The pet equation

Throughout the planning stages for our upcoming three-month trip across Southeast Asia, the single biggest factor has been what to do with our pets. Time? Grad school can be worked around. Money? We’ll manage, especially in a region where we can get by on $25/day if we need to. Apartment? We were willing to give it up to make our dream come true. Stuff? Get rid of what we can, and put the rest in a cheap storage locker. But what of our three cats? Or the foster kitty that we brought in out of the rain last winter?

Part of embracing the vagabonding life is being willing to let go of those things that bind you to a specific place, even if only for a short time. A job and a home are the easiest problems to solve, by quitting or taking a leave of absence, as well as vacating, selling, renting, or subletting one’s home. Stuff can be sold, given away, or stored. Children are the most obvious serious complication, as school schedules, social connections, maturity level, and stamina are just a few of the considerations a family must face before embarking on extended travel. However, pets can be a tough logistical nut to crack.

As life-long cat lovers, getting rid of Polly, Georgie, and Sasha were out of the question. We asked our network of friends and family for help, but no one could take any of them. Those that might have been otherwise interested already had a full house, or too small of one, or both. We changed tactics and offered our rented flat for sublet on Craigslist, and within a couple of weeks were connected with a group of three people from New Orleans, willing to watch our place and take care of our cats while we’re away. This left Snuffles, a poor scared tabby who had slept on our back porch and stared in our front window at us for six months before we brought him inside. He hasn’t looked back outside once. We tried finding him a home, putting him up on multiple local listing services, but being an FIV+ adult cat counted against him. We coaxed him out of his shell, and reaffirmed his worldview that people aren’t so bad. Unfortunately, with our subletters arriving soon, a hard decision loomed over our heads. Prepared for the worst, we tried again to find him a new home, and as if our prayers were answered, the kind folks at the North County Humane Society would take him. We drove over 7 hours last Saturday to see him off to what will hopefully be a better place.

Some might say that having pets, more so than children, are a hinderance to a vagabonding lifestyle. There is certainly truth to that – had we not any pets at all, many things would have been easier. Then again, having pets has made us who we are – people who connect deeply with other living things, a sure trait of any vagabond.

What sacrifices have you made for your pets? How have you factored in the pet equation to your long term travel plans?

Posted by | Comments (4)  | August 12, 2010
Category: Vagabonding Advice

4 Responses to “The pet equation”

  1. Denise Michaels, "Your Excellent Adventure" Says:

    When we moved from San Diego to Las Vegas we knew that our lives were going to include more and more travel. I’d been travelling a lot on business while my husband (then my boyfriend) was responsible for looking after Rosemary, my tabby. I named my cats after spices. Ernie’s originally from India and they’re not as into the whole pet thing as people from the USA. When we were both away a 12 year old neighbor girl did a great job with Rosemary.

    We lived in a semi-rural area of San Diego county and Rosemary loved chasing rabbits, mousing, killing geckos, climbing trees. It was a very good life for a cat. She basically played all day and came in at night to stay safe from the coyotes.

    When we made the decision to move to Las Vegas we were moving to a condo in a complex with very little grass and maintenance. It wouldn’t be nearly the fun life for Rosemary. We made the tough decision to give Rosemary to the neighbor girl (after checking with her parents first, of course). We knew we’d miss her dropping dead sparrows on the front porch now and then (to a cat that’s a gift for their master) but she would be better off staying in her happy semi-rural environment.

    As it turned out we’ve done a lot more travel over the last few years. When we return to San Diego and go back to the old neighborhood, I think Rosemary even remembers who I am.

  2. Carissa Says:

    When I peaced out to Mexico last fall I took my cat. Everyone thought it was crazy, but I was going to be renting apartments and staying in each place for a few months, and it turned out fine. Because so many older Americans winter in Mexico, and want to bring their purse dogs down, the process is super easy for both dogs and cats and there is no quarantine involved. Getting my mother’s cat to Hawaii (which has never had rabies) was 1,000 times more difficult than heading South of the border with the Huxster. For your hop-scotch travel it’s not a solution, but for other peeps interested, traveling with a pet is sin problemas in Mexico.

    Also I saw a blog of an Italian couple traveling South America with a kitten they picked up along the way, but it’s not coming to me on Google now.

  3. Mary Rothrock Says:

    When we moved to Panama two years ago, we took both dog (lab) and cat. Their inclusion ended up costing us thousands of dollars. We had to pre-rent a furnished place, as we had to have an address in order to avoid quarantine. Then we found that we couldn’t get them on an airplane for two months! So we were paying double rent. When we finally did get them on, we didn’t know until three days out whether they would actually get to go, so in the end we still had to line up someone to take them if they got bumped off the plane. They did go. It was more cost to board them in Panama City, then get them hauled across the country to Volcan, where our rental was.
    Now, however, we have a much better solution. We’ve had to return to the states for medical reasons, for six months. In our time in Panama, we’ve developed a wonderful friendship with another couple, who love our dog as much as we do, and another friend who is a hopeless cat o phile. When we had to leave on short notice, our friends took the animals. They will keep them until we return. And, even better, when we travel, both will have a place where they are comfortable, and can stay while we’re out of the country. So, my advise, find wonderful friends!!!!!!