End of Week #18
Saddlehorn Campground, Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction CO > Elk Creek Campground, Curecanti Recreational area, near Gunnison CO
Miles traveled since last week’s post = 127
Total miles traveled to date = 3177 with trailer
We are staying near Gunnison, Colorado right now, with tonight being our last night before we head a little bit southwest to the “Switzerland of America”, otherwise known as Ouray, Colorado. Luckily, we have been staying far enough south of the historic winter storm hitting Montana and parts of Utah and Wyoming. And we have also been fortunate enough to keep our temps in the high 30’s and low 40’s at night. The goal is to keep things that way for a few more weeks through the end of October before we will head south to Texas.
It sure has been a hell of a last four months with the cats, living in the trailer and traveling in the van. I think I can confidently say that they are used to the trailer now, but after Rahja escaped the other night when we were at the Colorado National Monument, who really knows anymore! She literally was able to push the screen door open (because we accidentally didn’t have it shut all the way tight) and helped herself to the great DARK outdoors. Luckily, Adam walked by the door from the bedroom and noticed it was open and happened to see Rahja straight outside by a tree. He alarmed me and we went outside and each went a different way around the trailer to try to stop her. My heart was racing the whole time, and especially as I saw her run into the street. I closed my eyes and pounced on her and was able to grab her and get her back in the house. Super scary moment though! There are mountain lion and coyotes out there, and it was dark and the campground was full of people. Who knows what the brave little b-word would have done or where she would have went.
Roscoe hasn’t quite been up to the same kind of shenanigans, but no matter what we do for him he can’t stop being anxious when we travel. I put CBD in his food twice a day, I use light drugs on him when traveling, I love him and hug him and give him blankets and he still freaks out. We take breaks, and go outside and go for walks as much as possible, but he’s still anxious all the time – no matter what.
A&A Traveling Full-Time With 2 Bengal Cats
I still remember that first drive, with our entire life belongings squished into the van, the cats somewhere at the bottom in their crate, and the long haul to St. Cloud to get our trailer. From there we had to head another several hours to Stone Lake, WI, where we were to set up for 7 weeks. The cats were scared, confused and very vocal about it all. It broke my heart to hear them yell and try to dig their way out of the kennel. It made me so sad to think about what they must be thinking and how terrified they probably were. It made me feel really fearful of the long future of travel we had ahead of us, and made me doubt if we could really pull this all off. I worried that we were making a mistake with having them on this journey – even though I knew my heart couldn’t handle it any other way.
While we were in Stone Lake we would do some practice rides in the van every so often and it was always a disaster. So much cat screaming. So much hair and scratches. This was when they were still free roaming in the van (our original plan aside from moving day when we had no room for them to roam). I couldn’t keep up with this, I couldn’t keep wrestling with Roscoe every 2 second for a 4 hour drive, trying to keep him off the dash, off Adam while he was trying to drive, stop him from crawling out the window and stepping all over everything so aggressively he hurts himself. It was cat crazy!
In July Roscoe had a bunch of teeth removed, due to being diagnosed with Feline Tooth Resorption and we also discovered that he is suffering from some sort of autoimmune disease. It was a rough month to also be departing off from Stone Lake, after mostly sitting in one spot for the previous 7 weeks straight – but off we went!
That first long drive into South Dakota, after finally closing things up in Minnesota and officially starting our new chapter out on our own, was the absolute worst. I remember specifically driving on a highway where we went through a super rough patch of road and the whole van was bouncing and I could hear the cats meowing and shaking in the crate. I just totally lost it. I think I cried every time we drove for the first month or so after we left Stone Lake. It was tough, it was brutal, and I felt so bad for them! It was torture to listen to! Roscoe also started to have pee accidents in the kennel when we were traveling, and it started a whole other slew of disasters to deal with.
What Products Have We Used For Travel
There are pheromone calming collars you can get that you are able to keep on your cat for a 30 day period and have it continue to emit calming pheromones. I tried one for both Roscoe and Rahja, and one time Rahja almost choked on hers in the crate as she was trying to bite it off. And another time Roscoe did completely bite all the way through his and broke it in half. After that we did not try these collars anymore.
I read that you can feed your cat flavored gels that have ingredients in them to calm them so of course I wanted to give it a try. I couldn’t even get Roscoe to eat it – off my finger, on his food dish, mixed with his food – nothing. Luckily, I was able to return this to Amazon for a full refund.
I tried probably 3 or more different brands and flavors of chews, and I could not get either cat to eat any of them. I was able to return a few to Amazon for a full refund, and I still have a few others in the trailer, even though they are pointless.
Calming Spray + Wipes
Everyone in all the full time RV groups/travel with cat groups would swear by the calming sprays for their cats. Well I tried two different sprays and neither made a difference at all. I still use the Feliway spray before each van drive, and sometimes spray it on their things in the house for familiarity, but I honestly don’t think it really makes any difference. It’s pretty stinky too! I am not sure if I will continue with this anymore once I run out.
Rahja normally is a huge sucker for the nip, but no one even bats an eyelash at it when it is in the crate. I put some on the mat of the crate (not in the bed) just before we leave in hopes they will roll around in it and they really don’t. Roscoe rolls because he anxiously does anyway, and the nip ends up getting everywhere.
While we were in South Dakota experiencing all of that severe weather, I ended up getting Roscoe a Thundershirt for anxiety to help him feel more relaxed. Since it seemed to work a little bit for those storms, and he wore it just fine, I decided to try it for when he was in the van too. That did not work for even 10 minutes, and he would somehow wiggle his way out of it when I wasn’t looking. One time it was basically perfectly laid on the ground as if he folded it up for me too, ha! We will stick to this one being just for thunderstorms.
While at the vet in Hayward for his teeth, we also got Roscoe some anxiety medication that we planned to use while traveling. It was in the liquid form of gabapentin and we were told it would help ease pain and fear and discomfort in traveling. I decided to try using the gabapentin before people were to come over in the trailer once, to see if that helped any of Roscoe’s anxiety. He didn’t like the taste of it, but took it well, and seemed to maybe come out and say hi a bit more. Then on the day we were to leave Stone Lake I gave it to him, and he started to aggressively foam at the mouth and spit it up everywhere in the trailer and run around freaking out like crazy. It was so scary! I didn’t know what was happening or if he was allergic. After talking to some friends and to the vet, I came to the conclusion he was stressed and that the taste was terrible and he was trying to get rid of it.
A week later we decided to try it on him one more time when we were leaving Edelweiss. I quickly got the same reaction from him and it scared me so much I called the vet immediately for another option. They told me we could get the same medication in the form of a pill and try to see if we could put it in his mouth or if he would eat it tucked away in wet food. I really did not think we were going to have luck with either option but decided to give it a try. The first time it worked, and he unknowingly ate it in his wet food! The drive wasn’t much different, he was just a bit drowsy (although he always fights it) and the only difference really was that he didn’t pee his pants.
Nowadays I give this to him to try to prevent the peeing (he has only peed one time while he took a pill) as we really can’t always be cleaning up cat pee in the van – we just don’t have the resources. We aren’t always somewhere with an abundance of water or any laundry options. I really don’t want to keep him on this pill long term and it scares me to think about what kind of damages all these meds could be doing to his insides, but I also don’t know what else to do to try to help him stay calm while we travel. It’s a hard thing to deal with and think about and try not to blame myself for “ruining his life”.
It’s always one day and one step at a time and we hope for the best!
Travelling In The Van
Attempt #1: Mesh Cage in Back of Van
First idea, and not the worst thing ever, but with them being in the way back of the van it was so terribly bouncy and they were so far away. They could not see us and we could not see them and I think it was just a super scary and terrible situation for all. I gave this to my mom right before we left MN and exchanged her for the next option.
Attempt #2: Dog Kennel in Back of Van
The worst idea of them all – the loudest and most unstable and wiggly thing ever! It would break my heart to listen to them in this thing, and I kept imagining them being in cages at the pound or something. I had read somewhere that some cats do better in crates like that than enclosed mesh ones because they don’t feel so restricted. It was super huge and I figured it would give them plenty of room to relax and stretch while we drive so they weren’t so confined. Little did I know or realize, but it was the absolute worst idea ever. It was so unstable in the van and bounced around and rattled like crazy.
It was so horrible and we got rid of it and turned it into a bike rack for the van when we got to my grandma’s in South Dakota.
Attempt #3: Mesh Crate on Bench in Van
Since mid August, when we left South Dakota, we have been using a backseat kennel system, that is two crates in one, opened up together, and that sit on the bench behind us while we drive. We have been consistently using this crating system for over a month and a half and each time is still a new experience, full of new meows and screams, and plenty of scratching and trying to dig out of the cage. We have fewer accidents, and we stop about every 2 hours or less and let them out and feed them and allow them access to the litter box.
They sit right behind us and let us know their opinions on riding in the van the whole time we are driving.
Our Pack-up Routine
On days we are heading to a new location we try to follow the same routine of things, as it makes life easier for us and hopefully one day will for the cats too. We usually try to head out between 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM, just depending on how far we have to drive that day.
- First I feed the cats and drug Roscoe in his wet food treat. It’s advised that he has this about 2 hours before travels.
- I pack up the inside of the trailer and Adam packs up the outside. As we start to put things away, Rahja usually always catches on to what is happening and will start to hide under the kitchen table or behind the recliners. Roscoe will get all anxious and start pacing and hoovering by the door.
- As soon as we are ready to bring the slides in I will put the harnesses on both of the cats and we will go outside and try to walk around for a bit.
While we are driving we try to break every hour and a half or two hours during every drive, just depending on what kind of gas stations are available. I will feed them in the van, and offer them water – which they usually don’t drink. The litter box is in the back of the van and they have access to use it if they need. Then they anxiously pace in the van for a few minutes and we go back in the crate so we can take off again. There is always plenty of meows during this whole process, and a lot of times Roscoe gets all weird in the crate and goes on his back and hangs onto the ceiling of the crate with his claws. I wish I knew if he felt sick or if the elevation changes bothered him or what the deal is, but he never gets sick or throws up at all.
This is all one big learning process for us, just as much as it is for them. We are in this together to try to understand each others behaviors and actions and make the best of it all. I do what I absolutely can to make them comfortable and show them love and sometimes we just wish we knew how to make them understand it’s just for a few hours! Ha. It’s a new experience each time and we can only hope another 6 months down the line this will all just make us laugh to look back on.
“As every cat owner knows, you don’t own a cat – the cat owns you.”
I can only hope that someday our efforts will prevail and they will accept and lean into their new life as full time adventure cats. Until then, we pray to the cat Gods of the Universe for strength before each drive.
The Utah Top 5 National Parks, a travel review of the National Parks we visited in Utah earlier this month – to include Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands. I will also include information about the two National Monuments we visited, and the 2 State Parks. In a separate review I plan to post by Friday, I will provide an itinerary for what we did at each park and how we saw them all in about a weeks time.
Launching on Friday, October 11th, in honor of our 20 WEEK Anniversary!
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