“Can you even take a cat camping?” was a question my husband and I found ourselves asking, a lot, in July 2018.
My family and I were making a big move from Oakland, California, back to Tennessee. We’re kind of veteran movers, and this would be our sixth jaunt back and forth across the United States.
In retrospect, each time we moved, we added another being to our lives. I was pregnant during our first move, and we brought a baby back with us the second time. In the years between 2009 and 2018, we gained two ridiculous and sweet dogs and one delightfully fluffy and ostentatious cat named Mishka.
A little back story, for the cat fans: We adopted Mishka from a shelter in 2014, after my husband spotted her on the shelter’s website and called me at 8:30 in the morning and said I should go get her. She had been left on the street, and when she was dropped off, the shelter quickly realized she had multiple bird bones stuck in her jaw. As a result, she has only a handful of teeth. She also has a high-level heart murmur, and her eye glands are overactive (even for a Persian). Basically, she’s a mess. But she’s a sweet mess and loves to sit with you while you read, play piano, or are working hard on writing a post all about her.
Due to jobs or work-related commitments, some of the moves have been time-sensitive, and we would just barrel our way through several states in a matter of three or four days. This time, we had a little more room to take our time, and since we weren’t in any rush to get back to the land of high humidity and endless summer, we decided to camp.
The problem? That same fluffy, ostentatious cat.
We started out slow and spent the first half of our first day walking Mishka around on a leash in a redwood forest. She started out a little wary, but she quickly warmed to the leash and soon was running around the forest. She found a few tree stumps to hide in, and she generally seemed OK.
The downside to taking a cat camping, especially when that cat is white and fluffy, is that your cat will get dirty. We kind of knew this going into our trip but were kind of amazed by how quickly she picked up every possible piece of dirt and gunk she could find.
She did like the beach, though. Well … for a little bit.
The beach *quickly* became Her Least Favorite Place Ever, and it had nothing to do with the water (we never went near it). My husband (aka Her Person) scooped her up and took her back to the car. The rest of us spent 15 more minutes eating lunch and then joined her there. She has yet to visit a beach since!
We were traveling during the middle of fire season in Northern California, and that summer was particularly brutal. We stopped at a random campground on the side of the road because the roads we needed had warnings in place (and because that campground had showers). Mishka actually didn’t have a terrible time here — we tied her leash to two dog leashes to make it super long so she could hop after bugs. She didn’t want to sleep in a tent and was super mad when we eventually made her.
We found that it was easiest for everyone if Mishka slept in her cat carrier in the tent with us. She didn’t like being left outside, and she definitely wasn’t sure about sleeping outside of her carrier with everyone else. There were three humans and two dogs on the trip with her, and that’s a lot of bodies to fit into a pretty small tent.
A lack of a tent litter box was also a concern.
We initially tried to keep all food and water bowls separate, especially because we have a Chihuahua mix who looooves cat food, but after three days, everything got a little messy. Mishka actually shares water with the dogs all the time and truly isn’t a very picky cat.
I don’t know what taking a cat camping would be like if the cat is emotionally high-maintenance. Our cat requires a lot of TLC, but feels-wise she’s very chill. She definitely was one of the biggest highlights of this trip.
Anyone who has ever had a cat knows exactly what’s going on right here.
The Pawnee Buttes were one of our favorite camping spots on this trip! We are big fans of dispersed camping and are always looking for free, amazing spots to pitch a tent. There really were tons of cows out there (and she really did not like them), along with quite a few coyotes (who howled all night while the wind nearly blew our tent down — it was incredible).
We kept Mishka looped around a folding chair, a cooler handle, or one of our wrists at all times here. Between the weather (very windy) and the animal life, we weren’t sure what she would do. She was happiest when she could sit on the dirt road.
This campground was a last-minute plan hatched after we couldn’t find the section of forest we were looking for. We got lucky because it was gorgeous here. Mishka was happy to find another fire pit, and to have even more bugs to chase after as we inched our way back toward the southern US.
Just about everyone we know was so, so concerned about Mishka’s hair and face during our camping trip. In case anyone else is worried: We took her to the cat groomer the day after we arrived at our home in Tennessee.
We told them ahead of time that she had been camping for nearly two weeks literally across the United States, but I don’t think they really knew what to expect, because they were pretty mad at us when we dropped her off. Luckily, everything washed out, and she was happy to feel clean and light again.
So if you’re a cat owner and you’re wondering, can you take your cat camping? The answer is absolutely yes, as long as you don’t mind a little dirt in your cat’s fur!