Van Life: Part 1

 We officially moved into our van on the 26th June 2021 and we are loving it! We spent a few weeks staying with our families as we hadn’t seen them a lot over the past year. So far, our route has covered Cheltenham → Birmingham → Essex → Norfolk → Newcastle Upon Tyne → Beadnell and to where I am currently writing from, a small farm shop and restaurant in Belford in the North East of England.

 Unfortunately, we’ve noticed that a lot of places now clearly state ‘no overnight parking’ which has been a bit stressful. We’ve found that most free stopovers such as pubs only allow for a 24 hour stay meaning we are constantly planning our next stop. It’s all part of the fun though, right?! So far, we’ve been loving the free time we’ve had and have spent it exploring beaches, walking, reading and playing games at campsites.

 Our cat, Moss, is getting on really well with van life. We’ve found that she’s happy to lounge around in her harness and we have put her lead around the front chair headrest so that she can be safe whilst we have the van doors open and still have room to move around and access everything she needs. She’s a clever cat and has found that she can remove the window covers at night which makes a delightful noise and lets the light in at around 5am (by the way, any suggestions on how to stop this would really help us out!). Overall, we’re really happy with how Moss has adapted and couldn’t ask for a better travel companion. From here, we will be continuing to head up the North East cost into Scotland and we can’t wait to continue our journey.

 I’m going to put together a Q&A style blog post which answers your questions about living in a van (similar to our photography Q&A) in a separate entry. If you’d like to be featured send us a message over at our Instagram!

Thanks for following our adventures,

Beth, Megan and Moss x

Instagram: mosstherat
Megan’s Instagram: meganthebendall

Cat Backpacks

 If you are thinking about walking your cat on a lead, you will definitely want to invest in a cat backpack! We have always taken a cat backpack on our walks with us as it provides safety for Moss against strangers, dogs and bad weather. Cat backpacks provide a safe space for your furry friend and also give you room to keep water, cat treats and anything else that might be important! There are a range of different styles, colours and sizes available online to suit your needs! We wish that pet shops would sell them too as it would help promote and normalise taking your cat outside more than a few times a year just to visit the vet! It can also be daunting ordering online when you are unsure if it will be suitable for yourself and your cat. Luckily for you, we’re here to recommend our favourite styles and we know that many of our pawesome four-legged friends over on Instagram are always happy to share their experiences too. Joining the Instagram cat community is a great idea if you are newly starting out with an adventure kitten, just as we did. 

Which Backpack is Best?

 Firstly, we ordered a completely clear plastic backed backpack but decided it wasn’t suitable for us as it was very small and we were concerned about Moss overheating due to the lack of ventilation in the one that we tried. We moved onto a small brown backpack (pictured above) which was from Amazon (£33). It worked well for Moss as a kitten as she could hang her front two legs out of the front and watch the world! The open circle was a lovely feature and also came with a mesh covering and a clear plastic bubble. The mesh covering was great for walking around busy areas as no-one even noticed Moss inside! The bubble was also a great feature, Moss looked like a tiny astronaut and it was brilliant for rainy weather. Unfortunately, it got a bit small for her as she was approaching 7 months old and we wanted to ensure that she could lie down more comfortably whilst inside the backpack. I’d seen a lot of pawsitive reviews on Instagram for the brand Mr. Peanuts Pet Carriers (£55 on Amazon) so we decided to purchase one of theirs. The backpack is great as it’s bigger for Moss to lie down in. She can be attached into the bag by her harness and we tend to leave the top open (in good weather) so that she can peer out or sit on our shoulders if she wants to. We’ve also used the backpack for visits to the vet as it can be carried horizontally to give Moss a bit
more space inside and is suitable to use as an under-seat airline pet carrier.  Cat backpacks vary in price but as we use ours multiple times a week to take Moss on walks we knew it would be worth spending the money on.

Backpack Training Your Cat

 We started off by training Moss to sit on our shoulders from a very young age. This began by walking around the house with Moss on our shoulders until she learned how to hold on, jump up and jump down. She jumps onto our shoulders from a lower level or climbs her way up our bodies before deciding she’s ready to leave and scales back down our arms onto the floor. Shoulder training Moss gave her more confidence and has strengthened our bonds with her, she loves to stand on Megan’s shoulder whilst she cooks!
 It is important that your pet is comfortable in the backpack. Moss had been living with us for a month before we introduced the backpack to her. She started off by inspecting it and we would carry her around the house in it before taking her outside. We would also take her out in her regular pet carrier before this which helped her feel safe and comfortable in the car and outside. Leaving the backpack open and in an accessible space will help your cat become more comfortable around it and they may even use it as a bed, as Moss occasionally does! Your cats favourite treats and toys will work as a great incentive! You can also find cat comforting sprays in pet shops which might help to destress your feline friend if necessary. It appears to us that Moss is very grateful for the backpack as she climbs into it herself when she has had enough exploring and gets to take in all of the views from inside or on top of our shoulders! We have also mastered the ‘scoop’ of picking Moss up and getting her swiftly into the backpack if we notice off-lead dogs approaching us.

What’s your favourite cat backpack? Let us know over on our Instagram page.
We hope you enjoyed this post,
Beth, Megan and Moss x

Instagram: mosstherat
Megan’s Instagram: meganthebendall

Walking Your Cat in the UK

 You wouldn’t believe from our Instagram page that Moss is an indoor cat but she’s never been outside on her own. We have always had concerns about the risks surrounding busy roads, animal fights, theft etc. as the town is always scattered with ‘lost cat’ posters. However, this does not mean that having outdoor cats (or strictly indoor cats) is wrong! We also know people who only walk their cats on leads in their gardens and we are aware of the sometimes negative perception that walking your cat, in public, on a lead can have.

 Through getting to know the Instagram cat community, we have discovered that we aren’t the only ones who have decided to walk our cat on a harness and lead. We have made connections with people worldwide and love seeing everyone’s adventures! We had never seen anyone else walking a cat in person until earlier this year where we met another couple on one of our evening walks, we found it really exciting to see other people doing the same thing as us! We would still love to meet more people local to Cheltenham or the Cotswolds who walk their cat(s) on leads as well.

Our Experiences of the Public’s Responses

We love walking with Moss for many reasons but our favourite has to be to make others smile. It’s almost guaranteed that every time we take Moss outside with us someone says something along the lines of ‘it’s made my day seeing her’. It’s been lovely to safely meet so many new people and have short chats on our daily walks, especially during the past year with the pandemic. We have definitely found that walking cats on leads is still fairly uncommon in the UK, we think due to everybody being very cautious of what other people think!

 One of the most common questions we are asked when we are out and about is ‘why do you walk her and does she enjoy it?’. As I stated in the introduction, it began out of safety concerns and as we knew we had plans to live in a van in the future we knew we would be regularly on the move and didn’t want Moss to be stuck in a small space for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sure, if we had let Moss grow up completely indoors or outdoors she would be used to either lifestyle. However, walking her outside regularly encourages stimulation, helps her become used to traffic, dogs and new people and we find her to be noticeably calmer after walking with us. Before taking her outside we read up on the pros and cons and decided that it would work best for us and Moss has never seemed uncomfortable or reluctant to walk. In fact, quite the opposite, jumping down from her backpack to walk alongside us and eagerly exploring rocks, trees and branches. Moss is quite timid and it is important that she has control and can get to the safety of her backpack whenever she needs to. Even if we have some minor setbacks or days where Moss doesn’t feel like walking, we’ve noticed a huge improvement from when we started and her confidence has grown massively.

 It is important to remember that some people might not agree with walking your cat on a lead but as long as your cat is happy and enjoys their time outside you shouldn’t let it phase you. In almost a year, we have only had a handful of outwardly negative interactions which is not comparable to the amount of love she receives! Even being called a ‘crazy cat lady’ doesn’t stop us!

Important Points

Every cat is different - Some cats will be less cautious than Moss, whereas others will be much more aware of their surroundings. Moss has slowly improved in open spaces but still prefers trail walks where she has a clear path to follow.

Be aware of dogs - Off-lead dogs do worry us. We pick Moss up as soon as we notice one and put her into her backpack. Most dogs don’t even notice Moss when she’s high up but we never want to take the risk of her being injured or getting spooked. We feel more comfortable doing walks where dogs should be kept on leads although this is never 100% guaranteed. We have been told that it was a good job that Moss was so high up and that a persons dog didn’t notice or we’d ‘be in trouble’ even though Moss is always on her lead and would retreat to her backpack rather than get close to a dog. It is important to note that your pet on a lead is not the cause if off-lead dogs becoming aggressive.

Use apps to find suitable walking routes - We are part of local Facebook walking groups that share circular walks around the Cotswolds. We also use apps such as OS Maps to find routes that we know will be of a suitable length and nature for ourselves and Moss. We started on shorter walks and Moss would spend most of the time in her backpack, whereas now she sometimes walks up to 5km with us! Some of our favourite walks are from the National Trust site which are slightly longer but are often quiet with beautiful views.

 Thank you for reading and we hope you enjoyed this post,

Beth, Megan and Moss x

Instagram: mosstherat
Megan’s Instagram: meganthebendall