Moving the whole family, when your children have 3 to 4 legs each…

When I took a job in Newfoundland, I knew the move was going to be a hassle. Never mind how much of a pack rat I am, and how much stuff I had accumulated my 8 years in Guelph (including a piano I wasn’t ready to give up), there were four things that were coming with me no matter what: my dog and three cats.

We thought about road tripping it. The challenge being I couldn’t drive and we’d need some sized vehicle to comfortably take them all. And it would take at least 5 days to get from Guelph to St John’s. Understandably, my dad didn’t much fancy using up all that vacation time. Plus, he didn’t much fancy a 5 day road trip home all by his lonesome.

So flying it was.

Let’s start with Ollie, my 90lb beast of a dog.

Such a charmer! And such a pain in my arse sometimes…

To have a dog as part of your checked luggage there are both weight and height/width dimensions you have to meet. Ollie was within the weight restrictions on his own, but not so much once he was in a kennel… and the dog needs to be able to easily stand upright in the kennel, and a kennel meeting the height/width requirements would not have let him do that.

So what’s left? Live Cargo. Air Canada Live Cargo, to be specific. I got a kennel and booked him a flight. I did my best to try to have us arriving in NL around the same time… but it was most important that he be leaving Toronto before me so I could drop him off at the cargo centre before I went and checked into my own flight. So he was going to arrive in St John’s a few hours before me. Fortunately, one of my new coworkers who I had never met or spoken to yet was willing to pick him up from the airport and bring him to the clinic for the night.  I work with really nice people.

Dogs are shipped by live cargo a lot – it’s how people get pure bred puppies from far away breeders, how dogs get to shows all over the place, and it’s how many dogs in Newfoundland who need specialized medical care get to a referral centre. When people are shipping their pet for the first time, they often ask after medication to sedate the animal. . . airlines kind of frown on this now, and so do many veterinarians. It doesn’t actually do anything for the fear and anxiety the animal is feeling, it just makes them sleepy. And if it has a profound effect, the airline staff are unsure of the health of the animal – is it sedated, or sick?

That being said, some dogs are basket cases and need the edge to be taken off or they’ll hurt themselves. I’ve certainly prescribed a sedative for travelling if the owner is aware of the risks, the reasons not to, and is certain their animal is one of those basket cases. Ollie, thankfully, is not one of those dogs. He loves his kennel and he’s a super awesome dog. He didn’t have any accidents, and was a delightful happy boy when he got to the clinic in St John’s.

So, dog taken care of… how about my 3 cats?

3 of these bags contain live animals.. can you tell?

Air Canada was no good to me here – they’ll only take animals in the baggage compartment, not in cabin… and I wasn’t about to put my 19-year-old cat in the baggage compartment. So I called West Jet, and they became my new favourite air line EVER. They were super helpful. You’re only allowed 1 animal in cabin per passenger, so I already had my dad coming with me… and offered my brother a free trip to St John’s if he’d escort my third cat. Spoke to a customer service lady who got things all arranged (3 people, 3 cats, from Toronto to St John’s, then one person back to Ottawa and one person back to Toronto), and I was good to go!

I had to get soft squishy carrier for them, for shoving under the seat ahead of me. I didn’t sedate any of them, they all travelled in the car well, and so I figured the plane wouldn’t be much different. The most stressful the part was going through security –you have to take the animal out of the carrier and carry them through the metal detector while the carrier goes through the scanner.  Neither my brother nor my father were okay with this, so I had to do all three cats myself. Not gonna lie, my one cat Tristan is a squirmer and I was sure he’d get out of my arms and what fun that would be… but it came off without incident.

Bonus to travelling with a cat? They won’t put anyone in the seat next to you. So it was me, empty seat, my dad, aisle, my brother, empty seat, random stranger. And we got to board in preboarding.

The flight attendant loved the cats and the people sitting around us didn’t even know they were there until the end of the flight when we took them out from under the seats. Tristan did a few rolls and twists, but Fluff and Stewie didn’t even move for the whole flight.

He wouldn’t look at me for the whole flight, but he didn’t complain. . .

So, there was a lot of phone calls and arrangements to be made, but I got them all to St John’s with me. And if I ever leave Newfoundland, I hope it happens to be when I am freakishly short on pets….

(and if you have a cat or a small dog and are travelling I would highly recommend using West Jet for your flying needs! I would have been a basket case myself if I had had to put Fluff through checked baggage…)

Tristan checks out our hotel room at the Ramada in St John’s. Which is delightfully pet friendly, by the way.

About dottiemaggie

A veterinarian living and working in St John's, Newfoundland. I love my job, and I love my home. Professionally I am passionate about critical care and client education. Away from work I am passionate about enjoying life, spending time with friends, enjoying hobbies of all sorts, and exploring this wonderful province I call home.
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8 Responses to Moving the whole family, when your children have 3 to 4 legs each…

  1. Susan says:

    Three cats? Now, tell me your house doesn’t smell like pee.

  2. Audubon Ron says:

    I go through this almost once a year when leaving the coast heading north to get out of the path of a hurricane. Sidebar: Hurricane Katrina passed directly over the top of my house. I was stuck two weeks in a hotel room with dogs and cats and cranky wife after Katrina. Finding a hotel that accepts pets is a whole nuther monkey all together. You pulled that one off pretty well, I’d say.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      yikes! I do not envy you that.
      Yeah, we were homeless for a little while when I was hunger and lived in hotels and had to sneak the cats in and out… pets definitely can make hotel needs a hassle. I was super impressed with how things went at the ramada.

  3. frigginloon says:

    Siamese cats don’t like flying 😦

  4. linlah says:

    Tristan matches the chair so well I almost didn’t see him.

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