The fuzzy monsters hit the slopes: the dramatics of taking cats on holiday with you.

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05/01/2011 by etiennefish

Okay, let me just put it out there right now (in case you didn’t get it from the title above), this is totally another post about my cats. I mean, it’s sort of a funny one (at least to me, and this is what, let’s be honest, is what’s ultimately important), but yeah, sorry in advance anyhow.

So anyway, have you ever thought to yourself something like, ‘Hey, I’d really like to go on holiday during the week off between Christmas and New Year’s (like every single other person in Switzerland/wherever you might live), so I don’t have to hang out all alone feeling sorry for myself?’ Yes? Yeah, good, glad you’re still following.

Okay, so then, have you ever also thought to yourself, ‘Well, I have a couple of friends who’ve invited me along on the trip they’re planning and I’d really like to go, but I have these two cats that need to be fed and cared for (read: generally pampered), and since no one I know is staying in town, this might prove quite difficult…Hmmmm… Oh wait, I know, we can just take them with us!?!?’ No? Never had that thought? Well, then I’ll save you the trouble and give you the short version- Maybe not the best plan ever hatched. You want the long version? No? Well tough, you’re getting it anyway. Okay, here goes. This is what carting your two fuzzy beasts along on a winter holiday to the Alps might look like if yours are anything like mine:

So, first off, Let’s set the scene: It is winter (clearly). I live in Switzerland (I think I might have mentioned this one or two times before). This is not what one would describe as a tropical country (in case you’re not very good at geography), and at this time of year, temperatures are mostly bordering below frigid. As in all the time. Sadly. The one saving grace of all this cold horribleness, is that there are mountains pretty much everywhere. And this reason, my dear friends, is one of the main reasons people choose to stick around this place.

Now let’s talk logistics. As previously mentioned in a multitude of other posts, I have two cats. A large one and a small one. The Large One is sort of a strange mix between dog and lion, and therefore has an atomic mass rivalling that of a small planet. The Small One is pretty much normally sized (thankfully). Unfortunately, while I have a soft carrier, which can comfortably lodge the Small One, the Large One only fits in an awkward, difficult to lug around, enormous plastic crate. Additionally, these cats, being the generally pampered and coddled creatures that they are, require vast amounts of accessories (especially because we were leaving the Sunday immediately following Christmas when absolutely nothing was going to be open), not the least including such ridiculously heavy things as kitty litter and prescription cat food. They also need other kitty basics including brushes, toys, treats, and litter trays (I was forced to leave behind their fluffy duvets and other, apparently excessive, most loved necessities of lounging).

Photo archive from the time capsule house: How the Large One prefers to lounge

When I decided to go along on this adventure, I somehow thought that none of this would pose a problem. As the day for departure neared, however, I was forced to rethink this overly optimistic stance. So, as it turns out, not only would the 2 fuzzy beasts and their things be carted along with us, but so would all of our things. Which, when embarking on a throw-yourself-down-a-mountain-at-breakneck-speeds adventure trip, actually includes quite a lot more than, say, a trip to lay on the beach in the Bahamas. Not only that, but none of us was in possession of a vehicle. So, in order to arrive at this ‘delightfully secluded’ little ski village in the middle of the Swiss Alps solely via public transportation, we would need to do the following: Walk to the bus stop (unencumbered this would equal a bit over 5 minutes), catch a bus to near the train station, walk from there to the train station (about 10 minutes), catch two trains, a gondola up a mountainside, and a bus to the village. So yeah, all in all, this would be a slight mission without any baggage. Sigh.

So this is what had to happen. Me and my housemate combined all our clothes and mountain adventure necessities into one large rolling suitcase (my army packing skills were utilised to their highest degree for this task alone), a small backpack was packed with other things like laptops, books, and other such entertainment-providing devices (it would also double as the bag we would carry on the slopes), and a separate bag for the housemate’s ski boots and other odds and ends. Then, a reasonably large duffle bag was filled with cat things, while I reassured the little monsters that they would do just fine ‘roughing it’ for a week or so. Unfortunately, despite my best attempts, their litter tray didn’t fit. Disaster loomed. But then, in a moment of sleep-deprived epiphany, me and the housemate flattened and packed a cardboard box, litter tray liners, black plastic bags, and a large roll of packing tape to act as a temporary makeshift litter tray (it made me feel quite MacGyver-esque at the time). Then of course, there were the cats. Because of the Large One’s bulk, combined with the perceived available arm-carry-space, we decided that both would have to go in the ungainly (and extremely difficult to carry) plastic crate (yay for 15-20 kilos of fuzz, bellies, ridiculousness, and win). I rigged up a sort of over arm loop from the already attached luggage straps to try and aid the situation.  But basically, in order to make it to this fabled remote, desolate ski paradise, my housemate and I would be transforming ourselves into large pack mules. Sigh.

The long and short of the travelling section of our journey, is that we made it. Barely. I woke up feeling mostly like death (having caught whatever bug everyone around me had been catching), and both of us were not in the best moods (read: sleep-deprived and foul). Everyone who knows me probably also knows how good I am at masking my feelings like a champ, so I may have whined. A tiny bit.

Despite all of the human dramatics though, the cats were surprisingly good in comparison. Usually, when I travel with them, I have to just accept the fact that they will be like the embarrassing and extremely loud crying babies that no one wants to sit next to. I think, however, they were quite unprepared for this unexpected turn of events, and spent most of the journey in so much surprise and shock at their fate that they didn’t let out more than the occasional confused peep. Also lucky, was that the other friend on the trip had discovered that it was possible to take a taxi from the second train stop all the way to our apartment quite cheaply, and thus avoid the disaster that the gondola and bus ride would have surely entailed.

Once we finally made it to our new home for the week, the fuzzy monsters were released from their forced captivity. The Large One, after sauntering dramatically around the joint, sniffing out absolutely every nook and cranny, unsurprisingly took up a proprietary perch on top of some folded blankets on a sofa, in order to best lord over the rest of us and keep watch on any happenings.

The Large One from ‘his’ spot

The Small One however, was less impressed by this whole being dragged to some random spot in the mountains thing. The first thing he did after slinking around as low to the ground as he could possibly get, was to jump down a hole between the back of the part of the sofa that turned a corner (it was one of those u-shaped deals), and promptly got stuck. So then of course we had to grunt and strain in order to force our already grumbling muscles to move the sofa and release him. Then, he disappeared. We eventually found him cowering in a corner underneath the double bed in the larger bedroom (I started to feel slightly sorry for him).

Me, trying to convince the Small One he wouldn’t be eaten by terrifying monsters if he got out from under the bed

This is where he stayed. For like 5 hours (with the exception of a short [extremely scary] food break).

Finally, as it got later, the Small One somehow seemingly found his courage. He pranced his way throughout the place like he’d never had a care in the world (I think he may have been slightly embarrassed by his aforementioned actions). This was short-lived however. The three of us prepared to go out and scope out the village. Just as we were leaving, one of my friends realized she’d not seen the Small One in awhile. While the Large One watched unconcernedly from his throne, we searched the place. We couldn’t find him anywhere. Just as we were starting to get a touch worried (I mean, this isn’t a large apartment), I discovered him. He was curled up in the smallest possible ball under the blankets on the top bunk of the room with bunk beds, his courage having apparently been lost once more.

A view of the Small One in his hideout

Aside from short forays revolving around answering nature’s call and foraging missions for eatings (during which he oh so dramatically insisted upon jumping high in the air at absolutely every tiny and commonplace noise), this is where the Small One stayed for most of the remainder of our trip. In fact, this small beast was so spoiled that he even started getting his meals delivered to his hiding spot on high, under the guise of it being out of reach for the Large One, of course. In fact, later on into the week, we had to have designated ‘no bedroom time,’ in which the Small One was forcibly made to socially interact with the other inhabitants of the apartment, and all bedroom-hiding spots were strictly off limits, just to get him to move around a bit.

***Side note: the Large One, being one of the only sources of readily available entertainment in the minuscule village, was thoroughly lavished with attention from all sides, as is his wont. He was also, of course, posed in ridiculous (read: somewhat shameful) positions, some of which, will (obviously) be shared below. ***

The Large One being used as an additional table

Next, we tried to get him to DJ for us, but someone had a little too much of the sauce and passed out early.

The bastard got really into cards though, and kept beating us at rummy.

Here he is getting ready to brave the cold and hit the slopes

He got a little carried away though, when he took both of the pairs of mittens at my disposal (not to mention the hot water bottle).

He also liked to engage in daily staring competitions with my housemate

Due to the Small One’s notable absence, the Large One also spent much of his time making friends with his Christmas rooster

Of course, as the trip drew to an end (as in on the very last day), the Small One miraculously recovered his courage from wherever he’d stashed it, and once again pranced about the place without a care in the world (read: terrorised everyone in the house with his large over-abundance of energy stored up after a week of sleeping about 23 hours a day under a large pile of blankets). I felt slightly sorry for him. He had no idea about the impending terror that the return trip would soon surely bring.

The Small One in a rare moment of seeming ease and relaxation among the others in the apartment

On the morning of the journey back, both of the fuzzies saw what was happening, and neither was particularly impressed by this inevitable turn of events. After some more skillful packing and some creative kitten wrangling, both creatures were relegated once more to their crate, beaming death glares at whomever dared to step in their field of vision. This time, however, they knew what a ‘trip’ would bring.

From the start, they kept up a steady and yowling kitty cat chorus the entire taxi ride down the mountain. I had to keep apologising to the poor unwitting Swiss man who had agreed to drive us while he pretended (badly) that such a situation was perfectly normal (he seemed very confused at my explanation of why I had chosen to bring two cats on a voyage across Switzerland, and I don’ t think the confusion was related to my less than perfect French conversation skills…).

By the second train, they stubbornly had still not given up their protest. The train was pretty full, so we had to sit down next to a poor innocent (and quite sweet) English girl that politely pretended that the large crate in front of her was not the source of the loudest noises in the train. She did, however, give up on her reading 5 minutes after we’d arrived.

Aside from the racket that the fuzzy monsters insisted on bestowing upon us, they also became instant train celebrities with the (terrifyingly) large number of small children aboard the train. So of course, we also had a constant stream of giggling (mostly) little girls running up to the crate of fuzzies in order to flap their arms about wildly and inexplicably and make meowing noises at them, which probably only incited the fuzzies to protest more insistently (I’m assuming in abject horror/terror. I  was slightly confused by the situation here myself). I’m pretty sure we were by far the most beloved passengers on that train ride, let me tell you.

Anyway, despite the noise, we actually made it back to ours much more smoothly than on the way out. This, in large part, was likely due to the fact that I was feeling much better and therefore had stopped acting like an insolent 5 year old about to throw a temper tantrum, and the fact that after a week’s consumption of cat food and litter, the load was unsurprisingly much lighter. Oh, and maybe also because we threw in the towel on the whole ‘tough adventurers’ thing, and took a taxi ride home from the train station.

On one last note though, upon arriving at the house, the Large One and the Small One were released into the garden before we got to the front door because we thought they’d like to run about and stretch their legs after being cooped up for so long. They both, simultaneously, and without any hesitation, ran straight to the door, pressed themselves physically against it with panicked looks in their eyes, and turned their heads to us expectantly waiting to be let in. Clearly they were happy to be home.

So that, my dear friends, is what travelling with your cats might look like. And you know, despite all my efforts to make my fuzzy monsters worldly and cultured, I think they’d rather next time I just leave them at home. Oh well…

Part 2 of our mountain adventures to come (this time sans fuzzy monster anecdotes).

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January 2011
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