Saying Good-Bye to the Rat Race, Retired Forest Hills' Couple Hires a Taxi in Order to Transport Their Cats to Arizona
"Every state that we hit, people would say 'Are you the ones?' and we would say 'Yes, we are the ones'."
-- Bob Matas
Traveling with cats, whether on vacation or to a new home, can be a nightmare. Neither Greyhound nor Amtrak will take them and the airlines are not much more accommodating.
Some airlines will (or at least used to) allow them in the cabin but most of them require that they ride in the cargo hold. Some cat owners make the mistake of sedating their felines beforehand and this can sometimes be fatal.
In addition to being an extremely traumatic experience for the cats, some of them also have escaped from their cages while in the cargo hold never to be seen again. (See Cat Defender post of November 5, 2007 entitled "Port Authority Gives JFK's Long-Term Resident Felines the Boot and Rescue Groups Are Too Impotent to Save Them.")
Consequently, about the only way to move cats around is by auto. Foreign travel is, of course, out of the question not only for obvious reasons but because of strict quarantine rules as well. (See Cat Defender posts of May 17, 2007 and November 13, 2007 entitled, respectively, "North Carolina Shelter Plotting to Kill Cat That Survived Being Trapped for Thirty-Five Days in Cargo Hold of Ship from China" and "Simon, Hero of the Yangtze Incident, Is Remembered with a Wreath-Laying Ceremony in Ilford.")
For those who have access to an automobile the best solution is to drive. If not, professional pet transporters are available but they charge an arm and a leg. Failing that, the only remaining option is to hire a taxi which is exactly what Bob and Betty Matas elected to do back in April of last year when they relocated from Forest Hills to Sedona, Arizona with their two felines, Cleopatra and Pretty Face.
For their twenty-five-hundred-mile journey, the retired Queens couple hired New York City hack driver Douglas Guldeniz and his 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid SUV. The cats rode in separate cages in the back of the cab while a friend followed behind in a rented truck with the couple's possessions. (See photo above.)
The hiring of a taxi was necessitated by the petit fait that since the Matases are lifelong New Yorkers they had never either owned an automobile or had the need to learn to drive.
Guldinez agreed to take the job for a flat fee of $3,000 plus expenses but once the New York Daily News revealed what was afoot donations began to pour in and the trip most likely cost the couple little or nothing. For instance, Manhattan restaurateur Richie Herschenfeld gave both the Matases and Guldeniz $1,500 apiece.
The Matases and their cats arrived safe and sound in Sedona on April 16th. "It was pretty tiring, for my wife especially," Bob told Newsday on April 17th. (See "Couple Completes Twenty-Five-Hundred-Mile Cab Ride.") "We're happy where we are. We're happy and that's it."
He was a little put off, however, by all the media hoopla that he and his wife attracted along the way. "Every state that we hit, people would say 'Are you the ones?' and we would say 'Yes, we are the ones'," he related wearily.
Upon arrival they received a welcome worthy of conquering heroes. They were met by the mayor of Sedona, who presented them with a bag of souvenirs, and their real estate agent who handed over the keys to their new home.
Rather than moving in right away, they elected to decamp to a nearby hotel for a few days until their possessions from New York could be transferred to their new abode.
Asked before she left town if she was going to miss Queens, Betty told the New York Daily News on April 15th, "I feel a little sad, but I'm going to a beautiful place." (See "And They're Off! Queens Pair Cab It to Arizona Sunset.")
Bob concurred with his spouse. "We're going to miss New York and Forest Hills, but we're ready for Sedona. We want to be nice and warm."
Although it is not known how Cleopatra and Pretty Face feel about the move, cats are not only territorial by nature but generally do not like to have their daily routines interrupted. Nonetheless, since they are presumably indoor cats they should not be too adversely affected by the change in scenery. It would be an entirely different story is they were outdoor cats.
The Matases are to be commended for going to the extra trouble and expense in order to relocate their cats. Some owners would have stored them in the cargo hold of a jetliner and hoped for the best while others would have dumped them at a shelter to be killed.
As they have demonstrated, there are solutions to relocating cats. Cat owners must first of all recognize that their cats are valuable family members and then be willing to work out a safe and practicable way of resettling them. (See San Francisco Chronicle, September 18, 2007, "Moving? Congratulations. Moving with Pets? Condolences...a Few Tips to Make It Slightly Less Horrible" and Cat Defender post of February 5, 2008 entitled "When Bankers Become Crooks and Homeowners Get Greedy, Cats and Other Animals Pay the Ultimate Price.")
Granted, not everyone has the Matases' money, but solutions can be found in most instances if a person cares enough about his or her cats. In those rare instances where that is not feasible, owners should find alternative homes for them as opposed to either surrendering them at shelters or simply dumping them along the side of the road.
Although the devotion shown by the Matases to their cats may seem to be a bit extreme to some, it is not all that uncommon. For example, back in September Luigi and Donna DiMichele of Rome shelled out $14,000 in order to hire a private helicopter in order to transport their cat, Fufi, to their new home in Sardinia. (See photo above.)
Oddly enough, Fufi did not seem to mind the trip by chopper even though she is terrified to death of airplanes and ferries.
"Fufi means a lot to us, and investing this much in the trip was worth it," Donna told Ananova on October 1, 2007. (See "Couple Hires Helicopter for Cat.")
Photos: Kronen Zeitung of Wien (Matases and Guldeniz) and Ananova (Fufi).