I’m one hour in to a six hour flight from Seattle to Hawaii, and all I can think is “are we there yet?” The usual comfort and satisfaction associated with obtaining a first-class seat are overshadowed by my furry, stress-inducing, travel companion who’s yammering in a carrier by my feet.
I throw a blanket over the carrier and the meowing subsides. Thankful for a few moments of silence, I stare out the window into the blue expanse of sea and sky. “If this is what parenting feels like, I’m never having kids,” I think to myself as I take a sip of wine and surrender to the temporary tranquility.
“Hey, there’s a cat in the cabin!” I hear someone suddenly exclaim from a few rows up.
The silence at my feet should have hinted that the feline fugitive was, in fact, my cat, Bambi. However, it took me a minute to register the likelihood of my cat (who gets stuck on top of cabinets and dressers) suddenly possessing the ability to find her way out of a tightly zipped carrier.
Yet, to my horror, there in the center of the commotion is my little angel, authoritatively strutting the first-class aisle like a supermodel on a catwalk. I run to collect my rogue cat and carry her back to our seat while other passengers look on in varying degrees of amusement, fondness and disgust.
I return the escape artist to her carrier, triple check the zippers, take a (large) sip of wine and check my watch — only four and a half more hours to go.
Though the physical journey was just beginning, the relocation process had already been a colossal and costly exodus – I had spent hundreds of dollars on plane tickets and process fees, filled out mountains of paperwork, and subjected my cat to more vet visits in the last month than she’s had in the last three years. Needless to say, by the time we boarded the plane, I was over it.
Therefore, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when we arrived at the airport and the vet (who had to meet us for a final direct release health check) asked innocently “How was your flight?”
Planning Pet Travel
(a never ending stream of paperwork, processes, and payments)
The preparation for bringing Bambi to Hawaii (AKA operation “Homeward Bambi”) began months prior, thanks to the state’s ridiculously strict pet importation policy and 180-day quarantine period. We spent months dealing with an infinite amount of paperwork and coordinating processes between numerous different parties — from the airline, to our current vet, to our new vet, to the department of agriculture — as well as forking over some sort of fee to each aforementioned party.
I’d be lying if I said the mind-numbing process didn’t have me questioning my dedication to this cat on multiple occasions.
After the paperwork was sent, flights were booked and vet visits completed, I tried not to think/worry about everything until our travel day approached and it was time to start worrying again. Therefore, it wasn’t until ten days before our flight that I realized Bambi’s health certificate had not yet arrived from the department of agriculture.
(The health certificate is what allows your pet to get on the airplane and into the state. All the paperwork, vet visits and payments are done for the sole purpose of obtaining that little piece of paper which declares your pet healthy. So, in short, it’s kind of a big deal.)
Evidently I had misunderstood one step of the process and didn’t send in one of the papers required for the department of Agriculture to move forward with the health certificate. So there I was, frantically pleading with the Department of Agriculture to expedite Bambi’s health certificate and turn a 30-day process into a 5-day one.
Surprisingly, they agreed, and I overnighted the final document along with a prepaid return envelope in which Bambi’s health certificate arrived one day before our flight. (Way too close for comfort).
Day of Travel
“Expect the worst but hope for the best.”
This was my motto going into horse shows, and I found it equally fitting for the current scenario.
My cat, like her owner, can be fairly unpredictable — an angel one minute and diva the next — going from docile to drama queen at a sanity-questioning rate.
Therefore, I had no idea what to expect or how she would react to this whole travel-through-crowded-airport
Going through security is always cumbersome but, while traveling with a cat, it’s straight up chaotic. Once we made it through the metal detector and TSA assured Bambi wasn’t a drug mule or four-legged explosive device, she was permitted to re-enter her carrier, (an act she completed with much more enthusiasm than she had at home, earlier that morning).
The first leg of the flight was fairly uneventful, however it was our five hour layover in Seattle that I was dreading most.
Upon arrival at the Seattle airport, we immediately found a family restroom in which we set up a make-shift litter box (a paper plate with cat litter on it) and let Bambi out of her carrier to drink water and go to the bathroom. Of course, she did neither.
As we made our way through the terminal, Bambi made no attempt to hide her dissatisfaction with the loud, bustling atmosphere. Fortunately, we had access to the Alaska Airlines lounge (another perk of flying first class) which was infinitely quieter and much more comfortable.
As we claimed a secluded corner by the window I noticed a nearby sign saying “Quiet Animals Welcome.” Not wanting to give up my comfy lounge experience (or the free food and drinks therein), I prayed Bambi could cut the yowling and keep it together long enough for me to get some breakfast and relax.
Miraculously, Bambi didn’t make a peep and we were able to spend our entire layover in the lounge (I attribute her silence to the calm and quiet lounge ambiance — one more reason why first class is definitely worth the splurge while traveling with a pet).
Before we left the lounge, we commandeered a conference room to let Bambi out of her carrier and stretch her legs before boarding our flight. Once again we set up a makeshift litter box (sorry, Alaska Air) and once again Bambi ignored it.
Bambi’s shockingly good behavior during our layover gave me high hopes for the flight from Seattle to Hawaii. However those hopes were shattered when she immediately started yowling once onboard the airplane.
Her meowing got more persistent once we reached cruising altitude, so I (again) set up the “litter plate” and stuck it in her carrier. This time she actually used it — unfortunately she only half made it onto the plate. Luckily, I had brought puppy pads and cat cleansing wipes (yes, those exist) and was easily able to clean up.
Beyond her little accident and the aforementioned escape, Bambi did fairly well (much better than expected). She was more vocal on this flight, but every time she’d start meowing I would douse the carrier with pheromone spray and she’d relax (a process we repeated every 40 minutes for the duration of the flight).
All in all, the ordeal wasn’t as bad as I had expected. However, it’s not something I look forward to repeating anytime soon.