By Jeanette Robinson, F329985
My husband, Bob, and I live in Waterport, N.Y., on Lake Ontario, and enjoy traveling through the South during winter. We travel with one cat in our 2003 36-foot Allegro Bus. Our son named him Brindy, a nickname for hockey player Ron Brindamour.
Brindy was orphaned at 5 weeks old and found his way to our door. He turned 1 in June 2003. He is a silver-gray tabby with brownish undertones, a white tummy and four immaculately white paws. He has grown to a healthy 14 pounds and charms everyone who sees him walking on a leash.
Cats often are considered to be aloof creatures. But if they are the primary pet, they are very dependent on their human "parents" for security and affection. Although cats do not make the choice consciously, they fare better with you than left behind.
Before traveling with cats in your motorhome, give them a chance to become accustomed to the new surroundings. Place their food, litter box, scratching post and favorite toys inside the motor coach. Then, take a good book and accompany them for several hours at a time as they settle into the RV.
As you prepare for a trip, try to have all of your belongings and your feline necessities packed and ready to go. Avoid any last-minute hectic activity. Stay relaxed. Cats can sense tension in their human owners.
Inside the coach: getting acclimated
For your own safety, teach your cat to stay away from the driver's area of the vehicle. Some cats are more secure and better suited for a large (dog-size) cage with space for a soft pad, their litter box and attached water dish. If that's the case, make previous short trips with this set-up.
The feeling of vehicle movement and oncoming traffic is a new sensation that cats might find unsettling. If your cat is the nervous type, you may want to talk to your veterinarian about administering a mild sedative to your cat before the initial trips.
Many motorhomes offer plenty of room for cats' necessities, as well as room to move about. Don't be surprised if your cat hides under something as you first move down the road. Allow it to find a place to hide. Try to make them comfortable when you stop for the night. Gradually, they will venture out as you travel. Eventually, you will find them sitting on your lap or in the window, charming the passers-by.
Keeping track of your cat
Now, let's talk about their possible escape and safety. For identification, use a cloth cat collar on which you have written "Reward" and your cell phone number. Be alert to where your cat is before exiting and entering the motorhome. At first, this will be a conscious and continual burden on you, especially if your cat was an indoor/outdoor cat t home.
Some RVers allow their cats to wander about the campsite or campground, off-leash. I don't recommend this, and I'm sure it's against most campgrounds' rules, even though some cats consistently return to their RV homes. When traveling around the country, cats can encounter all sorts of unfamiliar nighttime predators: coyotes, wild dogs, pigs.
I am not a believer in house cats being allowed outdoors. But, in most cases indoor cats lack the survivalist skills of a feral cat. If your cat is mature and never has been allowed outdoors, continue that practice.
Young cats may be more inquisitive and aggressive. We have had success in training our young cat to wear a harness and walk on a lead. We try to find the time twice a day to take him outside.
Cats do not walk for exercise like dogs; rather, they walk to explore the surroundings, sniffing everything around them. Basically, they lead and you follow as safety allows. This harness training has had two benefits. One, the cat has fun; and two, the cat associates the harness with going outside, rather than expecting the freedom to run between your feet every time you open the door.
It's obvious that traveling with a cat requires time and patience. Being a pet owner is a choice we make to give time and affection to a dependent animal in exchange for entertainment and affection from our pet.