The Diplocats’ First Overseas Adventure

The Diplocats  (Illustration by Kate Zaremba)
The Diplocats
(Illustration by Kate Zaremba)

I had no idea that traveling overseas with two cats would be so difficult. Mr. Dame in Spain and I thought we were checking all the boxes to prepare for a smooth travel to Madrid with our two cats, Gus and Boj, whom together make up the fat and feisty duo known as The Diplocats. “Checking all the boxes” refers to reading information on multiple websites on travel rules for cats, notifying the airline in advance, and dropping hundreds of dollars at the vet so we could be told that our cats, while fat, are healthy and fit to travel. We even experimented with giving the Diplocats a sedative a few days before departure. I thought if they could be moderately high, the six-hour flight might even be enjoyable for them. Maybe they’d polish off a bag of Funyuns and just pass out. For our lady cat, Boj, the kitty drugs had zero effect. Five minutes after I shot half a pill down Gus’s gullet with something called a pill gun, he was walking around like a corner store drunk and he looked seriously possessed. Apparently cats have a third eyelid located on the inner corner of their eyes and when this extra lid is activated, it covers the whole eyeball except for the outer edge. Horrifying. I spent about two minutes absolutely panicked that we had just given poor Gus a seizure or planted the seed of the devil in him. We decided not to give the cats drugs on the plane ride.

I had called American Airlines a few days before departure to make sure everything was good to go with the kitties. At which point I was informed that on flights across the ocean, American Airlines doesn’t allow any animals in the cabin. Mr.Dame in Spain was told they could ride with us, so we had been planning on tucking them under our seats in these very stylish cat duffel bags we have. Once I learned that wasn’t possible, I spent the next few days feeling terrible about the cats having to be alone under the plane for six hours while we drank red wine above them. Let’s be real though: Cats are not kids and they are not dogs, species which actually seem to recognize humans and find comfort in their presence. I am pretty sure that if I died, and it was just my body and them for a while, my cats would eat my face. Maybe not right away, but it would happen. But still, I worried for their long flight without me poking a chipped nail polish finger coated in pretzel salt in their carriers now and then.

On travel day, we arrived at JFK airport four whole hours before our flight, because Mr.Dame did his simple maths a bit wrong. But good thing, because we scrambled every minute of the next three-and-a-half hours. First we waited in a special line for about an hour. Then when we got to the front, the American Airlines lady informed us that our cute little kitty duffel bags containing the Diplocats were not cargo-hold approved. The cats would need to travel in hard cases, which she said we could buy at a different terminal, which we’d need to take a cab to. Also, we needed a paper from the vet saying the cats were healthy enough to be left in temperatures of about 45 degrees for up to an hour while workers loaded the plane. We had many other sheets of paper noting the cats’ good health, but had never heard of the necessity of this extra paper. Our vet’s office was closed because it was New Year’s Day. Luckily, there is a vet located at the airport. So Mr. Dame  took the cats in a cab to the vet, who signed off on the paper and gave him two small hard carrying cases that he happened to have in the office. Finally we were back in front of a different American Airlines agent for about 30 minutes of additional processing. Again, I felt so terrible for our trembling and meowing kitties and the sad next seven or eight hours of their lives, that I think I would have traded places with them and done the trip in the box if it meant they’d be happy.

After we said our goodbyes to the Diplocats, Mr. Dame and I were bundles of frayed nerves and positively drenched in cat hair on account of us having to take the cats out of their cases and walk them through the X ray machines. We had thirty minutes before our flight boarded, and obviously we spent those minutes in an airport bar quickly downing two alcoholic beverages each. We boarded the plane slightly more relaxed. (Thanks alcohol, you are the best.) As I tucked myself into a space measuring approximately two feet by three feet, it struck me that, proportionately, I was traveling in a space very similar to the carrying cases that the cats were in.

I didn’t enjoy the flight in the least, and not only because the on-board movie was Wolverine.

We were finally reunited with the kitties near the baggage claim in Madrid. They smelled like cigarettes. (Great, we’re in Europe for like a minute, and they’ve already started smoking). Once in our apartment, I flung open the carrier doors and let the cats to their hard-earned freedom. I thought I’d have two resentful and anxious teenagers on my hands, furious at their parents for ripping them from their familiar couch to travel to a foreign country for work. At the very least, I thought they’d give me the cold shoulder for a week. But they seemed totally fine. As I slept the morning away, Boj was curled up next to me and Gus was buried in, of all places, my suitcase. So maybe he likes to travel after all.

To our intrepid dos gatos, the Diplocats.

The Dame in Spain


    1. Loved the story. Your mom told me all about it but it was very entertaining the way you told it. I agree with Patty! I love the drawings.

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