The Travel Adventures of Charcoal the Cat

Many of us travel during the holidays. Of course that means that we take the whole family, even the furry ones. Dogs usually travel pretty well, especially on a road trip. It is a real adventure for them. But try taking a cat on that same road trip. It’s another story entirely – until they adjust!

Charky, My Well-Traveled Cat

There were a few years during my early life when my family traveled constantly due to my father’s work. When we first began our travels, we were actually homeless. We lived out of suitcases and moved from motel to motel. During that time we also traveled with a dog – and a cat (actually a kitten).

My cat’s name was Charcoal (we called her Charky). She had been born to a stray cat that we took in during the late winter the year we sold our home and headed out on the road. Her first car trip, as a kitten of about 2 months old, was about what you would expect. She was panic stricken. By the time we traveled every day however, she was about 6 months old and she quickly adjusted to our moving about. One of us was with her almost constantly, never leaving her alone for very long. Actually, I don’t think Charky ever realized that she was a cat. As far as she knew, I was her mother. I had been there (and even held her) from the day she was born. My parents were her “grandparents.”

Because cat food, especially at that time, was very smelly, Charcoal was raised eating baby food. We had a carrying case for her with her litter pan, which we would place in the bathroom of each motel that we stayed in. Being an intelligent and observant cat, Charky would often decide that using toilet paper made sense. It was not unusual for us to find that she had unwound some toilet paper into her litter case. When we were riding, for the most part, Charky traveled with me holding her on my lap. In those days, the rules and regulations weren’t as strict as they are today.

The Curiosity Factor between a Dog and a Cat

Because we traveled with both a dog and a cat, it was interesting to see how they each responded to the environment around them. Rusty, my dog, would happily sniff everything. Scents were especially interesting to her. Charcoal however, was more visual. Whenever we would pass through a new town, she would get up and go to the window to check out where we were. I will never forget a trip we took in our new van. It was fitted out with an old cabinet with a porcelain top that had belonged to my grandparents. We put the cabinet behind the driver’s seat. Along the wall, right behind the cabinet was a twin bed. Charky would rest on the bed until we slowed down as we came to a town. The minute we stopped at a light, she would jump up on the cabinet. Many times she would slip and slide around on the porcelain in order to get the best view of where we were.

When Traveling with a Cat, Security Is What Counts

When traveling with a cat, it’s like traveling with a toddler. Just as you would bring along their special food, diapers (in a cat’s case their litter pan) and toys for amusement, so you need to do the same with your cat. If a cat feels like part of your family, then the most important thing to them will be being with you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that animals don’t have the same feelings as humans. When we did leave Charcoal alone overnight one time, we were amazed when we returned home to find that she was actually crying tears as she clung to us. A cat may be independent, but they have complex personalities just as we do. And yes, they can become seasoned car travelers, just like a dog. But shhhhh, whatever you do, don’t tell a cat that they are just like a dog.