The Road to Australia – A Feline Tail (get it?)

As you know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, in addition to the expense and paperwork Olympics we endured to bring ourselves to this newer, warmer country, we also imported our two Tortoise-shell calico cats – Abby and Lily. I talk about our reasons for bringing them here. And if you’re thinking that must have been expensive, you’re right. The cost breakdown for us and our felines is here.

We hired a company to bring ship them here, which on the whole worked out well, after some confusion and last minute panicking. Our original plan (around which we based our travel plans, accommodations and car rental) was to send the cats ahead of us (flying Calgary, Vancouver, Sydney) and then follow them out, coordinating our arrival date with their last day in quarantine.

Unfortunately, that didn’t really work out.  Dan and I ended up having to drive from Sydney to Brisbane (10-13 hours) without the cats, then a few weeks after arriving in Brisbane, drive back down to Sydney (10-13 hours), get the cats and do the trip a third time, back to Brisbane (you guessed it, 10-13 hours). It’s a long story. And yes, blogs are perfect for telling long stories, but it’s also a boring story – so I’ll spare you. You’re welcome.

After all was said and done, Abby and Lily spent two week stay at the kennel in Calgary without incident and before long were jet setting toward down under!

Here they are in their little kennel, looking frankly – unhappy. But I’m sure they were fine.

Then it was off to the airport. Our agent, Karen, drove the cats to the Calgary Airport where they hopped a plane to Vancouver. I hear they had window seats and drank way too much. They stayed overnight at the Vancouver airport pet facility without incident (as far as I know).

The next day, they flew from Vancouver all the way to Sydney, Australia. We installed a nanny-cam on their kennels, but it was pretty dark in the hold of the airplane. This is the best image we captured:


Just kidding. No nanny cams allowed. We have no idea what the flight was like. I’m sure they didn’t love it, but they did survive it. We were told that in the agent’s 14 year career shipping animals internationally, she had only had two cat fatalities. So that was comforting I guess?

As soon as they landed in Sydney, they were whisked away to the Eastern Creek Quarantine Centre for their mandatory ten-day jail term. They made it through fine, though there were a few nervous phone calls regarding Lily’s um… stool.

Backstory: We had elected to keep them in separate kennels, owing to a history of turning on one another when facing stress.

Further Backstory: One time, we got them spayed. We were poor at the time so we went to the City of Ottawa Animal Services vet (who would spay them for around $85, while our greedy, opportunistic vet wanted $299 per cat). Unfortunately, the surgery didn’t take for Lily so she had to go back to be re-spayed. (More accurately, something got caught between tissue layers during the surgery and an abscess formed within a few days – creating a large lump that had to be surgically removed). Yes. We temporarily changed her name to Lumpy.

In any event, after their first round of spaying at the vet, they were still friends. Sore, but friends. After we found the lump and took Lily to have it removed all Hell broke loose (idiom meaning things became chaotic). When Lily returned from her second surgery, Abby would hiss and spit at her whenever she saw her sister. Abby would chase Lily and looked like she wanted to hurt her, so we separated them until Lily seemed well enough to defend herself. Eventually, they learned to get along again. More or less.

That story has repeated itself any time a major change occurred. They stayed with my sister for a few weeks when we moved from Calgary to Ottawa and it took a long time for them to stop yelling at each other. This to say, stress really bugs them, so we didn’t want them to kill one another in quarantine.

Returning to the current story: About five days into their jail-term, we got a call from the quarantine people who said Lily was having some stool troubles. If it didn’t clear up in two days, she would not be cleared through quarantine. (The implication was unclear. Ship her back? Incinerate her? Shark bait?). Amazingly, people who didn’t know us from Adam took our cat’s life in their hands and made sure she was ok. God bless ’em.

At some point during this time, Lily sustain four broken finger nails (think finger nails fully breaking off. Times four).  The vet suspected that she was trying to claw her way out of her cage either in flight or in quarantine and ripped out the nails. Ouch!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Once we were informed that both cats had cleared quarantine and could be picked up, we drove down to Sydney (13 hours due to construction) in a single day, and picked up our kitties. The video below (if it works) should be Dan rushing the doors at the quarantine facility to get to his kitties faster:


We loaded them in the car and drove 13 hours straight back to their new home in Brisbane. They did much better in the car than expected. Abby pooped in the kennel one time (before we’d had a chance to show her where the litterbox in the car was), and after that, they took turns sitting on top of the kennel for a good lookout, and on the lap of whichever of us wasn’t driving.

Inside of this tiny car is a metropolitan cat castle (discomboomerated) and all the cat stuff we need for an epic feline voyage. Also, you can see the tail light is strapped on with a neon strap because SOMEONE smoked it with a suitcase while loading the car.
Abby, looking a little grainy. Like she’s holding it in, but not for long.
Lily, establishing her bed in what I think they must have perceived as their new, much smaller mobile house.

Once they got home, figured out where the litterbox is (Dan’s bathroom) and nervously explored every nook and cranny of their room, they got on to the important business of sleeping.

Sidenote: For reasons passing understanding, we have given them the master bedroom and taken for ourselves, the tiny spare bedroom.

Here is a picture of our tiny bedroom. Bear in mind I took the picture from inside the little closet. There is about a foot of passage on the far side and on the end of the bed.

Yeah, we don’t make the bed. We’re grown-ups and our parents are on the other side of the planet :

For contrast, here is the cat room (aka luxury suite, with attached bathroom and backyard access.



Anyway – now the cats are happily settled into their new home. Sometimes Abby gets brave and ventures out the front door into the hallway. But mostly they stay inside.

They have had one run-in with a huntsman spider and were victorious. Congrats cats. Keep it up.

Abby had her first trip to the Aussie vet, and had to have a suspicious lump removed from her seven year old back, and didn’t even offer to pay the $993 bill! She is making a full recovery though. We did get a collar for her. I will try to upload a video of her wearing the collar.  It’s funny stuff.

In the meantime, here are a couple more pictures for you to see in order to understand why we brought them.

Monitoring both sides of the couch.
Abby – she’s my favourite.
Lily – she is Dan’s favourite. Good thing the cats can’t read.

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