July 8, 2021
Julie, Daniel & Nala from @Purrfectbuslife have been travelling the open roads of Australia in a Vintage Mazda Bus since October 2020.
Nala, their rescued cat, was your average house cat with no prior training before jumping into van life full-time – and now she is a true explorer.
These tips are inspired by Nala’s progress from a skittish shelter cat to the professional explorer she is today.
These guys have stayed in pet-friendly accommodation as well as the van, and campgrounds, so read on for some tips and tricks on how to get a cat accustomed to travelling.
Tip #1: How to find genuine cat-friendly accommodation
The first thing is to find accommodation that is truly cat-friendly, since the term ‘pet-friendly” is sometimes misused, it can lead to confusion. So, to avoid any issues, we recommend contacting the accommodation first.
There are many ways to find feline-friendly accommodation, either use the pet-friendly guidebook “Travelling with Pets”, booking.com, Airbnb or any other pet-specialist travel website.
Once you confirm that the accommodation is cat-friendly, we recommend double-checking this information. We prefer to get confirmation in writing, so that is easier to keep track of those that allow cats inside and then decide which one to go with.
Furthermore, we check if there are any “conditions” as some pet-friendly accommodation only allows pets outside, which for us is a deal-breaker – as we would never leave Nala outside!
You won’t know this just by browsing online and will have to ask if the property directly if they are willing to accept your pet inside (we have had a few lovely owners welcoming Nala in their homes, despite not having a pet-friendly policy advertised). So be sure to contact properties directly as you might be surprised by their response.
Tip #2: How to contact properties
In your email to the property, it is recommended to write a few lines about who you are, and who your pet is, explain that your cat is harness and leash trained, reassure the email recipient by notifying them that you will bring all the essential gear, and don’t forget to include your social media handle/website link so that the people on the other side can read up about you, and see how well-travelled and responsible you are.
I think this has helped us tremendously when booking a property. Often, accommodation will use you and your stay to decide if they should become or continue being pet-friendly, so please ensure the experience is enjoyable for them as well as you, and always be respectful of the place, people, and native wildlife.
Tip #3: Inspection and Preparation
Before allowing your cat to roam free in the accommodation, make sure you inspect the space, check for any hazards (chemicals or toxic plants for example), escape routes, and keep an eye out on possible hiding places your cat might like. It is also at this stage, that I would put away any items that may be fragile or are on decorative shelves as I don’t want Nala to break anything of value. Remember to organise Nala’s “headquarters” such as her litter, food, water, her scratcher (don’t forget to bring a scratcher it will stop your cat from clawing the furniture), and find a cozy place for her bed.
Again, ensure the windows and doors are firmly closed to avoid your cat escaping.
Tip #4: Let your cat explore the room(s)
Since Nala is a full-time traveller, we often take her leash and harness off to supervise her as she explores one room at a time (if there is more than one room, make sure to section off exploration by having the door closed). However, if your cat is not that confident, you could also walk around with your cat while being on a harness and leash. Ensure you have the leash tightly in your hands to quickly react to any anxious reactions if your cat is spooked by anything.
All cats will react differently to being in new places, remember to observe your cat’s body language and provide encouragement aka treats.
Tip #5: Read your audience
Make sure you give your cat what he or she needs, depending on your cat’s personality you might want to spend some extra time cuddling on the couch before doing your own things such as jumping in the shower or on your laptop. I said cuddling because Nala is a big cuddler, but it could also be a fun time, to get all the toys out and entertain.
Tip #6: Remember the essentials
Remember to always bring your cat’s essential items, I recommend having a checklist, which includes the following:
- Harness, Leash & carrier: for safety and security
- Food and Water Bowls: or water fountain, whatever works for you
- Food: for mealtimes, don’t forget treats
- Bed & favourite blanket: smell is such an important thing for cats, so it will help your cat to settle into their new environment quickly
- Litter Box: whichever kind of litter works for you and your kitty. We recommend bringing your own dustpan in case it is not provided for you as we know cats love to scatter their litter around. It is not for everyone but because we personally spend about each day packing and unpacking with the bus we actually have two litter boxes, one to stay on the bus permanently and one for accommodation, so we don’t have to carry our dirty litter in and out the bus all the time and it reduces the risk of dropping litter
- Scratching Pad/Post: while this might sound like preparation overload, there is nothing worse than having a cat that wants to scratch furniture that isn’t yours – so to avoid frustration and a potential fee make sure you bring a scratcher!
- Toys: to entertain your cat throughout the night (even in the bus we always leave a dice out for Nala at night, they are her favourite toys, you can even get dice made of foam so they don’t make noise)
- Exploring gear: if you plan on doing some outdoor activities together don’t forget your gear, backpack, first aid kit, poo bags, and any other specific items you might need such as clothing, life jacket, bike carrier, and so on.
Finally, remember that cats are nocturnal animals, so if you want a decent night’s sleep we recommend tiring and feeding your kitty before jumping into bed. We always give Nala a walk around sunset time as she is naturally very active at that time, if she still has some energy in her we then play and then comes dinner time.
We have to have a sleepy cat at night on the bus to ensure proper rest, so this tried and tested technique works.
You can find out more about Nala and her travels by visiting https://www.purrfectbuslife.com