Pets. Some of us have one, or two, or three, and some of us don’t have any at all. In any case we adore them, we spoil them and we take them everywhere with us when we can. However when taking a trip many kilometers away from home and for more than just the weekend, it can be a drag to have to take your pet, their belongings and food along with your 15-17 kilogram backpack. In my case, I own a cat, I would have had to take my cat’s litter box, litter, poop-scoop-thingie, travel box and flea-fighting shampoo for five-ish months while backpacking, hitchhiking and couchsurfing through states, cities and pueblos. And I honestly just couldn’t.
So the plan was to leave my cat with someone, and at first I didn’t want to leave my cat at my mom’s because she already owns two chihuahuas and my sister has a bigger dog. But the friends I had to considered also had pets of their own, or they simply couldn’t take care of my cat because there’d be nobody home. So in the end my mother was my only option. I bought her food, a big bag of litter, and wished my mother the best of luck.
But I honestly felt guilty about leaving my cat behind, and what was killing me was that she had no idea I was leaving, and she had no way of grasping the fact that I wouldn’t be around for six months. One day she’d wake up, meow for food, climb on to the sofa to curl up with me and I wouldn’t be there. I wouldn’t be there later on in the day, coming back from a friend’s house like I’ve done before. I wouldn’t be there the next day, as if I stayed over at someone’s house. I wouldn’t be there next week, or the next, or in a month. And she had no way of anticipating it, or preparing for my absence, the way the rest of my family was doing. I had been with her since she was three weeks old, and I would be apart from her for the next 5 months, I was honestly scared of any repercussions.
I think this is sad, and it must be a frustrating experience for pets, to have their masters just disappear. Do they feel abandoned? Will they react to me the same way when we come back? Would they look for us in six months the way they do now?
But I also thought it was not a strong enough reason to let that hold me back from traveling, and I imagine how it could make anyone think twice about leaving home for months. We either have a very strong connection to our pets, or we see them as our children and it’s hard to leave someone like that behind. You could be one of the lucky few who get to take your pet on a trip, but the most common situation is that people meet dogs or cats along the way that tag along with them, and then they bring them back home as pets.
In my case, my family and I Skyped every couple of weeks or so, and when we did my sister would hold up my cat for me to see her and I would call her the way I always did. Sometimes she’d respond and look around to figure out where my voice was coming from, other times she’d ignore. When I came back, the situation was basically the same: she recognized my voice, but not my smell. She was very confused for a couple of days.
Cats and dogs are very very very smart creatures, and there has been proof all over that they always hold on to something about you so they recognize you wherever they go: smell, sound, call, etc. So even though I was very afraid my cat might forget me or be mad when I get back, experience has proven otherwise and I think we should all be brave about this when traveling.