We’ve started out on our big adventure and we’re learning all about how to travel in an RV with three cats. I’ll keep you posted on our progress and share the things we find that work – or don’t.
This is what I’ve learned so far. It’s not in blog-syle but rather regular prose. Old stuff at the top and new stuff at the bottom.
RVing with the Boys
The 3 cats, all neutered boys, were already indoor/outdoor cats to begin with. They were 14, 10, and 5 when we started full-time RVing. They had been habituated to get food when they came in the house and to come to the sound of a dinner bell which means can-food to them. They were able to go in and out thru a cat door during the daylight hours and kept inside at night. They were never locked-out of the house when at least one of them was out. They could come in when they wanted to and they often preferred to be inside. They had already been trained to wear a harness and the oldest had been leash-trained when he was only a few months old. For the 10-year old and the 5-year old the house had been their home for their whole lives. The 14-year old has lived in 3 houses and he had taken a few shorter RV trips when he was little.
For two weeks before we took our first trip the RV (a travel trailer) was parked at the house and they experienced the same schedule as they would in the house. They were able to come and go from the RV (I left the door open if they were out) as they wished until dinner when I called them in with the dinner bell and closed the door. We were eating and sleeping in the RV, not in the house, at the time so there was no confusion about where their beds and food bowls were. It took them about a day to figure out to go to the RV for dinner instead of the big house. When I moved the RV from the side-yard to the front yard they figured that out in a few minutes. While the RV was parked at the house all three of them spent time wandering under it and hopping on the bumpers to investigate. I wanted them to have an idea what it looks like and smells like on the outside so they view it as a safe place. After our first few road-trips we were back in front of the house for about three more weeks and we practiced the same routines – eat, sleep, bathroom in the RV and play in the yard.
They were cautious and curious when the RV door was opened to a yard they know well. There is a baby-gate just inside the RV door so they can’t just dart out when I open the door from the outside. Even at their “home yard” they take time to smell the air and look for threats before they headed down the steps. The 10-year old got under the trailer and then under the truck before he was ready to go out in the open. The 14-year old walked down the steps and into the yard. The 5-year old was cautious at first, paused in the door opening, then walked down the steps to the yard.
We took a trip to St Vrain State Park and spent a week there. The travel-time was only 40-minutes so they didn’t have to spend too long in their carriers in the front of the truck. Their carriers are stacked on the passengers seat and strapped down to the seat with ratchet straps so they stay put.
We have a medium-sized folding wire crate to put them in and I took them out in the crate for a few minutes each day so they can see what’s around the RV without any chance of them getting away from me. Once they got use to being outside in the crate I took the oldest out on a leash/harness for a few minutes. The 10-year old has very little interest in going outside and would prefer to just sleep on the big-bed. The 5-year old still flops down on his side when the walking jacket (a cat harness from Crazy-K Farm) goes on.
I have them wearing two harnesses. One is a regular harness which they can easily get out of by backing up and I put that on first. The first harness also has a leash on it. The second harness is a much larger harness (Kitty Holster from Crazy-K Farm) and I put that over the first harness and attach another leash. The effect of this is that when they turn backwards and try to pull the outfit over their head the leash pulling forward around the Kitty Holster harness pulls backwards on the harness under it. This buys me some time to pick the cat up and head inside (unless they go into panic mode).
With the (now the) oldest, and his two older brothers, we use to walk them on a leash by letting them drag a 10-foot length of cord. When we wanted them to stop we stepped on the cord. If we wanted to pick them up we walked up the cord to the cat and picked him up. Since this was how they got walks at home it worked well at secluded camp sites. If they tried to turn around and back out we let the cord go and the cat would drag it some more. If they hid somewhere the cord was still laying on the ground and gave them away. If they run up a tree it’s a problem! The cord gets hung up in the tree branches and the cat will escape the harness or if the harness can’t be pulled over the cat’s head may end up hanging the cat if it falls or jumps down.
We moved over to the western slope of Colorado and spent a few days at the James Robb State Park – Fruita section. The first two days were nice and warm so I took the 14-year old out for a walk and he loved it! Wanted to go out three more times the first day. The 5-year old was hesitant and spent a lot of time on the steps of the RV checking the air for danger. Eventually he took a 15-minute stroll and I brought him in. I wanted his adventure to end pleasantly so I brought him in before anything got scary.
If we’re out walking and something exciting happens the oldest can be picked up and put in my coat, or under my shirt, and he feels safe and will just hide there. The youngest does not think like that – he bolts! When he gets to the end of the leash he runs in a circle and I pick him up and if we’re close to the RV I put him inside. If we’re out a distance I carry a cat-crate to put him in.
As I mentioned earlier, I crate the cats and put them in the front of the truck. I use ratchet straps to tie the crates down to the seat of the truck. With them up front I can watch them and if they get sick I can stop and clean it up right away. Traveling over mountain passes in Colorado they all had a tendency to meow. I suspect it’s because the changing air pressure is causing their ears to pop. Same thing happens to me, but I know why. They don’t.
I try to keep travel days to about 3-4 hours drive time. My back is sore by then and 3-4 hours in a crate is enough for them too. If the youngest spends 4 hours or more in the crate he pees his pants. He also pees his pants if we leave in the afternoon and try and get in a few hours on the road. The crate-time restriction means we only get 150 – 200 miles down the road each day, but if I was in a hurry I should travel differently. The 10-year old likes to look out the window as we travel. The others have had a turn in the window seat, but they don’t seem to like it much.
Traveling might be better in a motorhome because you could stop mid-day and have lunch, the cats could come out of their hidey-holes and use the litter-box, etc. Maybe my next RV will be a motorhome and I can test that hypothesis.
We’ve been to Boyd Lake State Park, where the weather was so cold no one wanted to go outside, and Chatfield State Park where the 14-year old has been asking to go outside several times a day. At Chatfield State Park the 10-year old asked to go out for the first time. He did great and was out for 20 minutes before he got scared and made a run for the RV. The youngest got scared our last day at Chatfield and made a run for the RV but came up short because I was holding the leash. He spun around and came out of both harnesses so fast! He didn’t go far before he found a place to hide and I went to fetch him with a crate. Got lucky that time!
The boys are habituated to the RV now. If ours is the only RV I can just let them out and they know where home is. Practice pays off.
A few weeks ago I put the boys out in their pen at an RV park we were just overnighting in. I left the door open so I could hear them if the were whining and the youngest showed his face at the door. He escaped from the pen and and was sitting on the steps waiting for me to let him in.
Once I let them out in a park with very few campers and they explored until the camp host drove up and they bolted into the RV. The camp host was shocked that they ran home and didn’t run away. Practice pays off.
When we camped at Wendover Airport I just let them out in the middle of a field. They got to romp around for half-an-hour (it was only 27ºF) then came home on their own.
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P.S. I want to apologize about the ads appearing on this page. Humanity is going to heck in a handcart with internet ads and click-bait banners leading the way!
Race to the bottom; Ready, Set, Go!