Don’t Forget Harnesses & Leashes When You Move With Pets

In Gentle Journeys by Jamie2 Comments

When our cats first came to us, we tried collars. Within a day, each of them with Houdini-like skill rejected the concept. They’re indoor cats so we didn’t worry too much. However, we did train them early and young to wear a harness and walk on a leash.

Harnesses are more secure than collars and our four don’t seem to be bothered by them. So on the day of our big move from the US to Valencia, Spain we harnessed our cats up before enticing them into the kennels they’d be occupying on our transatlantic flight. And it sure paid off at the end of our journey when we tried to get everyone into our new 8th floor flat.

If you want to know why we recommend harnesses and leashes read on.

The Incident in the Middle of the Night

Ricco the escape artist

It’s long after 1 a.m. more than 12 hours after we landed in Barcelona and we’re all tired. Despite our efforts to get everything exactly right for our pets – EU pet health certificates, and carefully selecting our flight, etc. -- they ended up spending nearly 20 hours in their kennels.  And an additional five hours of transit time as we made our way from Barcelona to Valencia in a rented too-small van.

We managed to get lost in Valencia because we drained our cell phone batteries but finally located the flat we selected and rented with the help of our favorite relocation agent, Linda from Moving to Valencia.

We’re tired and a bit disoriented and we find that NONE of the stairwell lights are working– we never learn why. The elevator is too small for more than one kennel at a time, so three cats are out of their kennels and on their leashes.

I take the three leashed cats and one kennel up the elevator to the flat, fumble the keys and leashes as I open the door, feel around for an interior switch, finally the light is on and I have…two cats on leashes.

Wait. Didn’t I start out with three? Who’s missing, did he go up or down? I have to say I’m really worried. Tired and worried that I’d failed to keep my family safe.

Turns out that Ricco decided that Spain wasn’t for him and was walking back to Oregon. I chased him down flight after flight -- in nearly pitch dark – ever grateful for that red leash he was trailing. I kept an eye on it as it disappeared around turn after turn, flight after flight. And eventually I nab it, reel the boy in and hug him close.

That’s why I recommend using leashes and harnesses.

Of all the pets, Ricco was the most affected by our move. He was fine at home unless someone visited, then this formerly friendly boy headed for a closet or under a bed for the duration. As we hoped that behavior was  temporary. And I think he’s given up on the notion of walking back to Oregon.

Jamie  wants “life on gentle cycle” to be a story of enough rather than a search for more.  His focus is on simplicity, quiet presence, low impact travel, and mostly on living gently. He also manages the technical aspects of


  1. Hello there, thanks for sharing your pet traveling journey with us who tends to travel also with pets. Since we have never done a flight with cats before, we are in utmost best preparing on the planning and talking to all parties who will have to be involved. Just to get a better idea and learn how the things work in details first. I read your post about the kennels and wonder if your cats have peed/ pooped inside during the long flight? And how were they when you first saw them and receive them back in Spain?

    1. Author

      Thanks for your questions. Due to delays, our pets were confined in their kennels for a total of 24 hours. Much longer than we anticipated. Despite spending all that time without a break, they arrived clean and in good condition. We did withhold food for a day before their flight and water for eight hours. In addition, we lined their kennels with absorbent puppy training pads and plenty of soft bedding.

      We traveled with four cats and one dog. Three of the cats and our dog seemed to travel with minimal trauma, but Ricco,who was 14 years old at the time was significantly stressed, hiding in the back corner of his kennel. He still doesn’t like being in a carrier, four years later.

      If it is at all possible, I recommend avoiding transporting pets in an aircraft hold. We will never do that to our cats again.

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