Deon’s decided to share the blogging load with me and instead of being editor and I am now a guest blogger or perhaps a co-blogger… so if you don’t like cats, move on…
When I tell folks we travel with our cat, Rusty, I usually get a weird look from them obviously questioning my sanity. Others look at me with jealousy! We met Rusty in September of 2007. He was just a kitten, maybe five or six months old. He was mewing near the big tree behind the Jackson House in Eureka, NV. We just got a new camera and I was playing with it when I spotted this cute, little orange kitten! He kept wanting to get too close to the camera and Deon was just coming over from the train car gallery. He picked up the kitten and held him so I could make some photographs. He didn’t put the kitten down for nearly two hours. We had made an agreement, long before, to not touch any of the feral or stray cats and kittens in town as we wanted to eventually be petless to make travel easier. Well, so much for that idea! Mamba (our deaf calico kitty of 16 years) died in February and I guess seven months being catless was enough. We both just loved having a kitten around! He was pretty funny and Ruby didn’t eat him on sight. Ruby was actually pretty good with cats which is unusual for a Husky.
Rusty and Ruby were best friends for their four years together. Ruby, the Siberian Husky, was actually quite cat-like in her ways. And Rusty is quite dog-like in his ways. He plays fetch and comes when you call him. They were even the same colors, except Ruby’s eyes were blue and Rusty’s are green. They slept together, ate together and played together. I’m not sure why we didn’t take Rusty camping while we had Ruby. Ruby was a handful on her own and that’s probably why. It was cute to see their greeting when we’d get home. Rusty would jump out from nowhere and wrap his front paws around her neck, giving her a big hug!
We were scheduled to be at Great Basin National Park in a couple weeks for our Darwin Lambert Artist in Residency program. This idea of a kitten was throwing a wrench into our plans. What to do? Can’t have a kitty sitter with such a new addition. There wouldn’t be a house to return to…We decided to take him with us! We made arrangements with our hostess to include the cat as she had already approved of Ruby, and she was fine with it as long as we clean up well when we left.
We borrowed a dog kennel and put Rusty’s blanket, a small litter box and food and water in it. Rusty’s first road trip was the drive to Great Basin National Park. He talked a bit, but overall, handled the drive better than we expected. Our two weeks in the park were incredible. Rusty was a real trooper and we never had a problem with him the entire time.
Rusty didn’t go camping with us until five years later in 2012…Ruby died in 2011 and we were in the process of buying a new van. We found camping with our critters was more fun than worrying about them when we weren’t with them. After all, we’re family! So, in the process of outfitting the van, we included a cat house and a litter box! Our first local test with him went pretty well. We drove about an hour or so and found a place we felt would be a good first camping experience for all of us.
We went out to the Diamond Playa where it was fairly open and no place for the cat to run and hide from us. We didn’t really know what to expect. We got camp set up and now we are ready to let Rusty out! We opened his house door and he cautiously walked out checking out his new surroundings. For the cat, when we open the van door, it’s like the TARDIS, you never know what’s going to be on the other side of it. We had acclimated Rusty to the van and he knew he was safe there. He would jump out of the van onto the step and just hang out there to take in his surroundings. If he heard a twig snap or any noise, he’d jump right back in the van. We were happy to see that! We didn’t want him to run off into the wild and then need to chase him. I’m sure just about all our previous cats would have bolted and hated the entire idea of camping, but Rusty’s different. We have a harness and leash for him, but, there’s not much point in using them as he can slip out of it in the blink of an eye.
It wasn’t long before we were going a few hours to camp and that took an adjustment on all of our parts. We learned if Rusty eats anything a couple hours before leaving, about an hour down the road, it’ll all come back up. So, in addition to picking up his food a few hours before departure, I found an old bath mat about the right size for his home. That way, if he did throw up, I could easily pull it out and he wouldn’t have to lay in it for the rest of the trip. Another thing we learned, is to try to keep him from eating grass. I know, it’s supposed to be okay, but in camping reality in the Great Basin, the grasses are not that beneficial and when they are dry, which is most of the time, it’s even harder on their digestive system no matter which way it exits.
We are always concerned about extreme temperatures which are common in the Great Basin. It didn’t take too long for Rusty to figure out to crawl in the sleeping bag with us to stay warm. It’s probably easier to keep him warm than it is to keep him cool in extreme heat. This summer has been hotter than ever. We’ve been on the road for over five months now. For most of the summer, we needed to take extra measures to keep Rusty as cool as possible. While camping in Nevada we didn’t always do a good job. There were times he had to stay in the van while we worked. We had water and food out, the curtains pulled, the fan running, the windows open and we even used damp cloths like a swamp cooler on him which he seemed to appreciate. If we were miserable, he was miserable, too. To show his dissatisfaction with us, he once peed in Deon’s clothing bag. Oh joy. And we had just been to the laundromat…
For the most part, Rusty is an excellent camper. After five months on the road with some extended stays with friends, he understands the processes for set up and pack up and he doesn’t cause much fuss. When we’ve been driving all day though, he starts getting noisy if we are not camped or settled somewhere by 5pm or so.
I’m glad he sticks around, for the most part. He has his moods, too. He gets van fever if we’ve been driving too much and he wants out as bad as we do! One night, Deon had to respond to Nature’s call and the moment he opened the door, Rusty shot out. It’s dark. no moon. Deon doesn’t have his glasses on. I shot out of bed from a sound sleep and fortunately, for whatever reason, Rusty jumped right back in. Whew. Don’t want to go through searching for a cat in the middle of the night again!
At any rate, we are thrilled Rusty likes camping with us! Here are a few more photos…
Early morning prowl at Chase State Fishing Lake, Kansas
Canada geese watching at Wakonda State Park, Missouri
Rusty seems to blend in well with most environs…
Stay tuned for more travels with Rusty! Thanks for reading and I appreciate your comments!