Dr. Marty Becker
Q: Our family goes away every summer for a month to our lake house. We have never brought our cat, ChiChi, and have always had someone stay with him at home. This year, we are thinking about bringing him, but we are nervous that he will not do well. What would you suggest? Is there anything we can do to prepare ChiChi for the trip, or do you suggest we leave him home?
A: That depends on ChiChi. While many, if not most, cats are more comfortable in familiar surroundings, now and then there will be a cat who is almost (dare I say it?) dog-like in his enjoyment of new experiences. Some come by it naturally, while others are socialized to a life on the go from kittenhood. I do know more than a few cats who fall into the latter category, living happy lives as “snowbirds” with their RV’er parents.
But RV-cats get to take their home with them, and you’d be asking ChiChi to trade a comfortable, familiar environment for a strange one. Add in all the parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins who seem to be attracted to a lake house in the summer and you can see why a cat might opt to spend the month under a bed chanting, “I want to go HOME!”
My guess is that ChiChi will be more comfortable in familiar environs while you’re gone. But if you think ChiChi has the personality traits of an adventurous cat, spend the next couple of months getting him used to a secure feline harness/leash and car travel. Introduce them slowly, first showing the harness, then putting it on for a few seconds, and so on, with lots of treats and praise. Walking a cat on a leash isn’t like walking a dog; it’s more about going where the cat wants to go. If ChiChi handles the harness and leash well, add in short car trips in a comfortable carrier.
I’m a big fan of pheromones. Feliway is a synthetic substitute for naturally occurring scents given off by mama cats to keep kittens calm. It’s “Kumbaya” in a bottle, and you can find it at pet supply retailers or from your veterinarian. (I wear it like aftershave when I’m practicing!) If ChiChi seems relaxed in the harness, leash, and car trips (add Feliway to the carrier, too) then anoint the summer home with lots of Feliway to help relax your pet.
If ChiChi won’t settle down in a quiet lake home bedroom (with litter box, bed, food, and water) then you can always have someone take him home to spend the rest of the time with a sitter.
ABOUT the Vet
Dr. Marty Becker is the author of the new book, Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual: Hundred of Secrets, Surprises, and Solutions for Raising a Happy, Healthy Cat (Grand Central Life & Style). For 16 years, Dr. Becker has been the popular veterinary contributor to ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, currently he is a member of Core Team Oz on The Dr. Oz Show and is the veterinary spokesman for VetStreet.com. His last book, Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, is now available in paperback.
Dr. Becker will be hosting a number of book signings in cities including Boston, Los Angeles, San Jose, Phoenix, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Denver, and Dallas. For a complete list of times and locations, please visit VetStreet.com/dr-marty-becker/your-cat-the-owners-manual.