Published on The Dodo: Service Cat
I was 18, broke, and about to move into a new apartment in LA, that didn’t allow animals. So, I had to find a way to get my fat, neurotic cat, Simon, to Michigan, to go live with my mom in the meantime.
Now, flying a cat can cost upwards of two hundred dollars. For a cat. Not a person sized cat, a carry-on sized cat.
And I didn’t have two hundred bucks. So a couple days before my flight, I’m at a gyno appointment and I’m complaining to my doctor about the whole cat situation. She says that she could write me a note.
“A note?” I ask.
“Yeah, a note.” She says.
“What kind of note?”
“You know, like a note that says your cat is a service animal.”
Now, my cat doesn’t come when he’s called, he doesn’t do any tricks, he doesn’t really do, anything. What possible service could he perform?
“He could be an emotional service cat,” she says.
“Wait — like, I’d need to be an actual crazy cat lady?”
“Yeah,” she says. “Wana try it?”
I’m a broke college student with one mediocre Midwest college semester of performance theatre — of course I want to try it.
So my gyno writes the note, something like:
"It is in the best interest of the passenger and the cat, that they are not separated. This is a service cat, and should be treated as such."
Neither of us acknowledged the irony.
So, I’m armed with her letter, and the day of the flight has arrived, and I’m ready to commit. I put on pajamas, and head to the airport. I’m wearing a backpack, and clutching the cat carrier to my chest as though if I drop it, I will straight up DIE. I make my eyes big and shifty. I messed up my hair in the car ride there. I get up to the counter. The woman looks at me, and asks,
“How many bags?” I stare at her until she asks me again…
“How many bags?”
“One bag. I have one bag.”
“And is there a cat in the case?”
“Yes it’s Simon.”
“Right, okay, well I’ll need to see your reservation papers, and the charge is two hundred dollars.”
I make my eyes really wide, “No. No no no no no, I have a letter.”
I hand her the letter from my gyno, printed on the doctor’s stationary and everything. She looks at the letter, then slowly looks at me. Her expression is a grossed out version of the “Clueless” as-if face.
“Right, well ma’am, you still need to have the proper approvals and you’re missing two other documents. So, I’m afraid it’s not possible.”
I give her an exaggerated frown. I keep repeating “This is my cat, but my cat, I have to stay with my cat — I need my cat this is my cat,” etc. She raises her eyebrows and calls over her older male colleague, pulls him aside, and explains the situation, while both of them keep one eye pinned on me.
They both return, he looks at me, “Ma’am, I’m sorry but you just don’t have the proper paper work.”
I widen my eyes and squeeze the carrier tighter. I look straight at him without blinking, “This. Is. My cat. My service cat. This is a service animal. I have a doctor’s note. Service. Animal,” I keep staring.
They step to the side again, reexamine the note. After a few minutes and a phone call, they come back to the counter, “Ma’am, okay, we’ll just need to make a copy of this for records, then we will be able to let you board, but next time you need the proper documentation.”
I smile entirely too wide, say “Thank you,” and head to the gate.
I continue the act through my connecting flight in Detroit, just in case. During the two-hour layover, I sit in the corner with my cat in the box, acting weird, eyeballing the gate attendant. After thoroughly creeping him out in a non-dangerous, but weird way, he lets me board with no questions asked. After he scans my boarding pass, I look at him, and say, “SERVICE ANIMAL CAT,” for good measure.
I make it all the way to my hometown in Michigan, with my cat, and two hundred dollars still in my bank account. Success.
I’m am, however, really glad that I didn’t see anyone I know.