RV-ing with cats

One of the reasons this project has been on hold for a while is the unexpected arrival of my kittens, Luna and Clover.

I have always been a dog person, and a horse person – while I liked cats, I didn’t know much about them and assumed they were aloof, unloving and not particularly good pets.

How glad I am to have been proved entirely, completely and totally wrong!

My kittens are now adult cats – a year and a half old, and as silly and as inquisitive as ever.

But while I wouldn’t change them for the world, I assumed that having them meant shelving or postponing my RV dream.

Turns out I was wrong again – who knew? A chance comment at the day job led me to searching online for other people who travel with cats – and it looks like it’s perfectly possible. (Though I do wonder how my two would take to it – they are possibly the most spoilt pair of pusscats in the world, and I indulge them far too much, really).

These three are clearly happy enough on the road and this thread is full to the brim of happy, cat-owning, RV-travelling people. Some of them even let them out when they get to their night stops, though I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough for that – what if I lost them?!

Most advise acclimatising them to being on the move, getting a good litter tray and decent, odour-reducing litter, and then keeping them in but letting them have the run of the vehicle.

A foldable dog crate for when you’re on the move is recommended – space for them to move around but safe, and also (crucially for me in my cautious moments) – if there’s an accident, you can grab the carrier and get out. If your cats have the run of the van on the move, then if there’s an accident they’re likely to hide and you might not be able to get them out in time.

These guys live in an RV and travel full time (with a circus!) – with three cats and a baby. Which I think is amazing.

And this is a fairly comprehensive article, my favourite section of which details the cat’s view that “all RIVs contain dangerous forces that must be exorcised” – I think this is how my girls feel about me every time I get out of the shower and no longer smell acceptable to them!

Given that I’m in the UK, and actually love exploring my own country, and with costs and storage/parking space taken into consideration, I don’t think I need a giant apartment on wheels that I could live in for months with Luna & Clover. But I do like the idea of being able to take them with me for a week so I could travel between multiple friends’ houses rather than either leaving them alone at home, or boarding them in the cattery every time I go away for more than a night.

Another thing to add to my research list, I guess!

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A year on…

Is anyone else struggling to grasp how fast this year is going? It only feels like the other day I was deciding how to see in the New Year and suddenly it’s September already… and I can’t believe I haven’t posted here since August last year. Argh!

I’ve been busy all year creating magic in my other online homes, but thought it was high time I popped over here and posted an update on my camper van adventures.

Base Vehicle

I still don’t own one, but I’ve had a chance to look around the interior of several different types of van. Currently I’m leaning towards a Toyota Hiace, for mechanical reliability and interior space and flexibility. They’re more than I’d planned to spend on a base, but I figure adding another Toyota to our stable of 3 can’t be a bad thing.

I’ve also looked at Mazda Bongos (still a possibility but a few people have warned me about their unreliability) and Toyota MPVs – Previa and Verso.

Let there be light

My biggest issue so far is that I want the inside to be easily livable in if the weather is less than brilliant (because I live in the UK and this is a highly likely scenario). Of course I’ll fit it with lights, but I’d like it to have as much natural light as possible too – so I’m eyeing up minibus base vehicles which already have windows fitted all the way along. Curtains are easier to retro-fit than windows!

This one, at date of writing, is £6,990 on Autotrader. More than I’d planned to spend, but LOOK AT ALL THE SPACE…

toyota lwb minibus

So still lots of thinking to do there.

I’m also conscious that parking a 12 seater is going to be disastrous on most occasions, so may go for the compromise of less space but easier to manoeuvre.

Kitten Complications

When I started this blog I had no ties at all and was intending to at some stage adopt a greyhound to travel with me. And then I got kittens. They are the best thing that ever happened to me, but the fact remains you cannot take cats with you on a weekend trip. Or at least, I am not taking my cats with me on a weekend trip – their yowling to the vet, a four minute drive down the road, is quite distracting enough.

Nine months later, the kittens have grown into little cats, and I have successfully tested leaving them alone overnight with a friend to feed them and let them out the following morning. They still love me and they stayed alive.

I’ve taught them to use their cat flap, and I’m working on a timed version of the cat flap, so this means I should easily enough be able to fulfil my camper van dreams, as I don’t intend to regularly be away for more than a couple of nights at most.

If I do go for a week, I’ll either get a house sitter or they can go to the lovely cattery I’ve used for previous holidays. So that’s ok.

Inspiration from friends

Once you start talking about campers, you discover that other people are equally daft about them. It’s great! Three people I previously didn’t know very well have recently revealed their vehicles – a colleague has just bought one for her honeymoon and beyond, my parents’ neighbours travel for at least half the year in their massive Fiat behemoth, and an old colleague from the library has a Bongo which I hope to go and have a nose at in the not too distant future.

My next plans are to make an initial decision on the base vehicle and then hire something similar to assess the practicalities and whether it’s right for the project.

I wonder where I’ll be with it all by next September?

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eBay is a dangerous thing

Having spent a happy few hours browsing eBay over the last few weeks for ideas on a base vehicle, I am beginning to rethink my strategy. I’ve been very good and not bid on anything… yet!

I would still like to convert my own in an ideal world…. but find I am prepared to consider cosmetically enhancing one that’s already been done. Or rescuing and re-doing a much older one, perhaps.

I’m not sure what to think about mileage, as I know on a Toyota miles don’t mean much, but I’m less familiar with other makes of vehicle.

Essentially I think the more I research, the more there is to research!!

I’ve also been toying with the idea of buying an old, non-road-worthy caravan, to pretty up and sit on my driveway as an extra bedroom. The downside of course being that a) I can’t tow anything in Poppy, and b) I then wouldn’t have space for the camper. Hmm.

Decisions!

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Non-standard paintwork colours

More of a memo to self to research more than a proper blog post, but when this van is finished, I’d like artwork on the outside. Preferably involving woodland glades and unicorns.

I’ve definitely seen camper vans (Wicked Campers springs immediately to mind) with non-standard livery – but what the hell does one put on the DVLA form?

Used to be a minibus, now a fully fitted campervan. Used to be white. Now… has unicorns.

I foresee an entertaining conversation with the DVLA call centre in my future…

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Reversing cameras

I haven’t made much progress on van research this week (though I have been walking my friend’s hounds in preparation for my own – they’re so lovely!) but I’ve been thinking about reversing cameras.

Reversing has never been one of my strong points – it got much easier when I got Poppy, as with the roof down you can see everything. When I borrowed my uncle’s Nissan Navara for cabaret night, the reversing cameras were a lifesaver, and possibly the only reason I managed to get it in and out of my flat’s car park without crushing my neighbours’ cars.

So as the camper will be bigger than both of these vehicles – I think it’s a necessity. I thought it’d be an extravagant extra cost-wise, but I have found a place in Cheshire who will supply and fit for £130 – Custom Campers UK.

Which has reviewed some though I think these are ones that are options on new cars, rather than retro-fitted ones.

And if I felt like buying one to install myself, they’re available from Maplin, Amazon and various parking-camera-specific shops I’d have to check out before I ordered.

Ideally I’d like one with guidelines for the size of the van, that show you where you’ll be when you turn – like the in-car system on the Navara.

But this is a definite on my list – for safety and to avoid me having unnecessary crunches in car parks!

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Discussing practicalities

Dad and I were having a chat about the van while I was learning to BBQ on Sunday. (long story, I have been assisting him with outdoor cooking all my life but having recently been given his proper onen for my garden, was learning how to do it unaccompanied).

We decided that an absolute essential for a camper van is definitely a little gas barbecue, preferably tucked into its own little space with straps to hold the gas canister in place. Excellent.

I also think there’s a strong possibility I won’t bother putting a portaloo in – I hate emptying them, and chances are I’m going to stop at campsites (or friends’ houses!) where there are proper showers and toilets anyway. But I’ll see if there are any regulations on what must be included in a camper…

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The more people I tell, the more real it seems

Not much progress on the planning front this week, but I have been doing lots of work on making it seem real and making myself accountable, by the simple method of dropping the project into conversation and telling people about this blog. And making sure I say “I’m looking for a minibus to convert” or “I’m converting my own campervan” rather than “I quite fancy converting my own camper one day”.

Amazingly, so far no one has batted an eyelid at the infeasibility of it all. My friends have come up trumps as they always do and told me it’s a bloody brilliant idea and can they hire it when it’s done. (love those girls!) Even my parents, who I thought would be wary due to costs, have decided it’s an excellent idea so long as a) I do it in stages, b) they don’t have to fund it and c) Dad can get involved and potter with it when we’re in build.

I’ve only mentioned it to one or two of the car club boys, because I know that actually buying a base vehicle and getting started is some way off – but I’m confident that they’ll give me a hand if I need it, too 🙂

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