Cat herding: actually as hard as theyd have you believe

I wrote this a week after arriving, when we didnt have internet, but it was all quite fresh and I was still worrity about it all. The cats have settled ridiculously in the meantime. Ill update this in a couple of days. Still, it was an extra thing I didnt need while moving, and promised someone Id expand on panicky twitter messages sometime.

22 hours before our flight: My Beloved, who is braver and less prone to floods of tears than I am, takes the cats to the airport. They have had their rabies shots, and their clean blood tests 6 months later to prove they have not been secretly harbouring rabies behind everyone’s backs. They have had their cat flu and distemper boosters, their worm-prevention treatment, their full veterinarian check-up, and all their forms filled in, witnessed, signed, dated, and stamped by the California State Official up in Sacramento. Their tickets are bought. Passage through the airport booked. Delivery from the airport to our house, booked. All things considered, they are now the most expensive rescue moggies the world has ever seen. Pound for pound, they’re more difficult to export than firearms, more expensive than white truffles. None of this is ever in debate, of course. There’s no question of NOT moving them. They’re our cats.

So My Beloved delivers them to the airport and sees them to their security check, then somehow manages to leave them there, even though they are looking at him like the most desperate and miserable and about-to-be-abandoned cats there ever were. And it is a bit heartbreaking. But it still needs to be done, and he does it. This is why he is measurably stronger than me.

10pm, seven hours after leaving the cats in the care of BA: A nice lady phones, and tells My Beloved that the flight they were meant to be on has been cancelled, the cats have been sent to a nearby pet hostelry, where they will be shown a good time for the night before being placed on one of the two BA flights the next day (we will be able to find out which, for sure, if we phone in the morning). This is a bit worrying, but cannot be dwelt upon. There is too much else to do.

Overnight: We receive notice from the people who were meant to accompany the cats through the UK border controls and vet, and from the people who were then meant to collect and deliver the cats, that, since they were told by the airline (that’s BA) that the flight was cancelled, they have cancelled their end too, and we should inform them when we know which flight the kittings will be arriving on.

First thing in the morning, the day we fly: My Beloved phones the San Francisco office of BA. He has a conversation that goes a bit like this, in summary:
My Beloved: Which flight will my cats be on today, since they weren’t able to fly on the cancelled flight last night and were put in a pet hostelery and shown a good time by one of your fellow employees?
Hapless BA Lady: I’m sorry, sir, but what are you talking about? There was no cancelled flight. There was a flight that left seven hours late, but it went.
My Beloved: Oh. And the cats were on it?
Hapless BA Lady: What cats?
My Beloved: My Cats.
Hapless BA Lady: Well I guess if it went, they were probably on it, right?
My Beloved: But that wasn’t what I was told earlier, when I was told the flight was cancelled and they were en route to a pet hostelery etc.
Hapless BA Lady: Well, the flight got uncancelled.
My Beloved: Right. But did my cats get un-taken-off-the-plane?
Hapless BA Lady: I dunno. I mean, the plane went. They should have been on it, so I assume they went. I guess.
My Beloved: Do you think anyone there might be less vague?
Hapless BA Lady: No.
My Beloved: Right. Thank you. Goodbye.
Hapless BA Lady: Is there anything else I can help you with toda…. [Head explodes in a shower of perfectly groomed hair, make up and bloodied bits of skull somewhere down the peninsula as My Beloved and I concentrate our most heartfelt good wishes upon her]

A call to the pet hostelery reveals that if our cats were shown a good time there, it was under an assumed name. Certainly they have never heard of them under our name. But then, they suggest, they might have been booked in either by airline, or in the name of whichever airline employee brought them in. And no, there’s no way of finding out if that was the case.

This does not help the general mood of panic in our house.

Realising that this delayed flight means that they will actually be landing in London momentarily, if they happen to be on the plane that two thirds of the people we’ve spoken to think they might be on, we ring the people who are meant to be picking them up and accompanying them through customs and the quarantine centre. These people say that, according to their computer, the BA left on time the day before, and was neither cancelled nor delayed.
Which is an exciting, if somewhat bewildering, development. They agree that if BA are claiming the flight left seven hours late, that’s likely to be correct, but since it hasn’t been updated on the computer, no one will be meeting the cats even if a) the plane exists b) the cats are on the plane, c) anyone, anywhere, regains any sense at all of knowing what they’re doing.

It is the line “No one’s picking them up at our end, Sir, no. According to the computer…” that sends My Beloved into a bit of a tailspin. It is a shame that it takes the sound of a grown adult so close to the edge that he is almost in tears, squeaking ’Are you meaning to tell me they’re just sitting on some TARMAC somewhere? In some or other country but no one’s prepared to pin down WHICH?…’ to get people to act like people again… but it does. Oh, she says, she didn’t mean that ‘no one would be picking them up, just that they hadn’t dispatched someone yet, and that as soon as she’d had the chance to check with BA etc, someone would be sent to do that. Of course. Naturally.

Epilogue, a week later: There were several other small glitches in the plan, but I now sit here with two remarkably happy cats curled up by me. They arrived a few hours after us. Apart from the fact that Little Cat, runt of the litter, keeps wandering into other rooms then yelling her head off because she doesn’t know where everyone’s gone, they’ve settled in faster, and happier, than anywhere in the last two years. Proof, as everyone kept telling me, that cats are hardy and can withstand being moved.

I, however, remain unhardy, and think if we have to moved them again, I might explode with anxiety.