The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: Living in a Van with Cats

Yes, yes, everyone wonders- how the hell do you do it?  Are you crazy?  I’ve got plenty of friends who love it and there are others who think it’s ludicrous.  And yeah well life is ludicrous, eh?  Traveling with cats is pretty uncommon so I wanted to write down a few things to help other people who may be inspired to do the same.  I get it- it’s not for everyone.  But I love rock climbing and traveling, and after going through a divorce, I kept the cats!  Plus- this is my home.  I’ve lived in the van for a year and a half, and so having my cats with me…well.. wherever I go, I AM home.

***NOTE- Living on the road with cats adds additional stress and responsibilities.  It’s NOT for everyone.

I lucked out because my cats travel really well.  I’ve heard of cats (and dogs!) going nuts in the car.  But back in 2015 me and my ex traveled in the van for two months and the cats did really well.  So I knew last year that at least they would travel ok.   So really- if you want to do this- take some test drives with your cat(s) first.  Get them used to the vehicle.

Essentials:

  1. Insulation- make sure you properly insulate your van.  I renovated the van in April and it has been such an improvement in the overall insulation.   Don’t skimp on this part of the process!
  2. Fan and cracked windows- set the fan to ‘air out’ so that air flows in through the windows and out through the fan.  This is helpful when you are away all day or when you are cooking, etc.  You can adjust the level the fan is at- I normally have it at about 30% when it’s warm out (70-80 degrees, parked in the sun). Otherwise if it is below 75 and SHADY, then 20% is normally good.
  3. Sisal rug on the dashboard (I think you can order remnants of rug online and it’s not expensive)
  4. Some kind of carpet on the back of your seats (so they can scratch, because they LOVE the back of the seats!)
  5. Scratch post (after renovating, we put in one of the normal round scratchers near the sliding door, but there is also a floor scratcher in between the front seats.
  6. Vent next to the box (best renovation ever??? We also cut holes in the lid of the box. These holes are positioned next to the vent
  7. Covered litter box under the bed
  8. Baking soda (this is not cat specific because I like to have a few cartons throughout the van to absorb odor)
  9. Arm and hammer litter, clump and seal.  (the black box).  I know people hate clay litter and prefer the pellets, but when you live in a van, you want the BEST odor absorbing litter.  I’ve found this is the best.
  10. Water bowl with lid for driving.  I always have water available except when in motion.  This is super important if you are going to be in warmer climates.
  11. My vice is plastic bags, but they are essential for poop- and you will use a lot of them because you will probably scoop twice a day.
  12. Broom/Vacuum-I mean, you should have this even if you don’t have pets.  But cat fur is a real thing. And so is cat litter.  I vacuum daily, twice sometimes.
  13. Reusable Lint roller.  You know those old school red velvet lint rollers
  14. Get your cat outside!  When I first started the trip I was definitely a ‘helicopter mom’ but it’s pretty fucked up to keep two cats in a van without getting outside.  We’d do the leash thing, and it was ok, but a pain in the ass, because I’d have to be there holding the leash (and we all know how walking a cat on a leash goes…) but over time I started letting them out off leash.  This is where it gets stressful. I only let them out off leash in campsites where we will be spending a lot of time and where I think it’s safe enough (i.e. no big roads nearby, not a ton of birds of prey circling above :P, etc).  You slowly test it out over time letting them out for 20 minutes, an hour, a few hours, half the day, all day.  And I only let them out when I know I’m not moving the vehicle all day.  I leave a door open so they can run back inside if needed but for the most part- they do their own thing.  They definitely know that the large white van is home.  (and will definitely confuse other white vans with home)
  15. Make sure you have their paperwork, vaccination info, etc.  And make sure they are microchipped or wear collars!
  16. Vet? If you are passing through Riverton/Lander, Wyoming, there’s an amazing vet called G Bar G.  Maybe the best in the country IMHO.

About the cats (in case this helps you decide based on your cats personality):

Leonard is maybe 7 years old, loves adventure, is pretty friendly unless you try to pick him up for long periods of time, AND HIS SHIT DON’T STINK! Seriously, hallelujah he covers his shit.  Favorite place in the van- the windshield.  Now that he’s been going outside on a daily basis he gets ancy being in the van for too long. This makes the transition periods, moving from one long-term spot to another, a little challenging.  In Kentucky he was used to me opening the driver’s door every morning, jumping out, escorting me to the bathroom, and spending the mornings outside.  But when we are in transit to other places, you can’t exactly let them off leash at a rest stop or walmart or friend’s neighborhood.

Gus is a million years old (or 16?), has diabetes, is skinny and his SHIT STINKS.  It’s definitely the worst part of having an old cat who DOESN’T cover his shit.  You have to scoop it immediately or you might die.   I changed his food in August to Royal Canin (amazing, highly recommended) but with that change the smell got worse. I mean…I think it was bad before, but wow wow wow, it got SO BAD! So it is kind of like having a baby- if he poops at night, I have to get up and cover/scoop it. Or you will die in your sleep.  He’s a pretty chill cat, could care less to go outside, will let you pick him up.  His favorite spot is in my lap or on the bed.   Traveling with an older cat can be nice because they aren’t always trying to jump out of the van, but it’s also stressful because the older they get, the more needy they seem.

So overall, I think the most important thing is to get your cat OUTSIDE.  Listen to your gut. When in doubt, put them on a leash.

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Feel free to contact me if you have questions! Want to travel? Make it happen.

Quality People/ Offer Chaos a Cup of Tea

Wow, it’s already mid-December- where did the year go? I can’t believe 2018 is around the corner.  Honestly sometimes I sit here still in disbelief that this is where life took me. It’s not that I’m in denial of this radical change.  And it’s not that this isn’t where I want to be right now.  It’s that I now have so much opportunity in front of me.  New Opportunity.  Letting go of someone else’s actions, someone else’s choices, allowed me to move forward and see things in a new light.  I am only responsible for my actions, my choices.  Reminds me of coaching and the lesson of controllables vs. uncontrollables.   Good one Augy!

I’m wrapping up a fantastic trip out east.  Being on the road for the last 6 months has only reiterated how lucky I am to know so many incredible people.  I think going through divorce this year has allowed me to meet people I may not have known otherwise.  I have spent the last couple of months with Cody and Anna (and Cyrus!) and I have to say- I’m going to miss my little family.   This family and many other friends (hey Serra and Dan!) helped bring Leonard home.  It’s amazing how all of these people came together and somehow Leonard was found- from bushwhacking, making signs, setting traps, looking for tracks, dissecting poop, keeping my morale alive, building a fire every night, making coffee, sharing dinner, eating donuts at the Art Factory, etc…. Climbing definitely attracts some quality people.  And I know we will run into each other again.

It’s time to head West.  I’m looking forward to sunshine in the desert (and javelinas…and tortillas).  It’s easy to read the news and get depressed about the state of the world.  But then you surround yourself with beautiful people and remember that the world is full of light and hope.  And donuts. Cheers to 2018.

 

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Donuts in Teneessee

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Me and my boyfriend, Cyrus 🙂

Cows and Cones and Cats

Ice cream cones that is.  Plenty of cows and ice cream cones in Ten Sleep.  And HOMEMADE whipped cream.  I was a barista for a couple of years and after making whipped cream, I became a snob for the good stuff.  Dirty Sally’s makes the good stuff.

Also-  Pretty cool to be surrounded by cows.  (unless they wake you up at 6am (Martha???)

20170714_181546 (1) Leonard doing what he does best.  I mean LOOK AT HIM.

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Looking out the back window at a cattle drive.  July 2017

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4th of July was pretty rad.

CAT CAKE CAT CAKE CAT CAKE

One thing I’ve learned through this divorce is how incredible my friends and family are.  It’s not that I didn’t know this before, but WOW, I am so lucky to be surrounded by numerous people who have looked out for me over the last 6 months, those near and far. Whether it’s been cheering me up over the phone, playing with their puppies, going on a hike (and I never hike), giving me legal advice, parking the van in their driveways (and running in before I shit my pants in the morning), doing laundry, using internet, mailing uplifting cards, helping me install solar panels, having me over for dinner, having me over for breakfast, keeping my truck parked forever in front of your house (hi Tim and Jaime), making me laugh, making me cry, rubbing cat bellies, going climbing, taking care of me when I got my wisdom teeth out (hi Mom, hi Jana), belaying me when you’ve already sent (what up Nick), throwing a going away party with PIZZA AND DONUTS! (what up Team RJ!), I am truly lucky to know you all.   I’m afraid to list everyone because I might leave someone off but I’d really like to give a shout out to Sarah Boman.  She has been a life line in my life and probably doesn’t even realize it.   Sarah- I couldn’t ask for a better friend, you are THE DEFINITION of a best friend.  I can never repay you for all you’ve done for me- especially when you made CAT CAKES!!!  Cheers to more cake in our lives.

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Catlife, Vanlife 2017

After a very difficult start to the new year, I am embracing uncertainty and stepping out of my comfort zone far beyond what I thought was possible.  But when your husband walks out of your life one day what other option do you have but to stare fear in the face and hold your head high? I always tell the team kids, ‘you’re stronger than you think you are.’  So I keep repeating that to myself.  I think it’s starting to work 🙂  It’s interesting how all those little climbing mantras I’ve said over the years apply to every other aspect of my life.  Breathe. Relax.  Keep it together.  So in an attempt to keep my shit together, I will hit the road after youth divisionals to climb at some of my favorite domestic crags.  It’s quite the bittersweet journey.  I’ve wanted to live on the road for YEARS, I just never thought it would be under the given circumstances.   But as my friend Courtney reminds me: Fortune Favors the Bold.  So with two guard cats in the front seat…let the adventure begin 🙂

 

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Thanks for stopping by!

Why claws? Because I love most animals with claws. Especially cats and prairie dogs.

Why quickdraws?  Because I love sport climbing!!! Oh, and bouldering! Though I don’t really discriminate.  I’m psyched to just get outside!  I normally spend half the year sport climbing and the other half bouldering.   Drop a line if you are in Colorado and want to climb!