Into the Wild...With Cats

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If you've read any of this little blog, you know that my partner, Steve and I have nomadic plans, and we camp with two cats.  

Weird, right?

I thought I'd share a bit of the back story and give you a glimpse of what we're doing to prepare for full-time nomad life with Felines.

I'd been thinking of going nomadic for a few years before I met Steve. It was a pipedream, really. I didn't know how it was going to happen, but I wanted it. At the time, I was being raised by two beautiful, mature Canines. Ginger and Sofia were my World, and I had every intention of somehow including them in this dream. At the time I was looking at used vans and also teardrop trailers. I was watching lots of YouTube videos, and writing a lot of journal entries about how I was going to sell everything and go. When my Uncle Jack gave me his Ford Escape (with a tow package) and also left me a small amount of money, I sold my VW Rabbit, and things started to take shape. Things started to feel possible.  

Sofia and Ginger

Then Ginger died. I can't even describe how terrible it was. My heart broke, and Sofia's heart did too. She and I both needed to ground and to nest. So we did. My dream went to the back shelf in my mind, and I settled down into the sweet little 1920s home that I'd been renting from a friend. Sofia and I walked the neighborhood and shed our grief on the streets, sidewalks, and park trails. We went for rides, visited the toy (pet) stores, and stopped at Starbucks for Puppiccinos and Americanos.

And then we adopted a 4-week-old, sickly, light orange, striped terror and named her Ivar Needletooth.  Sofia and I became kitten parents. Sofia, grudgingly.  Me, blindly. And we nested even more.  I even bought a recliner, and we put in a cat-tree.

Ivar knew how to use her voice from the jump

The months went by, and Sofia and I did our best to keep Ivar from killing us both or being murdered by one or the other of us, and in the course of that time, Steve and I fell in love (that's another story for another time), and started fantasizing about taking our Improv show, Ramen on Sunday, on the road. The pipedream became a shared dream, and we even looked at a few trailers online.
  • and then COVID and "Shelter at Home"
  • and then STILL Sheltering at Home
  • and then this scrawny black-and-white cat started following Sofia and me on walks
  • and then, I named the scrawny cat Lou, and he moved in with us

Lou Cat

And Then...
we found out Sofia had cancer, and she was gone within 10 days of showing me that she was sick.

My heart was lost. The girls, Sofia and Ginger had been my world for over a decade, and they'd raised me, kept me safe, listened to me, and loved me in a way that I will never have again. They knew me like no human being had ever known me. Even happily partnered and in love, I felt totally alone.


There was Ivar.  And there was Lou Cat. And yes, there was Steve and this magical love that we'd found.
So in the weird between-time that was the Pandemic, Steve and I started planning again. There was never any doubt that the plan included Ivar and Lou Cat. Not even a little bit. There was no plan without these two weirdos that were so much a part of our days and nights.

Ivar and Lou

You might be aware that cats are not typically seen out hiking and camping off the grid, but when cats are family members, well...they go where you go. They live where you live. We're going to live on the road, so Ivar and Lou are going to live on the road. Fortunately, we're not in desperate shape. We're not at risk of eviction; living on the road as nomads is not a "have to" for us, it's a choice we're making, and we have time to get ready.  That's what this year is about - making sure that the 4 of us are as ready to travel full-time as we can be. 

How are we doing it?

In addition to transitioning 98% of my work to online offerings, we're aiming to hit the road for at least a few days every month with the goal of increasing our time away on each journey. While eventually, we plan to try all sorts of camping - including hitting BLM lands, periodically staying in RV parks, and trying out different hosting groups, right now we're using Hipcamp* with a little Airbnb thrown in for good measure.  

We haven't bought a trailer yet.  We THINK we know what we want, but we're just not committed yet.  The Pandemic put our search on hold a bit, so instead, we're camping in  This Huge Pop-up Tent. It's awesome.  The two of us oldsters can put the thing up in a minute, stake it down in a few more, and be living large within 15.  I'm not joking. You can watch somebody other than us set it up HERE.

We are also able to sleep in the back-end of our Ford Escape if we need to (We had it built out last summer with dreams of adding an SUV tent to the hatch and having a lovely, huge space.  It didn't quite work out that way, but the build-out is still beautiful and useful.  I'll write about that and include some photos in another post.), but it's a bit cramped, and it turns out having at least some floor space is necessary when you're living on the road with cats.

Why, you ask?

One word: CATBOX.  It really boosts the comfort and security level for the Fe-Folks to have a full-size catbox filled with the same kind of litter they have at home. Our cats would probably like a kid-size sandbox (Ivar, especially, likes to scrape the walls and anything else that is nearby), but this Catit Cat Litter Pan seems to suffice.

Ok, so we live in a tent, but what do we do with the cats if we want to go on a hike or go into town to wander around?

Well, let's get honest. Neither of us are super interested in hard-core hiking trips that take us miles off the beaten track. I know some folks are all up for that, but it's just not our thing. Steve plays disc-golf and is pretty content with throwing discs around our site, and I'm an artist. I'm happy to hang around outside the tent drawing and painting. We do like to go nosing around the areas we're camping in. We like to go on walks, take drives, find photo ops, and visit towns. And Ivar and Lou come along. In addition to their catbox and Lou's comb (he's an addict), we always travel with these three things:

  • This PetAmi Cat Backpack. It will hold up to an 18lb cat, has locking zippers, and is padded on the bottom and the back, so we can lay it down in the car or in the tent to create little security caves. I'll be honest, I have a pretty good understanding of what a nice backpack should feel like (thank you, years of archaeological fieldwork!), and these aren't that, but they aren't terrible either. They come with a waist and chest strap, so that helps, but there's still some digging that happens - especially with Lou, who weighs in at 15lbs - at the lower back.  Tying a hoodie around the waist or finding a way to strap a towel back there helps.
  • This Kitty Holster Cat Harness. These are the best things since sliced bread. We'd had both cats in the Rabitgoo Cat Harness to begin with, and while there wasn't anything wrong with them, Lou was uncomfortable.  I'd read good things about the Kitty Holster, and sure enough, it's easier for Lou to move around in, and it seems to keep Ivar a bit more secure too. She hasn't once been able to twist herself out, and she hasn't tried chewing it either.  
  • Any small Leash. We continue to use the leashes that came with the Rabitgoo harnesses. They work just fine. We also have a 2-way harness attachment in the Escape, and we hook it to the cats' harnesses for every trip. This gives them some room to move in the back of the vehicle without allowing them to go far. We open the front and top "doors" on their PetAmi packs, so that they can move a bit - usually they just switch places or curl up together, but every once in a while, somebody takes a moment as a back-seat driver.

Leash training in the backyard

Ivar as Co-Pilot

This is only the beginning of the story. I'm sure we have a lot to learn, and we'll continue to make adjustments - for us and for Ivar and Lou. Our next trip is taking us to Madrid, New Mexico, and the 4 of us are staying in a yurt, and after that, we're spending a week in a vintage canned-ham camper outside Santa Fe while I attend an Action Theater workshop. There's a disc-golf tournament in the middle too, but the Ivar, Lou, and I may need to stay home that time.

I imagined a nomadic life with my Ginger and Sofia, and I carry a picture of them with me on all of our journeys. The notion of traveling on the road with dogs was pretty easy to wrap my mind around.  The idea of camping with cats would have sent me into hysterical gales of laughter a few years ago, but now,'s just the thing we're doing.  My hope is that we're giving Ivar and Lou a life of adventure; I know that's what it is for me.


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