A Cat's Tale

Pete Korsching

Pet owners know that raising and caring for pets at times is little different from rearing children. In fact, for some pet owners the pets are their children! Anyone who has had pets for any length of time soon gains a repertoire of stories surrounding the pets — some humorous, some heartwarming, some heartbreaking.

In October we visited our daughter Angela in Missouri to see her new home. While there, our son-in-law Shane’s parents, Marian and Virgil, came by one evening to say hi and visit a bit. They and their cat Minnie would soon leave on their annual winter migration to Arizona. As our conversation turned to traveling with animals, Virg mentioned a story I had told him several years ago about an experience Linda and I had trying to move with a pet cat. He said he enjoyed the tale so much that he retold it himself several times. Here is that tale.

Early in our marriage, while still living in Nebraska, Linda and I had a big yellow cat that was a wonderful pet. We named him Choo Choo. (No, the name did not originate with my love of trains! Back then Hanna and Barbera had a popular TV cartoon show called “Top Cat.” Choo Choo resembled and was named after one of the cat characters in that show.) Choo Choo was adventurous. He roamed the park across the street. When we went for walks he accompanied us around the block without being on a leash. Our car had a deck behind the rear seat, and when we went for a drive he was in heaven, sitting there watching the world go by.

One night when he was about three years old, he must have tangled with another cat or some other critter because he came home with some bad cuts. We took him to a veterinarian, who patched him up and gave him the necessary vaccinations. This was the first time Choo Choo had been to a vet and he did not relish the experience. We learned just how much he disliked vet visits the next time we wanted him to go with us on a car ride. He began howling once inside the car and did not cease until we let him out. At first we wondered why Choo Choo had this sudden strong resistance to riding in the car, but it soon became apparent. He associated riding in the car with the unpleasant experience at the vet’s office.

After graduating from Chadron State College, I was accepted into the graduate program at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. As we prepared for the move, we became concerned about how we would handle Choo Choo. We imagined him crawling all over the cab of the U-Haul truck and continuously howling during the two days on the road. Our solution was to build a roomy cage to hold him, and to ask the vet for pills to sedate him. I built the cage with half-inch plywood for the top and bottom, and the bars were made of one-quarter inch hardwood dowels. The vet provided the tranquilizers.

On the day of the move, Linda’s family helped with loading the truck. After loading, we hooked the car to the back of the truck and were ready to leave. About an hour before leaving Choo Choo received the first sedative pill (forcing him to swallow the pill was quite an undertaking). Placing him in the cage was the final task before returning the keys to the landlord, climbing into the truck, and driving off.

The vet assured us that the tranquilizers were pretty potent, but he underestimated the fear of vets he had instilled in Choo Choo and Choo Choo’s tenacity. His howling started almost immediately after being placed in the truck cab. And before we were even out of town, he had made his escape from the cage by breaking two of the bars. I marveled over his strength as he pulled on the bars with his paws until they snapped.

At that point we knew we knew we could not take him with us. Luckily, we had an out. My sister Ursula was to travel with us to help out and keep us company. We were to meet up with her and my father in a town about two hours from Chadron. Much as we hated to do it, we left Choo Choo in the care of Dad.

We have had several more cats, and all had unique personalities and endearing qualities. But like Choo Choo, each had a definite dislike of the vet and abhorred car rides. Fortunately for our current kitty Cleo, we now have a very durable pet carrier to transport her, and the farthest she ever needs to travel is across town.

Pete Korsching is a Nevada resident and a freelance columnist for the Nevada Journal.