Camping with Cats
Two years ago, we adopted two cats from a local shelter, and since that day, Cloud and Solar have been integral members of our family. Spending time with them makes us happy and being away from them is tough. The only thing the boys dislike about camping (well, aside from limited wifi) is being away from the kitties. So we have been slowly and steadily training our cats to be adventurers.
Cloud and Solar are indoor cats, but in March 2020, when we found ourselves with a bit more time on our hands, we introduced them to leashes and harnesses and daily outside time. Most days, they spent an hour with us in the backyard, on a leash line, exploring our flower beds and watching the birds at our feeder. At just a year old, they were quick learners, and started to get very insistent about being outside each afternoon around the same time. (This was also a great way to make sure the boys got outside each and every day, as they are in charge of untangling leashes and keeping kitties safe outdoors.) Our backyard set up includes RC Pet Adventure Kitty Harnesses (medium for Solar and large for Cloud) and a picket line we have strung between fence posts.
When going outside was familiar and routine, we added backpacks. We like the Petsfit Expandable Cat Carrier Backpack, which folds flat when not in use and also expands out into a full carrier if the kitties need some extra space when we reach our destination. Our first walks were just around the block, and always with the pack entirely zipped up. As the kitties got more used to the packs, we would walk longer and open the top zipper a bit so they could stick their heads out. We would walk with a spotter behind, ready to catch any kitty leaning too far out of the pack. When cats and humans got used to the packs, we’d regularly walk to our nearest park, let the cats out, and leash them to a tie out stake. In this way, Cloud and Solar met new people, their kids, their dogs. They got used to getting in and out of their packs, drinking water from a collapsable bowl, and learned that if they got nervous, their safe spot was with us or in their packs.
Only after they’d gotten used to harnesses and backpack walks to the park, did we start to think about taking them camping with us. We let them explore the Alto when it was parked in our driveway, and started to imagine short weekend trips where they could come along. We thought if we were close to home, in a place with comfortable temperatures, where we didn’t want to do a lot of exploring away from our trailer, it could work out. We made reservations at Petaluma KOA for the first weekend of summer.
Before that trip, though, we did a practice sleepover in our driveway. Memorial Day weekend, we spent Sunday night in our driveway, with the kitties, introducing them to sleeping in the camper. No one got an extraordinary night of sleep, but we all did well enough that we were ready to camp away from home.
The Petaluma KOA was a great spot for our first cat camping trip. Our site was spacious and grassy and had a tree for Solar to climb. There were no charges for pets, and other campers kept their dogs leashed in their sites. Of course, Cloud and Solar were on their leashes whenever they were outside the Alto. The cats loved looking out of the windows at all the people going by, and got comfortable being outside the trailer fairly quickly. The first night, they were very active while we tried to sleep, but the second night, they were a little more aligned with our schedule. They adapted quickly to using the litter box in the trailer, and ate and drank as they usually do at home.
We didn’t see anything beyond our campsite and the pool, and we could certainly explore Petaluma more on a future trip. But as we sat around the fire, enjoying traveling with the kitties, we started to think about taking them with us on longer, bigger adventures. Stay tuned.