What's the best way to move cats across country?

In about 6 weeks we’re going to be moving from Iowa to California. We’re figuring out how best to move inanimate things, but we’re somewhat befuddled about the best way to move our two cats.

This is what we’ve come up with so far: We’re going to be driving (with our new Prius!) the entire way, and we’re planning on taking 3-4 days. The cats would be in either 1 or 2 cat carriers in the back of the car. We’re planning on getting harnesses for them so they can get out of the carriers when we stop.

We’ve talked to our vet, and she didn’t like the idea of drugging them. She was ambivalent about giving them food and water during the day.

Both of the cats hate the car, and are terrified of the cat carriers. We just want to make it as easy on them as possible.

So, I turn to my fellow dopers for advice on how best to move two neurotic cats across 2/3rds of the country. Has anyone else made a trip of this magnitude? If so, how did your cats handle it? Did you feed them during the day? If you had to do it again, what would you do differently? My poor, unsuspecting kitties beg for your assistance!

No major advice ( I’ve never had to tackle this particular problem ) except for one thing - I’d want to make it TWO carriers. Better to have them seperate in case one or the other freaks. Cats are prone to weird behavioral quirks like “redirected aggression” and the last thing you need is having to find an emergency vet to sew one or both of them up somewhere in Kansas. Or nearly as bad, have to clean vomit off of two instead of one.

If they are super-bonded and you feel they will be calmer together, go for it. But I’d be cautious.

Edited to add: Oh and the obvious - make sure they are out of direct sunlight.

I moved my then-19 year old cat from Colorado to Florida about 2 years ago.
She was obviously ancient and already failing but eating just fine and I could not bear to put her to sleep. Oh, and we had two mastiffs with us, too.
It took us something like 3-4 days.
She was in her kitty crate in the back seat during the day.
She meowed at first, then just slept.
No drugs.
She had a shoebox litterbox but would not use it during the day during breaks.
She also refused food and water during the day. At night, we put her in the hotel bathroom with food, water, litterbox and her little heated catnest.
She happily used all of them.
The move was successful. We had her for another year and a half, and then it was time for her to go. <sniff>

A friend of mine moved from Iowa to California with her cats a year ago. I can definitely tell you that your plan to take 3-4 days is a bad one. Drive like crazy and do it in 2 days. By the end of the second day, my friend’s cats were not doing as well with the car trip. The ones that were on drugs were not responding as well anymore to the sedatives. The ones that were usually good car travelers and were not drugged were fed up. Fortunately, she arrived at her new home at the end of the second day.

Definitely have separate carriers for them both. My cats sometimes like to travel together, but sometimes need to be separated too, especially on a long trip.

I recommend keeping them caged up. No matter how much they complain, the stuff they can do when they’re free can be unpredictable and dangerous. One of my cats is a howler. I once made the mistake of letting him out of his cage. Big mistake. He clawed me up in a panic while I was driving, then started to climb around the brake and gas pedals. My sister’s cat has a habit of bolting into parking lots if she is free when the car stops. As soon as a door opens, she’s gone like lightning.

The best setup I’ve found is a shoebox litter box, and to give periodic access to food and water. I’ve never drugged a cat, but my friend said it worked well at first, and they slept all day long.

Good luck!

A really powerful Cat-a-pult?

Sorry. couldnt resist.

A friend of mine drove across country with 2 cats. She said that waterboarding would have been a more pleasant way to spend those four days.

I, on the other hand, flew across country with my sweet little fluffbag. Sedated her a half hour before boarding, and she slept through the entire flight in a cat carrier small enough to fit under the seat, as per airline restrictions. It was pretty painless for both of us.

I am planning on moving from Los Angeles to Southern Utah by myself next spring. My plan is to borrow or buy four cages (one for each cat) with a litterbox and water in each one, in a rented van or suv and drive like hell to get there (500 miles away) the same day.

The problem is that none of the cats has traveled in a car and two are so paranoid about being picked up I know I will have a traumatic time just getting them in the cages, not to mention 500 miles of crying and complaining.

I imagine the cats will cry and complain, too.

Have you considered flying with them?

Would Feliway help?

Heh, this was the first thing I thought.

Same here. “A catapult !”

Catch a satamaran through the catacombs to Catalina?

Six weeks is enough time to try getting them adjusted to the cat carriers. And it will be worth the effort when you move.

Set the carriers up somewhere in the house, and put treats inside. You want the cats to explore them, and to find something nice inside. Then they begin to associate the carriers with good things, and a safe place for them to snooze.

It can take a fair amount of effort, and might not work, but it’s worth a try.

What t-bonham said. A friend (and former Doper) moved three aging Siamese (one with a chronic medical condition) from Indiana to Arizona.

She prepared for it just that way – crate time at home and short trips in the car, then longer trips. She said the prep took some time that she would have rather spent doing other things, but it was worth it. She planned the route and made reservations at motels that were cat-friendly. I think she spent 2 nights on the road.

We moved our two cats from Virginia to Oregon when I was ten. My father was a farm kid originally and was driving our moving truck, so that cats rode with him in the truck. One cat seemed to do fine with just a litterbox, food and water, but the other one was kind of miserable and slept in the litterbox about half the way. That cat, though was about 18 years old, decrepit, and sleeping in the litterbox may have been more a comment on that cat than on the move itself.

Was going to suggest the same as t-bonham. Maybe a little dusting of catnip in them.

I recently moved from California to Pennsylvania with my two cats. We decided not to drive, because Luna the Siamese mix meows incessantly in the car, and five days of that would have been a bit much. We had our car shipped on a car carrier, and flew with the cats. It worked out well. We didn’t give them food or water on the plane.

We stayed with my parents (who live about a 2-hour drive from our new home) while we waited for our stuff to get cross country. We discovered something interesting while riding from the airport with them and the cats- the cats are more freaked out by my car than they are by riding in a car in general. Mr. Neville came up with a theory that the smell of my car must remind them of trips to the vet.

If you do fly with cats, make sure the airline you’re flying on lets you have cats in the main cabin (we flew on United), make reservations for the cats when you book your tickets, and confirm and re-confirm that your cat reservation is there. Oh, and you’ll have to take them out of the carriers to go through security. A harness and leash is a good insurance policy against them bolting. A nonstop flight is a good idea- unless your cats are really small or you’re into weightlifting, they’ll be heavy to carry (and the approved airline carriers don’t have wheels).

I agree with t_bonham about the carriers. I started leaving our cat carriers out all the time, because the only place to store them at our apartment was the storage area in the parking garage, which was a pain to get to. It turned out to be a good thing that I did that- the cats didn’t freak when they saw the carriers, as some cats do. Plus, that means you just have to pick them up and get them to the carriers, which there’s some hope of doing before they figure out what’s going on. If you have to get a carrier out, they know what’s happening…

One more thing if you fly with cats- we had to get a health certificate for each of them within a certain number of days (I want to say it was 30) before flying. The cats will have to be up-to-date on their shots (especially rabies) and in reasonably good health.

Thanks for the good advice, everyone.

This morning I took both the cat carriers out of the closet, removed the doors, and sprinkled catnip inside them. So far the cats have shown minimal interest, but that’s mainly because they’re hiding under the bed.

We’re also going to try the feliway. We’ll test it out beforehand and see if it has any effect.

We’re not expecting the move to be fun. At best, it will be something we have to endure. We just want to get through it relatively unscathed.

Oh, and we’re definitely going to be driving instead of flying. First, we need to transport our car out there, and since it’ll be a new car we want to do it ourselves. Second, one of our cats is a big boy (20 lbs on a huge frame) and his carrier wouldn’t fit under an airline seat.

From reading all the challenges upthread, might it be easier to simply sell the current cats here & get two new ones there?

Della, 7 years ago I traveled with a midway provider up and down the Eastern Seaboard and across Canada from Calgary to Toronto. I took my two cats with me. I traveled from spot to spot by car and carried my babies with me in 1 crate. They were brother and sister and were comforted by each other. I kept harnesses on them so that I could let them out when I got out at rest stops. What I found though was that they would just wait to eat and drink until the evenings when I stopped for the night. I would try to give them food and water and even walk them…but, they didn’t go for it.

As far as the crate went…
Before I left to go on the road I had placed a towel in one of their favorite spots so that they would lay around on it. Then I put it in the crate when it got near time for us to go. They liked having that towel in there with them.

They would talk to me some as we traveled and I would talk to them; but, for the most part, they were pretty quiet.

I miss them now. Bear got out in 2001 and I could never find him and like to think he is the most loved kitty in someone else’s home and I had to put Buffy to sleep a year ago this month.

I hope it goes well for you and yours.