“You’re taking your cat?!” You can imagine the tone and surprise in that response when I mentioned to my co-worker that I chose to take Yang (my rescue cat), with me on a weekend trip.
I have seen a plethora of accounts on Instagram with cat owners proudly walking their felines down a hiking trail or beach – so why not? Although I draw the line at taking them ALL on a trip at the same time or ever putting them in a ridiculous situation that could be a danger – it was a great experience and I know Yang had fun.
For this tiny traveler getaway, my focus was on a destination that wasn’t too far from Birmingham (just in case he got so stressed out I had to bring him home). Although I had been up to the area on a previous trip last year, I decided on Fort Payne, Alabama because I found the most interesting stay – a tiny bus.
The host (Tanya) was super fantastic. She was very pro-cat and was excited to have someone stay in her place with a cat. The best part was, she didn’t charge a pet fee and asked for pictures. Yang and I felt very welcome there before we even arrived (which is usually not the case for cat travelers).
Before we hit the road, I set up the food and water for all the other cats staying at home. I think Samson and Delilah were happy to get a little breather from Yang’s endless supply of kitten energy. I was really excited to try the “car pods.”
A few months ago, I invested in a travel friendly carrier that has more room to accommodate all three cats at one time. And since Samson doesn’t travel well (nerves), I wanted room for an actual litter box for the times he has to be in the car. This worked perfect, although Yang didn’t use it at all during the commute. He was pretty good (for the most part), and only tried to claw his way out a few times. So far, he’s been unsuccessful in escaping that, or his harness (yay!).
The drive wasn’t long at all, less than two hours, and the surrounding farms reminded me a lot of Pennsylvania. The bus was more of a permanent fixture with add-ons of a downstairs master bedroom and large bathroom. They built a loft bedroom above the bus with interior ladder access and room enough to stand!
The best parts were the added front porch and roof decks, which lost a little glory in the gloomy winter weather but were still really enjoyable. When we arrived the weather was nice, and it was still daylight. The property is well lit but completely private so it really felt like being off-grid; especially since there was no WIFI or live TV.
I had decided to cook most of the weekend meals in the “bus” because there was really nothing around restaurant-wise. Unloading the car didn’t take long, I left Yang inside his portable backpack carrier with the door open, but he wasn’t quite ready to come out.
After I finished organizing and doing my own exploring, I attempted to “Yang-proof” the bus and get a good idea where he might run to if he got scared. There was a lot of space under the bed downstairs. I had to make sure there wasn’t anything under there he could get stuck in – so I laid down on the floor and scooted myself under the bed to check it out (yes, really).
If you have ever had to fish a cat out of a piece of furniture, you understand why I needed to be sure. Luckily, all that was under the bed were Tupperware storage bins for the host supplies, and although I wouldn’t be able to reach him if he decided to camp out there, he wouldn’t be able to hurt himself or get stuck.
It was not lost on me that the host is a clean person, which I appreciated, because the under the bed experience could have gone either way. Then I realized the plants were going to be an issue. Luckily, the bathroom was huge enough that I moved the live plants in there and was able to close the door. This was necessary anyway since Yang managed to get stuck behind the washer and dryer in the bathroom the very first time I used it.
The ladder to the loft wasn’t going to be an issue, there was no way he was going to get up there, so I felt confident letting him have the run of the bus. I went outside to explore and take some pictures and didn’t see him when I came back in, so I started to look for him and call his name.
I walked over to the loft ladder and looked up – there he was, with his adorable face looking back down at me. “How the hell did you get up there?” I asked him – half impressed but mostly pissed. By that point, he was attempting his first descent down the ladder, and I was having tree climbing flashbacks from when he and his brothers were tree climbers.
Turns out, the shelves built behind the ladder gave him just the right path to maneuver up it. I relocated the shelf contents so he would have more room but ended up having to assist him with coming back down more than once. He was adorable about it though. It was like he was a little kid who finally had his own dream bedroom.
I’ll admit, I loved it too. The loft was super spacious and because you were higher up, it felt like a treehouse. Could I someday have my master bedroom loft be this open in a tiny house? I did a half-assed guesstimate of the height of the bus and the addition (most THOWS have a 13’ limit) – this seemed pretty close. I won’t mind at all sacrificing a little bit of headroom on the lower level under the master to give me that type of loft space – SOLD.
The loft window is also how me and Yang accessed the roof deck. The sliding windows in the loft are huge and there were no screens. I am 100% sure that the host doesn’t intend for her guests to get out on the deck, but it works. I put on Yang’s harness and leash and carried him out to the deck. We sat down on the furniture and watched a little of the sun setting.
Yang was curious but cautious – and although I didn’t think he had any desire to run away, I did not want to have that kind of evening, so I kept him on a short leash – literally. We came in after the sun went down and I popped in a DVD while I made dinner. We felt very much at home.
Whenever I travel, I usually wake up in the middle of the night for some reason or another, and in this case with Yang it happened a few times. Cats are night creatures, and since he didn’t have his typical playmates, he kept himself occupied with other enrichment. Luckily, he didn’t destroy anything, or hurt himself going up and down the ladder – so all was well.
I left Yang alone in the bus to take the 20-minute drive to an old antique mill that was now a consignment shop and restaurant. I wasn’t gone for very long but had a lovely time talking with locals during lunch and shopping. I fueled up the car, got some morning road drinks, and headed back to the bus.
When I got there, Yang was nowhere to be found. I didn’t panic – at first. I put stuff away, visited the bath/plant room, and then started to sweetly call his name. “Yang…Yang-y baby…Yang-y….YAAAANNNNG-YYYYYYY.” I crawled under the bed and shined my phone light to get the eye reflection – he wasn’t there. Same for under the couch. He couldn’t get IN anything…and I was sure the bathroom door stayed closed the whole time I was gone. But I checked behind the washer and dryer anyway. He wasn’t there.
I checked drawers (there is a way to get stuck in those, he’s done it before), but there really wasn’t any furniture. Then I panicked and thought he somehow got the upstairs window open and went outside. I “ran” up the ladder as fast as that is possible to do – turns out that isn’t a good idea. I don’t know exactly how I managed to do it, but I slammed both kneecaps on the lip of the shelf behind it and it about knocked me on my ass.
I laid at the top of the ladder in the loft – the window was closed, of course. “Where the hell was this cat??!!” There was nowhere to hide in the loft, so I knew he was downstairs, somewhere. I somehow managed to get down the ladder and popped two Aleve immediately knowing that I was going to really be sore in a minute.
I got down on the floor one more time with the phone flashlight and whether he had just moved there, or was there the whole time I’ll never know, but Yang was curled up in a little fluffy ball of cuteness, hidden by a piece of ripped fabric under the couch. “Yang – ugh….” Then of course, he got up, came out, and stretched.
The rest of the evening was uneventful. I enjoyed watching some movies, taking some pictures, and reading for pleasure again. I picked up Spare by Prince Harry and am really enjoying it so far. I was sitting on the downstairs bed reading when Yang decided to make his attempt of running up the ladder. I could see his thought process but how can you warn a cat that it’s not a good idea? With a full forced running start, Yang managed to clear two rungs, but then hopelessly lost his footing and tumbled down the shelves onto the floor. Shit – that was exactly what I was worried about, but no attempt I made to “block” the ladder had proven ineffective.
He seemed to have learned his lesson, because he took the cautious way up for the rest of the trip and didn’t appear to have hurt himself. I felt his pain though (as my knees are now a blue and purple color). Yang did discover the express way down however – leaping from the top of the loft to the downstairs bed.
The laws of physics would almost appear to contradict this possibility, but if there’s a will, there’s a Yang. He did it multiple times and scared the crap out of me each time he did it. Especially when I was ON the bed. That second night, something else happened – we met Ms. Kitty (the neighbor’s black cat). She came over when I was cooking s’mores around the firepit. I fed her (of course) and she hung around outside the whole time. I could see Yang’s curious little face looking out the front bus window.
Her presence added a challenge because she wanted to come in, and I didn’t want Yang to come out to see her. To be safe, the next morning I put Yang in the carrier so that I could open/close the door to load the car and not worry about him bolting. She wouldn’t leave even when we were pulling away!
Overall, this tiny adventure was my first with a cat in tow, and it was a really fun experience. Yang and I got to do a little bonding – away from the other animals and house, and it was good to discover that he has a very good temperament for traveling. It also felt like home more so than any other visit I’ve taken like this so far. I know when the time comes for us to move into our forever dream stay, the lifestyle will suit us.
OneForPets (“car pods”)
The Little Bus Stop (Airbnb)
For more pics – visit my FB page!