As you know, the biggest concern about our getting from Hawaii to Carcassonne was making it the least traumatic as possible for the cats. We had prepared with the vet’s help, with the most appropriate sedatives (turns out Valium does the trick – mostly). In our test runs in Hawaii, driving the cats around, Pelegrina calmed down as expected, but Badoit reacted to the Valium opposite: agitated and talkative. But this was the best that the vet could propose.
We divided the trip into two legs: from Honolulu to LA, with a night in a hotel there. And then LA to Amsterdam, changing planes, and on to Toulouse, with a 45 minute drive from Toulouse airport to our new house in Carcassonne. During the relatively short flight to LA, both cats were anxious and agitated the entire flight. No sleep for any of us. And we were anticipating the 10-hour flight to Amsterdam with trepidation.
In the hotel room in LA, both cats zoomed around the room, checking everything out, obviously overwhelmed with the new scents, sounds and sights. Badoit was endlessly, if frantically curious. Pelegrina found the only inaccessible spot to hide, behind the headboard. But as time went by, they calmed a little bit, even finally sleeping on the bed with us. (We did have to block the space behind the bed with furniture, towels and pillows!).
Next day, new doses of Valium (for them, not us), and off to the airport. Curiously, when they are in the backpacks on our backs and we are walking through the airport, they are calm and quiet. Even, in the waiting area, no problem.
The KLM flight to Amsterdam was on a 747, and fortunately our seats were adjacent to a lateral galley wall, with about 18 inches between the side of the seat and the wall: a great place to put the carrying cases. Perhaps the flight was smoother, the vibrations of this plane less, or they were getting a little used to this crazy travel thing, but they were quiet for almost all the flight. We were able to sleep a little.
In Amsterdam, when we went through immigration, we let the officials know what we had two cats and all their paperwork. They shrugged, saying it was a matter for customs. On the other side of the immigration booth, there is a customs area, but no customs officials. So, perhaps once we get to toulouse?
We had a long layover in the airport, in case there were difficulties with the cats’ documentation. No difficulties, so about 5 hours to wait. About an hour in, one of our travel apps sent a notice that our flight had been cancelled. Sure enough, on the big board, there was the cancellation notice. Without the app, we probably should not have known until we went to the gate. With some research, we found the Transfer Desk that would handle the situation. A line to get to a person, about 15 minutes; then a numbered ticket, and an hour’s wait in front of customer service agents. It seems that there were very high winds at the time, limiting the available runways. We overheard that about 70 flights had to be cancelled. Once our number was finally called, we learned that we had been booked on a flight the next morning, and that they were putting us up in a simple airport hotel for the night. For the cats, this was probably the best situation: another calm night in a hotel room, then a short flight and drive in the morning. The hotel, Ibis, was basic, but clean and comfortable.
The next morning, the flight to Toulouse left on schedule, on a chilly but sunny morning. As we were in our final approach into Toulouse, through the clouds, the plane emerged from under the clouds and seconds later pulled back up again: fog over the airport. Now we’re thinking: how long will this day be with the cats — who this time were a little more agitated again; although they were doted on by the flight attendants. After some circling, and a gentle descent again, we were able to land.
There was another passport check before baggage. The immigration official wasn’t interested in the cats, and there were no customs people to be found. We are certainly very happy that we completed all the correct preparations for this importation, but were surprised that no one cared on this end. So, perhaps we are living with two illegal aliens now?
About an hour and a half later, we arrived at the house, putting the cats in a single room so that they could start their adjustment. Later, when they were given run of most of the house, they scurried around for a few hours, testing everything. But they wanted to sleep with us, Pelegrina diving under the covers (not her usual Hawaii behavior), and Badoit finding a spot on top of the blankets between Mike’s legs — for the entire night.
As the days have gone by, they seem to be settling in. They want to be close to us more than back in Hawaii, but even that is starting to lessen a little. Pelegrina was a bit more the “alpha cat” in Hawaii, but now Badoit is. No issues with appetite, which is a good sign.
So: Mission accomplished. But we don’t want — nor we suspect do they want — to do this voyage with them again!