I think that, somewhere internally, I knew that the process involved in moving cross-country would inevitably involve some trial and error and result in me learning many things about myself and others that I did not know.
I did not, however, plan to stay up for hours with a cat who was completely tripping out, unsuccessfully trying to shush him, while a house full of people tried to sleep.
Tau, my orange kitten who is exactly the opposite of Lion (what his name means), gets extremely anxious in the car. When he’s in the car, his meow begins to sound like a Beagle’s howl… a non-stopping, shrill Beagle howl. If in his crate, he thrashes around and continually smashes his head up against the sides. If out of his crate (and I only tried this once…), he proceeds to crawl to the top of my head, lodge his nails into my skull, and his Beagle howl turns into more of a fire siren, so that the whole world understands the awful situation he is in.
Knowing this, and knowing that I have to drive from Orlando to Austin, I called the vet a few weeks back. I explained the situation and my desire for Tau and myself to both safely arrive to Austin, all fur and heads in tact. The vet said she’d prescribe a sedative for him, and that we’d be all good. Fantastic.
When I stopped by to pick up his sedative, the receptionist mentioned I may want to test out the sedative on Tau a few days before the move. “Just to make sure he reacts okay,” she said. “Some people find out their cat needs this plus anti-anxiety medications to really calm down. You’d rather not find that out on our drive to Austin.” God bless the receptionist…
Last night I decided would be a perfect time to try out the sedative. I was doing a final pack of things in the apartment, and as my bed was already in the moving truck, the cats and I were going to stay at a friend’s house. Car ride, new house, new smells – a perfect time to try out this sedative.
So around 9:30 at night, I gave Tau his pill. He took it well, then had some water and a piece of cheese as a treat. About 30 minutes later, it had kicked in slightly, and his coordination began to be impaired as he chased around his catnip mouse. It was mostly hilarious- he seemed to be enjoying himself, and it was rather funny to watch.
At about 10:30, Tau was in his crate, ready to go into the car, and wasn’t fussing. “This is great!” I thought. “He’s usually squalling by now – this is perfect!” I thought.
The car ride, too, was uneventful. He hissed once, but I had also flashed a bright light in his eyes accidentally while trying to check on him, so I didn’t worry about it. The Beagle-like howl was nowhere to be heard.
I got to my friend’s house, unloaded the car, and took in the cats. This is where Tau went from calm, slightly inebriated kitty, to completely freaked out, tripped out, hissing, spitting, crazed kitty. He hissed at everything. Me, Yuki, my friend Jon, the door, the bed, the sheet on the bed, his crate, the bowl of food, his feather toy, Jon’s computer, Jon’s closet, Jon’s shoes… In between all this hissing was a constant, low growl that occasionally would get high pitched and loud. We decided Tau and Yuki needed space to explore the room and get comfortable, so Jon and I left the room.
Upon returning we found Tau in an even more elevated state. He wanted to run around, but his coordination was completely off, and every time he fell over, it freaked him out and he would hiss. He had hissed and growled at Yuki so much that she was now hiding under a cabinet and was hissing at anything that moved. I picked him up and he hissed and spit and growled until I put him down, which did nothing to improve his mood.
Eventually we decided that maybe if we turned off the lights and went to bed, that he would calm down and lay down, too. After about 2 hours of constant meowing/hissing/growling, I finally gave up on sleep and sat on the floor with Tau. I held him, I pet him, I tried to get him to play with the feather. I fed him treats, I gave him water, I put him under the blanket (which he normally likes). Nothing even remotely worked.
To make the situation even more problematic, the house I was staying in inhabits 4 other people – all of whom had also gone to bed. So I spent the entire night sitting on the floor with my cat, trying to prevent him from waking up the house, and trying to console him enough to calm down on his own. At 7:30 this morning, I gave up any hope of sleeping, and brought him back to the apartment with me so I could conclude packing. He hissed and spat and meowed all the way until about 10am. Even after the meds wore off, he was in an ornery mood, hissing anytime something moved. Finally, at noon, he calmed down, laid on the carpet, and fell asleep.
So I laid on the floor next to him and slept until I heard him meowing again.
The vet is prescribing something different for Tau, which I will get and test on him tomorrow. I can only hope that tonight I’ll get sleep, and that tomorrow the new meds will actually work as expected.