a while. So as we trudged on, and got into the higher-traffic areas, she worried more and more.
We were following carefully planned out maps and a GPS, but in Maryland we hit a snag when the route we were meant to take had a "No Trucks" sign. So we had to plan around it on the fly, which put us into the higher traffic areas than we planned. This naturally happened while my sister was taking her first turn driving the moving van, which meant near panic for my mother. The cats were unmoved by the drama, and continued with their agenda of never shutting the fuck up, EVER.
We got through, and hit New York, some time later, at night. We had to pull off at an exit for a potty break, and the trucks and cars were directed into two different areas. I was back behind the wheel of the cat-car now, and mom couldn't tell WHERE dad went, and the cars were directed into an underground car garage. And mom, overtired, overstressed, worried about being alone in a New York parking garage with Shauna alone in the moving truck while dad went to the bathroom - had something of a panic attack.
It's worth noting that during this, the cats somehow miraculously shut the hell up for half an hour.
Dad eventually found us, mom went to the bathroom with him, washed her face, and calmed down a little, and we were on the way again. But now we were in the mire of New York traffic - after having JUST made it through the New Jersey turnpike, which *I* hate with the fire of a supernova, and seen a HORRIFIC wreck that we were stuck in traffic to get by for an hour - with a giant moving van and a car trailer.
My mom made it through watching the van through that, largely by saying that dad knew what he was doing, and he was fine. What she didn't know, was that dad wasn't DRIVING, my sister was again. And let me tell you, she did AMAZING through that mess, driving that behemoth. But mom's stress level would have been about five hundred times higher if she'd known Shauna was driving, so they didn't tell us.
We still had one cat (Gatita) swapped into the crate in the middle, and while we stopped in New York, I had tipped my car seat back for a few minutes while I waited, to rest. When I took over driving again, I hadn't put it up again, and somehow, when we switched lanes, Gatita's cage slipped behind the passenger seat, and got wedged there. So as we're driving, Gatita is angrily yelling at us for having DROPPED her while mom yanks and tries to pull her back up, and I'm frantically trying to follow the van through the crazy weaving traffic around New York.
Pyro and Gatita (newly righted and surly about the time she was tipped upside down) continue to talk for the ride, but the rest of the cats have settled into this bleak hopelessness. They've come to the conclusion that this is now their life, and they will spend the rest of it in this cage, moving around, with Gatita walking on their faces. Two of them lie inside the litterbox at a time, expressions so deeply morose I begin to feel like an abusive mother.
A few hours out from MA, we switched off again, with Shauna taking the mini van back, and dad taking the van with me doing the navigating. We're all running on nothing but caffeine and determination to Just Get There at this point.
We finally get to the Penske's, where we swap things out of the driver's seat of the car, take it off the trailer, and Shauna takes the car, mom the van, and we turn into a three-person-caravan for the last twenty minutes of the drive before finally, FINALLY pulling into the driveway.
Ten minutes out from the driveway, Gatita yowled because she'd been swapped into the crate for too long, and we didn't realize WHY, and the poor thing pees all over the crate. We get her in the house, in the bathroom, and then pull the mini van into the garage, get the heat in the house going, and quickly unload the other cats into the other bathroom with the litterbox and water and food, locking them in.
We're all so exhausted we can hardly move, but we pull open the moving van, unload the mattresses onto the floor, wipe down Gatita, and divide the cats up with temporary food and litterboxes into individual bedrooms, with Gatita with mom, the boys (Pyro, Dean and Sam) with me, and Kaylee and Trouble with Shauna.
And then we collapsed and I slept for about eight hours, got up and stumbled into eating and drinking something, then went back to bed for another ten hours or so.
And that was the trip. What did I learn from this?
Mainly Never. Ever. Do. That. Again.
If we move again, or when, since we probably will, it will be within a few hours, and we'll do it in stages and not have the same single-trip endless-drive. And never ever with all the cats EVER AGAIN.
The cats are mostly settled in. Trouble and Kaylee are a little skittish. Pyro continues to mostly be a caterpillar, who lives in the cocoon of my blankets on my bed, and emerges very rarely. Gatita is a cranky old lady who owns the house, goes where she likes, and demands we do as she likes. Sam and Dean are back to their usual selves, with Sam having been the first to sneak out the house into the garage and then freak himself out and fling himself at the door to get back in.
I am breaking my not-crossposting decision to crosspost this, largely so everyone can see the sheer magnitude of my lack of artistic talent.
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