The Van Cats

The Cat’s Out Of The Bag… I Mean In The Van

Traveling with the family dog has been captured in pictures and stories since RVs and road trips were created.  What about the other man’s best friend…. A cat..? When my wife, Hollie, asked to bring home  Marshal the cat, I was very skeptical and initially said no. I didn’t know how cat ownership would affect our ability to travel. As a Vandoit owner since 2018, I loved being able to make last-minute travel plans.

Weekends were filled with road trips, campgrounds, mountain bike trails, or winter ski trips. Adding a cat to our family was going to throw a wrench into our spontaneity and force us to spend more on pet sitters or boarding. On top of those concerns, cats are known as temperamental, territorial, and impulsive. They are also loving, fearless, and maintain good hygiene. So could a family cat be as easy to travel with as a dog? For Hollie and I, the answer is a resounding yes!

The Journey Begins: Marshall’s Maiden Voyage

The Van Cats

Hollie and I first decided to take Marshall on a van trip for a weekend to Bentonville, Arkansas, a 5-hour drive from our home in the Dallas suburbs. Our list of extra van supplies now included a litter box, cat food, treats, and a few of Marshall’s favorite toys. With a little brainstorming and testing at home, we decided on a top-entry litter box with a lid and Pretty Litter® for its dustless qualities. The Litter box was stored under the bed in the garage but within reach of the cabin space. We always keep a small handheld vacuum in the van which is great for any litter that escapes the box. The litter scoop is stored inside the box, and we use small pet waste bags for disposal.

Making sure the box is clean is the most important aspect of van travel with a cat, but maybe that’s just me as I am EXTREMELY sensitive to any sort of bad smell in the van. The same would apply to dirty clothes from mountain biking or smelly shoes from my basketball games (which will often be in the van after leaving the gym on Thursday game nights to begin the drive for a weekend getaway). We all have our tricks of the trade to eliminate van smells and I was honestly surprised that the litter box would not become an issue. 

Marshall: The Adventurous Traveler

The Van Cats

Hollie and I admit that we are very lucky to have Marshall as a cat, as he often has the temperament of a dog. He loves to be with us, lay on our laps and cuddle, and even loves to give little kisses on your face (sometimes in the middle of the night while sleeping). His willingness to always be near us makes him a great travel companion in the van. While driving he enjoys lying on my lap and looking out the window, oftentimes falling asleep with his head on the armrest of the door. My current van is the MOOV built on a passenger van chassis. Having windows all the way around is fun for Marshall and he loves looking out of each window. He’s looking for anything that moves, especially birds and squirrels.. Each window is a portal into a different dimension.

I often think he’s simply just daydreaming about catching one of the squirrels he sees rustling around our campsites or trailhead parking. Marshall has an adventurous spirit so we have worked with him on walks with a harness and leash. Walking a cat on a leash really is just following along to his favorite hunting and hiding spots. Walks often end with Marshall in my arms walking back to the car. But he’s happy to be back in the van where he is safe and cozy, plotting the eventual demise of those pesky squirrels, but only after his nap and another meal or two.

Introducing Tuck: The Newcomer

The Van Cats

After two years of adventures with Marshall, Hollie and I decided to get a 2nd cat for him to have a companion while we are away at the office or traveling to a destination that isn’t cat-friendly. Tuck joined us in 2021 at just 5 weeks old. We adopted him from our vet’s office who had received a litter of kittens rescued from an abandoned barn. Little Tuckee, as we sometimes call him, quickly took to traveling in the van just as Marshall did. Tuck does not have the same cuddly tendencies as Marshall. Tuck wants to be near us but prefers to be at arm’s length.

I think Marshall helped show him the ropes though because he would often be in the bed of the van looking out the windows, or sunbathing in the front windshield. One of Tuck’s favorite activities is pawing at the windshield wipers while it’s raining. As a kitten, he has a little more energy than 6-year-old Marshall, but he expends some of that by exploring between the bikes in the garage space, wrestling Marshall on the bed, or playing with his favorite toys in the cabin. Like Marshall, Tuck loves finding birds out of the van windows. The first time I heard him cackle at a bird was in the van in Hot Springs, Arkansas when a crow landed just a few feet from his perch in the driver’s side door.

Follow Our Journey: Join Marshall and Tuck’s AdVANtures

Adventures with Marshall and Tuck have included mountain bike weekends in Oklahoma and Arkansas, ski trips to Colorado, a road trip tour across the south to Atlanta, Hilton Head Island, Asheville, Chattanooga, and back, and camping trips with family in East Texas. They have always been up for the adventure and I think a big part of the reason why is the security and comfort the van provides. Without it, I don’t think we would have the ability to travel with them at all. To follow along with more adVANtures of Marshall and Tuck, follow my Instagram page @joshsaundersmtb

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