DAY OF TRAVEL - 2:25 AM
I’ve got less than an hour to shower, get dressed, force-feed a sedative to an ornery cat, and stash said cat in a carrier duffel. There’s very little time for error if I’m going to make an aggressively early flight.
FOUR DAYS EARLIER - 8:30 AM
I woke up earlier than I have been lately. When it’s hard to fall asleep, it’s hard to wake up before 11AM. I’ve had a lot on my mind, which makes winding it down at night next to impossible. Today I pushed myself to rise because I need to hit the road. I’m taking a two-hour trek west to pick up a cat.
You see, my brother and sister-in-law made me an offer I couldn’t refuse -
BROTHER - “Since you’ve got the time now, we’ll fly you out to California where you can relax, play with your nephew, visit the beach, be inspired, etc. You just have to do one thing for us.”
ME - “As long as I don’t have to break any of the more stringent commandments, I’m in.”
BROTHER - “It’s easy - pick up Leo from the farm and fly him out. There’s only one airline that allows you a carry on pets anymore and we refuse to have him fly with the cargo.”
Now, Leo is an incredibly affectionate, attention hungry, orange cat with a habit of batting your face with his clawed mitt if you pretend to sleep instead of pet him. He’s a special boy and one of the few cats with which I’ve grown incredible fond. Most cats merely tolerate you and since I’m also an affectionate and attention hungry individual, Leo and I got along immediately.
ME - “Sure. I love Leo. I’m in.”
DAY OF TRAVEL - 3:00 AM
I just got a text from the cab company and my driver has been dispatched. I’ve been putting off getting this cat medicated and captured until the last minute, but it’s time to man up.
He’s acting so sweet. I swear he must know what I have planned. He wants to make me feel even more guilt for the torture he’s about to endure.
FOUR DAYS EARLIER - 1:00 PM
Leo is sitting on the cold, steely table at the vet’s office. He’s due one more booster shot before travel and we’re just waiting on the doctor to make her appearance. He wanders around the table, occasionally trying to make a break for the nearby counter and sink. There are all kinds of spill-able/breakable things on that counter, so I stand there. We enter a vicious cycle where as soon as I calm him down, he gets inquisitive and I have to block him from tearing the counter apart. Doing so results in him getting antsy again and we repeat.
The doctor finally comes in and I hit her with a handful of questions, but chiefly, how to get a cat to take a pill. Leo was prescribed a sedative for the trip, so I just want to make sure I get that done right for him as well as the people flying with us. Here I am, thinking that there’s a sweet trick with food or treats, where he’s none the wiser and blissfully zones out. I’m naïve and hopeful.
She proceeds to show me a technique by which you stand behind him, corner him into you, grab him by the head, pry his mouth open against his will, shove a pill down his throat, hold his mouth shut, then pet his throat until he swallows it. I’m nodding, saying, “okay, okay, sounds good” while she shows me, but I can’t help but think - “That’s fucking horrible! There’s no way I can get that done without losing blood or worse, the cat’s affection.” The cherry on top of her demonstration was the addendum of, “It’s better with two people.” Who the hell is going to be helping me drug a cat so early on a Sunday that it’s still Saturday for the bars?
DAY OF TRAVEL - 3:05AM
I sit on the couch and put my hand out to pet Leo. He does all the work, pacing back and forth across me in that way that cat’s do. I make a conscious effort not to appear anxious and just leave my hand up to brush him with each pass. He’s all chipper, but I know that’s going to change real soon.
I pet him with my right hand while I reach for the pill with my left. For this to be successful, I will have to do it in as close to one move as possible. Any sign of weakness or hesitation and he will bolt.
I make my move and put both of my hands around his head. I cluster up behind him and pull him closer to me. He knows its going down. I pry his mouth open, but it slips when he jets his head left and right. I fight past the guilt of forcing him down and go again. Leo attempts to roll on his back in the struggle and I roll with him, keeping control of his head. I go again, this time getting the pill in his mouth, but I don’t shut his jaw fast enough and he spits it out. Grasping for the little sedative while holding on to him for a successive attempt was too much and I had to let go.
He bolts from the couch and to the front of the apartment. At least I was wise enough close all the doors in my apartment before starting. Coaxing him out from under the bed was just not something I was mentally prepared to do.
I kneel down on the floor and apologize to him as though that’ll help the situation. I need to come up with a way to get him to me and quickly so I grab his brush and call him over to me. Surprisingly, he submits, seemingly forgetting the previous ordeal as quickly as a goldfish. I hold the brush, bristle out, and he moves his body across it. He’s vocal at this point, almost cursing me with well-placed and rapid-fire meows. I respond with rationale that concludes with, “you know we have to try again.”
Yes, I’m having a conversation with a cat.
To be continued…