Pet Connection

Cross-Country Cat

Transporting a cat to a new home takes preparation, but there’s no reason to leave your BFF -- best feline friend -- behind

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

When Barbara Cole Miller made the decision to move from her longtime home in Southern California to her hometown of Albany, New York, she knew one of the greatest challenges she faced would be transporting her 10-year-old cat. Piper, adopted by Miller from San Clemente-Dana Point Animal Shelter in 2013, was fearful of loud noises and rarely left home except for visits to the veterinarian. Their cross-country trip by air would involve a two-day stay at a hotel before the flight, a new experience for Piper.

Her head exploding with “what-ifs,” Miller reached out for advice from Piper’s veterinarian, Bernadine Cruz, DVM, who is certified in Fear Free techniques, and to acquaintances experienced in traveling with cats.

The first step was finding a soft-sided carrier with mesh sides for good air flow that would fit comfortably beneath the airline seat. She chose one that allowed 15-pound Piper to be placed in it from the top or side.

Miller also purchased a portable folding litter box and packed a zippered plastic bag of lightweight clumping litter for the flight. She didn’t expect Piper to need or use it during the flight, but she wanted to have it in case they were delayed at their connection in Chicago. Janiss Garza, who travels frequently with her Somali cat Summer, advised on litter selection.

“Clay litter is heavy and will almost guarantee your suitcase will be inspected by the TSA, since it has some of the same chemical makeup as another substance on their danger list,” she says.

To make sure Piper could urinate comfortably and mess-free if she had to during the flight, Miller lined the bottom of the carrier with a plastic bag, then layered it with absorbent pee pads and folded newspaper. She also added shredded newspaper to help Piper stay warm.

Her biggest fear was that Piper would defecate during the flight.

“I carried a cat carrier change: plastic bag, pee pads and newspaper, but my good girl only peed a little while confined or away from a litter box,” she says.

To help Piper feel comfortable in the hotel room and the carrier, Miller used feline pheromone spray provided by Dr. Cruz. She also planned ahead for the flight. Piper’s carrier required a special airline tag, so they had to check in at the counter. Miller has had both knees replaced, so she had to enter a special line to go through security. She knew that Piper would have to be removed from the carrier during the security check so the bag could be X-rayed. To help maintain control of Piper while the cat was out of the bag, she purchased a custom vest with a touch fastener and a ring for attaching a leash.

“Most important,” she says, “I requested a private room for inspection of her carrier. We were escorted to a small, fully enclosed room where Piper could walk around for a few minutes.”

Before arriving at the airport and again before takeoff, Miller gave Piper a dose of gabapentin prescribed by Dr. Cruz. The medication doesn’t cause complete sedation, but it reduces stress. Aside from an occasional quiet meow, Piper tolerated the two flights without issue.

They reached their new home five days before the movers arrived with furniture, but Miller had arranged for a friend to have a litter box and food waiting for Piper. She also brought familiar throw pillows and used the pheromone spray to help Piper settle in to her new digs.

“All in all, she did far better than I could have imagined,” Miller says. “Piper has a strong bond with me, and as long as I was around, she was fine.”


My co-worker

scares my dog

Q: My sweet 18-month-old cavalier King Charles spaniel comes to work with me every day. He loves other dogs and most people, especially women, but with most men, it takes him a while to warm up. There is one guy in my office who has tried so hard to befriend him, and my dog wants no part of him. He now runs and hides behind me or in a corner when he sees the guy; the other day, he scurried into the safe. Yesterday, before I could stop him, the guy cornered my baby, and my dog peed all over! He hasn’t peed indoors since he was 4 months old. Is it time for me to tell my co-worker to back off? What should I say?

A: Body language cues -- directly facing the dog, leaning into the dog, looking directly at the dog or reaching out -- from a person who is overly interested can be too much for a reserved dog. It’s important for people to give a dog space, allowing the dog to get to know them on his own terms, as well as to protect that needed bubble of personal space that we all, dogs included, want to have.

You can and should be clear about your dog’s need for extra space. Establish ground rules about how your dog prefers to interact with people. Your dog may be one who prefers to play hard to get and responds better to being ignored so he can make approaches when he’s comfortable.

Never be afraid to speak up for your dog. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “Please don’t come any closer.” You don’t have to give any kind of explanation as to why your dog needs space; that’s between you and your dog. -- Mikkel Becker

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Fishy bandages

provide burn relief

-- Tilapia skins help burn wounds heal better, says Jamie Peyton, DVM, chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at University of California, Davis, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. The novel treatment, delivered at VCA Valley Oak Veterinary Center in Chico, is helping dogs and cats who suffered burns in the Camp Fire in November. Sterilized fish skins provide pain relief and protection, transferring collagen to burned skin. Another benefit: less frequent bandage changes, which can be painful for burned paws. The treatment was first used last year on two bears and a mountain lion who suffered burns in the Thomas Fire. Eventually, Dr. Peyton hopes, the technique can be used more widely by veterinarians.

-- Cat claws, made from a protein called keratin, grow from underneath, with new layers pushing out old ones. Old layers fall off naturally (you may find shed coverings lying on your carpet every couple of months), revealing sharp new tips. In their normal relaxed state, cat claws are safely sheathed, like any good set of daggers. The retracted claws allow cats to move smoothly without catching their claws on anything. To bring out claws for defense or offense, cats must contract certain muscles and ligaments located beneath the toes.

-- Be prepared to care for pets in the event of severe winter weather. Blizzards and power outages can make it impossible to leave your home to buy pet food or pick up needed medications. If the weather forecast is predicting heavy snowfall and icy roads, make sure you have enough food, water and prescription medications your pet needs to last for at least five days, advises the American Veterinary Medical Association. Pets who are very old or young or who have short or thin coats are more susceptible to cold weather. Don’t let them stay outdoors for long periods. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

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