I’ve had my cat, Olive, for 13 years! Over my young adulthood I’ve hauled her along with me to various bachelorette pads in Minnesota, out west to hunt mice in Montana cabins, and down to Arkansas to catch fleas (ugh, never again) in a barn apartment. Now in the camper, she’s covering a lot more ground to say the least. Having Olive in tow means I have to plan my adventures around her. In fact, if I didn’t have Olive, I may not have bought the camper in the first place. In this post I’ll tell you about the lessons we’ve learned to be savvier travelers together.
Olive on the Road
When we are bumping along down the road, I don’t let Olive ride “loose” in the camper. There are too many objects that can slide around or fall off shelves and squish her. I don’t let her ride loose in the truck anymore either. When I crashed my truck a year ago, I remember my water bottle flying past my head and I thought later what if that was Olive? So while she used to have the privilege of sitting in my lap on long drives down the highway, now I stuff her in her cage and secure it.
How We Roll
If we push ourselves too much with long driving days, Olive is extra sassy and takes more cat naps than usual the next day. Clearly, it can tire her out. I try to keep our travel days as close to her normal routine as possible. I don’t rush to break camp in the morning. This ensures she can finish her breakfast and use her litterbox per her usual routine. After about four hours on the road, I’ll take a long break and pop her back in the camper so she can stretch her legs, lap some water, and use the litterbox. I try not to exceed eight hours of driving in a day with Olive. We try to find our camp site and get settled in before dinner time.
Agreeing on the Music
Olive is a talkative cat to begin with, but she will yowl her little head off if she just doesn’t like the music. It’s true. But with no music at all, she meows anyway. Maybe to fill the silence. The incessant meowing from the back seat is drives me crazy. I even tried earplugs one time. Then, we slowly discovered that audiobooks were okay and reduced meowing. Now, I’m really into podcasts and I’ll download a bunch of episodes in preparation for a driving day. She can still be finicky, for example she doesn’t appreciate comedy, cackling laughter, or high pitched voices. But the softer chuckles in Stuff You Should Know are just fine and she doesn’t object at all to the deep Aussie accent in Casefile. It’s good to be observant of your cat’s preferences and make these compromises.
Olive in the Camper
In all my posts about my camper upgrades, I haven’t discussed the bathroom at all! Perhaps that will be the next post. Right now all you need to know is that I’ve never showered in the camper. I always find alternative shower sources where ever we park. The top part of my shower is converted to a closet, but Olive gets the tub part for her litter box. This works out great! It helps contain the little sand grains that she flicks around with her paws. It makes clean up easy and it means the litter box is never underfoot- always nice and private for her. I clean it daily, so no one has yet told me that my clothes smell like cat turds.
Dealing with Cat Pee
Sometimes Olive decides to pee on my bed. I hate this because there is obviously no room for a washer and dryer in the camper. Sometimes laundry facilities are nearby and no extra charge. Other times laundry is miles away and requires quarters. Even though I want to be as minimalist as possible, I keep spare bedding stored up in case she pees when laundry is not an immediate possibility.
Sometimes, when Olive pees, the reason is obvious. Swishy fabrics are one weird reason. My expensive down sleeping bag is doomed, while the old wool army blanket is pretty safe. Other times when she’s peed, I don’t always know why. I think stress, in general is a likely trigger, which is why I go to such lengths to keep her happy. Because cat pee sucks.
Baskets, Perches, and Hidey-holes
It’s very important for a cat’s emotional health to have a variety of places to hide or hang out. Olive has always preferred baskets over boxes. A basket of fresh warm laundry is ideal. Her latest bed is a basket perfect for sunbathing and window gazing. She is obsessed with it.
Olive’s original bed is a perch in the bedroom. This was going to be a shelf for clothes when I first constructed it, but she claimed it immediately. She loves to prowl along the counter top, past the stove, make a leap onto the bed, and then jump up into her special shelf.
In addition, she has numerous hidey-holes. When sunbathing gets too warm, her go-to cool down spot is her cave under the bed. This cave is also great for thunderstorms and for when I set off the smoke alarm making quesadillas (which is fairly often). Other hidey-holes are my shoe cubby and my “office” storage under my counter. Whenever I open a cupboard, she will come to investigate the “new” hidey-hole.
One of Olive’s favorite activities is haughtily surveying her surroundings. In the camper, she actually has more windows to look out than some other places we’ve lived. Olive is strictly an indoor cat, but I am becoming increasingly interested in purchasing a pet stroller. I doubt she would walk on a leash, but a stroller might allow us to safely enjoy the outdoors together on walkies.
In as such a small space as our camper, it’s really a good thing that Olive is a senior cat. She isn’t as destructive as youngsters can be, and she isn’t prone to the zoomies either. Play time mostly consists of tennis matches with mouse toys on the bed. If a toy falls off the bed, don’t expect Olive to jump down and get it. She’ll just gaze at me reproachfully until I do it for her. I rigged up a mousey-tether ball for her so we can both be lazy, and she loves it!
While camper life with a cat can have it’s challenges, at least we have a place that’s ours. Cat’s aren’t always welcome in rentals, employee housing, while couch surfing, etc. and changing spaces is stressful for a cat! Although we change the scenery outside the windows, Olive can rest easy with stability inside the camper.