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  • Feline in Flight

    Earlier today, I posted to Facebook that I spent most of my morning rushing to get a cat to the airport, ending with, “It’s a long story.” Since the post generated the expected “WTH?!?” response, I thought I’d explain.

    Jill’s cousins, Brian and Elise Hodges, left their cat with us last month as they embarked on a long journey that eventually landed them in Chicago. The plan was to send the cat back to them when they made it to the Windy City.

    The best plans, as they say. The problem was that the cat, who has been cared for like a child since Brian and Elise acquired her, had to go to the vet before she could get on an airplane. So Brian, who is very attached to the cat, arranged for someone to come pick her up and drive her to Chicago rather than inconvenience us.

    That, unfortunately, was the day after a series of horrible storms, and the driver contacted Brian to say he had two trees in his driveway and would be unable to drive Tatau to Chicago. They agreed to reschedule for Wednesday, but the driver never showed up.

    Which brings us to Plan B.

    We took the cat to the vet, got the certificates and the shots and everything else, and Brian scheduled the flight for this morning. Except there was one more problem: The carrier we had did not meet the FAA requirements.

    So, with the cat scheduled to be at National Airport at 11:45, I found myself sitting outside a pet store to get the right carrier. And, guess what? The store owner informed me that he didn’t have the required bowl and water bottle in stock.

    At 10:35, I made a mad dash through weekend “getaway” traffic — ha! — to another pet superstore, which I rapidly discerned was the feline equivalent of a Home Depot (aka 7th circle of hell). I managed to get the carrier and appropriate feeder/waterer and made the mad dash home, where Jill and Emma were trying to keep a by now very suspicious cat from running like the wind.

    Confused cat stuffed in carrier, I headed to the cargo depot at National Airport. Thankfully there are signs, but it was somehow less simple than “over the river, through the woods, past grandma’s house and take a left at the light.”

    At 11:44, I dashed into the cargo hold, cat and carrier in hand. And then I proceeded to wait for 25 minutes for the intake person to return to her desk and start filling out the paperwork. The last time I saw that many things to initial and sign was when I bought my house.

    The clerk informed me that she gets seven or eight dogs to every cat that is shipped off, explaining that's why she continued to call Tatau a puppy despite obvious appearances to the contrary. Combine this with the fact that Jill and I have called Tatau a "he" many more times than we've called her a "she" over the past month, and it would not be a surprise to see kitty therapy in Brian and Elise's future.

    To complicate matters further, a gentle giant — all 6 foot and 350 plus pounds of him — came inside the office, took one look inside the cage and stuck his face down in the gate. “What a pretty kitty,” he said in a deceptively high voice. The cat, I’m sure, twitched a little.

    Mounds of paperwork later, I left the cat behind, off to a new life with his owners in Chicago. Several hours later, she arrived at O’Hare, only to wait another two hours before Brian could be allowed to pick her up to go home.

    And so, ladies and gentlemen, that is the saga of how an 8-pound, 3-ounce cat moved from Northern Virginia to Chicago. Below, I’ve provided you with an illustration of what she looked like before (and likely after) the flight. I can’t even begin to tell you how the humans probably look.