Imagine meandering across this incredible landscape just you and your beloved cat— if this sounds like an impossible scenario, maybe it’s time to make it happen and you can do it.
By Sam Rees-Jones
Many of us yearn for life on the road, becoming one with the great outdoors, yet leaving our pets behind is hard and pet lodges can be expensive. You see many dogs travelling with people but there are all sorts of pets that live in our homes, and if it’s your pet it can travel with you. All you need is a large reserve of patience, and a cat that’s just as eager to explore the outdoors as you are. I didn’t believe it was possible to travel with a cat but I did it.
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Preparing a cat for life on the road is like us humans preparing to run a marathon which is way beyond our comfort zone. As long as you plan ahead, have a willing cat, bucket loads of patience, you and your cat can become the next great adventuring team. Like all good plans there are drawbacks to travelling with cats because it puts limitations on what you can and cannot do. After all, just like at home, your cat will be the one calling the shots.
The trick is to start early, really early. Young ones and kittens have an easier time learning new things and getting used to new experiences. With youth on their side they also have fewer health problems and are more mobile, which can be a benefit in the long run. But don’t let age be a barrier. Maybe you have just got a new cat, then now is the perfect time to start the preparations, and your cat will learn to accept them as part of starting a new life with you.
You will have to get your cat into “car training” so the thought of a car ride, doesn’t terrify the poor animal who probably associates car trips with heading off to the vet and getting poked and prodded by needles. Use the car whenever possible, even if it’s to go a short distance. This way your cat gets experience for future trips, you also learn what potential issues you’ll need to prepare for, and you’ll both be on familiar ground in case you need to cut the trip short. My cat, Kai, took a while to get used the car, and it was plenty of around-the-block trips at all times of the day and night to get him to settle. It threw me back to when my kids were babies and it was car trips to get them to sleep.
Once your cat is used to travelling in the car the next very important bit of training is the leash; oh yes, that’s right, you will need your cat to walk on a leash. Letting your cat out into the wild without a leash is generally not a good idea, they often get spooked and can bolt up a tree, or wander into a dangerous situation. Cats can be trained to walk on a leash. I admit I felt like a Mad Cat Woman when I started out, walking around the house, up and down the driveway with Kai on a leash, talking to him and bribing him.
Some cats take to leashes right away, while others hate them at first. This step may try your patience more then most, but it’s one of the most important. One very good way to start leash training your cat is at night, cats are much bolder, alert and confident when the sun has gone down. Find their favourite treat and it’s bribery, lots and lots of bribery. I thought Kai would relish salmon but the spoilt moggy turned his nose up at it and went for more commercial treats, which was cheaper.
Start slow and inside and before long you will be heading outside with your moggy on a leash. A lot of the time you will be going where he wants to go but you know he is safe and secure and next to you, eventually they learn to follow you. Walking your cat is a gentle stroll, it will never be an energetic, heart racing walk, but it is great fun and you get to literally stop and smell the roses. A collar with contact information is good, but as Kai is a notorious wriggler, we lost so many collars I had a standing monthly order; microchip your little adventurer, just to be on the safe side. And don’t forget to take out pet insurance as you never know what can happen.
Cats can also be trained to come when you call them, whether they will listen to you all the time is another thing but at least you know that they have the ability to respond. Kai had free reign while we did longer stays at cat friendly sites, when I needed him to come back to base it would take a couple of calls and he would saunter home, settle down and
we would head off.
As travelling with dogs, you need to plan your destination, and know where cats are allowed, not all ‘pet-friendly’ places will allow cats. That ever important checklist is needed for all pets. It is very important to get to know your cat, spend time to read his signs so you know when he is hungry, thirsty or just needs a break. This does take time, however, it will make your travels a lot easier.
Fortunately, cats don’t need an excessive amount of exercise, they are anti-social animals at the best of times. Despite their ability to sleep for up to 80 percent of the day they, their 20 percent of awake time is spent exploring, climbing and finding a spot in the sun. There are plenty of ways to keep your cat confined to your RV as long as you give them their own space to sunbake and hide away. By being a bit clever you can utilise lots of nooks and crannies, attaching pet crates to open windows gives them access to the outdoors while keeping them safe and sound. A good plan is to allocate one elevated cupboard as their safe spot, use a disposable litter box to keep mess to a minimum and keep it tucked away in the bathroom, if you have one.
All these things take time, patience, and perseverance. If you can travel down this road together, you two can tackle the most rugged terrain and you will not always be called the Mad Cat person, let’s just say that you’re going to have a meownificent time. After all, you’re travelling with your cat.