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Driving Mr. Butters: People Take Car Trips With Their Cats

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Sarah Schacht, her husband, Guillaume Rosney, and their cat, Effie, took a winter vacation in the Palm Springs area, but found their flight back to Seattle postponed by airline disruptions in the coronavirus outbreak .

So they chose a hairy alternative for the 1,200-mile trip: driving a rental SUV in mid-January, stopping for a hotel stay. With their cat.

Burly caramel tabby Effie made ‘sad cat sounds’ on the first day of her first long car trip, according to her owners, but she really gave up on leaving the hotel for the second travel day.

“She saw the luggage moving again and she was like, ‘Oh no, I’ve seen this movie before,'” said Ms Schacht, a government technology consultant.

Effie went on a 1,200 mile road trip this month. She listened to harp and NPR music.


Photo:

Sarah Schacht

They chased Effie, trying to herd her into her carrier. They thought they had her, but, no, other than that, she slipped away and tucked herself behind the bed. Frustrated humans were rolling on the carpet of the camper to rip it off.

“It was 45 minutes of chat mayhem,” Ms. Schacht recalled. “We’re just trying to fight this cat.”

Many drivers walk around with dogs, who often stick their muzzles happily out the window. Now many cat owners are attempting long car journeys with stuffed animals for the first time, given airline hassles, wariness of flying during a Covid-19 surge, quarantine kittens in the need or increase in relocations during the pandemic.

Some adventurous felines have taken to traveling, but cats tend to lack the canine affinity for the open road. Cats scream, are generally skeptical of traveling at abnormal speeds, and don’t like being told where they can’t go, such as under seats. It also turns out that they are particular about radio.

After Mrs. Schacht and her husband set off, they played harp music for hours because they had read it to calm the cats. Once Effie relaxed, even seeming to enjoy the scenery, they moved on to NPR, a station they say soothes the feline.

“Effie is a fan of ‘All Things Considered’,” Ms Schacht said.

Some owners of moving cats call in the professionals. Florida-based Blue Collar Pet Transport, which transports pets nationwide, has completed about 30 cat transports in the past two months, about double the usual, said Laura Szewczyk, director Sales.

Blue Collar driver Crystal Lowe said six or seven cats would meow at a time in her van.

“I can’t tell them to shut up,” she said. “They’re not going to.”

Chrissy Dalrymple and her tabby, Baybay, one of six cats she drove with for nine hours in November.


Photo:

Chrissy Dalrymple

Chrissy Dalrymple’s family moved from near Pittsburgh to South Carolina in November. Ms. Dalrymple, a shelter volunteer, has six cats.

She researched stealing two cats at once, but the rates were up from the pandemic bargains she had seen before. She and her daughter Maddie drove six cats for almost nine hours.

“It was simply the worst trip I have ever taken in my entire life,” Ms Dalrymple said.

A brown and white tabby, Phillip, whined for five hours straight while a calico named Moochie wandered in front, growling at the cats in the back, two of which were in cages. Baybay jumped on a headrest during a stoppage and refused to get off.

“It was a crazy car,” Ms Dalrymple said. “By the time we got here, and got the cats out, put them in the house and sat down, we needed a drink.”

Caitlyn Hammack, a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis, took to Twitter for advice before heading home with her orange tabby for winter vacation for the first time. She considered flying, but said driving was safer in the Omicron Surge.

“CAT OWNERS!!!!,” she wrote in a December post. “I will be doing the 7 hour drive to Kansas on Monday with my little boy Larry and I know he will hate the car ride.” Packing up Larry’s stuffed elephant helped.

Hunter Kelley regularly drives three hours to visit family and used to take the dog Toby and leave the cat Ishi at home.

Then the Topeka, Kansas resident’s insurance job drifted away and Ishi grew accustomed to constant companionship, falling into a “if Toby and I were going somewhere without her” funk.

Ishi, now a young car cat, tested and rejected several carriers. Mx. Kelly, who uses the gender-neutral honorific, resorted to wearing a zip-up sweatshirt and let Ishi climb inside, shaking an interstate toll attendant who was startled when a cat came out, de “Alien” style from Mx. Kelley’s jacket.

Roadtrippers are now testing a “cat backpack” purchased from Amazon. (Recent customer comments include, “Purrito really likes his backpack.”)

Larry, an orange tabby, on his 7-hour car trip in December.


Photo:

Caitlyn Hammock

In Camano Island, Washington, Bernice Ye and her fiancé, Richardson Reigart, talked about traveling in an RV one day after their geriatric cat, Mr. Butters, left.

“Then the pandemic happened and we thought, ‘Life is too short to wait for your cat to die,'” Ms Ye said. They did “drive-by training,” or short drives, with Mr. Butters.

“He was just running inside the car and screaming,” Ms Ye said, but gradually he became curious, and the couple and Mr Butters set off in their new motorhome in December for traveling.

Ms. Ye quit her job in corporate technology for stand-up comedy; Mr. Reigart works remotely in marketing and Mr. Butters is an itinerant retiree, not letting catnip grow under his feet.

“He has his best life,” Ms Ye said. “Who knew a 14-year-old cat would adapt so quickly?”

Write to Jennifer Levitz at [email protected]

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