How Our Cats Taught Us to Travel
While dogs can be found traveling just about everywhere, it’s a bit unusual to see cats peeking out of RV windows at a campground, and even more unusual to spot them sitting outside at a campsite. We rarely go anywhere in Lucky Us, our 2015.5 Leisure Unity MB without our cats, Muka and Sadie. Traveling with our felines had a few challenges at first, but we’ve all adjusted, and now enjoy life on the road.
About 10 years ago, we began taking the cats with us on our three-hour drives to our vacation home in northern Michigan. And when we bought our first RV, a 22-foot Sprinter about five years ago, we knew we wanted to take them with us rather than leave them for weeks, or months, at home.
After bringing them on short trips within Michigan, we took our first big step by taking them on a three-week journey to Nova Scotia. Turf battles ensued, with Sadie, the younger, smaller one, hissing each time Muka invaded her space… and it seemed like “her space” was the entire RV. Calming spray was used to no avail. Although these two characters never really fought, Sadie’s constant hissing and occasional swipe at Muka got a bit trying at times. By the time we came home from our three-week trip, we were tired of the drama and questioned if we should continue taking them with us. But we didn’t like the idea of leaving them alone while we traveled, and so we tried, and tried again.
Fast forward to 2019. Sadie and Muka have traveled with us in our Unity MB on three eight-week winter escapes to Florida, a nine-week, 9,000-mile journey to Vancouver Island, and more. Before we go any further on how we became harmonious travelers, let’s hear their side of the story.
Muka: My Perspective
I’m the elder of this family. I’m 19 years old, and have a few special needs. People initially notice that I’m the better-looking one; in fact I’m often called beautiful. You are allowed to pet me, but only on my terms. Don’t touch past my mid-section or you might get a little bite from me. It’s just a warning, and I’m sorry if hurt you.
My name is pronounced Moo-Ka; they also call me Moo. When traveling, I rarely have any interest in looking out the window. I do come around a dinner time, however, hoping for a snack.
I’ve always been a pretty good traveler, and I’m typically pretty quiet in any vehicle, be it a car, truck, or this RV. I used to meow and get a bit nervous, but really, what is all the fuss about, anyway? When we are on the road, I lay down behind the driver’s seat, on the floor, where it’s cooler. If we are driving for a long time, I sometimes like to lie between the two front seats. Once we arrive at a campground, I first like to go out (always on a leash) for a few minutes to make sure the area is safe for everyone. Once we are settled, I sleep in my bed in the driver’s seat. That’s my spot. I’m pretty independent, and don’t need constant attention like Sadie, who is the drama queen of the house.
Sadie: My Perspective
I’m the youngest, at just 10 years old, and I’m little, at just over six pounds. I’m typically not noticed like Muka because I’m “just” a grey tiger. But I’m the sweetest kitty you will ever meet; you can pet or scratch me any way you want, no rules with this girl. I like to talk all the time, and be petted all the time. I sleep with my friends, Denise and Bill, every night. My doctor says that I think I’m human because I relate to Bill and Denise so much. I don’t really get that, but they are my best friends.
Denise found me in the woods near their vacation home – I was nearly starving to death but I had enough energy to howl for her to rescue me. Did I mention that I like to talk a lot? She took me in, brought me home to their condo, and life has been sweet ever since. I’ve got Bill wrapped around my finger; I just give him a slight kiss on the face during the night and he’ll get up to feed me, anytime. Really!
When it comes to travel, I was initially most comfortable riding in a cat carrier, but now that I have my own bed, I’m much more at ease. When the RV is on the road, I ride in my bed, and it must always be in the same place: on the couch just behind the driver’s seat. I used to give Muka a lot of trouble by hissing at her whenever she was near me, but once they gave me my own cat bed, I was all set.
Now when we get settled at the campground, my bed is placed right where I want it – on the passenger seat – and I hop right to it. Sometimes I like to sit on the dashboard, or look out the passenger window. I never go over to the driver’s side – that spot is reserved for Moo. I anxiously await nighttime because then the Murphy bed is pulled down and it takes me about one minute to jump on it and roll around. Life is good on the road.
Learning Curve to Travel
So what was the learning curve to adjust to traveling weeks on end with these two felines? Sadie’s hissing at Muka told us she was under a lot of stress. We needed to find solutions to help her calm down. Initially, we brought their own blankets, sprayed them with calming spray, and gave out lots of treats and attention. The cat carrier was also available for Sadie when she wanted it, and she often chose to ride in it. But we could not find the right answer to help her calm down.
Then, I bought two cat beds. It was a miracle. Immediately Sadie had a place to call her own (evidently her blanket from home wasn’t what she needed) and the hissing magically stopped. No more calming spray needed. No more turf battles. We were ready to travel!
Preparing to Travel with Cats
We always carry their vaccine records. They are required when crossing the Canada/United States border, and handy if any veterinary visits are needed on the road.
We bring two, and have used them several times when bringing our RV in for service. We bring the cats, in their carriers, into the waiting room, and they typically settle down after a few minutes.
Sun and Heat Protection
Although the Leisure Unity’s foam insulated roof helps keep the interior fairly comfortable, we take every precaution to ensure the safety of our cats when in a parked RV. To cut down on solar heat, we installed a film tinting to the shower ceiling window and the sunroof window. Next, we researched, and then purchased custom exterior window sun protection through Magne Shade. When parking, we look for the best position relative to the sun, hopefully under a shade tree. If the temperature is going to be hot, or even a little warm, we close the front curtains, place the Magne Shades on the windows, open the side windows and the roof vent, and turn on the fan. If necessary, we leave the air conditioning on when hooked up to shore power.
In addition to purchasing a good window sunshield, there are several heat sensor warning devices on the market which will send a message to your phone to notify you if the interior temperature gets too hot.
Our cats were never best friends, and do not ever snuggle or sleep together. We found that once we brought individual cat beds into our RV, everyone was happy.
We’ve used various brands of feline calming spray, a pheromone-based spray, with limited success.
Treats and Toys
Treats are essential to reinforce good behavior, and we keep plenty on hand, as well as a few favorite toys. Muka prefers chasing a laser light; Sadie likes chasing any string. Catnip is always a hit.
We did not want to alter our RV interior to accommodate two litter boxes for our cats. One of the advantages of the Leisure Unity MB is its roomy bathroom, which has plenty of floor space for both litter boxes. Since our cats refuse to use partially-enclosed litter boxes, we took two large plastic storage bins, cut one side off, and placed them over the litter boxes. We don’t have to worry about accidentally dropping something in the litter, and the cats don’t seem to mind the extra cover to their litter boxes. Recently, I found the Curver Cat Litter Box which, once I removed the swinging door, has a large enough opening that it is acceptable to the cats.
We apply Sticky Paws cat anti-scratch (double-sided) tape on the edges and sides of our Leisure Lounge when we travel, and remove the tape after each trip.
Heading for More Trails… with Tails
Whether you travel solo or with a companion, sharing your journey with your pets can add fun to your adventures. If you’re considering traveling with your furry feline friends, give it a try, starting with visits in your parked RV, then progressing to short trips. Share your thoughts with us, we’d love to hear from you!