I think, therefore I harm
You move out because you have to. It is unpleasant, but at least you know why it happens, and you know things are going to get better. Cats, however, don’t understand this, and there is no way to tell them. Moving is complicated and, beside the aquarium, my cats were my biggest concern.
Dianda at Cats & Co gave good tips. But cats are cats, and given that they all have a different personality, tips are only that, tips. The last time I moved out, things didn’t get as well as I expected, and I wanted to do better this time. I think I wasn’t too bad of a human, this time, but things could never be perfect.
Years ago, there was only Catou. Except for the fact that she sleeps all day, she would be the perfect cat. Though for some people, an inactive cat is a perfect cat. She likes to meet with new people, she doesn’t mind about changes in her environment. Apparently, she likes moving out, exploring a new place, getting a new environment. She had moved out a few times already, and I knew she would be just fine. But I thought all cats were the same.
Three years ago, when I moved to the big city, I had one extra cat, Tigra. I did with her what I always did with Catou, and that was a miserable mistake of mine. Tigra doesn’t like strangers as much as Catou. She will hide for 10-15 minutes, but then generally come and meet with the stranger, after she determined there was no danger. That was fine. Kind of. But then, I didn’t expect the following.
The new place was 90 minutes away. Catou slept the whole ride on top of my furniture, at the back of the minivan. Tigra never left the box I had put her in. She was terrorized. Once we arrived, I left both cat free in the new apartment to explore. Catou explored, Tigra found a hideout beneath the refrigerator, where I located her after hours of searching everywhere, including outside. Even after I found her, I was unable to get her out of there. It’s been days before she went out, presumably out of hungriness. And even then, it took another while before I could approach her. Eventually, things settled out and she adapted to the new place. But I had learned a lesson. Cats aren’t all the same.
This time, there was a third cat to take into consideration, and I feared for her even more than for Tigra. Juliette is the shy and nervous one. She cannot stand a stranger at all, not even if the stranger stays for hours. She hides, and her existence cannot be guessed by a guest. People came to visit the apartment and noticed two cats. Catou first, and Tigra after a while. But nobody ever noticed Juliette, the black cat hiding under the black furniture. Even after they were gone, Juliette was still to be found. So when my friends came to help out with my stuff, Juliette was a problem, even more so than Tigra. Catou would remain there, happy to have new people to pet her, but I had to follow Dianda’s advise and confined Tigra and Juliette into the bathroom.
Once everything was out, a two-day operation, the time came to pack the cats. I insisted to do that alone, with no strangers around. Tigra and Juliette are the best friends you could ever see. They play together, sleep together, eat together. Last time they went to the vet, I insisted that they be put together in the same cage. They are not to be separated. So I planned to put them together in the cage. But there was no cage, the friend I was supposed to borrow it from couldn’t lend it to me. No problem, I’d use a box, my cats always moved out in boxes before anyway. So let’s use two boxes and it will work just fine.
I put Catou in a box, but I fully knew what would happen. Before you can count to ten, she was out of the box. So I went with plan B, and picked her up like that, in my arm, and brought her to the car.
Then, I put both Tigra and Juliette in a box. That one was easier than expected. For me, not for them. They were both terrorized, so much that they didn’t even try to escape the box, something that would have been very easy for them. But I figured they’d do better together. I’m not sure if that did anything actually, but it was the best I could do.
The ride was just a few minutes. Not only they haven’t escaped from the box in the car, when we arrived and I opened the box in the bathroom they haven’t got out of it. They remained there, trying to be as small as they could, each in their own corner of that box. I stayed several minutes in the bathroom to try to reassure them, but it seemed they didn’t want me to pet them. Their eyes looked like I had just beaten them. During this time, Catou was doing just like expected, she was exploring the new bathroom.
An hour or so later, I went back to the bathroom. Catou pushed me hard so she could get out of there, and I didn’t try to hold her in there. She wanted to explore, and I let her do. I didn’t have to hold the two others, they had stuck themselves behind the cabinet, trying to hide from me. I talked to them while doing my thing, but didn’t insisted. I just went out and let them there.
Another hour went by and I though maybe it was time. I opened the bathroom’s door and let it wide open, and went away. They stayed there for a while, and eventually they went out, each at their own pace. Not to explore, though. They found themselves somewhere to hide, deeper, so even I couldn’t find them.
In the evening, I located Juliette beneath a piece of furniture, in the bedroom. I could see her tail. But I didn’t talk to her, I knew she needed time and me trying to reassure her wouldn’t work. I assumed Tigra was with her, but I later found it wasn’t the case.
The night went by, and Catou had found a spot which she liked. This apartment has a patio door, which serves both as a front door and as a living room window. In the morning, she was laying there, in the sun, apparently happy. Juliette was still under the furniture, Tigra was still invisible. As the day went by, I was unpacking boxes and placing stuff at their new location. Eventually, I had to move a mattress, which had been left standing vertically against a wall. I found Tigra behind that mattress. I said hello, but didn’t want to disturb her, I didn’t want her to look for a new hideout. I pulled the mattress to where it belonged, but as I returned she was still there, in the same corner, looking at me like I was about to crunch her. I approached slowly, let her smell my fingers and talked to her. Slowly, she came back to herself and came to me. I didn’t have to pet her, she petted me. She stroked me like she usually does, such as when I come back from work. It seemed like she had missed me. From that moment, she was fine. She began exploring, and when she found her food bowl she ate like she hadn’t ate for days.
Juliette went out of her hideout in the evening. I saw her appear out of the bedroom while I was still busy with boxes in the living room. I pretended not to notice as I knew what she would do. She was exploring, slowly, cautiously, uncertain. Eventually, she went closer to me, but when she noticed I was looking at her, she fled back to the bedroom. Several minutes went by, and she came back. This time, she came right to me, though slowly. I let her smell my fingers, and finally she stroked on me. She was done, and now she would explore confidently. Of course, she would flee if I did a sudden movement, as she always did, but at least she was back to normal.
Could it go better? I suppose, but I don’t think there exist any humanly possible way of doing it better. I really did the best I could possibly think of, made sure they were safe at all time, and that the experience was as smooth as possible. I adjusted to their own individual personality and let them go through the event at their own pace. I’m pretty proud of myself, and of my cats. We are the third day now, and Juliette is sleeping right at my feet, something she wouldn’t do often.