I live with two rescue cats, Milo and Lima.
I’ve had Milo, the black one, since 2006, when he was an adolescent kitten; this makes him about 12 now. He’s always been an old man of a cat, though: not much instinct to play or hunt, and what he prefers more than anything is a sleepy cuddle. Lima’s much younger and much feistier; she’s about four. She’s much more likely to spend her days trying to catch a moth or a fly. They’re both indoor cats so neither one of them has ever hunted as such, but they both enjoy playing with e.g. wool (Milo very occasionally; Lima always, especially when I’m making crochet and it’s MY wool; she does not understand this concept).
When I was away for six months in 2015, Milo stayed with my friend Marie and her three cats, and he had such a good time with the other cats, hanging out as part of a gang, that I got Lima when I returned, so that Milo had some kitty company at home. He’s not crazy about her –or she’s not crazy about him?– but it mostly works. Often she bites his ears but they sit together and sometimes play together and mostly they get along.
Anyway, the reason I introduce them like this is that one day, I’d love to bring one or both of them along for an extended trip in the campervan. People travel with dogs all the time (though it’s restrictive for national parks), and although cats aren’t as suited to vanlife as dogs, maybe, they can be brought along as fellow travellers (e.g. this guy does it).
I’m hoping that mine might one day be adaptable enough. This would save me a lot on cattery costs but would also mean having company along for the ride. Confession: I did miss them and their nonsense when I was away.
So the other day I spent some time with them in the van, to see how they would go. It wasn’t the best timing: I’d just picked them up from the cattery and we stopped at a park on the way home, so they were probably a bit out of sorts anyway. Plus it was a hot day, and although the fan works for me, they had the potential to get pretty overheated. I gave them water but they were a bit stressed out with the heat, so I didn’t push it for too long of a van visit. I’ll try again on a cooler day and bring them straight from home.
But early indications are good. Take a look:
Lima especially was VERY interested in everything around us, especially the Indian mynah birds that were swooping us, and even though Milo doesn’t particularly care about bird watching, he was into it too, sniffing around, checking everything out — although he then went off and curled up for a nice sleep in my clothes locker.
Cats in small, mobile spaces can be done. My friend Tasha brings hers along on her yacht, (which is infinitely more complex as they go in and out of foreign ports). So I have high hopes for one days setting off for six months around Australia with Milo and Lima –or just one of them, if the other really isn’t keen.
Vandwelling with cats probably involves teaching them to cope with a harness, so I can leash them. Lima is getting used to this slowly, but Milo is really not into it. I used to make him wear a life vest, many moons ago, when we’d take him on my ex’s yacht, and the look on his face was ‘not-this-a-fucking-gain’ when I put the harness on him. He just flops over onto his side and refuses to move. Then again, he’s a pretty chill cat anyway, so maybe he doesn’t need a harness? But Lima is learning.
The other, better, option is to get them tracker devices. These are worn on their collar (so no need for harnesses, although Lima HAS been known to shuck her collar…) They’re a bit spendy, but if/when I come to doing a longer trip with one or both of them, it’s what I’ll invest in.
And while of course I doubt that Milo would know what to do with a little hopping marsupial except perhaps cuddle it, Lima’s hunting instinct would make her a threat to native wildlife, so she will need careful policing. (I don’t intend for her to simply dine her way around Australia’s wild places!) I’ve heard that some grey nomads carry collapsible cat cages for this reason. But I think between a harness, a tracker, and keeping them in at night, it should be possible for us to emulate Willow and Rich. Watch this space, though — the cats-in-campervan saga continues…