Thursday, October 7, 2010
Happy camping cats
When we told people the two of us were going to spend four months together in 98 square feet of trailer, their eyebrows went up.
When we told them we were also taking our two cats, their eyebrows started doing the lambada.
Many people believe that, unlike dogs, cats are aloof, happy on their own, animals who only pay attention to their “owners” when their dish is empty or their litter needs changing. That’s never been true for the half-dozen cats we’ve shared in our married life, and it’s certainly not true of Luther and Sidney, our current travelling companions.
When we were considering our epic voyage, one of the questions was, “What do we do with the cats?”
But after a few minutes reflection, there really wasn’t any other choice. The animals regard us as part of their herd, sort of clumsy, stupid cats who don’t sleep the required 20 hours a day, and want to sleep when real cats are most active. Leaving them at home would have been cruel, and would have made us miserable.
None . . . . well, hardly any.
Seven weeks in, the cats have settled into a routine. They go into their cat carrier reluctantly, but they do walk in, then settle down almost immediately and are asleep by the time we hit the highway.
The only exception is Sid. He has always engaged in an extended, very vocal and demonstrative puke session when we first leave home. Within the first kilometre he has blotted his copybook and soiled the towel in the bottom of the cat carrier in spectacular fashion, sending Luther crowding to the back of the enclosure with a look of distaste on his face.
Then we get to the ferry, change the towel, and Sid is as good as gold for the next however many kilometres of the trip.
Sid of course started our trip in his usual fashion. But imagine our surprise as we travelled from Winnipeg to LacLu. Two hours into the trip, we hit the winding Minaki road that takes us from the main highway to the lake. We heard the old familiar noises, Luther headed for the back of the cat carrier to get out of the way and Sid shared half-digested kibble with us once more.
That has not been the end of it and we can tell you every twisting road we’ve taken. But Sidney has always restrained himself to just one hurl per day, expressing his displeasure with our chosen roadway.
Fear not. This isn’t hurting him in any way, other than a few minutes of discomfort. Earlier this year, we worried about his drastic weight loss as he shifted from winter camp to spring hunter and lost four pounds.
Outdoor cats at home, they are now confined to the confines and immediate vicinity of the trailer with Sidney quickly regaining that lost weight, and then some. They have harnesses that are never removed, and 10-foot leashes that we attach to them and to the trailer whenever we are going in and out the door. Their outings are at the end of the leash and for Luther, extend as far as the front step. Sidney, a trifle more adventurous, is exploring on his leash with a human in tow, a guide and bodyguard combined.
The only other time the cats’ behaviour has been an issue has been at dawn. Sid, now two years old, started the expedition thinking that, like other cats, we should greet every new day with a feline Indy 500 around the trailer, from one end to the other and back again, with reckless disregard for life, limb and sleeping humans.
Luther, three years old but a sedate middle-age from birth, regards Sid as an aberrant teenager until the younger beast decides it’s time to switch from NASCAR to WWE and needs a wrestling partner – and Luther’s it.
But that’s only for a half-hour or so and only every few days, and when the fun’s over the cats are content to cuddle up against us on the bed, the single largest item in the trailer, and everyone catches a few more winks.
And what could be better, on the cold, damp nights we’ve waited through this fall in various parts of the country than a toasty electric heater, a good book and a cat curled up in your lap?