We have a sign that says, “Dogs have masters; Cats have staff.” It’s usually the case that cats are better at training their humans than we are at training them, but one instance when training can be really important is preparing your cat to be in a kennel or travel crate for long periods of time if she has to fly. If your cat has never been in a kennel or has only spent a short time travelling to or from the vet or groomer, then it will help your pet to practice being in a kennel for the same amount of time it will have to travel. For instance, if you’re putting your cat on a 3-hour flight and have to check her in 2 hours before departure, that’s at least a 5-hour time frame (more like 6 or 7) she will be in the kennel.
Kennel training does several things for your friend. One, it allows her to slowly get used to being in a kennel while she’s still in a familiar environment, her own home. Two, the timed training period will give her a sense that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel, and that she will see you again and maybe get a treat and a cuddle. Three, it gives her a chance to make the kennel her own — it will have her smell in it, and will become familiar and safe.
Begin kennel-training as far in advance of your travel as time will allow.
1. Use the actual kennel in which the cat will be travelling — put water and food dishes in place, too. Also use an absorbent lining for the floor of the kennel, and maybe a shirt or small towel that has your scent on it (this will also help to keep your cat calm). Most airlines will not allow any toys in the kennel, so don’t put any toys that she won’t be able to take on the trip. The point is the kennel will look and smell the same as it will on the day of travel.
2. Prepare the kennel with Feliway or Comfort Zone, if using: spray around the corners of the kennel 30 minutes before the cat goes in. (See Part 1 for information about these natural alternatives to keep your cat calm)
3. Start with short time periods similar to a trip to the vet (10-20 minutes), and increase the time by 20-30 minute increments each day. As the time periods increase to hours, put food and water in the dishes so the cat is used to eating and drinking from them. The airlines won’t allow food in the kennels during the flight, but they will put food and water in the dishes during layovers if you provide the food. Check with your airline’s policy for pets travelling as cargo.
4. If at all possible, try to make the experience a pleasant one. Don’t chase the cat and throw her in the kennel every day because obviously she’ll be suspicious and traumatized by then. Once she’s in the crate, spend a few minutes assuring her she’s OK, but don’t stay too close the whole time — the point of the exercise is to get her used to being alone and to learn that you will come back for her. Then at the end, offer her a favorite treat — for our cats, it’s usually a cuddle and a good scratch around the ears — but catnip, treats, or whatever she considers special will work. One cat we knew loved broccoli!
Three weeks before their flight, we started kennel-training Kio. This would be his first plane trip. We figured Haiku had been through so many moves and long car trips that she didn’t need the practice, but Kio hated kennels and he would soil his kennel even in the short 7-minute trip from home to the vet!
After a couple of days, Kio had stopped soiling the kennel but was still mewing and letting everyone know he was not a happy camper. Then it occurred to T that maybe the process seemed like a punishment since Kio was singled out for this treatment, while Haiku was left roaming around. He was right — as soon as Haiku joined the routine, Kio settled down. Haiku lay down and went to sleep once she realized she wasn’t going to the vet; and by the second time they trained together, Kio actually walked into his kennel, lay down and fell asleep, too! By the end of the training period, he would remain asleep in his kennel even after the door was opened. When we dropped them off at the cargo office for their flight, Kio was noticeably anxious but he didn’t claw or cry. When Mike picked them up in D.C. 18 hours later, he called to say that Kio walked out of his clean kennel, plopped on a rug and made himself quite at home. (Mike had the Comfort Zone diffuser plugged in at his home, too.)
FLYING IN THE U.S. WITH PETS
(This only applies to pets that are NOT travelling in the passenger cabin with you)
Travelling with pets on a U.S. carrier presents some challenges. Going from Hawaii to D.C. was the first time we tried to do this. What we learned is that only one U.S. airline will guarantee travel with pets as cargo (our cats are too big to travel under the seat in the passenger cabin). What this means is that the other airlines will allow you to make reservations, BUT they can still refuse to accept your pet on the travel day if any stop in their itinerary is too hot or too cold. Translation: if you’re planning to have your pets travel in cargo on the same flight with you, you might find out that the airline will NOT let your pet be checked-in on the day you have reserved for them. The airlines can even call passengers AFTER the pets have been checked in (in some cases the passengers might already be passed security and waiting at the boarding gate) and tell them it has been determined that it will be too hot or too cold for the pet to travel in cargo. What does the passenger do then? The agents we talked to on the phone at Delta and United basically said: Not our problem.
We would have liked to travel on the same flight with the cats on this trip, but unfortunately our flight was arranged and paid by T’s employer who did not have travel contracts with the only airline that will guarantee pet travel reservations. We were travelling in August and were being routed through the Southeast, so it was a good bet that the airline we were flying with would cancel the cats’ reservations at the last minute and this was a stress we did not want or need. So we opted to have them fly out earlier on a different airline — the only one that would guarantee a travel day. We were also fortunate to have a kind person on the other end who offered to pick them up and take care of them until we got to D.C.
The only U.S. carrier that guarantees reserved travel for your pet (as cargo) is Continental Airlines — they are the only airline that has temperature-controlled holding areas for animals at all their major hubs. This might mean that you will not have the same itinerary as your pet, or that you will have to pay more for your flight if you want to match your pet’s itinerary, but at least you can count on your pet leaving when promised. The folks at the Continental cargo center in Honolulu told us that they often see frantic travellers at their counter who are trying to get their pet on a cargo flight an hour before their own flight is scheduled to leave because their airline refused to accept the pets at the last minute. Of course, trying to re-book at the last minute doesn’t always work out (and if someone can’t pick up your pet at the airport, the animal shelter will be called in) or people have to pay a premium price because they don’t have a reservation.
If you are not travelling on the same flight with or same itinerary as your pet, Continental allows you to track your pet’s flight and offers updates on their arrival at each stop. It also offers an extra service for pets whose itinerary goes through their Houston hub and whose layover is more than 3 hours long. For an additional fee per pet, you can have your pet’s kennel cleaned and your pet exercised, groomed, fed and given water. The amount of the fee will depend on the type and size of the animal; for cats it was an additional $75 for the first cat, and $50 for the second. Haiku and Kio had a 5-hour flight from Honolulu, a 5-hour layover in Houston, and another 3-hour flight to D.C., so it seemed like a worthwhile investment this time. If you don’t want the extra service, Continental will still give your pet water and any food you provide (dry food in a ziploc pouch taped to the kennel) during their layover, but the pet will not be allowed out of the kennel, and food and water will only be given through the locked door.
From the moment you know you have to re-locate until a few months after everything is unpacked and in its new place, there will be some stress and tension in the pets in your life. Think about how stressed you feel — and you know what’s going on and are (mostly) in control! Your pet has no idea why or to where you are moving, or even if they will be going with you. They may become clingy, talkative (mewing a lot), combative or depressed; or they may overeat or stop eating. Take a little time to reassure and comfort, and take to heart the Girl Scout motto and help them “Be Prepared” for the journey ahead. And when your pet invites you to play, accept the invitation — it will have a calming effect on you, too!
The American Psychiatric Association recognizes relocating, or moving, as one of the most stressful challenges we can face. It’s right behind death of a spouse or family member, and divorce and losing/changing jobs. But there are things we humans can do to prepare and to take care of ourselves throughout the moving process. We understand what’s happening — and even with children, we can talk to them and help them process what they’re feeling and what to expect in their new home.
Not so with our four-legged furry friends. What our pets see is that their people are stressing, and one day all their furniture and other stuff with their smell on it is taken away. Then it’s a series of strange places to stay, maybe a long car ride (or worse, a crate and dark plane ride for a long, long time), and finally another strange house with all their stuff in unfamiliar places. Hey, what gives?! I suspect dogs may have an easier time with this adjustment — we haven’t made any moves with dogs, so I can’t say for sure.
But cats, especially indoor-only cats, are all about The Routine: I wake up when I feel like it, but My Bowls are filled at This Time, twice a day, even if I have to walk across someone’s pillow or tickle someone with my whiskers; I sit by This Window to watch the birds, and that Other Window at exactly That Hour when the sunny spot hits me just so; my people come home at This Hour and I spend half an hour letting them brush me and pay me the Attention I deserve... So what happens when The Routine is interrupted and Things Change?... Acting out (spraying, fighting, scratching furniture), loss of appetite or overeating, clinginess, depression, just about any reaction you can expect from a human... (See Cat's-Eye View: When Our Pets Decide To Move Without Consulting Us)
In the last 11 years we’ve moved five times, twice literally across the world, with two cats. Unquestionably our toughest move in terms of pet travel was going from Germany to Hawaii because of Hawaii’s strict quarantine laws. Because Hawaii is rabies-free, they understandably want to keep it that way and so there is a long-standing 4-month quarantine on incoming animals (same is true in the U.K. and Guam, both also rabies-free). Fortunately for us, just a year or so before we moved there, the quarantine regulations were loosened to allow the pets to fulfill the quarantine period BEFORE you get to the Islands. It’s a very strict protocol, with numerous steps and expensive tests and fees. But if you’re considering bringing your pets with you when you move to Hawaii, it’s considerably better for your pet to follow this protocol than to allow them to languish in quarantine for 4 months.
WHERE TO STAY
What we didn’t realize when we moved to Hawaii, until it was almost too late, was that if you successfully by-pass the quarantine for your pets, there are no hotels — on Oahu, at least — that will allow you to keep pets with you! Actually when we moved in 2005, there was one hotel and one short-term apartment rental that did allow pets, but they have both changed their rules. So unless you have family or friends in Hawaii willing to house your pet, you might have to kennel your pets while you house-hunt — which defeats one of the purposes of avoiding quarantine.
One alternative we found on Oahu is to find advertised private vacation rentals that will allow you to keep your pets with you (we used craigslist). On this latest move, we found a high-rise 1-bedroom condo in the heart of Waikiki that was less expensive per night than any hotel, even those with special local or military rates. Make sure pets are okay, and that payment is made through some kind of system with guarantees (we used Paypal) so your money doesn’t disappear before you get a set of keys. You may be asked to pay a deposit, in our case the deposit was refundable once the Lessor knew there was no damage from the pets.
In Germany we have also booked with pet-friendly private vacation rentals, called Ferienwohnungen (or FeWo, for short), when entering or leaving the country. These are usually fully furnished private apartments, many of which include breakfast or at least Brotchen delivery service in the mornings. They too are usually cheaper than hotels, and provide all the amenities of home, including cable or satellite internet connections, washer and dryer in the unit, linens, and fully equipped kitchens. In general, it is much easier to travel with pets in Europe, especially Germany, than in the U.S. but your pet is expected to be well-behaved and clean. And it helps to know what to expect: many FeWo are attached to the landlord’s home, are located outside the main city or town, and the landlord usually speaks a smattering of English (but which was always much better than our German).
In the U.S., you can find lists of “pet-friendly” hotels and motels, but call directly to the hotel you’re planning to stay in — rather than the hotel chain’s 800-number — because these policies can change very quickly (“One bad apple” can spoil the whole bunch, Girl"). If you’re planning to bring more than one animal, ask if it’s okay before you get there — some places only allow one pet per room. And get the okay about pets in writing in your confirmation email. By the same token, some places that advertise only one pet per room may let you keep more than one cat or smaller dogs if they do not disturb other guests. But consider, hotels that accept pets (not counting premium 3 and 4 star properties, of course) are generally not centrally located and often require deposits or charge extra fees.
To prepare your cat for any stressful situation (vet visit, boarding, relocation) there are 2 products we highly recommend — one can be used by humans as well as pets, but the other is specific to cats. The first is “Dr. Bach’s Rescue Remedy”, a British homeopathic formula that includes over a dozen flower essences — it is sold in dropper bottles or sprays. I discovered Dr. B’s on the recommendation of the house mother I lived with in London when I was studying at Leith’s — a few drops in your tea or under the tongue helps to calm nerves in just a few minutes. A few drops in your cat’s drinking water does the same for your pet. When we know a stressful situation is coming up, we’ll begin adding the drops to the cats’ water every day for 2 weeks before the event. In cases like a relocation, we’ll add it to their water or put one drop in soft food throughout the process. Dr. Bach’s ($10-17) is available in the U.S. at many health food stores, Whole Foods markets, and on Oahu, at Star Market.
The other product is called Feliway spray — which is available by that brand name, or as a component in “Comfort Zone” spray in the U.S. As its name implies, Feliway is designed for cats. It’s a pheromone-based spray that calms felines. It was first prescribed by our German vets when Haiku and Laika were flying from Germany to Boston. The spray is used on your cat’s kennel, bedding, toys or other objects that the cat is around — don’t spray the cat itself! A newer product is the Comfort Zone plug-in room diffuser, which uses the same technology as those plug-ins that release fragrances into a room, except these have no fragrance (at least we don’t smell anything). This was particularly helpful when Haiku and Kio spent a week at our friend Mike’s home in DC before we joined them, and then in the series of hotels we all endured over the next 3 weeks, and finally our new home. One diffuser lasted about one month. You can find both CZ spray ($20 and up) and diffuser ($35-50) at PetSmart and Feliway ($13-25) on-line from Ashley's Animal Ark. Once you have a diffuser you can buy just the refills. We’ve seen Feliway/CZ lessen stress activities such as constant mewing, clawing at kennel doors and floors, and “spraying." But it also works in other stress situations — fighting among household pets or introducing new animals (or babies) to the family.
But just like catnip (25% of cats are not affected by catnip), one or both of these products may not work on all cats. We just wanted to share our experiences in case other people are looking for non-pharmaceutical alternatives to travelling with their feline friends. Everything in this series is based on our personal experience with the three cats we have travelled with, and is not intended to substitute for the advice of your own veterinarian.
Next post, Part Two: The benefits of kennel-training and what we learned about flying with pets in the U.S.
This is something we actually made while still in Hawaii during the middle of our move. Although it takes some initial prep to trim and brown the lamb shanks, most of the cooking can be done in a slow cooker while you tend to the rest of your life. This recipe was devised to put to use two key ingredients we had in the pantry: lamb shanks and preserved lemons. This is an incredibly hearty meal better suited for cold winter months — guess we’ll have to make it again once our newest batch of preserved lemons is ready in 4 weeks.
Lemons and red wine may sound like a strange combination for braising meat, but they marry together beautifully in this dish. The recipe is adapted from one we’ve used before using fresh lemons (original recipe). The preserved lemons keep a true lemon flavor even after long cooking, while the gremolata brightens the flavors as you savor every mouthful. We found the combination really exquisite, and this will be our go-to recipe from here on out.
Gremolata is a classic Italian garnish for osso bucco, and is just a quick mince of fresh parsley, garlic and lemon peel. This is best done just before serving to keep the flavors of the garlic and lemon peel fresh. It is an unbeatable way to brighten flavors of long-simmered stews or braised meats.
LAMB SHANKS WITH PRESERVED LEMONS AND GREMOLATA
Serves 2 persons
To prepare 4 shanks, double everything except the 2 TBL oil for browning (keep same amount), and the balsamic vinegar (use 1/3 cup)
1 large onions, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
3 TBL olive oil + 2 TBL olive oil for browning
2 lamb shanks
1 cup dry red wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 pieces of preserved lemon, to equal 1 lemon
remove pulp and thinly slice rind
6-8 sprigs fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Pour 3 TBL. of oil into bottom of slow cooker, layer with onions and bay leaves. Turn heat on slow cooker to LOW, cover and trim lamb.
Trim lamb shanks by removing excess fat and membrane surrounding meat. Then cut (update 11/24/08: but do not remove) the tendon that connects meat to top of the bone — it’s easier to trim the fat and membrane while the tendon is still attached, so leave the tendon for last.
Brown the shanks well in a heavy bottomed skillet, then transfer them to slow cooker as they finish browning. Pour off the fat, add garlic and cook just until garlic are fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn the heat up to high, and immediately pour red wine into the skillet to de-glaze. Stir to bring up the browned bits in the pan. Boil for about 1 minute, then pour deglazing liquid over lamb.
Sprinkle lemons and oregano over and around shanks, then pour balsamic vinegar and diced tomatoes. Season well with salt and pepper.
Cover and leave on LOW for 7-8 hours or until meal is fall-off-the -bone tender. Or you can layer everything instead in a heavy dutch oven and place in the preheated oven (325F/160C) to cook for 3 hours.
Before serving, remove shanks from sauce and keep warm. Cook sauce on HIGH in slow cooker with no cover to reduce sauce while you prepare the Gremolata and polenta.
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, washed well and dried
Peel from one fresh lemon
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
With a very sharp knife, finely mince parsley and place in a bowl. Combine lemon peel and sliced garlic on cutting board, and mince together. Add minced lemon-garlic to parsley and mix well. Serve with lamb shanks.
To serve, spoon creamy polenta onto plate. Place one shank over polenta, spoon sauce over lamb, and sprinkle gremolata over. Serve extra gremolata at the table.
See also: Learning to make preserved lemons at home (all you need are lemons, coarse salt and oil. And time.)
Other recipes with preserved lemons: Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives, Roast Chicken with Preserved Lemon & Sage and Preserved Lemon & Almond Polenta Torta (cake).
Finally, we’re back in real time on this site...It’s been a long haul and we’re still not 100% settled. This is by far the most difficult move we’ve had to make, and glad it’s almost over. One of the things that starts to signal a return to normalcy is when familiar things show up in the pantry again — old friends like these preserved lemons! This is a jar I just started 5 days ago and topped up with olive oil this morning. As we know by now, it’ll be 4+ weeks before this batch is ready to use. That’s okay, it’s worth the wait.
Preparing these lemons was bittersweet, too. It was a reminder of the preserved lemon torta we prepared last summer and sent as part of the appeal to raise money for our fellow blogger, Briana Brownlow at Figs with Bri. The appeal was to help Bri pay for the costs of her treatments in her second battle with breast cancer. During our hiatus, we learned from the fundraiser’s organizers at Jugalbandi that Bri died on October 26, 2008, at the too young age of 32. I will always think of the sunny optimism Bri’s site and her personality inspired, and associate that with the bright yellow and sunny flavor of lemons. Our deepest condolences and prayers go to Marc and all Bri’s family and friends. Thank you for allowing us to share in her warmth and optimism.
One of the things that Bri, as well as Bee and Jai, Shilpa and Dhivya, and other vegetarian bloggers continue to teach us is that modern vegetarian cooking is incredibly diverse and imaginative. It’s not all tofu and brown rice! And while we haven’t made the leap to vegetarianism ourselves, we continue to strive for 2-3 meatless meals each week. Kitchiri or Khichdi, the basis for the British dish called Kedgeree, is one of our favorites: usually a mix of lentils or split peas with rice in a spice-laden porridge, this is one of the most versatile and tasty dishes around (Shilpa even has a version with tapioca and potatoes that is on our to-try list).
After sampling many different versions from the Web and from cookbooks since April, we’ve evolved a version of our own that can be thrown together without reference to a recipe (aahhh, The Way of Cooking continues): using 3 parts pulses (dried split peas or lentils) to 2 parts rice cooked with turmeric and ground cumin, a seasoned oil topping (the tadka or tarka), and usually grated coconut (it’s not only yummy, it’s supposed to be helpful with T’s thyroid condition) and a mix of other vegetables (squash, hard or summer; corn; greens; even breadfruit). Although the basics are the same from week to week, changing the type of pea or lentil used, and the availability of seasonal vegetables keeps us from getting bored with this wonderful dish. Choose a split pea or lentil for faster cooking and Even in Hawaii’s hot summer months, kitchiri was a warm and welcome meal at the end of the day, but it’s especially beloved now as the days get shorter and the evenings colder here in metro DC. It also makes a hearty and filling alternative to oatmeal or other hot cereal in the morning — we often have the previous night’s leftovers for breakfast. Add a little broth or water when you re-heat the kitchiri, as it will thicken as it sits.
BASIC GUIDELINES FOR KITCHIRI OR KEDGEREE
Serves 4-6 persons
1-1/2 cups split lentils or peas
1 cup rice, medium or long grain
2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
6 cups water
1 tsp. sea salt
Wash well and check for small pebbles in lentils or peas. Separately wash and rinse rice. Combine pulses, rice and water in large dutch oven. Bring to boil over high heat, removing foam as it rises to surface. When water reaches a boil, turn heat down to medium, add turmeric, cumin, and salt, and allow to simmer 20-30 minutes, or until pulses just begin to soften. Meanwhile, prepare the tarka.
The tarka, or seasoned oil, is another area where you can be creative about what combination of spices you use. But if you’ve never tried popped brown or black mustard seeds, I urge you to search them out at an Indian or Asian grocer — I’ve even found them in Chinese markets. The aroma and flavor of popped mustard seeds does not really have an equal in the culinary world, and adds a wonderful dimension to this and many other dishes (see also Chaat Potatoes for another great use of this ingredient). Whatever combination of spices you choose, cooking them in oil with the onions and garlic will add another depth to the flavors you are creating. As for the asafoetida, it also has a flavor that can’t be substituted, and it has the added benefit of reducing the “gassy” effects of the pulses — Leave it out at your own peril!
2 TBL. olive oil, or other light-tasting oil
1 TBL. brown mustard seed
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 curry leaves (optional)
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. amchur, ground green mango powder
1/4 tsp. ground asafoetida
1 tsp. garam masala
2” stick cinnamon
1-3 serrano peppers, seeded and sliced (optional, we have to leave this out on the advice of our acupuncturist)
Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add brown mustard seeds to oil, and as soon as they start popping and releasing their popcorn-like aroma (which is usually immediately), add onions and garlic. Turn heat down to medium, cover, and cook until onions are translucent and soft, about 10 minutes.
Add curry leaves, coriander powder, amchur, asafoetida, garam masala, and cinnamon stick. Stir together and cook until spices are fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add tarka to simmering pulses and rice. Check water level, you may need to add 1/2 cup to 1 cup more water (will depend on type of lentil/peas used). Stir spices through, cover and continue cooking over medium heat for 10 minutes.
Sea salt, to taste
4 oz. frozen or fresh grated coconut
8 oz. roasted or cooked kabocha, butternut, acorn, or other hard squash
or any combination of summer squashes (zucchini, yellow), corn, upo or other gourd, fresh green beans or peas, or raw or flash-cooked greens (see Flash-cooked Chinese mustard greens or Watercress). We’ve also used roasted breadfruit, edamame, frozen spinach, and lima beans — let your imagination and seasonal vegetables be your guide! This may also be a way to sneak in vegetables people THINK they don’t like... sneaky, yes, but sometimes necessary. (Note to my MIL and FIL: I would NEVER do this to you guys! Everyone else takes their chances in my kitchen...)
Taste mixture, and season with salt as necessary.
Add a mix of vegetables from the list above to the pot, and continue cooking until pulses are cooked soft, about another 20-30 minutes, check water level after 15 minutes, and add more as needed.
Garnish with minced cilantro or green onion, and serve with naan, roti or other flatbread, and maybe a yogurt raita.
Kitchiri with yellow split peas, brown rice, coconut and roasted acorn squash
See also Preserving the Perfume of Lemons for a step-by-step guide to making preserved lemons at home, and the Lemon Vigil for a weekly view of lemons during their 5-week journey from fresh to preserved. A new recipe using preserved lemons coming next.