First off, welcome to all my new blog followers! I’ve never been “freshly pressed” before, so it’s been quite an adventure. I hope this post doesn’t disappoint!
This year, for me, is a year full of extensive and intense research travel. This summer, my research is taking me to a new state, across the country from where I currently reside. This means that I have to move, both me and my cat, across the country. Initially I was going to fly, but after some good advice and a lot of thinking, I decided that I wasn’t living somewhere where the public transportation was good enough for me to easily get food and take the cat to the vet without a car, so instead of flying, my cat and I will be driving over 2500 miles to our new (temporary) home. This is a stressful trip for anyone, but add in a sweet, but nervous cat in poor health, and you have quite a challenge. For those of you who are new, my cat, M, is incredibly sweet – here’s some posts about him.
Luckily for me, I’m autistic, and as a consequence, I have a lot of trouble with transitions and big changes like this. Why luckily, you ask? Because I’ve had 25 years of experience in handling them, and I’ve spent the past 6 years thinking extensively about my neurotype and how to best accommodate myself and survive the “real world”. Thanks to learning about autism, I’ve been able to break things down and find little steps to help make myself more able to deal with big, scary changes. Self-awareness really is an amazing thing, isn’t it? So in addition to preparing myself for this journey, I’ve employed a similar tactic to this for my cat, to work up to the big trip with as little stress as possible. Rather than just packing up and putting M in the car on the day I leave, I’ve spent the past several weeks preparing M to drive cross country. Here’s what we’ve done to practice for the big trip:
- We’ve hung out in the car together while it isn’t moving, letting him sniff around and explore all the nooks and crannies. He decided his favorite place was the drivers seat – look out, if you see a wildly driven car in Texas this summer, it might be M at the wheel (just kidding).
- We practiced short drives with him in the carrier, and then longer drives with him allowed to roam free. He actually seems to prefer to be in his carrier most of the time.
- I have a dog crate that fits his litter box, and it has been set up the same way it will be in the car, in my apartment. We’ve practiced using the litter box in the car both while driving and while stationary. He’s a champ
- We’ve even driven randomly and ended up in places he’s unfamiliar with.
In addition to practicing driving, I’ve been collecting all of his favorite things – his favorite toys, blankets, food, etc. to have with us, so he doesn’t feel quite so lost. I think M will have more luggage then me when we make this drive! But it seems to be working, and I think we’ll have a successful drive. Positive thoughts are most welcome, though!
I’ve known how to break this down and figure out what he needs because I know what makes me comfortable and uncomfortable. I know that for me, going new places is terrifying, but I know how to break it into small, manageable steps. I know it helps me, and I thought it might help M cope with the drive. So far, it really seems to be working, since he’s gotten much more comfortable in the car and really actually seems to enjoy it now. If it didn’t, I’d try another tactic.
And they say us autistics don’t have any theory of mind…