So here it is, Monday morning afternoon evening. I spent Sunday driving to and from Palmyra, Illinois, 40 minutes west of Springfield, where my cats’ new barn home is. And now I am trying to resume my regularly scheduled life, and, sadly, catch the last garage cat.
Sunday was a horribly stressful morning. I hardly slept the night before, waking up every two or three hours from all the stress and worry, over Poosh and over the drive itself, since so much of it was thrown together last minute. So I was extremely groggy when I woke up and started the preparations for the trip. I had hardly woken up when I got the call that Petey, the cat who moved down with my five, had arrived. Then I had to feed and clean my guys, not to mention feed and clean myself. Then making sure I had everything I needed that was NOT a cat, waiting for my amazing friend and navigator to arrive and leave a plate of food for Poosh, so that he would hopefully, at the very least, not be hungry anymore, and at the best, so that I could start the process of winning his trust back.
Back to the trip though! We finally headed out a few minutes after 10am. The trip got off to an interesting start when I missed my exit, and the GPS unit took us around a bunch of side streets and tried to take us the long, round about way to get back on Route 55. Thanks to the wonderful navigation of my friend Zach (who was amazing enough to give us his Sunday for me and the kitties), we didn’t take the long round about path that the GPS wanted us to take, we took a much shorter and more direct route back to 55. Then we drove, and drove, and drove. Straight. Through nothing. Nothing and nothing and more nothing. Just flat fields, flat roads, cars. Such a long, long drive. About oh an hour into the drive one of the cats started meowing. Just constantly meowing. Her sweet little squeak broke my heart. A short while later Mommy started meowing. They did a little kitty chorus. Then, a short while after they started vocalizing, I noticed the smell. Yes, the lovely, smelly smell of cat poop. At first I thought it was the oil refinery and chemical plan we were driving past, but then the smell just hung on. So we found a rest stop just outside of Pontiac and I did the first of several cat changings.
Trying to change cat’s cages at a bustling rest stop proved a unique challenge. I opened the trunk door to check on them, see who made the stinky, and all these little noses started twitching and heads started bobbing, trying to figure out what was going on, where they were. It was so windy, so noisy and so busy that I didn’t dare try to change them with the door open. I was afraid they would get too spooked, someone would come up and ask me what I was doing, or, God forbid a cat should somehow manage to get out of the trap! At least if the car was closed they wouldn’t have many options about where to go and I would “easily” be able to trap them again. (Fortunately that didn’t happen, but I learned enough working at the low cost spay/neuter clinic, to realize you NEVER trust a cage with a sneaky cat in it, especially a feral.) So I had to first pull the traps out, turn them around so the back door was facing the inside of the car, then go back in the car, move everyone around a little, then the normally tricky logistics of changing the paper in a feral cat trap….oi!
After dealing with the crazy bathroom line (did I mention there were at least two tour buses full of high school students?) just to wash my hands, we finally headed off again. A short while later we stopped for gas in Bloomington Normal, down by ISU. We then had another cage cleaning saga, as a third cat messed up his cage. After cleaning out the cage I called Nancy, the new care giver, and told her where we were. She said we were really close and should arrive by 2:30, then gave me some long directions that I didn’t quite follow ’cause I was doing too many things at once. We then took a short detour to ISU, for reasons which are irrelevant to this blog. Shortly afterward my little Adipose, who had been terrified since I caught her Friday morning and extra terrified during the trip, decided she needed to redecorate her cage by shredding all the newspaper in it, and making a mountain to hide behind. So, unsure if her paper was dirty or she just felt like getting the stress out, we stopped what I thought was one final time, to make sure she was not sitting in more dirty paper.
After driving for what seemed like ages, the GPS told us to exit. For some reason Zach decided not to question the GPS this one time. Well the GPS had a massive fail, it had us exit the highway 16 miles early! We were driving down one lane country roads, through the middle of horse farms (wooohoo!) and nothingness and some mighty old, desolate towns. This “short cut” or whatever the GPS thought it was, tacked on an extra half hour to the drive. Luckily Zach is good with figuring out maps and had his own GPS on his phone, so he was able to get us back on the quickest route to Palmyra.
I think this was also about the time I started to loose it. I had been driving for five hours straight with hardly a break. I was cracking up just a bit. Nothing serious, just enough to know that both Zach and I were glad we were almost there. I remember now, my reaction time for one stop sign was just a little bit slow, and I came far too close to the rear bumper of the car in front of me. All the kitties went sliding forward and poor Petey, who had been a good, quiet boy the whole time, was smooshed between traps and the back of a seat. So we stopped at a bank parking lot and rearranged all the kitties.
We finally got to the house where we were meeting Nancy and, I believe it was her sister, before heading to the barn. We got there and I will admit, my heart fell a little when I saw it. It wasn’t that the barn was bad, its just, ya know how sometimes you expect something, I don’t know, a piece of cake, to be really really good. You look at it or you read the description on the menu and it sounds so good and chocolaty and delicious then you order it and it turns out to be not as moist or rich or whatever as you expected but still tastes good? Yeah, that’s how it was with the barn. I knew it was going to be isolated, that there wasn’t a house on the property, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this isolated. There is nothing around it for miles. Nothing. Nancy lives down the road a bit, but which means something much different in country speak than it does in city speak.
The barn itself can use a bit of maintenance work, a few new boards and a coat of paint, but it is sturdy and will provide decent shelter from the elements and protection from any coyotes who wander by. There are large bales of hay for them to snuggle in when it gets super cold, and lots and lots of things for them to explore. Transferring the cats from traps/carrier to cages was a little tricky. Especially my Shadow, who I was sure would try to fly out the cage opening, the little feral rascal! It took a bit of finagling and some quick movements but it was, fortunately, an uneventful transfer of cats! Mommy and her daughters, Adipose and Banakafalata got one cage. It might be a little small for them, but I think they will be happiest together. Shadow, David and Petey all got their own cages as well. The cages were nicely set up with the basic necessities, food, water, litter box and a box to hide in. Well, Petey’s didn’t have a box but I set that one up nice so he has something clean and soft to sleep on, and a nice big sheet to hide in should he get scared or want to stay extra warm.
Once they were all set I covered their cages with towels so they could hide, at least the first night, and stay warm, as there was a definite draft in the loft. I hope I didn’t seem too ungrateful to Nancy, I kept asking questions about them staying warm, coyotes, what happened to her other cats, who was going to feed the cats, etc. At one point she commented that she hoped I felt comfortable leaving them with her, and I tried to explain I did (which was true), it was just hard for me to leave them anywhere. I asked if I could take some pictures to share with Petey’s rescuer and then say goodbye to the cats. She said sure, and then drove off. No sooner had she left then I started to cry.
The week’s stress and anxiety came pouring out. All the frustration of caring for them, of loving these cats and trying to do the right thing; all the months of worrying and wanting to relocate them and it finally happened, and now I found it almost too hard to bear! I texted Petey’s rescuer, Heather, to tell her he was all set, since I was too distraught to actually make any phone calls. Then I stood there in the middle of the barn yard and cried. Then I went up and said goodbye to them and cried some more. I tried to reassure myself that I was doing the right thing by moving them, and that this was the right home for them, that they would be happier. But it was so hard. So very very hard. I finally calmed myself down a little after saying goodbye to them, called my parents to say we were headed home and got in the car. As we were pulling back onto the road, I started to cry again. Then, thankfully, Zach offered to drive. About half an hour after we left the cats and the barn, we stopped for dinner, which helped calm me down and put us both in better spirits, as I think our brains we completely fried by that point. After dinner I called Heather and talked to her, told her how well Petey did, and that I felt comfortable enough with the situation to leave the cats there. Then I got back in the car and we headed home. For the most part, once we were out of sight of the barn I was okay. I have this slight issue of second guessing every thing I do though, so the occasional doubt would poke its way into my brain. The hardest part was shortly after dinner, around dusk, when Zach took a nap. I was alone with my thoughts and the setting sun, and oh it was horrible. My thoughts were torn between my poor little Poosh, alone, scared and hungry in the garage in Chicago, and my five little babies back at the barn. I almost started crying again. Almost. But I kept my composure and reminded myself it was all for the best.
I drove most of the way, and then when we had about an hour left, I just snapped. I couldn’t take any more driving! My back hurt, my legs were screaming at me, my brain couldn’t focus and would zone out. It was so hard to concentrate, which was bad ’cause it took extra concentration to see in the dark and keep up a relatively fast speed. I am sad to say I was one of those drivers who plunks themselves in the left lane and doesn’t go fast enough. Mind you, when I got in the left lane I was passing a truck, but then I stayed there, and apparently wasn’t going fast enough, even though I was going above the speed limit. Zach finally pointed out to me that there was a line of angry cars behind me. That was earlier in the trip but it was the first sign for me that I was starting to wear out. Eventually, with an hour left in the trip I gave up and made Zach take the wheel. We finally pulled onto my street almost exactly 12 hours after we left. Needless to say we were exhausted!
It has been a hard day for me today. Between the exhaustion and my concern over little Poosh, I haven’t gotten much of anything done. It took me just about all day to finish emptying the car, cleaning the traps and doing a few loads of laundry. It also, clearly, took me all day to write this blog. I am better now, more comfortable with the decision I made to move the cats and leave them at this barn. I think I am just too exhausted to worry about it anymore. I have to trust in the universe that I did the right thing, I have to believe it. They will be better off here; just as safe, if not a bit safer, than in the city, just as well protected too. And they will have so much more to explore. More places to lay in the sun, more fun things to do! Once I reunite them with their brother, they will all be so happy! And they will have a new friend, Petey, to keep them company and to play with.