You’ve heard of the 3 wise men? Well, I have the 3 mad cats. Let me explain.
Sometimes life throws curve balls. For most of December, my husband and I have been living in a hotel with our three wonderful cat children.
Now maybe you’re getting the gist about why the title of this article.
Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, one of those cats is extremely intelligent. Our MENSA cat, aka, Chai, the ringleader who just happens to be very shy. Hiding under the covers is one of her favorite things to do.
Our second cat, Kitters was severely abused as a kitten and we refer to her as our scaredy cat. She doesn’t do well in new situations, or with new noises. And she pretty much only trusts family members.
Then, there’s happy-go-lucky Mandy. Miss “Hey, Pet Me.” She’s not terribly bright, but you can’t help but love her.
The two weeks or so in the hotel, which wasn’t TOO bad was followed by three days on the road.
Let’s just say this has been epic, and I’m sharing the adventure with you.
You’d Think I Would Have Learned
Let’s start out by saying that you’d think I would have learned.
Back in the late 80s and early 90s, we used to travel about 6 hours by car to my parents in another state. At the holidays, we took everyone, meaning the two hand-raised orphan kittens who had grown up to be cats, of course, that belonged to my children. Additionally, our rescue dogs, both kids, suitcases, favorite pillows and quilts, and Christmas gifts all sandwiched into our “sleigh.”
Old McDonald going to town had nothing on us.
We all piled in the vehicle after an hour or so of packing and filling every vacant inch. The cats were allowed to be released from their carriers and snuggled in with the kids and dogs. On a good trip, everyone eventually fell asleep.
One year on Christmas Eve, someplace near Fort Wayne, Indiana on Interstate 69, the entire drive shaft on the truck in front of us suddenly dropped from beneath the vehicle, including the large universal joint connecting the shaft to the rear axle.
The truck lost control, and suddenly, we were trying to avoid hitting either the truck, the drive shaft, the bridge to our left, or the vehicles in the other lane.
Having only a few seconds to pick the lesser of the evils, we hit the drive shaft which launched our vehicle, dragging the drive shaft along with us beneath. We landed on the drive shaft itself, spinning and sliding out of control.
My husband was driving. I was awake, but our precious cargo was sleeping. Or had been before being jolted awake. One cat, Muffin, was beneath the front seat. He didn’t appear, and I immediately feared for his life. We hit HARD when we landed and I heard the vehicle crack. I addition to being afraid for Muffin, I didn’t want to pull a dead or dying cat out in front of my grade-school age daughter. He was her baby. In fact, if I recall, he was all dressed up in doll clothes for that trip.
Thoughts raced helter-skelter through my mind.
Our vehicle and others were now involved in a multiple car accident and the vehicles were still on the road in a very congested area. People were still hitting debris scattered across the road and other cars. It was a mess and getting worse by the minute.
I helped the kids out of the car to safety, taking them into the median behind the end of the bridge which was fortunately quite wide. Traffic had finally come to a stop.
The dogs had been obedience trained and were well-behaved, albeit frightened. I put Mitten, the cat snuggled in on the seat into her carrier. After my daughter exited the car with her father, I pulled Muffin out from under the seat, dreading and expecting the worst.
Muffin was quite groggy, but had apparently been positioned exactly right to be sheltered by the seat when our vehicle landed again, not crushed by it. He was entirely uninjured, but quite confused.
I put him in his carrier and everyone huddled together in the cold median at dusk waiting for the police to arrive. That was before the days of cell phones and we could only hope that someone had stopped to call it in.
Eventually, the police did arrive, as did tow trucks. The tow truck driver packed all of us into his cab, including the animals, even though he wasn’t supposed to. Was he just going to leave us in the median in the dark? Thank goodness the answer was no.
We called my parents who had to bring two vehicles to retrieve all of us, arriving a couple hours later.
It was a Christmas Eve like no other. When we finally arrived at the farm, the rest of the family was gathered for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration and had been for hours. The food was cold and we arrived as people were leaving. They had Christmas Eve in our house without us, or maybe better stated, ate without us and postponed the rest.
We were oh-so-very-lucky. The cats could have escaped in the accident given that they were not in carriers. Someone could have been injured or worse.
After that, we never again traveled with cats outside carriers for their own safety, in case of an accident. Of course, this made for unhappy cats, and carriers take more space than just cats. Our cats’ traveling days were pretty much over…that is…until now.
Fast forward three decades.
Yep, you’ve guessed it. We did it again.
Of course, the children grew up. Muffin and Mitten crossed the rainbow bridge long ago, as did our dogs.
However, there are always animals that need to be rescued and I can’t imagine living my life without fur family. When we adopt a furry family member, it’s for the duration of our lives or theirs. There is no “rehoming” anyone.
Our current “cat children” aren’t youngsters. They’ve had years to train us properly, but they still struggle when we break training which we very clearly did in December. And WOW, was this one a whopper.
In fact, they immediately began to inform us of the magnitude of our transgression.
These cats have never traveled before. They have gone to the dreaded V-E-T, which we spell because they are smart cats and begin hiding immediately if we don’t.
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find, and catch, three determined hiding cats?
We scheme and plan when we need to capture them, in essence breaching their trust by petting them and then capturing them when their guard is down and quickly inserting them into their carrier. We try NOT to have to take more than one captive at a time to the vet because cats 2 and 3 disappear immediately when the captured cat sounds the alarm.
However, that plan didn’t work in December, because we were setting out on a cross country adventure and had to capture all 3 cats at once.
On the designated day, Jim and I managed to shut all three cats in the bedroom at the same time. Providence smiled on us.
We weren’t using carriers, but larger airline crates because the cats were going to have to be confined for many hours at a time, so needed litter boxes, a place to lay, food and water.
Fortunately, the first ride to the hotel where we were spending the first couple of weeks wasn’t far. We were serenaded the entire distance by all three cats who insisted that a car ride was a form of torture. Plus, it was COLD and they are inside cats. Brrrr….
Upon arrival, they got to take a ride on something we call a luggage cart but which they refer to as a cat torture device where we parade them in their captive state in front of the entire world in order to humiliate them. They continue wailing on the off-chance that some good Samaritan will hear their pleas and rescue them.
Of course, there are three large crates which means that we had to make at least 4 trips to unload. Three with cats and one with our luggage and theirs too. Yes, cats have luggage when you travel. Food, bowls, litter, scoopers, bathmats, quilts and pillows. Yes, pillows. You’ll see why in a minute. It’s not what you’re thinking.
In order to prevent said cats from escaping out the hotel room door, the crates must be unloaded and the other luggage safely in the room before anyone can be released from their private hell.
Of course, a few minutes after we released them, there was always one that had to jump back in their crate to inspect where the crime against catumanity had been committed. Generally, Mandy.
Each crate had to be emptied and cleaned out, because invariably the wailing, flipping and gnashing of teeth during that miserable car ride resulted in the water being spilled which in turn results in wet bedding (bathmats) and mad cats. You’ve heard the phrase “mad as a wet hen.?” I have no idea who came up with that, but they had clearly never met a wet cat.
Pet Friendly, Sort Of
Some hotels are pet-friendly, but that doesn’t really mean they are well-prepared, especially not for cats. It means that they allow you to stay there with pets and they charge you an exorbitant cleaning fee for the privilege. However, you are grateful and pay it.
One challenge is that most of the floor space is occupied by the crates.
We wound up using the crates as a table because we couldn’t get to much of the furniture.
Don’t turn your back for a second or you have company for breakfast.
Chai was just checking to see where her order of catnip-eggs was.
Of course, the great sniff-fest begins post-haste upon release. Every square inch of the room MUST BE INSPECTED IMMEDIATELY before anyone, including us, gets any rest.
Here, the cats are trying to get under the bed. That’s their first destination.
The hotels place the box springs on a wooden box so there is no “under the bed.” At least, not for dogs. Cats are much smarter than that.
At the head of the bed, there was a small space between the wall-mounted headboard and the mattress. Just big enough for a cat to squirm themselves into.
Have I mentioned that cats can’t turn around very well, and certainly NOT when wedged into a narrow one-way tunnel that is narrower on the exit end than the entrance end?
We noticed that Chai had gone missing and it’s nearly impossible for a cat to hide in even a “large” hotel room. Yet, Chai had managed. Yes, she was truly AWOL and no one had exited or entered the room, so the door had not been open.
After a thorough search, there was only ONE place she could be. Somehow, she had breached the bed/frame/wall/headboard barrier.
I laid down and started feeling with my hands. There was a small space above the frame, but too small for even Chai. However, I discovered the space at the top of the mattress against the wall beneath the headboard.
The side nightstand “table” was built in, so I couldn’t move it to obtain a better view or the right angle to reach behind the mattress.
Jim and I laid down (because we couldn’t get to the couch to sit down) to discuss the situation and how to proceed, when apparently Chai decided she had enough of hiding and wanted OUT NOW. In true cat fashion, she probably only wanted out because she realized she couldn’t get out.
We heard pawing and tiny plaintiff muffled meowy whimpers. I do think she was embarrassed.
Jim and I managed to shift the mattress and box springs enough to unblock the exit end and one very rumpled, offended Chai emerged, glaring at us for some unknown reason.
Cats are like that.
I hoped that the other two cats had not seen her. In fact, we quickly took stock of them when I grabbed the spare pillows and wedged them into the space at the headboard.
For a little while anyway.
The other two cats were upset because Chai was upset. We laid down with them, and within a few minutes, all three cats had climbed into the bed and were bathing or discussing their dilemma among themselves and plotting how to escape.
Chai had been comforting Kitters, but was thoroughly exhausted between the miserable ride plus the indignity of being trapped behind the bed, so she had to take a nap.
Besides that, I just MIGHT have remembered to bring her heating pad.
Jim and I saw this as an opportunity to try to find food, which is a whole other story in and of itself, so we left the room for an hour or so. Mind you, we finally found someplace where we could order carryout. The staffing issue is very real.
Upon our return, we discovered that Chai was once again missing.
How is that even possible?
I blocked her access on both sides of the bed, right?
Upon inspection, it became evident that she had dug out a portion of the pillow and wedged herself across the top, into that same space, AGAIN.
I decided to try to outsmart the cat, so we laid down. When she realized we weren’t pursuing her, she decided she wanted to come out again. But once again, she couldn’t because the exit was still wedged with a pillow. We heard her attempt to dig. I let her out and took my sweatshirts (both of them) out of my suitcase and wedged them into the spot where Chai has been able to free up the pillow and crawl through.
At this point, the cats have utilized 3 bathmats which are wet and drying, two pillows and both of my sweatshirts.
I was not exactly prepared for this.
Home is Where the Cats Are
As the days passed, the cat kids became increasingly comfortable in our new “home.” They wouldn’t admit it of course, but they actually LIKED how close we were to them and the minute we sat down or laid in the bed, they were right there like glue.
Mandy even got so comfortable that she took a willful nap in her carrier.
As soon as Chai noticed, she immediately woke Mandy up and demanded to know EXACTLY WHAT she thought she was doing.
Kitters just wanted to snuggle and purr.
Mandy’s Great Adventure
Jim and I were both working in the hotel room as best we could. On the far side of the room, there was a desk and a dresser both built into the wall as well. The dresser consisted of three drawers. I opened the middle drawer to remove a piece of clothing and failed to close it immediately. I put the clothing on, and my head emerged from the shirt just in time to see Mandy’s tail disappear over the back edge of the drawer into the space behind the drawers.
We couldn’t reach her.
We couldn’t push the drawer in because she was in the space.
If we pulled the drawer towards us, she couldn’t get back into the drawer because of the board on top – plus she couldn’t jump up.
If we tried the same thing with the bottom drawer, the same issue except she wouldn’t have had to jump up.
Eventually, Jim and I, between us, managed to get ahold of her and wrestled her into the drawer amongst much caterwalling. Mostly her caterwalling, not us. We were swearing instead. I was fearful that we were hurting Mandy, but there was no evident drawer release and we had to get her out.
We shut the drawer and I had learned my lesson. I would never leave a hotel drawer open again.
Unfortunately, Mandy learned her lesson too.
A few minutes later, Mandy was attempting to open all of the hotel room drawers.
“Wow, Mom, this is fun!!! Who knew?!”
Hence this scene with their quilt stuffed in the drawer handle. That also protects them from catching their leg in the handle if they jump off so they don’t break their leg.
And this one on the other side. Our room was beginning to look like a disaster zone.
The Drawer Wars
In order to be an effective deterrent, we had to wedge items in the handles of multiple drawers together, because Mandy was pawing them open from the sides. I’m sure Chai was coaching her.
What we really needed was child guards, but I digress.
Eventually, we had towels threaded and tied through all of the handles and reinforced our bed headboard barrier daily.
Thankfully, it was nearly time to begin the next leg of our journey. We did a load of mostly cat’s laundry and began packing.
We were anxious to leave before the weather got worse. However, the cats had come to love their rooftop view and spent time in the deep windowsill. They had gotten used to our coming and going. We declined room service and for the most part, one of us was in the room so that the staff did not accidentally come in and allow someone to escape. Escape was our worst fear in all of this.
Jim went and retrieved a luggage cart.
What is THAT?
This can’t be good!
The humans are up to something again.
On the Road Again
When I tell you we were sandwiched in the vehicles, I mean literally every inch, side to side and top to bottom.
One carrier is wedged behind the driver’s seat with the back seats down, which allowed just enough room for the other two carriers to be placed side by side at the rear of the vehicle. The liftgate barely closed. The only spare space was behind the passenger seat, in the passenger seat and a few inches on top of the carriers.
You might note from the picture that this arrangement facilitated a cat serenading me from directly behind my head. I selected the quietest cat for that position in the vehicle. You might have guessed that it was Kitters.
Chai, on the other hand constantly reminded me of her rights per the Geneva Convention, and Mandy just agreed with whatever Chai said. I think Kitters was just praying the entire time.
By the end of the first driving day, thankfully, there was no snow, but it was still quite cold.
We found our hotel and had to unload the entire Jeep again in order to get everyone inside.
This place was slightly smaller, and the drawers had no handles, so we had to build a luggage/carrier fort in front of the drawers to keep Mandy from pulling them open.
Before we let the cats out of their carriers, I once again stuffed pillows and sweatshirts into the headboard/mattress gap.
They were thoroughly, thoroughly, disgusted.
Third Time is Charm?
By the next night, as tiring and time-consuming as load/drive/unload was, we had the routine down pat. It only took an hour or so instead of two.
When we checked in at the next hotel, we thought we had everything blocked and secured. I hadn’t paid much attention to the bathroom drawers because they were difficult to open with significant resistance.
Apparently, not difficult enough.
Yes, that’s Mandy being very proud of herself sitting BEHIND the drawer. “Hi Mom!”
This drawer was small. I could not get enough space to pull her back into that drawer. She couldn’t get back in either.
Fortunately, we had a Leatherman in one of the Jeeps and a YouTube video showed us how to release that particular kind of drawer catch.
Yes, we disassembled the drawer unit to retrieve Mandy. Then reassembled it, of course.
The large towel was too thick to go through the handles, and the small towels weren’t long enough, so I had to block the bottom drawer with a suitcase, then the top drawers with the towel. Of course, this was in addition to blocking the drawers in the bedroom portion and the bed/headboard pillow/sweatshirt barrier. In this room, there was a sleeper sofa too and we had to roll towels and our clothes and block that as well because the cats crawled under there and got stuck.
The fun just never ends!
Mandy tried her best to get back in that drawer. It was her favorite naughty thing to do.
The Home Stretch
As we traveled, each day closer to Christmas, the issues locating food and other accommodations increased. Many dining rooms and some restaurants were closed altogether. In other cases, part of the dining room was open, but no carryout. Other locations did exactly the opposite – only limited carryout service with no seating.
Given that we are traveling in the middle of a pandemic, we certainly didn’t want to be crammed either into a dining room, or in a line waiting for a table.
We were very, very glad to be on our way that final morning.
Thankfully, the weather was beautiful.
We had driven far enough south that the unseasonably warm weather was allowing flowers to bloom.
We crammed ourselves, our mad cats and everything else into the vehicles one last time. Each day, the duration of yowling decreased at least a little. I could sense Chai and Mandy giving up and just deciding to take a nap. The cat version of “whatever.”
That morning, we got lost, thanks to our two GPSs giving opposite directions, but that detour likely saved us from the 6 or 8 car accident that happened just a couple minutes before we arrived on the scene. The cars in the middle were crushed, and it made my heart skip beats to think of the cat kids in an accident, just like all those years before.
Several hours later, we arrived at our destination thinking the cats would be mad at us for some time. However, they seem to be just as relieved as we were that their two weeks living as traveling nomad cats was over.
Chai no longer has to burrow and Mandy has given up spelunking in drawers, at least for now. Kitters is still purring. Everyone is taking a bath trying to wash all of that yucky travel off of themselves!
I, for one, hope to have permanently retired from traveling with cats. I would certainly do it again if I had to, because they are unquestionably worth it, but it’s not fun for anyone – humans or cats.
I hope it was at least amusing for you😊
Happy New Year!
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