We weren't going to get a cat. Our retirement plans were set – fulltiming in a Roadtrek Class B RV – and our previous cats had just gone to kitty heaven after long and pampered lives. Our minds were made up – no cat. And then we met Fiona, a beautiful Ragdoll kitten, and the plans changed a bit. At first it was, “well, we can give her to a relative when we leave if it doesn't work out”, but that never came close to happening – Fiona was a natural traveler.
Before we even got the Roadtrek in late 2006, we started including Fiona in car rides long and short, to acclimate her to the experience. By five months she practically needed a passport – we went coast to coast with her, cat dishes and litter box on the floor in back, and Fiona lounging wherever she saw fit – the dash, the back deck, everywhere. She LOVED motel rooms, bouncing from bed to bed. This plan was starting to look like it was going to work.
Fiona was easy to handle moving from vehicle to motel and back – she's been trained to be on a leash when outside, and she saw it as a good thing – it meant she was going for a walk. Walking cats is different than walking dogs – forget all that “heel” stuff. You go where they go, not vice versa. You're also required to finish any fights they start – small dogs, large dogs, multiple dogs – that's how she got her nickname, Fiona the Fearless. Growing up as an only kitty, she *ahem* didn't play well with others. Every social interaction was pugilistic in nature.
Fiona took to the Roadtrek immediately – to her, it was as big as a house, with a nice bed, a suitably covered dash to serve as an observation deck, sheepskin seat covers to facilitate her naps, her own food and water bowls behind the front passenger seat, and a litter box under the bed. As we finished closing out our sticks and bricks house, she practically moved into the Roadtrek – all that noise and boxes and clutter in the house was getting on her nerves. She was as ready to hit the road as we were.
The only real problem for us in the first few months was the litter box – the clay stuff tracked all over, and the pine stuff wasn't much better. Besides, a Class B is very close quarters to share with a litter box, if you know what I mean. After three months' experimentation with various litters, none of which solved the tracking problem, Fiona suddenly started to… go outside. Needless to say, we were overjoyed with this, and encouraged our gifted kitty.
This has continued for the subsequent three years now, and everyone's happy with the arrangements. Fiona is much too important and busy to dig her own holes, especially in hard ground – she has people who do that for her. The only downside is she frequently insists on a walk at odd hours of the day and night, swearing it's official business, only to frivol around in a strictly recreational manner once outside. I am resigned to her duplicitous nature. We carry plastic bags just like dog owners and scrupulously observe the good neighbor pet owner rules wherever we travel. She swears that the “no dogs on the beach” signs don't apply to her, but I tell her that's just an oversight on the sign-painter's part, and nobody's going to trust her around that much sand anyway.
Health issues are not a problem – Fiona is disgustingly healthy, and gets her annual checkup and vaccinations when we visit our relatives in Florida every holiday season. A current rabies vaccination and a letter from the vet saying she's in good health travel with us for border crossings, etc. Some state parks require documentation of current rabies vaccination. She has an EU-compatible microchip in case she gets lost and to facilitate our planned travel in Europe.
Safety while camping is a little more work. It's important to know the wildlife situation where you're visiting. Fiona likes to be outside the side door on her leash, which is fine if I'm right there eyeballing her, but coyotes are a real threat to pets, and when in doubt she comes inside, protests notwithstanding. We had a close call with a great horned owl in New Mexico, and night walks were similarly curtailed. She's truly fearless and oblivious to her surroundings, so it's incumbent on me to watch out for her.
Just as serious are the viral and bacterial diseases endemic in the west- anthrax, plague, valley fever, hantavirus, and probably some others that don't have names yet. The rodent population and their resident flea population are a giant reservoir of pathogens that pets can contract and bring home to their owners, and many of these diseases are serious, with mortality exceeding 50% in some. As dedicated as Fiona is to decimating the ecosystem, all hunting is a non-contact sport. The leash helps, and the wildlife is much less overfed and under-exercised than she is, so close encounters are rare. Sniffing around animal burrows is discouraged, and she's always on prophylactic flea and tick control.
On the subject of bathing, Fiona, despite the large sum she cost and the impressive papers that came with her, likes to get down and party like the domestic shorthairs, particularly out west where there's plenty of dust to roll around in. She'll wait until she has an audience of people I'm trying to impress with her beautiful features and regal bearing, and choose that moment to flop around in the dirt. Such are the burdens of parenthood. When it finally gets to be too much, we have a hygiene intervention, and the Roadtrek's handheld shower nozzle comes in handy. After much sulking, reproachful looks in my direction, and a few hours drying time, she's ready to go again. She hates baths, because it's hard to convince the other animals you're the apex predator in the ecosystem when you smell like Johnson's Baby Shampoo.
So that's the story – Fiona does her part to make our house a home as we enter our fourth year of fulltiming, and it gives me something to do in my idle hours to obey her commands and attend to her needs. She hates to see me sitting around enjoying myself, and can actually talk, when the need arises to provide me with instruction as to her proper care and feeding. I'm sorry I'm such a slow learner, but she's patient with me, explaining things over and over until the dim bulb who is her so-called owner gets it. I used to think of myself as a clever fellow, but sometimes it's difficult to tell who is training whom around here. Here, let me show you my advanced degrees – I've got my diplomas around here somewhere…