Free Range Kitties
One evening around the campfire, we heard what almost sounded like a trio of gunshots and then the sounds of falling timber. Jasper lept up and faced the "threat" and growled like a dog....deep and guttural.
I regard cats as the ideal adventure travelers. Many people agree, but then prevent their feline companions from enjoying their own adventures by keeping their cats locked up indoors or on a leash.
Our two cats, Vicki and Cartman, have lived the nomad life aboard sailboats and our motorhome. Here is what we learned about encouraging your free range kitties.
Cartman has always been a calm and easy going traveling kitty. Vicki, while a great hiking kitty, has a tendency to panic and dislikes change. When switching from motorhome to boat and back, Vicki would express her dislike of change by finding a deep hiding space for a few days.
Many people have marveled at how we let our cats explore our new surroundings. While we do not let them out when Walmart docking, we do let them out to explore in forests, deserts, and even busy boatyards.
Each did get lost once.
Cartman was first. He got lost in the dense forests up in Oregon. Night after night he failed to return. We searched and searched without success. We stayed at the campsite several days beyond our intent and just as we were ready to assume he perished, he found his way home. You could tell that the ordeal affected him. He was happy to be home and ever since that day, has been very careful to keep his motorcoach in sight. There were times that we would take Vicki and Cartman out for a hike. Vicki would be totally fine with long hikes, but Cartman once he noticed that his motorcoach out of sight he would become quite audible in his displeasure and concern. And once we were back in sight of the motorcoach, he would sprint with glee back to his home. He never got lost again.
Vickie, got lost in the desert near Mirror Lake in California. Several days of waiting and searching gave no evidence to her whereabouts. With coyotes in the area, that was an obvious concern. A powerful dust storm moved through the area, making the situation seem even more grim. We notified the local park office that our cat was missing and though starting to give up hope although we continued to stay put at our campsite.
After five days, Vicki finally returned on her own. Never to get lost again...at least not of her own accord.
During the summer of 2017 we summered in our home state of Wyoming. While visiting our son in Gillette, we stopped at a Chinese restaurant for lunch before heading to Douglas, WY. Without us knowing, Vicki escaped out an open window and we did not notice that she was missing until we made our stop in Douglas. Tina drove the car back to try and locate her, but without success. For the next month we visited out favorite campsites in Wyoming interspersed with visits to our son in Gillette and each time we would search for Vicki and check in with the animal shelter.
After 28 days of this we were ready to leave Gillette and head south for the winter. I decided to make one more bicycle search before we left. Just after I began the search, Tina got a call from the animal shelter saying "we have your kitty." 28 days of being on her own and she looked healthy, although was a bit pissed off with the world.
So in our many years of traveling by boat and motorcoach, our cats have only been lost once on their own and each seemed to learn to be more careful about keeping track of their home.
Our cats clearly love exploring new places. Yes, there is some risk, but the joy and confidence they gain from their free range lifestyle seems well worth the risk.
The key thing to cat owners, is to not give up on their cat if he comes up missing. I would be prepared to stay put for up to two weeks to give them plenty of time to find their way home. Cats are quite good at feeding themselves, and can go for over a week without any water. You should also make sure your cats have tags with contact information on them. But my point is to trust that your cat will make it home and do not give up too soon.