Van Cat Makes Purrfect Travel Buddy For Life On The Road

Written by: Kelli Brinegar
For more than five years, Kelli Brinegar has been using her ability to write and her passion for research to tell the tale of what cats are thinking and why. She has provided care to more than 30 cats in her lifetime.Read more
| Published on March 30, 2021

Is it your dream to quit your job and live on the road, traveling wherever the inspiration points you? If so, take a lesson from Rich East and his van cat, Willow.

In 2014, Rich prepared for what he termed “the most well-prepared midlife crisis in history.” Tired of life in the rat race, he renovated a van to become his home on wheels, researched, sold his possessions, and finally put in his resignation at work.

“I said goodbye to my amazing colleagues who had supported me for so long, to life as I knew it, and hello to the unknown,” Rich shared.

But he encountered one problem while readying to set out from his Tasmanian home.

Willow the cat.

A Van Cat

Rich adopted Willow from a shelter well before his plans for departure, but he didn’t think she’d enjoy life on the road. He started looking for a home where she could be happy. But Rich had a feeling, one he couldn’t ignore. Something told him Willow was meant for adventure.

“You can’t let this cat go. You have to take her with you.”

So that’s what he did.

But he didn’t just throw the fluffy black cat in the camper van and take off. Instead, Rich introduced her to van life slowly. The pair started with weekend getaways which progressed into week-long stays on the road. Willow not only coped, “she thrived.”

“I soon realised that what I thought was a house cat was in fact a van cat, an adventure cat!”

But don’t confuse Willow with a Turkish Van cat. Rich explained his special feline “is just a regular van cat.” Not only does the pair have adventure in their heart, but some humor too!

Regular van cat she may be, Willow makes the adventures even sweeter.

About a year into their journeys, Willow and Rich gained a new travel companion, turning their duo into a happy family of three. In Willow’s eyes, Steph makes an excellent cat mom. Rich is a pretty big fan of Steph’s as well. The pair were married in 2019, to Willow’s delight.

Willow’s Wanderings

Though Willow is a curious cat with a love of exploration, she knows her limits and never stays gone from Rich and Steph’s sides very long. To help keep her safe, she wears a tracker collar. Rich also explained that he and Willow know each other well, an important factor when living the traveling life with a cat. Trust is key.

“Willow and I have an unspoken agreement. She will always come back to the van, and I will always wait for her.”

Since leaving Tasmania in 2015, Willow and her parents have put more than 30,000 miles behind them, traveling all over Australia.

Like any self-respecting cat, Willow can get cranky, according to Rich. But it looks like beautiful scenery helps brighten her mood.

Willow celebrated her 10th birthday this year and the beautiful cat is looking forward to many more years and adventures with her family.

Whether snoozing on the van’s roof rack or snuggled in blankets, Willow knows wherever she roams, her forever home is inside her parents’ arms.

Feature Image: @vancatmeow/Instagram