There are people who feel that you shouldn’t move a cat because a cat’s attachment to place is stronger than its attachment to people. Most cat rescue people will tell you unequivocally that this is wrong—bring your cat when you move, because a housecat left behind will most likely have to fend for itself—and it needs its people. Moving pets interstate is certainly a challenge. Last Friday, I moved five cats, two large dogs, two small human children and a guppie from Los Angeles to Nashville, Tennessee and it was no picnic (although my cats behaved beautifully through out.)
So, are cats more attached to place than people? Roger Caras writes about the theory that cats have a sensory perception of the earth’s magnetic fields. When he introduces a new cat to his home, he keeps it isolated in a cage for three days, while it gets its ‘magnetic field bearings’, then when he releases it onto his farm. The cats seem to locked into the location of thier new home.
The magnetic field perception would explain the amazing stories of cats that find their way back to their home from incredible distances. If the cat is navigating magnetic fields, honing in on the longitude and latitude that it identifies as home, that would explain its ability to traverse unfamiliar terrain over hundreds of miles to return its original home. But, is the cat traveling to return to a place, or is it hoping that it will find its people there? The anecdotes about this are unconclusive, but there are certainly many instances where the cat was clearly in search of a beloved human.
Clearly, this is not a skill to experiment with—many cats get lost, never to find their way home. But researchers have recently conducted studies of bats and concluded that some bats do have an internal magnetic compass that helps them find their way home over many, many miles, even when they have been purposely disoriented. Perhaps some cats share this ability?
On the flight from Nashville, all five cats rode in the cabin with us (my husband, two daughters and a babysitter.) Most of them bedded down in silence after a good dose of Rescue Remedy, though they were clearly distressed—perhaps by the isolation in cages, the strange smells, the noises and presence of so many strangers so tightly packed together. But I did wonder, if cats are able to experience the earth’s magnetic fields—what would it feel like for them to fly? Moving so swiftly across that pull.
There is no question in my mind though—my cats are far more attached to me than to location of our home. They are clearly feeling insecure in the new location, all of them more actively seeking affection and reassurance than usual. I have been keeping the litter boxes immaculate, fresh food flowing and lots of attention. I brought their favorite toys, beds and food in our luggage to help the new place feel familiar.
Being accustomed to a home with hardwood floors, they love the Wall to Wall carpet in our temporary apartment, rolling around on it and stretching out for a snooze as though the whole place were one big cat bed. An open window is an invitation to press their noses against the screens and breathe in all the exciting new smells of Tennessee. They shift as the breeze changes, raising their little nostrils to the wind.
As each day passes, they grow more relaxed, bolder, they establish their favorite sleeping and grooming spots. I would have thought that the queen-sized bed that came with the apartment wouldn’t allow for as much feline company at night (we are used to a king-sized bed), but the cats are not deterred and snuggle in piles with us all night—rather than spreading out as was their custom in LA.
I had planned on sharing all of the logistical details of moving our little zoo across country, but it was boring and irritating enough in person, to share the entire minutia would be too tedious. Suffice to say, the American Airlines personnel were odious. We were dressed down, pushed around, looked over and then they would sloooow down. Their eyes blazing with petty power, “I can make you wait. And I will.” One particularly petulant clerk would stare my husband in the eyes, shuffle papers, then stare at him again while she contemplated untold bureaucracies, determining whether or not the batteries on the guppy’s portable fish tank would be meet airline safety standards.
The most comical moment was certainly when I had to remove each cat, one by one from its carrier, while the carrier was x-rayed, and the cat and I traversed the metal detector. Then I returned the cat to the carrier and went back for the next one. Five times in a row. Naturally, the TSA officer monitoring the metal detector had a severe case of Ailurophobia. She would shudder visibly and leap back each time I passed.
The hero of the day (I promised him that I would mention him in my blog) was our Armenian airport shuttle driver that brought us to LAX from Pasadena. It took us two hours to check our large dog, Blake (too big to travel as checked baggage) into American Airlines Cargo. During that time, Harot Sassounian (of PrimeTime Shuttle) cheerfully attended to our other dog, Shyan, walking her, cleaning up after her and generally providing moral support in the face of American Airlines petty bureaucrats. Thank you Harot!!!
My darling little Calico, Gussie is busily grooming herself in the chair next to me, a clear invitation to bedtime. She will sleep curled into my waist, just as she did in Los Angeles, because in spite of any adjustments to the magnetic fields, she recognizes any bed that hosts my body as her preferred place to sleep—in cat terms, that would be home.
Weekly Cat Quote:
Most beds sleep up to six cats. Ten cats without the owner. ~Stephen Baker
Preview of Coming Attractions
Over the next several months, I will be traveling across the country in search of cat stories, visiting innovative cat rescues and shelters, interviewing eccentric cat lovers, leading vets and behaviorists and so much more. To view my travel schedule and learn more about my Cat Behaviorist business, please visit http://www.thecatbehaviorist.com/ . If I will be in your area and you feel you have some interesting cat stories to share, please don't hesistate to contact me via my website.