We have had quite a few people express curiosity as to how we managed to road trip around the country in a van for 6 months with TWO cats, so today I thought I’d share how we did it.
We began our adventure in Arizona in October and slowly traveled north before eventually driving down south again through early April. For the most part, we had very decent weather, but that’s not the half of it. I don’t think we could have traveled with two cats, let alone one, without some important safety measures.
For starters, we put an extra deep cell battery in our van. We then hooked it up to a
pure sine wave inverter to power a fan…so the fan worked even when the vehicle wasn’t running.
Second, We customized our van effectively changing the temperature dynamics by removing all the back seats and installing an elevated bed instead. The bed consisted of a wooden platform, covered by memory foam and piles of insulating blankets and pillows. Having the bed in our van not only saved us a lot of money along the way on accomodations, it also provided an excellent basement-like shelter for our cats to chill under.
The temperature difference was HUGE! The warmer air would
accumulate in the upper level, while beneath the bed the temp was always a bit on the chilly side.
We also had a large roof rack bag. The roofrack bag served as additional insulation for our van, deflecting the sun rays and providing yet another barrier. The roof rack bag was filled with clothes and extra blankets.
We made sure the cats always had plenty of food and fresh water at all times.
Their litterbox was easily accessible in the back of the van-also making it easy to clean simply by lifting the hatch.
We put up window shades on all the windows. Also, we would leave all the windows in the van partially open to allow a natural breeze and prevent the oven affect.
Common sense also played a role-we parked in the shade, did most of our site seeing during
the cooler morning and evening hours as much as possible and most importantly did
our van traveling before the hot spring and summer months.
I also recommend monitoring the temperature of your vehicle at all times. On some days, it’s probably a good idea to spray your pet with cold water which will have a cooling affect as it evaporates,
while you run your quick 10 minute errand. Some people even shave their pets.
I’d rather be overly precautious than not cautious enough whereas our cats are concerned. They are family members-unfortunately, it may be a while before they start opening doors and calling us on our cell phones, so in the meantime, another possibility is to leave the vehicle running with the a.c. on if there is a spare key. Another precaution is to wear a stopwatch as a reminder there’s a
pet waiting for you.
On another precautionary note, it is very important to realize that our pets are far more sensitive to heat than we humans are. The first sign of panting is a red flag that the animal has gotten too hot. Panting can be a sign of heat stroke. Other signs are findng your pet in a stupor and even seizures. A vet should be consulted at the first sign of heat stroke. According to the Maricopa County Gov site, normal body temperature for dogs and cats is between 101-103 degrees Fahrenheit, but it only takes seconds to rise to deadly levels.
Also relating to vehicular pet safety-did you know that antifreeze containing ethylene glycol is deadly, yet sweet and appealing to pets? Instead you can use products with propylene glycol, which are more pet friendly.
Many tourist destinations are taking positive steps in becoming more pet friendly and we found this very encouraging on our travels. The Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, FL encouraged people to bring their pets with them- and also, The Kennedy Space Center near Titusville did too-they had a complimentary pet kennel.