Firstly, I have to start with a small admission.
You see, I don’t actually have a Maine Coon kitten. I do however, have Elsa. She is 15 weeks old, and healthy, as well as energetic.
She has had her proper vaccinations and is otherwise in good health. She has only ever known a small area where I live.
I was going on a small road trip with a friend of mine. I live in Chiang Mai and was going to Chiang Rai, some 200km away. There was a festival there and some sights to see. I’d arranged with friends to come round and take care of my cats.
As I was stepping out the door, Elsa gave me a look, and in a fit of spontaneity, I decided to take her. I grabbed a small carry bag for her, some food, both wet and dry, a blanket, a small toy and some bowls for the food and water, As well, as wipes.
Things of note that weren’t taken were a pet carrier, a harness and a lead.
This article then is to give you a guide as to what happens when you take a 15 week old kitten on a small two day 400 km road trip. Hopefully you will learn something, … I did.
Firstly, everyone, meet Elsa.
Firstly, we packed a bunch of things behind the drivers car seat. Out fear was that Elsa would wander about and get under the seat and run the risk of getting under the pedals. Several coats and blankets later and this fear was removed.
As you might expect, Elsa really didn’t know what was going on, and while not fearful, there was quite a bit of meowing and roaming around.
As I was the only human she had ever known, she kept trying to get to me,
My friend, who had Elsa on his lap for the first few hours was almost consistently trying to stop her getting onto my lap while I was driving. It was constant, she would be moved and then make a beeline for me. Repeat procedure, mostly for hours.
There’s no danger here really and it was just a matter of keeping an eye on her. That said, she was very restless, no doubt wondering what was going on.
Halfway there we decided to stop for coffee, and we pulled over at a roadside coffee place. Still restless, Elsa was wandering around the car interior while we had a small break.
Continuing on, it was pretty much more of the same. Elsa was still trying to get to my lap while driving.
On the way to the hotel, we stopped briefly at the White temple, a famous Chiang Rai landmark. As I had seen it several times, I stayed with Elsa while my friend spent half and hour taking in the sights.
As we moved onto the hotel, Elsa was still alert and all ears. Constantly trying to figure out what was going on. Again, I don’t think it was fearful or agitated, just unsure of what was happening.
A thousand and one things must be going through her mind, Who is this person? Where are we going? What is going to happen? At this point we are both constantly reassuring her, either stroking her or playing with her.
Getting into the hotel, I immediately put down blankets, toys, along with food and water. Hopefully that would calm her down a little. Give her some reassurance that everything would be OK.
In the room, she went everywhere exploring. Mostly into little hidy holes and crannies where she presumably felt safe.
At this point, my friend and I went out for the evening to the Farm Fest festival. We were gone a few hours and it was a lot of fun. Good food, hot air balloons and a live band.
We weren’t away too long, probably about 5 hours and when we came back there was meowing coming from under the fridge.
Some enticing treats later and she seemed to happily be wandering around the room. She seemed a little happier when we were back and when I woke up in the morning she was sleeping next to me.
Upon waking it seemed Elsa was a little more relaxed. I wouldn’t say completely but she was getting a little more confident wandering around, although if I moved she was still following me around everywhere, bathroom included.
We then drove to a recommended food place in the heart of Chiang Rai. Elsa was still trying to get to my lap but seemed to be learning that she wouldn’t make it.
Then she started the sneakier tactics. Trying to get into the back of the car before trying to get onto the center console. My friend would permanently keep his hand there so he could feel her fur when she tried to make a sneaky pass.
We warned, these kittens are sneaky.
We left her in the car while we went to get some food. We were away about an hour and when we got back to the car, Elsa was asleep under the driving seat.
We guessed here that she was relaxing a little. A good sign.
After a small trip to a temple, we then decided to go to a tea plantation, one of the many the area is famous for.
It was at this point we noticed Elsa seemed to have a propensity for sitting down on the centre console when the car wasn’t moving.
If you ever get the chance, this is a great place to go. Would you believe, they even do great tea in the shop.
We stopped at the view point on the way in and I thought I’d try and take a photo of Elsa on the car roof. I was trying to put her on the roof and then get the camera ready, but she really didn’t want to be up there.
Every time I put her on the roof, she would meow loudly and try to get down. Seems she really didn’t want to be up there. It occurred later that she might have been thinking that she was being left there.
Putting her back in the vehicle, she calmed down right away. We continued on to looking at the various views of the surrounding countryside and then went to one of the onsite cafes.
I put Elsa in the back pack and wandered in to get a seat. I sat down at a table and my friend went in to get some tea drinks.
It was here that it felt like Elsa was starting to relax a lot. Probably just over 24 hours after her journey started.
Her whole face started to look more relaxed, her eyes, once wide with alertness, now started to look more rounded and at peace.
In essence, it felt like she no longer feared being left alone.
We spent several hours here with Elsa in a very relaxed state, even as far as to fall asleep.
She didn’t even mind getting scooped back up again, to be placed in the backpack.
Our next destination was Chiang Rai town centre. On the way, Elsa once again seemed much more relaxed and even found a new place to rest and watch the world go by.
Not comfortable for my friend but hey, the kitten is happy.
Parking in the town centre wasn’t too difficult and all we wanted to do really was go to a coffee shop and watch the world go by.
I once again, placed Elsa in the backpack, which was no problem at all, and after checking with the staff that it would be OK, we went in and got a drink. Elsa, now completely at home on her journey, barely wandered around, preferring to just relax on the sofa with me.
While the kitten was happy, I was happy.
Eventually I put her into the backpack and wandered back to the car. We then drove to a waterside restaurant, and leaving Elsa in the car went for a meal.
When we got back, Elsa was fast asleep on the drivers side. When she was awoken, there was no agitation, no worry, she just woke up and started to play, while we prepared for the journey back to Chiang Mai.
In complete contrast to the journey here, the journey back was one where Elsa was completely at home. She was completely relaxed.
She had stopped trying to get onto my lap and was now happy and feeling safe. Her whole demeanour was vastly different for the first journey.
This was one relaxed kitten.
Occasionally sleeping, a little but of wandering and finding more interesting places to rest.
We arrived in Chiang Mai having to wake her up.
So what did I learn?
The first thing it seems relevant to point out is that a kitten is firstly a little bit nervous when being taken out of the environment from which she has only ever known. This was expected and we did our best to make constant reassurances that things would be OK.
We tried to minimise the time away so Elsa wouldn’t worry as much.
Secondly, there was a remarkable difference after 24 hours. The afternoon of the 2nd day saw an almost abrupt change in her body language. Everything about her just looked more relaxed.
I like to think that it was at this point, after several get ups and go’s, constant moving that she relaxed into knowing we were actually taking her and were not going to leave her somewhere.
Essentially, after 24hrs she grew a lot more confident that things were going to work out well. This was the big takeaway for me, it took just one day for Elsa to grow accustomed to what was happening and to completely relax into it as if she was at home.
It must be noted here that Elsa is 15 weeks old and as such doesn’t really run far. She never moves very far from things she knows as she hasn’t developed the self confidence to explore yet. At least not very far from safety.
If I was doing this with a more adult cat, perhaps several months from now, I’d be much more inclined to bring a lead and a carrier. I’d be scared stiff that she would wander off a bit further and a bit faster than I could keep track of.
I write this, several days after having returned and she is no worse for her time away, I’d go as far as to say she enjoyed it.