Indy to NYC: Flying with Felines

This is a two-pronged post - conceptual and practical - so before you hate on cats, read the first half and reap the benefits. This week officially marked my sixth month living in New York City. Spending $100+ on shipping boxes was a cost I happily incurred, in the moment and in hindsight. Transporting little things on quick trips home was a breeze, especially since I've already weeded through and prioritized my material things in life. But the last step in this transition and relocation was the transportation of my 10 year-old feline, Alli.

Cat eyes with wings

Cat eyes with wings

Owning a cat at this stage in the game is one of the few things that goes against my potential nomadic ease. Three years of college in dorms and sorority houses weren't conducive to hosting her, and post-college travels only had me in her vicinity for 49% of that time. For nearly ten years, my parents were wildly flexible and tolerant to house my shedding ball of love. And when the decision to move to New York called for a serious analysis of my pet ownership, I was overwhelmed at the extent to which I couldn't live without her.

Alli on sedatives

Alli on sedatives

We suburban Midwestern gals tend to grow painfully attached to our household animals, and I assume this touches on a maternal reaction to a dependent's reliance, which we embrace with fervor. We hear and respond to 'the call' - whether it's directed at us or not - to serve other beings. And it hits us with a glee/glum one-two punch; the latter only for the inevitable life choices or threat of loss an invested pet owner must face.

Though I find it a ridiculous debate and one that deserve zero airtime in any arena, I know not everyone enjoys cats, hearing about cats, justifying the existence of cats, etc. And though I am scribing and cutting video with those feline travelers in mind, Alli has been an obstacle to one half of my lifestyle and a beloved necessity to the other.

Dare I say we all have similar parallels?

Unconscious Anchors

I know a man named Jase who could easily steal the "Most Interesting Man in the World" title away from the bearded Dos Equis gent. Though I'm not completely clued in to the inner workings of his life, it appears he has very few factors hindering him from living the life he does: one of unconventional exploration. When he's not driving across continents, he's bartending for first class flyers. Jase is one of the few people I know that can actually live a nomadic existence without a desire for the opposite. He's the exception.



As my dad likes to diagnose, I have a tendency to be a contrarian, not only in the sense that I follow an unconventional job path but that I lean toward what's underrepresented in any sphere. I was a grungy nomad with a Blackberry, a sorority girl in art school. I summon a Devil's advocate response to any topic, but I don't put on black lipstick and call myself a nonconformist. These aren't conscious decisions. I keep my emotional eggs scattered in many different lifestyle baskets, to stay balanced and maintain the ability to relate to diverse people. My cat acts as my personal weight toward a more stationary and conventional path, for which I do have lingering desires. And I think most of us do, if not for that then something else.

Individually, we all tend to dabble, desire what we don't have, and wish to do it all. If you live a committed and routine life, you probably have the occasional hunger for wildly-dangerous spontaneity. And I've met plenty of travelers who can't silence the impulse to nest. Had I given Alli away in the move, I would have lost the sometimes necessary 'ball and chain', not to mention something I love. And had I merely left Alli where she was in Indiana, my move would have seemed an uneasy balance of two lifestyles: a nest with a false bottom or a trip that lasted too long. I desire a lifestyle that doesn't overindulge or invest in one way but moderates with many, because things change quickly and constantly.

Never letting the dust settle doesn't necessarily mean movement. It means variety. It means evolution. I'm not dedicated to being a nomad or a cat-wielding spinster, I'm just open to being influenced by the things, beings, and experiences that matter to me over time.

Guide to Flying Stateside with a Carry-On Cat

For those of you who don't like cats, stop reading. This is the practical part where I cringe over the amount of bad websites on this topic in existence and my subsequent call to make my own wee guide. This being a strenuous experience for human and feline alike, the only thing that will make you feel more comforted and secure is preparation. Don't take this situation lightly. The following relates specifically to flying with Delta, but most airlines will require some variation of these steps. And obviously, these were my steps, but everyone has differing opinions over big or tiny details. Ask your vet for reassurance.

Alli cat in her kennel at the airport, pet travel

Alli cat in her kennel at the airport, pet travel

  1. When booking your ticket, ask to reserve a spot for your cat as a carry-on in the cabin. Each seating area only allows a certain number of animals on a flight. Do yourself and kitty a favor and book a non-stop.

  2. Flying across state lines is surprisingly a Department of Agriculture issue. Research what is required of the destination state in terms of pet inoculations and documentation. Frequent your veterinarian to receive a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (or a health certificate), and expect to pay $30+ for these pieces of paper along with any necessary shots (often rabies). These are only valid within 10 days of travel, so schedule this visit a couple days before the flight.

  3. Purchase a soft kennel to ensure its fit under the seat in front of you. I dug into the airline's website to find out the specific model of airplane I was flying and the measurements of the foot storage. First shopping online makes finding specific measurements and reviews easier than at a physical store, but before I bought the kennel, I had my cat 'try it on for size' at the store. Some may frown on that. I smiled at it. After purchase, stick one of the health certificate carbon copies in the kennel pocket.

  4. Leave the kennel out for a couple days prior - to make travel less of a shock and give kitty more time to familiarize with her carrier. I lined the bottom with an old mat that she recognized, along with a maxi pad to make me feel a little better about potential accidents. Packed in my other carry-on were additional mats and pads, along with food and a copy of the health certificate.

  5. Arrive 90 minutes early for check-in, pay your animal carry-on fee, and to ensure getting the best seating arrangement. Having an empty seat beside you is optimal. And make sure you pass through security during a lull. One TSA agent asked me if I wanted do the screening in a closed room, in case she breaks loose. I felt confident I could hold onto her and take her through the metal detector. At these low traffic times, someone should be able to help you return the cat into the kennel, if that's usually a struggle. Thankfully, Indianapolis' TSA agents are wonderful people.

  6. When at the gate, appeal to the attendant (if you haven't already at check-in) to make sure your seating situation is that which will provide the least amount of discomfort for fellow travelers.

  7. Take-off and landing are both awful, because kitty will be hyperventilating and without your assurance that everything is okay. During the flight, put the kennel in your lap, make sure enough air is hitting her, and insert your arm through the flap to hold her close to you, petting the entire time. This works for my cat, who clings to me at the vet's office. And don't be surprised if she slobbers excessively. Mine wouldn't accept any water or food.

  8. Upon disembarking, be prepared for someone to pull you aside to inquire about your cat's health certificate. Though no one asked for mine, I think we'd all rather pay $30+ for nothing than get pulled in by the USDA.

  9. Once at the final destination, make sure before the cat is let free that she knows where to find her water, food, and litter box. I recommend trying to maintain as much continuity as possible from her pre-flight norms - litter brands, food type, bowls, comfort toys or blankets. My cat needed a serious wipe-down out of the kennel, as she urinated a tad and slobbered her mat damp. Post-travels, it will take a while for kitty to feel comfortable and recovered from the traumatic experience. Thankfully, it's all over now.

Updated Information

Flying with Felines

Flying with Felines

Kitty ended up having to relocate back to Indianapolis because I got another traveling gig. On this leg, I consulted with a vet about giving her a mild sedative, which she took right before leaving for the airport. We tested the drug on her a couple nights prior, and it hit her like a brick within 20 minutes. Unfortunately, when it came to flying time, the pill didn't dissolved quickly, and its effects hit her five hours later back at home, swerving like a drunken sailor.

Crush up any sedative you give your cat into soft food she will easily digest. Test this practice a couple nights prior and make sure she has supervision the entire time. She will try to jump, and she will not be coordinated enough to succeed.

Why I Moved to New York City

Why I Moved to New York City

Composing somewhere around 30,000 feet, I'm completely immersed in the inevitable pool of realization. After a childhood in rural Indiana, an academic pilgrimage throughout the state, and 50 countries of exploration later, I'm finally settling on my first independent living situation.

I chose out of a sea of laudable contenders a city that for years seemed too self-praising for my tastes. I've never encountered anyone who feels as conflicted about New York City's energy as me, but emerging from the self-made pit of doubt and prejudice, I came to the exciting conclusion that this massive metropolis is where I'm supposed to be. It's safe to say I no longer roll my eyes at the "cool girl" city in the classroom of America.

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The Irony of my Lifestyle, Part 4

Sometimes it’s a mind clarifier to point out the inaccuracies in your own life – that blend of irony and confusion that makes up your unique mindset. Bottom line: I’m all confused. You probably are too. Let’s talk amongst ourselves… There's a phrase I often hear from cowabunga dudes or girls that fill out their customs forms with pink glitter pens...

Live each day as if it's your last.

What a steaming load. I don't like this mindset, nor do I believe it's all that helpful. The premise is somewhat nice, but imagine if people actually took this phrase to heart.

It's Not All About The Thrills

Live to the fullest!

Live to the fullest!

Most people, given unlimited possibilities and no monetary concerns, would live out one ambitious day after the other, leaving monotonous tasks or building block actions to rot in the corner of their consciousness. Believe me, living like that is thrilling but exhausting (cough, cough). Though I do believe you should enjoy your life, very few people would allow themselves the comfort of knowing what they are doing is good enough in the grand scale of possibilities.

Having this motto tattooed to your cubicle wall seems like a dark, English joke of depressing proportions, and writing the same thing, albeit in Chinese characters, across your waistline seems about as ironic as writing, "I know how to live better than you do."

Instead I think there needs to be a rewording of this overspoken - and therefore somewhat redundant - phrase:

Behave as though you'll never get another chance to make things right. Appreciate what wonders enwrap your life today, and find the present peace that can allow contentment to reign supreme in your mind.

Mexican woman cooking in Puerto Vallarta

Mexican woman cooking in Puerto Vallarta

I don't think I live day by day, nor do I feel I live today to the fullest. I guess I do at times, but it's not a rule. If given the opportunity to do something extreme, 75% of the time I do it. But if lying in bed reading a great book and preparing a nice salad for dinner sounds better than flinging myself off a bridge head first or eating bat brains, I won't opt for the seldom done thing just because it's the ever-stated "once-in-a-lifetime experience."

There is incredible beauty in a calm existence - where precious actions of the day have a poetry of their own. We all will stare at the old hands of a Mexican hombre, chopping green pepper and limes, and call it a lovely, timeless sight of a man exercising his family's culinary secrets. If we do something comforting and truthful to ourselves, I feel we are honoring our own lifestyle by saying, "The majority of my pleasures are sweet and understated…I live a good life."

Instead of thinking "live for today," I'd rather think, "live for these next few months." Planning for more than that allows time to slip by unnoticed, and considering only the next few days doesn't give ample time for planning that which makes you tick.

The Nosedive Muse

We're going down!

We're going down!

Though I don't like this "live-today-because-tomorrow-may-not-come" saying, I have to admit that the fuel driving me on these journeys isn't much different. These days, I've grown a little fearful of planes and turbulence and often tell myself, while flying through the sky, "This bad boy could go down in flames...would I be happy with my life if that happened?"

I imagine that moment of realization as the nosedive commences; what would be going through my head? "I never took a chance on that dream experience. Why didn't I ever give that one thing a try? I never did that...or that!" It's a morbid thought, but it somehow taps into a priority list in my brain I'm not always aware of. I can barely pick a destination I'd most like to visit next, because I want to visit them all, but there's something inside me that cares more for one place or thing than another. The nosedive evokes that muse.

This is why I try the trips where the odds are working against me. This is why I don't settle down and get an apartment and a job and a boyfriend the way my family would like me to. This is why I went to Fiji on my own dollar to try and start something that very likely wouldn't work out.

Check My Expiration Date

The problems I face with my mentality are ones of support, or a lack thereof, and time, or my conflicting views of it.

On November 1st, 2009, I looked at my winter and thought, "I have enough money to have an amazing experience abroad, though I have to be extremely frugal. Where should I go, and what would be the best usage of my time?" I felt this was a completely understandable dilemma. Heck, who wants to be here for the brunt of a Midwestern winter anyway? And instead of plowing into the suffering job market looking for something that doesn't make me nauseous, I wanted to go and do something that connected with me profoundly. Makes perfect sense, no? Not if people feel more comfortable with convention and therefore feel less comfortable with your tendency to poo-poo it. It's not tolerance that backs you up; it's support.

Going for it

Going for it

I hate when people say, "Time flies!" No. Time is always the same, and it's just an awareness of it that makes this speedy perception. I plan on living my 20s to the fullest, not in a way that negates responsibility but embraces alternative views of convention to make sense to the individual. I want to try many different paths because geography doesn't have to limit my spectrum. Therefore, I'm out and about, seizing those opportunities that scream out to me in those nosedive musings. And though I know by the time I'm 30, I'll say, "Whoa, I'm getting old, and I'm nowhere near procreating," I will at least be happy with the chances I took up to that point.

Living life to the fullest means having an awareness that you're merely mortal, but as the polarity of my soul drags me toward both adventure and stationary living, I've adopted the idea that I've got plenty of time ahead of me to do everything I want to do. And since that's quite a long bucket list, I need time to space it all out. Here's hoping the nosedive is never real, until maybe my 100th birthday.

Lots of thoughts...would anyone like to add to this conversation? What do you think about the phrase "Live each day as if it's your last"? And how does your expiration date influence your choices in life?