You see a lot of pets on the road with the full time RVers but cats aren’t commonly among them. One campground I stayed at had a desperate advertisement on its bulletin board begging someone to take their cat before they had to put her down. They had sold their stick house, bought the RV and there was no going back. The cat was not adjusting. She had a full nervous breakdown every time they moved their rig. (Since the cat could not stand a moving rig I’m not sure what they were advertising in an RV park but who knows what they were thinking.)
Klinger is not one of those skittish kind of cat. Klinger is one of those cats you acquire because you just happened to be in the same place they feel they belong. When you don’t protest, the cat stays. Our adventures with Klinger began when my husband went with me to buy cat food for our other beasties. It was one of those places that takes in strays. Klinger was about six months old when he adopted my husband. Klinger got his name because he pretends he’s crazy like Corporal Klinger of M.A.S.H. He also spent most of the rest of his kittenhood draped over my husband’s shoulders and neck as my husband worked on the computer. Klinger has a thing about cold. He hates it. My husband’s broad warm neck and shoulders were a handy heating pad until he outgrew them.
Klinger is orange. That in itself says a lot since red heads in general are always both more sensitive and crazier than regular cats. He is also part Siamese, we guess. His body is plain pale orange without markings. His points are dark orange striped except for his white feet and chest. As he has aged they have darkened. He has a classic Siamese cat tail kink. He’s talkative, bossy and often acts more like a dog than a cat. He is endlessly affectionate. He likes to get into anything we are doing. If I am cooking, he insists on watching, often trying to get a paw into things. He is fascinated by all kinds of bizarre human activities, like showering. He does stuff like sit with his tail lashing over my keyboard or knocking things off shelves onto my husband’s head if we ignore him. He also insists on sleeping on us at night. He does not sleep next to us. He sleeps ON us. He has mades it very clear he owns the queen sized bed that take up most of the room at the head end of our trailer. He merely allows us to share the bed because its cool at night and we are generally warmer than ambient. Since Manitoba law requires we be within the province’s boundaries for six months plus a day or lose our healthcare we are stuck with cold weather at each end of summer before we can head south. I like Klinger’s warmth on me. Daytimes he dozes in the same area we are in with one eye on us and one out the window. He hates missing anything.
Klinger gets along better with our dogs than he ever did with any cat. He only learned to tolerate our other feline guests out of necessity. He never liked them and they returned the feeling. Strange cats are for immediate attack and destroy but our dogs are useful so he purrs and rubs against them and even occasionally grooms them. If the dogs dare get out of line, he also has planned fits of disciplinary rage. He will turn from sweet pussy to savage demon in an eye blink, abruptly attacking one of them and pounding them about the head and nose with his claws extended. They regard him with wary affection and are exceedingly well behaved within claw space. He will swat us too when we need it.
This kind of endearing behaviour was why we couldn’t rehome him when we sold the house. We kept finding good places and he kept wearing out his welcome and being returned to us. When we took him back the last time we were already in our trailer. Within five minutes he took over the unused corner TV shelf in our bedroom as if it was only ever meant to be a cat perch. He looked the wheel house over like it suited him just fine. Since the only other option was the Humane Society, we decided to let him try the life of the traveling cat first.
Klinger appreciates dogs for two reasons. First and most important dogs aren’t too bright and they don’t react beyond being puzzled and bothered when you knock stuff onto them. Klinger will sit above them, knock a salt shaker off the table onto a dog’s head, watch the reaction of the dog as the dog starts awake looking around trying to figure out what happened while Klinger laughs. The dog eventually gives up and goes back to sleep. Klinger then will knock the pepper shaker off. Klinger’s humans are too smart. They know the culprit and take revenge. The dogs are just bewildered.
Klinger also likes his dogs because they can be very handy as body guards. Klinger knows if he’s having issues with another cat he can run home screaming his alarm cry as he does. The dogs will go into high alert. We open the door and the dogs charge out. There is nothing funnier to see than the reaction of an attacking cat in full aggressive chase mode suddenly spotting a large lab/shepherd cross and an English bull terrier barking, snarling and spraying dog drool. At first there is stunned disbelief as the dogs completely ignore the orange cat and then the sudden realization that the dogs are coming right at the strange cat. The hunter becomes the hunted. The aggressor usually end up in a tree while Klinger sits back, laughing his cat laugh as he watches. One time this funny stunt became a matter of life and death. Klinger didn’t sit back and laugh that night. He ran right into the trailer under the exiting outraged dogs. He spent a long time washing tail hairs that simply refused to go back down on their own. The attacker was a coyote.
I can’t say Klinger likes traveling. Given a choice, he has his special spot under the edge of the bed beside the cupboard where he hides while we move. He complains as we pack. He complains when we arrive. He also developed a bad habit of bolting out the door whenever we stopped en route. After once spending fifteen minutes chasing him around a Walmart parking lot with about 56 fellow cat lovers joining in to help, we started caging him for moving. We leave the cage open as his personal handy sleeping space and when we travel, we simply close the door. He travels better caged. (The Walmart parking lot incident ended when Klinger decided even a moving wheel house was better than facing a raving mob of crazed Walmart shoppers. He ran back inside the trailer voluntarily.) Adjustment notwithstanding, Klinger gets even with us for traveling. Anything he can push off the counter gets pushed off, followed by an innocent “who me?” look for a day or two after each relocation.
I don’t generally approve of cats roaming. Klinger does get out no matter how hard we try. He has figured out our habits and out weaknesses and he is incredibly good at dashing out under our feet when we least expect it. It’s like an arms race. We adjust our tactics to keep him in and he adjusts his to get ahead of us. The longest we’ve been able to keep him inside is one full week.
His dashes to freedom are usually half hearted. He runs out. I swear, I get the can of his favourite wet cat food and click the snap top. He runs in for his treat looking smug. I give him treat. Occasionally, he decides to go exploring. I worry too much to relax until he’s back inside safe and sound so I have often observed him. He begins by walking all around the trailer reaching up and marking the bumpers by rubbing it with his cheek. He then dashes about and makes careful note of any spot where the dogs have marked things. Next he runs to the truck and marks it. He usually hops up into the engine and then jumps down a moment later. Once he has home properly marked he begins traveling out from home in ever increasing circles. As he goes he gives the cry of a distressed kitten. If there is no answer to his distress call he changes from a typical domestic cat to a silent predatory shadow and vanishes into the grass. An hour or so later he’ll reappear at he door asking to be let in as if he did nothing wrong.
The distressed kitten thing was a big puzzle to me. I often wondered why the kitten in distress call? I got my answer near a farm in Florida. A cat came running to see who was in distress and promptly got attacked with every bit of spite Klinger had in him. The poor unfortunate took off at a run. Klinger continues calling his distressed kitten cry with his new territory claimed. The distressed kitten is a ruse to get the neighbours to come check him out and then he beats them up. Klinger is not a nice guy. There was one time this tactic back fired. We were staying near friends who were host to a Maine Coon cat easily twice Klinger’s size. The Maine Coon cat came to investigate the distressed kitten cry. Klinger attacked without looking first. Klinger was very quickly thrown on his back and then picked up and shaken by the scruff of his neck, and administered several other forms of severe reprimand reserved for wayward kittens. He was released unharmed but thoroughly humiliated. When Klinger is out he will follow me when I walk away from the trailer. He would never follow me near the house where that Maine Coon cat lived. He would go close and then stop at the invisible line marking the boundary of the monster cat’s territory and wail while I went on. It was his only feline comeuppance. He had one with birds too.
One of the reasons I don’t like Klinger roaming is he is a psychopath who likes to murder mice, baby rabbits, and other small furry cuties. He isn’t a good birder and that suits me fine. He is actually a bit phobic about birds and that has two sources. We stayed at one campground that had two flocks of wild turkeys. One day I returned from shopping after giving up on getting Klinger back into the trailer to find both flocks at our trailer circling and making aggressive turkey noises. As soon as I got out of the truck, Klinger ran from the scant protection of the trailer’s extended back stairway leaping directly into my arms, turkeys menacing behind him. He never really got over that fright. We moved directly from the turkey zone into a campground next to an airforce base. The campground proudly boasted how every day you could hear “the sound of freedom” up close. Klinger had just caught a live bird under his paw and I was on my way to try to rescue it when a jet went screaming overhead, close enough to see each of the individual bolts in the frame. Klinger froze , flattened himself on the ground and screamed back in utter terror. I scooped him up into my arms and carried him inside while he shook in the kind of total feline nervous breakdown that is pathetic to see. He didn’t try getting out of the trailer again the entire time we stayed at that campground. The bird escaped unharmed. Since that time Klinger will occasionally start stalking birds if he gets out. Halfway through his stalk he stops himself, gives a shake, and sits and washes instead.
Travel and sneaking outside means exposure to nasty things. Just as humans have to prepare with shots for local horrors, so do cats. I spend a small fortune making sure Klinger has every feline immunization known to modern veterinary medicine and he also has regular monthly parasite protection of the finest quality. One thing I don’t want him becoming is a vector. I also make sure he gets tested for everything we can test for and I read up on local illnesses. He turned up with a fever and a limp once. It took a bit to convince our Manitoba vet to test him for lyme disease, since we don’t see it much up here. However after I explained he had just been in Massachusetts for six weeks she reluctantly agreed. Guess who came back positive? For reasons I will never understand, the antibiotics came in liquid form and were flavoured like banana. Klinger does not like banana at the best of times. He certainly didn’t cooperate with having 5ml of the stuff squirted down his throat twice a day. By the end of the six weeks, we were both pretty messed up and he wasn’t speaking to me.
Another of Klinger’s misadventures involved Florida squirrel fleas. We were letting him out as he wished in that rural area. The place we were in was positively teeming with squirrels. The locals regarded them as pests. No one objected when Klinger began reducing the squirrel population. Three months later on our trip home to Canada, Klinger got sick. It started as a few pimples on his chin. Soon he had open weeping sores that no amount of home treatment was working on. They must have been horribly painful and itchy because he would try to scratch them and then cry with pain when he did. They would seem to get better for a time and then break open again. After a couple of weeks of this I couldn’t stand it anymore and I took him the vet. The vet diagnosed the problem as toxins in Klinger’s system causing a system wide immune response, not unlike an allergy, due to one of the worst infestations of flea tape worms the vet had ever seen. I’ll never forget that vet puzzling over those sores and then saying in his American accent, “Now if we were back in Florida I would know exactly what was wrong with him…..” Thus I learned that karma can get you when you murder small furry animals who host fleas, who in turn host baby tape worms. It took deworming, antibiotics (mercifully in long lasting shot form), three rounds of draining abscesses, and eight weeks of tender loving care before Klinger made a full recovery. We now make a much greater effort to not let him roam and commit murder. He still occasionally beats us at the door but I am more persistent about getting him back inside.
Klinger has chosen to remain with us voluntarily. I know he has freely chosen it because of our experience in a campground near Boston. It seemed like a safe welcoming place so we let him roam. There was a nice barn next door through a sheep fence. The barn was home to six certified, fresh milk producing, guernseys. Klinger would slip off there every time I let him him out, or he’d escaped under our feet. He would always return a few hours later, content and smelling of fresh milk. He hardly ate any regular cat food during those days. Curious, I visited the farmer and discovered Klinger had made friends with the man. I explained the whole traveling cat thing and the farmer graciously offered to keep Klinger. I decided it was likely best for Klinger. It seemed to me that living in a dairy farm was a far better life for a cat.
It was with terrible sadness that we started packing the trailer to leave about a week later. Klinger was at the farm. I’m not sure how he knew. Maybe he heard the cranking squeak as the stabilizer legs were raised to travel position. Maybe it was the front end jack screech as we hitched up. I’ve heard ships cats have an uncanny instinct for being back just before the ship sails. Maybe Klinger was a ship’s cat in a past life. Whatever it was, he came running at us, full speed, yowling an outraged protest just as we got ready to do the final walk around inspection before pulling out. He scolded me ferociously, ran inside the trailer as soon as I opened the door, and then he ran straight back to his traveling hiding spot. As he never uses that spot except for traveling, he knew we were about to move and he was voting to continue the traveling cat life. He kept up his yowling harangue at me from his hiding place. How could I have even thought of leaving without him? I finally accepted that Klinger wanted to be with us. If he ever regretted not becoming a full time dairy farm cat, he’s not told me so.