Road trip update: What should we do with these cats?

This is Pollux, our Bengal cat. We would take him on our road trip if we could, but it’s just not practical.

Pollux isn’t the only cat who owns us. Two other Bengals, Clio and Lia, belong to our family, and we love them all dearly.

We had made arrangements to leave the feline members of our household with a relative, which would have been ideal, but they fell through last week.

Our road trip could take a whole year, and canceling our plans at this late date would be impossible. We have a sitter for the next few weeks, but beyond that, we don’t know what to do. Maybe you can help?

First, a little bit about these tigers: Bengals are highly intelligent and social. These three have been around young kids their entire lives and they thrive on the energy and chaos of our household.

Pollux is my constant companion during the day when everyone else is in school. He perches on my desk, makes few demands, and is an excellent listener. The two girls, Clio and Lia, prefer to sleep in the boys’ room during the day, but will occasionally wander into my work area to make some comment.

I will miss Pollux, Clio and Lio while I’m away. I may miss them more than anyone else in our family.

Even if you’re not a cat person, you probably know what it’s like to be separated from your best animal friends. It’s no fun.

Here are our options:

The kennel. Since the cats would spend most of the day in an enclosed balcony while we’re away, that has some appeal. At least they’d have some supervision and the attention of a vet, should they need it. The down side? Kennels are virtual prisons. Even the roomier “pet motels” only offer larger cages. We’ve used a kennel only during emergencies, and only for a week or less, in the past.

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The pet sitter. Having someone swing by the house once or twice a day is less expensive, but the cats would spend long periods of time alone. I think that’s unfair to them, taking them out of a highly social situation and then locking them in the balcony for weeks — maybe even months — at a time. It is far less expensive than a kennel, but it creates as many problems as it solves.

The house sitter. Again, it’s not a perfect solution. Housesitters live in your home 24/7, and while the cats would be happiest with this arrangement, there might be problems with the people. We’ve had some disastrous housesitters in the past, and are reluctant to go down that road again. But it might be the best thing for the kitties.

Adoption. It breaks my heart to even suggest this, but we could find the cats a new home. Couldn’t we just give them to someone temporarily? Well, let me tell you about the Siamese cat who owned our family when I was growing up. We had to return to the States for a year in 1975, so we found her a good temporary home. When we returned, the family refused to give her up. I know that if we found Pollux, Clio and Lia a new home, it would be for good.

This is one of the last pieces of the puzzle before we leave, and it is also the most difficult. I’m sure we’re not the only family to ever have this problem. But sometimes it feels that way.

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Update (Aug. 22): Looks like this one is going to have a happy ending! Yesterday evening, one of my readers contacted me and asked if she could help. Joyce lives less than a mile away and is a cat person. She stopped by late this afternoon, met our cats, and agreed to take Pollux, Clio and Lia while we were traveling.

As a backup plan, we have found a college student who will be living here while we’re gone. If Joyce’s cats don’t get along with ours, they can always come back.

It’s a perfect solution, and I’m so grateful to Joyce for the help. I’ll have a follow-up story with more details, and which is guaranteed to offend the pets-are-people crowd.

But it will be fun reading. Especially the comments.

Note: Uh-oh, looks like this post has gotten picked up by some extremist, pets-are-people-too discussion group. I’ve had to put this discussion into “moderated” in order to keep flames and four-letter-word tirades to a minimum. Just for the record, folks, these are cats we’re talking about here. Not children.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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