Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cats - an update

So, for those of you concerned about how our Cats-Prepare-For-Flight day went, I will tell you, and it has its poetic moments too!

First, we remained calm yesterday morning in the face of one cat being too clever to be duped into his cat carrier and vanishing over the garden fence. And in he trotted, just at the right minute, and was sufficiently impressed with my non-stressed demeanour that he allowed himself to be grabbed and bundled in.

Our first hurdle, with two wailing cats in their way-too-big British-Airways-approved cat carriers in the back of the car, was to find the office of the Jerusalem district vet during the 1.5 hours he turns up in the city every week. Inside the same building as the Israel Antiquities Authority, a very ancient structure itself, we waited as Mr District Vet was late, trying to keep the dog in front of us in the queue from hassling the cats, and all the time worrying how we would get the cats out of the cat carriers for the vet to check them and then back in.

We didn't have to worry. A lovely Brazilian man, he was far more interested in discussing the finer points of English spelling and saying how much he preferred British accents to Americans (he had problems understand some Texans recently). He peered at the cats sitting warily in their carriers, and then filled out the forms we needed, while telling us that in 9 years he had only seen a few people who were taking pets to England, despite the harsh quarantine. But rather than telling us off for putting our cats through that, he felt it showed that we really love them and we aren't prepared to abandon them. "Ah," he sighed. "Sometimes I wish all my neighbours were cats and dogs." Pause. "And my work colleagues too!" And then, as we stood up to leave, he gestured to the heavens and said: "If there is someone up there, he's smiling down on you." Well.

The cats safely back in the car, we grinned all the way down the motorway, or at least until the first crazy driver overtook on the inside and crossed 3 lanes of traffic. The cats didn't enjoy the journey either. And once in the airport, we got a bit lost in "Cargo City" (this, in a country of only 6 million people...) But I tracked down the British Airways office ("Ah, the cat lady!" they said) and from then on it went swimmingly. A room full of strangely polite and friendly Israeli men in BA attire peered into the cat carriers. "Isn't he big!" they said. "He's a tiger!" Zac sat, unperturbed. Or perhaps deeply traumatised, who knows? We didn't think he was so big. Maybe a little tall for his age.

I signed the forms and then the moment we had been dreading: transferring the cats from the carriers they'd fly in to their much smaller regular cat carriers so airport security could hold onto the bigger ones. "Stand back," I told the strangely polite and friendly Israeli men in BA attire. "We'll give you privacy," they said seriously. And yet...

.... we put one cat carrier facing the other, and both cats just quietly strolled from one to the other.

Not a wail. Nothing.

Well, relief. The friendly BA men seemed a little sad at the lack of drama. They assured us they'd watch the cats as we took the big carriers to security. And as we left the room, I saw one of them peer down into Zac's carrier and say "Meow." That made my day!

Security was fine, the cats were totally peaceful all the way home, and when we let them out of their cages there were no dirty looks, no punishing hours-long absences. As if all was normal. It wasn't until a few hours later, at our wonderful friends J & H's glorious wedding, that J and I confessed that we only realized afterwards how much we'd been stressed about it all! The cats, it seemed, had no problem at all.

Next week: the cats on the aeroplane. Fingers crossed they enjoy their in flight entertainment and those little nuts they give out with the drinks.


annie clarkson said...

Oh, poor cats. My cat miaows horribly even to go on a short car journey, nevermind all that. What happens to them on the flight?

pierre l said...

Thank you for the wonderful account. Perhaps the man who said "Meow" at your cat is a cat-lover; I certainly say that to my cat quite often.

chaia said...

enjoyed this Tania

Nik Perring said...

Hurrah! What a lovely and relaxed post! Zac (he's not really a tiger, is he?) and chum, I'm sure, will be just dandy.


Pippa Goldschmidt said...

good luck next week! I used to ferry my cat between London and Edinburgh on a 5 hour train journey and that was pretty stressful (for me, not him, he just snoozed through it all).
We're thinking about moving to Germany next year and the one thing I'm nervous of is kitty-transportation..

Tania Hershman said...

Annie, they go in a specially heated part of the hold... so we can't see them! I think saying goodbye at the airport is going to be very hard. The cattery picks them up at Heathrow. We hope we will be able to see them the next day. Heart-breaking.

Pierre, the way he said Meow signalled to me that he doesn't know cats, they were all so funny, as if they'd never seen a cat before!!

Chaia - thank you! Luckily, I enjoyed it too.

Nik - no, not very tiger-like at all, he just has long legs. And Cleo, she's long haired, very girly.

Pippa, it is more stressful for us, eh? And England to germany doesn't sound too bad, what with pet passports etc... no quarantine, right?

Thank you all, I knew I liked all of you for a reason!!

annie clarkson said...

how long will they be in quarantine for?

Tim Atkinson said...

Hi Tania: just popped over (from Nik's blog) to say 'hello' and to thank you for your kind words about my novel, Writing Therapy. I'd be very interested to hear what you think when you've finished reading it. Best wishes, Tim

Tania Hershman said...

Annie, 6 months!!! They seem better already, after 6 days. Maybe they've forgotten the trauma of the flight.

Tim, thank you so much for popping by, will get hold of your book pronto!

annie clarkson said...

6 months, oh my god, are they in quarantine in a special cattery or something. now way could I be parted with my cat for so long (sad but true!)

Tania Hershman said...

They're in a cattery which is 30 mins drive away and we can visit every day - right now we are alternating, one of us goes every other day. I miss them so much! Sitting in their little prison cells with them is actually quite relaxing, but so sad.