Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kitty Camping

We're all back safe and sound from our annual journey to Prince Edward Island for a lovely week of doing nothing on beautiful beaches and stuffing ourselves with seafood.  And when I say all, I am including Colbert, our cat, who except for some of the beaching and seafood partook in all of the pleasures of our trip.  This includes, drum roll please, camping.

Colbie the Camping Cat
 Because Toronto is so far away from our normal first-night stop at Sackville, New Brunswick, we decided we would gear up and spend the first two nights of our trip camping.  We would do the long-haul Toronto to Fredericton (or thereabouts) the first day, camp overnight, and go to Fundy National Park the next day to camp again, before driving the third day to New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, to see Drew's Gramie for our annual visit.  Our friends were getting married at the end of the week, and we had decided that since they were marrying in a small town with limited accommodation and we'd already have our tent, we would just camp in the bride's parents' yard (a number of other people took this option also). There was no alternative available to taking Colbie with us, so we quickly decided we were just going to camp with him.

Colbie and I on a cabin bunk bed
I was really excited about this idea at first, and then decided maybe I should read what other people's experiences have been with cats on camping trips, so I turned to Google-the-All-Knowing.  This was incredibly valuable.  Some people had unfortunate stories about cats running away on childhood camping trips, never to be found, which is so sad.  These people were understandably very anti-cat-camping.  Others,  however, had decided to give it the old college try, and struck out upon a path of feline adventure.  For anyone who is considering taking their cat camping, the following is what I have learned from my research and from camping with a kitty for three nights last week.

1. There are some things to buy to be prepared.  We bought a cat harness with a leash, as well as one of the twisty yard anchors that you can tie a dog to.  The anchor was enormous - large enough for up to a 70 lb dog - so we weren't worried that Colbie could somehow get it out of the ground and get away.  We also bought a travelling cat scratcher so that Colbie could have an outlet other than the blow-up mattress for his travel-stress, should he feel any.

2. Make sure everything is familiar on the trip.  That sounds odd, since you'll be in a tent or RV in brand new places, but what I mean is that it's a good idea to make sure that the cat is used to wearing the harness you bought, is used to the scratcher pad, is used to the food bowls and litter box, and all that.  We put the harness on Colbert a few times prior to camping because I read that he would have to get used to wearing it.  We quickly discovered that he didn't even notice it, making me think he may have worn a collar when he was owned by his first owner, and I know that he was wearing one in the shelter he lived in for three years.  This made it easier for him to wear the harness.  We gave him the scratcher in advance to get used to, and we took his litter box and food bowls so that they would be the same.  All of this seemed to make him comfy, since he didn't have any weird eating or bathroom issues on the trip - always amazing.

Colbie and Drew hanging out in the tent
3.  Don't let your cat out accidentally.  Common sense, but they're quick, and some are more curious than others, and if you have any suspicion that your cat might nip out the door then just keep the leash on and attached to something whenever you've got the door open.  If you're hanging out inside, then let the cat off, but otherwise it's not really worth the risk of having your kitty dash into the woods.  Colbert is rather reserved in his exploring, much preferring the indoors, but we still took precautions and tethered him to the yard screw when our tent door was open.  

Colbie in the (very large) tent, if you can
spot him!
4.  Keep your kitty inside when you go away from your tent.  It's not a great idea to leave your cat tethered in the outdoor space of your camping area when you're not there.  You never know what might come along and want a snack, and the cat would have no chance to escape to a safe place.  If it did get off the tether, then you'll just lose your kitty in the forest anyway.  Both bad.

5.  Buy a big tent if you're tenting.  We were somewhat lucky that our tent happens to be enormous because it was on sale when we went to purchase one.  This was awesome, and totally unplanned.  I recommend it, having now camped with a cat, because in anything smaller than this giant 2-room tent we wouldn't have had enough room to comfortably fit the mattress for Drew and I to sleep on, plus the kitty litter, food bowls, backpacks, scratching pad, kitty carrier (which Colbie was in on the drive), and cookware/cooler, etc.  We had a lot of stuff with us, it turns out.  I think having an animal with you requires that you have some more stuff than people camping without an animal, so it's not unreasonable, but big tents are definitely recommended.

6. If you happen to be going to a wedding with your kitty, try to find a clip-on tie.  

He wasn't as displeased as he looks in this picture

This is everything I've learned I think.  Colbert is an unusually good traveller, which makes him much easier to handle than many cats (I've been told).  He doesn't meow in the car, he is calm and secure provided we are around and he has familiar things with him, and he doesn't try to escape.  He has lived in a bunch of different apartments with me, in different cities, and I think that Drew and I are his most solid points of normalcy.  Each night while camping he curled up on the sleeping bags in the exact spot that he sleeps on our bed at home, and slept through the night.  He might look big and tough, but he's just a little love sponge on the inside.

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