Thursday, January 13, 2005

Noah's Ark It Ain't

It might not be Noah's Ark, but my Aztek will soon be carrying a full load of finned, furred, and feathered critters. At the end of the month, we'll be transporting our menagerie of pets from the snowy Midwest to the sunny South.

We'll be on the road for about 24 hours straight; neither my husband nor I wants to to drag out the Journey from Hell any longer than we have to. One of us will sleep while the other drives, and when the person behind the wheel is ready to drop into a coma, we'll switch off. Of course, if the three cats decide to wail non-stop, as cats are often prone to doing in cars, neither of us might get any rest.

Besides the three kitties, we also have a bird and two fish. I figure that Gil the betta and Finny the goldfish can be transported relatively safely in water-filled baggies. Bradley, the bird, should be fine in his cage, albeit a bit ruffled (no pun intended). The cats are going to be the big challenge; we still haven't figured out whether we should tranquilize them or not. They are wussy, spoiled house cats that aren't used to venturing out into the real world.

Well, actually, I should take that back. Stitch, our big black-and-white blob, came to us from a shelter after being abandoned by his previous owners in a field in the middle of winter. He enjoys going out into our condo hallway, but he draws the line at actually venturing outdoors. It's been a couple of years, but the memory of that field is a bit too vivid.

Farquaad is our "kitten" (he's actually a grown cat now; we named his because of his tiny size when we got him, and the name still fits because he is totally self-asorbed). The last time he was outside was over a year ago, when my truck-driver brother found him hiding under a dumpster. He was marked for death by the sadistic men in the truck yard till my brother came to the rescue. He was lured out with a can of Fancy Feast and whisked off to a life of luxury. Like Stitch, he has no desire to ever venture out from his "deluxe apartment in the sky" again.

Tooncinator is going to be the big challenge. He is our big, nasty feral cat, named after the driving feline of Saturday Night Live fame. Problem is, he was born to a feral mother that had been rescued. She never adapted to the world of humans, and when she had her kittens, she taught them that people are EVIL. Thus he spends most of his time hiding under the bed or lurking around the house, waiting to sink his fangs into the hand of anyone foolish enough to pet him. When we got Stitch, he didn't come out from under the bed for two whole days. I can't even imagine what sort of mental breakdown a daylong car ride will induce. The irony is, he looks like a big, sweet, fluffy Garfield that you just want to hug and pet; but do it and you'll end up with bloody stumps where your hands used to be.

So that will be the menagerie that we haul down to Celebration very soon. This weekend we are going to look at cages, as I don't want to jam them into tiny carriers for such a long time. I'd like them to be safely confined so they can't jump out during rest stops, yet still have some room to move and stretch.

Once they get to Duloc Manor, I know it will never be the same. It's so nice and pristine now, but in less than a month they'll be tracking litter all over, shedding in a coordinated manner (light hair on dark surfaces and visa versa), knocking over and ingesting the plants, sitting on top of the kitchen cabinets, and using the sofa as a scratching post. Sigh! Oh well, their affection more than makes up for the mess (or at least with two of them...Tooncinator is mostly a charity case).

I'm sure they'll love Florida once they get used to it. I don't let them out to wander on their own, but if they have any interest, I will take them outside on leashes. If he feels industrious, my husband might even build them a "kitty playpen" like he did for our former cats (sadly, they are both gone now, having lived to the ripe old age of 16). He built it from two-by-fours and flexible plastic snow fence-like material. It was a sort of bottomless cage that allowed them to roll in the grass and enjoy the great outdoors while still being safely contained.

And of course I pity any poor frog or lizard that might make its way into our house. They are wicked little predators that show no mercy for flies or spiders. I'm sure reptiles and amphibians will receive the same treatment unless I can intervene in time.

Tune in the first week in February for a full report on the Cross-Country Cat Trek.

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