Our plane leaves in just over an hour but we still haven’t checked out of our room at the Yukon Inn. Bags are packed and ready to go by the door. So is Lenny, my reliable travel companion. But I am under the bed with scissors, trying to cut a slit in the bottom of the mattress big enough to slide an arm inside and grab Juno, who’s lodged herself in the corner. I pull her out by the scruff of the neck, apologizing profusely, and force her into a portable dog crate with her brother.
We part ways at the oversize baggage department of the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport where a security officer wheels them away on a luggage trolley. It breaks my heart, but since a human is only allowed one cat in the cabin and I can’t possibly separate them, the twins must ride in cargo.
As I make my way through security and to the terminal, I swear I can hear them meowing. Just before takeoff, a flight attendant delivers their Air North pet passports to my seat, assuring they’ve made it on board. With one layover in Yellowknife stretching out the length of our trip, we reunite eight hours later at the oversize baggage claim in Ottawa. Phew. I start to feel whole again. I take the deepest breath I’ve taken all day.
“You sure don’t make things easy for yourself,” my mother says every time I’m planning for my next move and trying to accommodate the cats.
I can’t say I disagree with her, but whether the cats will join me on my next great adventure is not even a question. We are a family – a package deal. Wherever I go, they go. Home is where the cats are. No matter how overwhelmed, lost or lonely I feel in a new place, with Juno and Lenny by my side, I know I’ll always land on my feet.
These three-year-old twin black cats have already seen more of Canada than most humans do in a lifetime. They’ve lived in three provinces and one territory; they’ve travelled 8,717 km by car from Ottawa to Vancouver and back; they’ve flown 10,881 km to and from Whitehorse; they’ve lived in eight different apartments; they’ve moved 10 times (and counting).
Each and every “cat move,” as I like to call them, is punctuated by moments that bring us closer. The formula is always the same: I get their litter box, food, bed, scratching post and favourite toys set up in the new strange-smelling environment, then unlatch the cage door of their carrier and wait for them to emerge.
Nine times out of 10, Lenny starts aggressively hissing at the air and Juno runs around maniacally in search of a hiding place. (One of her best finds was a crawl space labyrinth in the ceiling of the basement apartment we live in now.)
Moving is hard, but the only thing worse would be staying still. Every time we shift to travel mode, I can feel the cats’ simultaneous excitement and stress. It’s as though they are externalizing everything I feel on the inside as relocation anxiety sets in. But there’s no time to dwell because I have their needs to think about. I want them to feel comfortable as soon as possible. By focusing on them, I leave no time to overthink.
A few hours later Lenny has chilled out, Juno has come out of hiding and I have figured out for the most part where everything goes. The three of us nestle into bed. (By bed, I mean a mattress on the floor, because who needs a bed frame or box spring when you move every three to six months?)
Juno finds a spot under the blankets between my legs, Lenny reclaims his spot on my chest, and I know we’ve made it home.
Holding back from taking risks stopped the day I adopted the twins. Because no matter how much of a success or failure I feel on any given day, I know they’ll always be so happy to see me when I get home. And no matter where home is at the time, I know they’ll always be there. This gives me the courage I need to really put myself out there and go for what I want.
In five days from this writing, we’ll do it all again. The nomad cats and I are headed to the biggest city we’ve ever lived in: Toronto. Just shy of three million people, this is quite a jump from the population of just over 25,000 we came from five months ago. But as long as we’re together, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Come on, cats. Let’s go! Adventure is calling. And I can’t do it without you.