Melissa: It’s true that most of the pieces we blog about are dog-centric. It’s not that we favor dogs over any other pet. I’m on Team Axolotl forever!
Dr. Sip: It’s just that when it comes to pets and cars, more people travel with their dogs, which means we get more questions about dogs specifically.
Melissa: And we hear you, feline folk and cat people.
Dr. Sip: We certainly don’t want to appear that we are playing favorites with America’s most popular traveling companion. We fully expected to have to scour the Internet for hours to find a Dinkum and Wowser-like tale with a pet other than a dog.
Melisa: It took 8 seconds.
Dr. Sip: (She’s still on dial-up)
Melissa: We first came across the story of Rich and Willow, a team who is getting a bit of press!
Dr. Sip: This is another #VanLife story but this time with a feline in the co-star role!
Melissa: Here’s the best part: Similar to the Birtles Brothers, this traveling duo is also wandering around the Australian outback.
Dr. Sip: Actually, the best part is that they have AAA and don’t have to dig themselves out if they sink in a marsh because a lot has happened in the last century.
Melissa: For starters, the invention of vans. VW didn’t exist in the early 1900s. And you couldn't get a van before 1935. For those who are curious, here is a list of the van specs that this cat is riding around in. It includes 4motion (a fun, VW trademarked term for All Wheel Drive.)
Dr. Sip: Rich, tired of his corporate job, and Willow, tired, apparently, of spending her days slapping at the “Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law” tag dangling under the couch, headed out in their newly tricked-out VW Transporter T5 TDI400 Diesel van and have been traveling all over Australia since 2015.
Melissa: But you really have to read more about it here; apparently it is feline and human bliss.
Dr. Sip: My favorite feature is the 100 watt solar panel on the roof next to the surfboard. I wonder if Willow has a little surfboard of her own? She wouldn't be the first surfing cat!
Melissa: The thing that constantly surprises me is how amazed people are when cats travel, go for walks, or do “dog” tricks! We are so accustomed to seeing dogs do all of these things that when a cat does it, we are shocked that they are capable of learning. Cats are often relegated to the role of that asshole roommate that poops in a box and knocks things over.
Dr. Sip: Even in studying the two different species, dogs are getting the lion’s share of the resources. So much so, that the NY Times took a look at this exact phenomenon. Cats are ignored as travel companions, walking partners and in scientific studies. But they can do everything a dog can do. Backwards, and with knives in their feet.
Melissa: I love how trainable cats are and I wish more cat owners would take the time early on to socialize young kittens to wearing a harness. This way, the cat can go outside safely to explore its surroundings and acclimate to new experiences, something that is a struggle for many cats.
Dr. Sip: For my sake as a veterinarian, I’d love if more people would keep the traveling crate out as part of the cat’s everyday surroundings. What tends to happen is the cat crate is locked in a closet and only taken out when it’s time to go see the veterinarian, which might not be the most pleasant association for the cat. If it’s something they can have catnip in, sleep in, and sometimes eat in, trips to the vet could be much, MUCH better for everyone involved!
Melissa: I hope that as more people see cats like Willow traveling, they'll find inspiration to do more with their felines.
Dr. Sip: Willow's not the only good example out there. Adventure Cats, by Laura Moss, features . . . wait for it . . . cats having adventures. Contrary to popular belief, cats are not lazy, antisocial or untrainable and they can make excellent travel companions!
Melissa: So if you want to find inspiration on how to travel with your cat, or find the right kitty companion for life on the road, check out the book Adventure Cats by Laura Moss, the website Adventure Cats, and follow Willow and Rich’s adventures at Van Cat Meow.
Dr. Sip: And make sure to start socializing your cats with a nice Kittengarten class to socialize these animals to new things at a younger age. It’s much easier to get a kitten used to this sort of lifestyle than an older cat, though not impossible.
Melissa: Next month, we’ll introduce the hashtag #AmphibiousExcursions - an inspirational post on road tripping with your axolotl.
Editor's note: Rich, the human behind Van Cat Meow, asked us to tell you about some important work he's doing to fight Motor Neurone Disease, also known as ALS. He's donating proceeds from the sale of his handmade miniature jewelery boxes to finding a cure for MND. Read more here.
More about Dr. Sip (who is a practicing vet in Berkeley, CA) and Trainer Melissa (who wrote “Considerations for the City Dog”) can be found here.