The Cat Gauntlet

You know we love our cats and we would never do anything to harm them. It actually turns out that we would put them into a box, hand them to complete strangers and let them stay in their little prison for over 30 hours. It’s not that we didn’t try to spring them, it’s that we really have no idea what we’re doing.

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This wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been bad.

The problem is airline cost. For us to bring the cats to Spain on the same flights as us was prohibitively expensive. This is because budget airlines don’t offer pet cargo, so the airlines that do are “the nice ones”. It made a difference of a couple of thousand dollars to ship the pets on different flights than us. But this also meant that Allison and I had to fly separately as well, in order for one of us to drop them off at our origin and the other to be at the destination to pick them up. We settled on TAP Portugal for the humans and American Airlines Live Cargo for the cats.

It would happen like this: I would fly on Wed and arrive in Madrid on Thursday. Allison would wake up at 3AM on Thursday and prepare the cats, load them, and load her own stuff. Then she would drop the cats, the rental car and finally get herself to the airport. All before her 7:30AM flight. I was to wait in Madrid until they landed Friday morning with another car (and cat litter) to pick them up, let them poo, and then drive to Valencia where a cozy Airbnb was waiting to have us all. Allison would join in a few days after visiting family on the east coast. That was the plan, and we felt good about it.

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The jars of sangria keep get bigger each night somehow.

The actuality matched the plan pretty well until Allison is at the airport getting ready for her flight and the live cargo people call. They say that our cat carriers are not allowed because they don’t have a solid top. They could try to zip tie the top exit and hope the European carriers don’t reject it. A sleep deprived Allison tells them she’s about to get on the flight and so the cats aren’t getting new carriers. They ask if it’s ok to drill holes in the top of the carrier so that they can do the zip tie thing. Yes, but please try to avoid the flesh of the cats. This is the last we hear from them in our native tongue.

In Madrid, I arrive in the evening and my first challenge is kitty litter. I drive to a mall close to the airport and realize that in Europe, you are somehow supposed to know how to parallel park. And for some reason the people in the cars behind you don’t care that you haven’t tried to parallel park in 5 years or that you haven’t really slept in a while. But it did get done. And dinner was found and I was able to sleep for several hours even with the time change.

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The central market in Valencia is very different than the markets of Mexico City

Friday morning, the cats were to land at 10:15. Pet cargo folks said to be there early to clear customs. So I showed up at 9:30. I was a little bit anxious because the cats had previously only been in their carriers for 6 hours and we were now approaching 20, and I had heard about the drilling. They say, the cats won’t be here until at least 11. Come back then. At 11, they say come back at 12. At 12: they’re here. Now you need to go to customs. Customs says go to Agriculture. Ag says you don’t have the right papers. “But these are the only papers I have.” “Let us think about it.” It’s now 1:30. “OK, send us the right papers when you have them.” 2 o’clock. I realize later that I actually had the correct papers, I was just too tired and stressed to remember.

I clear customs and go back to the cargo folks to finally get the cats. I give the right guy the right paper and he takes it and gets his forklift. Then he stops on his forklift and talks to his friend. I’m just standing there wondering why he needs a forklift for two cats, and why won’t he get on with it already? Eventually he does. The cat carriers come out on a pallet and they are still alive. No new holes in the carrier or cats. They solved the zip tie problem using extra zip ties. The carriers are locked down with military grade effectiveness.

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See? They survived.

I get on the road to Valencia. The cats are mostly quiet, but talking to me occasionally. They have food and water in the carriers so they are ok, but probably need to use the bathroom. But I have nothing to cut the zip ties because I’ve been flying and you can’t take sharp objects. I drive for an hour and a half before I realize that truck stops sell sharp things that can be used for this purpose.

We’re all tired, but arrived at the cozy Airbnb without any accidents or injury. They spent over 30 hours in their carriers, but were extra affectionate when they got out. I shed the car and hope to not drive or park again for a really long time. Allison is now here too, so things are looking up.

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The Cat Gauntlet

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