July 17, 2005

Can Cat's get Jetlag?

We waited to take Tika the Cat to Houston until after we were settled into our place. While waiting for her yet-unrevealed trip to Texas my cousin Ben kept her at his studio apartment in Oakland. They fell in love. It wasn't the first time they met. Ben had catsat Tika at our various apartments in Oakland several times over the years.

While in the Bay Area this week for my first consulting visit I made sure to visit Tika as much as possible. The first night I actually slept at Ben's bachelor pad, which is like a dorm room. You can’t take a step without crunching something on the floor. There aren’t any surfaces, just places with things. 1940’s style built in cabinets and shelves are so thick with decades of paint they don’t close. Somehow he manages to fit a bed and a futon into the small space.

I was worried about Tika, even if she was only spending 10 days there. Let’s just say she isn’t in good shape. Well, she’s a big round shape but that isn't good. Last visit the Vet called her Budah Belly. Her 14-year-old legs don’t get her up on beds that well any more and she is a slave to food. When I went to visit her, she was totally happy at Ben's.

Then I began to wonder, should Tika stay with Ben forever? Would she freak out on the trip to Houston? Could she handle our various staircases with loft-style steps? What about when both Stephen and I travel? Would she be sad and lonely? And of course, she and Ben are in love.

That first night Tika acted like I was a familiar visitor but not the person who basically supported her eating and pooping habit for the past 14 years. Eventually she warmed up to me and slept at the foot of my bed.

At the end of the week I spent Friday night at Ben’s again. Tika seemed even happier and all night she went from my bed to Ben’s futon. But in the morning the fun ended. I packed up her stuff and she knew all was not good. She tried to hide behind various piles of stuff. Together Ben and I enticed her with cat treats into the plush new sherpa carrying case and then I took her to the vet to get her health papers for flying. The day’s biggest surprise was that in the last year she has lost nearly a pound. Now she’s down to 12.5 lbs.

Ben took us to the airport and as soon as we entered the chaotic terminal Tika began to meow that horrible sad meow of desperation. Instantly I became aware of her vulnerable position in the soft carrying case and watched as everyone carelessly bumped into us or nearly squished her while I checked my luggage.
Security was interesting. I had to take Tika out of the carrying case and carry her through the metal detector. She clawed at me and looked around desperately.

When purchasing my ticket and Tika’s online I had picked my favorite seat, an isle. All along the check-in process I made sure to let the Continental staff know that I was traveling with a cat, had a ticket for her, and all her health papers were in hand. Only when I finally got on the plane, in pre-boarding with the elderly and the young, did it become clear that her sherpa case would not fit under an isle seat. Yes, I had purchased a case less than the dimensions recommended but still allowing enough room for her to move around. It didn’t fit. The flight attendants, in all their graciousness, began to yell, “Ma’am, that has to fit under the seat, Ma’am, that’s not going to fit under the seat, Ma’am, it doesn’t go that way.” Thanks for pointing out the obvious, how about some helpful solutions?

The masses began to board and one flight attendant said that I should see if the person near the window would switch. When they arrived all they said was, “But Bubba wants to sit near the window.” OK, fine. I had to remind myself that Bubba probably saved up years of spare change to take this flight to Houston while I was flying several times a month. Don’t get mad at Bubba, get mad at Continental for not booking me into a window seat from the start.

Now Tika was getting jostled and she starts meowing and I think I’m crushing her to death. But we have to work fast if we are going to get a seat we can use. The flight attendant tells me to take a different window and when the person arrives just let them know they have to move. Once again, the real seat holder doesn’t want to move. I dig in my heals and don’t budge. It works out.

We take off and Tika is smooshed under the seat in front of me. Once we’re finally airborne I pulled the case out from under the seat, unziped the top and reach in to make sure she’s still alive. I can’t tell but her body isn’t hard and cold so that must be a good sign. Thank goodness the vet had given her some anti-anxiety medication. Maybe I could use some of the extra dose myself.

Finally in Houston we wait to be last off the plane – is this how people with children travel? We catch up with Stephen, jump in the car and get ourselves home. The entire ride home Tika didn’t make a peep. Once inside we took her up to our room, opened the sherpa case and let her out. First thing she does – hide under the bed like a kitten.

Eventually she came out to explore the house. The steps didn’t seem to be an issue as she adventured down, to our surprise, to join us watching Will & Grace. All seemed OK as went to bed and she continued to adventure. Sometime around 3am I heard that tell-tale sound of cat puking. Sure enough when we got up in the morning there was puke lovingly belched all over Stephen’s closet. He checked mine hoping that she had left me a gift too. No such luck.

Today she spent the entire day, until this very minute, hiding under the bed. As I’m writing this Tika has made her first appearance, rubbing against my leg as I type her adventures. Is there such thing as a cat with Jetlag?