Carolyn White: Living the Good Life
Frank and I were cleaning out the Ford the other day when Jasmine, our calico cat, jumped in and made herself at home. “Look, Honey, she wants to take a joy ride,” I teased.
“Yeah,” he said, tickling her under the chin. “You ready to go for a drive, Jazzy?” If it hadn’t been so hot out, we might have considered it. Ever since their kitten days, our critters have been trained to feel comfortable on the road.
Jasmine and her littermate, Georgia, for example, were so tiny when they started travelling that they merely curled up behind our necks and slept the entire time. Later, when Teddy and Tiger joined the family, we used to haul all four at once in the Pathfinder and they never caused a single problem. Frank even fashioned a crudely-fitting, chicken-wire barrier across the back so that they could be safely kenneled. “Are you crazy?” a friend asked us one morning after peering inside.
“They’re actually kind of fun,” my husband replied amiably. Not too bad coming from someone who used to hate cats before we got married.
Frank inherited 12-year-old twin tabbies named Squirrel and Monroe, both of them highly experienced travelers, after we got married. He was a little doubtful, however, when instead of spending money on a pet sitter I suggested that we take them along on a visit to my family. “Uh … that’s about a 1,600 mile drive,” he pointed out. “Do you think it’s a good idea?”
“They’ll be fine,” I assured him. “We’ll just put the back bench seat down in the pickup and set out a cat box, food and water.” Just to be on the safe side, however, I asked our vet for a prescription of tranquilizers, knowing that Monroe had a tendency to be quite talkative.
Sure enough, about the time we reached St. Louis, Mo., he started yowling in earnest so I doubled the dosage just to spare my poor spouse. It was a bit much. Standing shakily on the center console, ‘Roe lost his balance when we hit a bump in the road and he flipped, landing upside down alongside the driver’s seat. From the passenger side, I leaned over and peered down at him. “Y’ow,” he managed to squeak, looking up at me with dilated eyes.
“Sorry, baby,” I giggled, lifting him out and placing him on my lap next to Squirrel. Shortly after we’d stopped to switch drivers, he veeerrrrryyyy slllooowwwlly started inching his way towards the rear.
“Should I put Monroe in his carrier?” Frank asked a bit nervously. “He’s acting kind of loopy.”
Stealing quick glances in the center mirror, I replied, “It looks like he’s heading for the potty.” The cat’s front paws had made it over the sides of the box by that point, but although I watched warily for several more minutes nothing else moved. Suddenly … “FRANK! GRAB HIM!” I yelled.
“What? What?” A hunting magazine went flying into the air.
“Monroe! He’s missing the toilet!” Luckily, we had plenty of paper towels and hand sanitizer.
My dad’s the one who got me started on this entertaining pastime. He used to take our family’s Siamese, Tony, along with us on short trips to town. Tony’s favorite spot in the Renault was the wide, flat area behind the back seat, where he’d lie down and watch other cars. Sometimes, I’d hold him on my lap so that he could peek outside the open window – very carefully of course. Years later, I tried this with Squirrel and Monroe, also. My niece, Mindy, was astonished when, while steadying Squirrel during an ice cream run, he daintily leaned out into the wind with his whiskers blowing back. “Oh, wow!” She laughed. “I never DREAMED you could teach a cat to ride in the car!” But while I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone, it is possible. It can even come in handy sometimes to have a few cats in your rig.
During a two-hour drive towards home when Georgia and Jasmine were four months old, I got pulled over for doing 8-miles over the limit. Initially, the state trooper was quite stern. “What’s the hurry, ma’am?” he asked.
Gesturing to the kittens that were sound asleep on my knees, I shrugged, “We’re ALL in need of a nap after three days in hunting camp.”
Trying to hide a smile, he let us off with just a warning. I’ll bet he still talks about it down at the station, though.
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