Meet Mel The Fit RV Cat!

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James and I have a ginormous Silver Maple in the backyard of the Fit RV headquarters.

 Silver Maple Fit RV Meet Mel


Here’s the weird thing about this tree. Every 15 years, it grows kittens.

Z Cat in Tree Fit RV Mel


No, really. I’m not kidding.

The very FIRST kitten came down from the tree before we lived here, 15 years ago. The story goes like this:

The homeowners before us, 15 years back, heard some loud meowing outside. They traced the meows to somewhere high up in the tree.

After a little coaxing, down into their arms walked Crabby.

Crabby was so adorable the entire neighborhood collectively adopted her. She went from back door to back door, charming each of the neighbors equally, and everyone spoiled her rotten.

When James bought the house 4 years later (FYI, I came along a titch later), Crabby was part of the package. She lived outside mostly over the next 11 years, and especially enjoyed luxuriating for hours each day shedding all over my deck furniture before she’d move on to one of the neighbors’ decks.

Crabby in Chair Mel Fit RV

Crabby in her favorite spot…

But she also did have access to our neighbor Bonita’s cat door, it’s not like Crabby didn’t have the OPTION to be indoors. Bonita had an open door policy. In her elderly years, Crabby did start using that cat door more and more.

Crabby Mel Amelia Fit RV

Crabby playing with “Baby” four years ago…awww

Sad part of my story, Crabby passed away this past February.

But really it shouldn’t be sad, because somehow she lived until the ripe old age of 15 as a mostly-outdoor cat (by choice) and had the hearts of multiple families in the palm of her paw. Crabby lived well, and thinking about her makes me smile.

So now here’s where things get weird.

Last week, a day or so after the Outdoor Retailer show ended, another kitten walked out of the tree.

Z Mel in Tree Fit RV Cat


Guys, I am DEAD serious. Here’s what happened:

I was in the house waiting for my daughter-in-law Anna to drop off Amelia and Eli. James had just left for Seattle, and good thing for him, because I was still annoyed over the miserable bike ride we’d just done. He was clearly trying to kill me.

So anyways, I was taking the grandkids for the morning since I didn’t have any personal training clients until later that day. I hadn’t seen the munchkins much with all the RVing we’ve done this summer, so was looking forward to some Mugga-Punky-Marshmallow time.

Amelia Eli Punky Baby Marshmallow Mel

Punky and Marshmallow, my most favorite 5 and 3 year olds on the planet…

When they pulled up in the driveway, I went out to meet them like I always do.

Remember those clown cars from the days the traveling circuses would roll through town? Watching them exit the car feels sort of like that. The car is still and silent, and then the doors open and BLAAAAARGH! It’s a whirlwind of flurry and noise and activity! As Anna and I try to shout hello over the ruckus of the Tasmanian-devils-otherwise-known-as-children running loose in the driveway, we simultaneously heard it.


And then, the kids even heard it…and actually got silent (I KNOW, WEIRD!).

We all started creeping towards the noise…where could it be coming from? Around the back of the house, we were getting warmer! Beyond the tree; NO WAIT! Not beyond it, UP IN THE TREE!

Z Cat Mel in Tree

Anna went into save-the-animal mode. It’s truly a weird phenomenon with her. She’s saved so many random animals over the years I’m sure she’s got the local wildlife rescue number memorized.

So the cat’s stuck up in the tree, we’re all down below. Here’s where things start getting a little déjà vu-ish.

After a little coaxing, down into her arms walked Mel.

Only we didn’t know he was ‘Mel’ just yet. At that point he was just a super cute not-quite-grown cat who was stuck in a tree.

You’d think a little stray kitty would be skittish, right? Not this cat. He glommed on to us, and even tolerated the smotherings of a 3 and 5 year old long enough for me to open a can of tuna.

Z Mel eating tuna Fit RV

Took this minutes after he came out of the tree that first time…

I texted a few pictures to James, who texted back, “Cute. The ringed tail reminds me of a lemur. Don’t let the cat loose in the house!!!” Ah, James. Always the thwarter-of-my-fun.

Eventually, once the tuna plate was licked clean, the cat wandered away, and I figured that was that.

So long, cute cat! Live long and prosper!

But look what I found under my deck furniture when I got home from work that evening:

Z Mel under chair


And look who was waiting at the back door when I woke up the next morning:

Z Mel at door


This courtship with me and the cat went on all week. James, who I’d been bombarding with cute cat pictures each day, starting getting suspicious. I got this text:

Ummm. Is the “cat randomly appearing out of the tree” just a metaphor for “I picked up a cat at the pound and am now making up a story about the tree to coax James into cat ownership?”

Luckily, I had Punky (who he calls “Baby”) as a witness. Since she has “tendencies” like James of obsessive cleanliness, scientific reasoning, and advanced language development, she’s the only one in our clan he trusts to tell him the whole cat truth and nothing but the cat truth. She recounted the facts of the cat’s arrival in her 5-year-old-going-on-40-year-old manner, and he’s now satisfied that everything’s on the up and up.

On the 4th day of the Stef-Cat courtship, I decided it was time for a chip check. I took the cat to a local vet, and lo, no microchip. The vet guessed the cat’s age at 4 or 5 months based on the whole still-has-baby-teeth thing.

Wait. Four or five months?!? That just stopped me in my tracks and quickly had me doing math and excitedly texting James.

My text to James: “The vet says 4/5 months! When did Crabby die? The whole tree thing, this age coincidence, IS THIS CRABBY INCARNATE?!?!?

James: “I’m home tomorrow and will know if it’s Crabby…

Really. We had this conversation. Judge if you will, but hey, I’m embracing my inner crazy-cat-lady. I have no clue what James’ excuse is.

So now, fast forward to present day. The floor of our house is littered with kitty toys and a $200 automatic litter box in our basement and we pretty much get nothing done anymore.

Z James and Mel the Cat

There’s a baby gate blocking the upstairs bedrooms with a bear alarm motion sensing camping lantern there, too, just to be sure (all James’ doing of course).

Z Mel Keep Out Fit RV

James and his War on Cat Hair. His clothes are up there, protected by a bear alarm lantern and a gate.

AND! There’s a 4 or 5 month old cat we’ve named “Mel” who’s been incessantly jumping on my keyboard and pestering me the whole time I’ve been writing his story. You know what? I’ve kinda liked it.

Z Mel Name Tag


So there you have it, James and I are officially the proud owners of a cross-eyed part-Siamese bundle of cat joy. We weren’t LOOKING to be, but that’s one of the hazards of owning a tree that grows cats. We have NO CLUE how we’ll go about RVing as cat owners, Lance isn’t designed for a cat! Should we do some cat mods? We’ve got a few weeks till our next long trip, so hopefully we can work some things out by then, and have a little more time to let this all sink in.

And maybe by then, the cat will stop setting off James’ stupid bear alarm in the middle of the night…

Mel The Fit RV Cat and Punky

Punky and Uncle Mel

After 15 years as an educator in both the public K-12 setting and the University level in Special Physical Education, Stef made the leap to her true passion… the fitness world. She’s currently a personal trainer and wellness coach specializing in seniors, medical conditions, and injuries. Stef loves running, cycling, and being “Mugga” to her two favorite mini-humans — Punky and Marshmallow. ❤️

    54 thoughts on “Meet Mel The Fit RV Cat!

    1. Don Kane

      Hey Stefany,

      I don’t know if this thread is active anymore, Are you still using the Tabcat Tracker, and still happy with it?

      Does Max even try to escape? Or does he just wander around camp and not go far. And is the Tablet on his collar or on his harness?

      We have a new stupid cat, and just trying to locate lost cat collars, a monthly occurrence.

      1. James

        We liked the Tabcat, but have since stopped using it. We’ve moved to an Apple Air Tag on Mel’s collar these days. He’s always in his harness if he goes outside, since he’s never in the same place twice. The Air Tag is just insurance if he ever escapes (but he doesn’t really try).

    2. Don Kane

      A few years ago, Rach and I were in the Many Glacier Campground in RMNP, and as we were rolling up to our campsite, I saw a cat jump up into a motorhome. I said, “Did you see that!” and Rachel said, “Yes. You just rolled past our campsite.” So after going around the one way camping loop again, we ended up camping across from the “cats van”. Yes, two cats freely going out and hanging out under the rig and then going back in, as they feel like it. We later talked with the owners who said they never really “trained” them, the cats don’t prefer to stray into unfamiliar areas. Apparently, under the rig is okay.

      I think they had some sort of tracking device on each of the cats, but only used it once when they were camping in a forest, and the cats apparently liked the woods.

      Right now, we bring our dog Lily with us, but not yet Pippen the cat. I need to go through the 40 or so comments on this thread to see if you mention if you use a tracking device and what Mel likes to do, but thinking you should do an article on traveling with a Mel.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Yes, we use a TabCat tracker and love it! And we have been talking about writing a post on RVing with cats forever, but it keeps falling off our radar. I’m glad you brought it up again. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot thanks to traveling with Mel, and have lots of tips and suggestions on RVing with cats!

        1. Mike Woerner

          Relatively new to RVing. We travel with two cats. We followed your advice on the Kitty Holster. Would love to read an article on traveling with cats.
          Thx…Mike Woerner

    3. Robert

      Can you post up the harness you ended up getting Mel? We have harness-trained our two cats (took them on a year-long RV adventure) but Basel can slip out of his harness when he wants, so I would like to find something more secure.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        We tried many brands and then fell in love with the Kitty Holster vest style of harness found here:
        It’s great, way more comfortable than traditional style harnesses, and also he can’t worm his way out of it!

    4. Tracey Y

      So what’s the final verdict? Do you have a traveling kitty? If not you might try starting him in a kitty cage.

      With my 3, I have 2 that prefer to stay in thier cage (1 tends to panic when released from “jail”). The third one doesn’t like his cage but eventually goes back in there. Just got to figure out thier preferences. That is while we are moving, when stopped all of them do pretty well. The other thing I noticed with mine is the stress tended to raise thier body temp causing them to pant and generally be miserable. So I got these flexible ice packs (look kinda like big bubble wrap but with ice) that I put under the towels in thier box to start the trip). All in all, I don’t have any trouble traveling with my cats.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Oh gosh, I missed this comment, sorry Tracey! Mel has traveled with us many times now, and all is well. He loves driving along, and has a few places he likes to settle in as we drive. We’ve tried various solutions for the litter box, and ended up most happy with a top loading litter bin that seems to stop him from tracking litter around the van floor, plus we use a special type of litter that is in big crystal chunks…keeps the litter in the box. We keep the litter box in the garage area of the van (under the raised bed). We only allow Mel outside on his leash and harness, as he’s pretty high strung and terrified of things like cars and flocks of birds, lol. We have him wear a tracking device on his collar just in case, but haven’t had to use it yet. Those are a few of our solutions, and we love taking suggestions from other cat owners so appreciate your cooling tip!

        1. Stefany - Post author

          We use the TabCat! Although technically we haven’t actually USED it yet like in a real ‘help find Mel!’ situation. He just wears it when we travel for ‘just in case’ piece of mind.

    5. Mike and Audrey Ortino

      Love the story about Mel and can’t wait for James to modify the van for the litter box and exhaust fan.James always engineers things for the best,

      1. Stefany - Post author

        LOL, Mike and Audrey!!! Well at this point, he’s hoping we can travel with NO litter box. But, that’s because we haven’t taken Mel for an overnight yet. Methinks there’ll be a big reality slap once that happens…

    6. Carol Polo

      Hi Stefany and James,

      Mel is a purebred flame point Siamese cat They are very intelligent, can be trained and love their people I would strongly suggest that you get him microchipped and keep a harness on him with ID tags. This is a good article to help get Mel used to riding in your van I particularly liked this suggestion: You can also make the car less unfamiliar to your cat by rubbing a towel over the scent glands located by the side of her cheeks; rub this towel over the inside of the car to distribute your cat’s smell and make the car a more familiar and relaxing place.

      I wish you the very best. I also believe that it was not just coincidence that he showed up in your tree but that he chose you two for his forever home. It is my humble opinion that he would be safer to be kept in either your house and/or van full-time. Mel is just too precious.

      Sincerely, Carol

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Oh Carol! Thank you so much for your guidance! I feel better knowing I’m doing a few things right….we got him micro-chipped and neutered. We’re also well underway with harness training! He doesn’t love it, but is pretty tolerant of harness and leash, especially when it means he gets to go outside! The car training isn’t going well at all though, so I can’t wait to try your towel idea. He actually has a blanket he loves, my mom made it for him, and he sleeps on it all the time. I’ll try bringing that in the car, too. We’ve got a really long trip coming up, almost 4 weeks, and are pretty nervous about taking him for that long when driving is still an incredibly traumatic event for him. We’re thinking we’ll leave him back with family. Will keep the updates coming!!!

    7. David

      Great story Stef. Congratulations on your new family addition. May you all bond and become one. Hopefully the car travel thing will be overcome and Mel will add a new dimension to your travels and joy. It was “meant to be”!

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Thanks, David! Yeah, the traveling is definitely still the biggest obstacle. We can’t even get him to handle a quick drive around the neighborhood! I’m staying optimistic that over time he’ll adjust and take to it. I hope?

    8. Sandy DePottey

      We had a cat we took camping, he had a harness and a small flexi lead. We would hook the flexi up somewhere high like the awning and he could wander about camp and not get tangled. He would go for walks too.

      I have seen a facebook post of someone hiking and kayak with a cat too…..good luck!

      1. Stefany - Post author

        That’s actually a great idea, mounting the lead high. The whole getting-tangled thing has been a huge problem as I’m doing harness training with Mel! Thanks for that idea, Sandy!

      1. Al Yaz

        P.S. We want regular update pictures on how Mel’s musculature is progressing. Not really seeing it – how he is qualified to be the ‘FitRv’ mascot quite yet. I am sure that Stef and James will whip him into phenomenal shape soon. 🙂

    9. Vikki Rogers

      What a fun story. Our last cat came onto the high school campus where I worked from what appeared to be the same litter. The kittens arrived one by one about a week apart. I took one, the principal took one and a teacher took one. They we’re all amazingly sweet cats but we never discovered whether their arrivals were engineered by a human or just their own kitty curiosity.
      You’re a great story teller, Steph. Loved reading it!

    10. JL

      We used to live next to a field that would send stray cats whenever we (or our friends) had “vacancies.” I think the cats are the masterminds behind all of this and have cleverly created the illusion of magic trees / fields! For hints on RVing with cats, check out Technomadia’s recent video (scroll down for video):

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Magic trees, magic schools, and now we have a magic field, too! Perhaps this is the greatest conspiracy of all time. Cats masterminding everything! xoxo

    11. Janet

      Awwww .. love you guys even more now! My siamese cat Samantha was more like a dog than cat. She’d curl up on the chair with the dog, come when called, was very people oriented, etc. Mel sounds like a smart boy (he picked you, right!), and being so young I’d think you’d be able to incorporate him into your activities so they’ll be “normal” to him. (Not meaning you’re abnormal!) I’ve seen some crazy RV cat pods photos online. The best was a long tube leading to an enclosed outdoor play area. Maybe Mel will leash train on a harness! Oh the possibilities — can’t wait for updates!

      1. Stefany - Post author

        OH Janet! Samantha sounds purrrfect! (HA! See what I did there?) Let’s hope Mel will take on some of those characteristics, but “coming when called” isn’t working out so well for us at the moment. Our current goals for Mel are…1) James wants to investigate toilet training (yes, on a human toilet) (good grief). 2) I want to start working on leash training. 3) Desensitize Mel to his hate of riding in vehicles.
        OMG. I just realized. We have numbered GOALS for our cat. We have become THOSE people.

    12. Alain

      Not about cats, but I was pondering on your comment ” I was still fuming over the bike ride we did the day before. It was VERY hard, and he was clearly trying to kill me “. When cycling with my wife, she has modest but decent performance and endurance up to 50k on relatively level routes. But the minute it starts getting hilly, her legs just quit. Training will improve the situation, but since she had a heart attack a few years back, we both agree that she should be active but not push it to the limit.

      Now I know this does not apply to you Stef, the ride you did must have been pretty extreme, but I’ve been thinking about getting her one of those electrically assisted bikes (she still has to pedal, it just give the extra kick when needed). That way, we could do some routes that have more challenge for me and are often quite scenic as well. We don’t feel the need to always do things together, but she would be missing out on some great rides if I just go it alone.

      Your thoughts on this would be appreciated, and if you agree that your readers would be interested, maybe some reviews sometime down the road when you go to the next outdoors retailer event. Not as much brands, as what features and performance to consider.

      PS: Not to be sexist, probably some of you gals out there would need this for your husbands…LOL

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Hi Alain! I got to test-ride a Trek power-assist e-bike that a fellow Travato owning friend travels with (she loves hers)! I especially like the Trek e-bike because it’s lighter than the others…and the weight of e-bikes is definitely a consideration. Some other RVing friends travel with Specialized e-bikes that they like, but when they test-rode the Trek, they seemed to prefer the Trek to their own! I think an e-bike for your wife is definitely worth considering. It’s not like a scooter, where you don’t have to do any work. The power assist only kicks in when you’re pedaling. AND! You can set how much assist you get, and can even turn it off completely when you’re wanting a workout. Keep us posted if you get serious about purchasing one! As as for James trying to kill me on that ride last week, it was the DOWNHILL that was murderous and terrifying…and I’m usually a downhill lover! Climbing up the mountain was hard and challenging (5,000 ft elevation gain and average 8% grade), but I love “feeling” my workout, so that was fine. Hey I wonder if I could train Mel to go biking with me!

        1. Mary Lynn

          My hubby and I are mountain bikers, but we have the same situation and it’s worse now with my arthritis. I got a pedal-assist ebike about 3 years ago and it’s made a huge difference – I highly recommend it. Mine are both Specialized, and I’m sure there are other good ones out there, too.

    13. Mike and Audrey Ortino

      Hi Stefany and James,
      I hope you will travel with Little Mel. We know James will engineer a perfect set up for the litter box. No orders and a good location plus a great story..
      Keep the stories coming

      1. Stefany - Post author

        I sure hope I CAN keep the Mel stories coming, Mike and Audrey! James is still working on the idea of Mel traveling with us, and he’s trying to find excuses to get out of it, lol. If it weren’t for the whole “litter” problem, he’d be totally on board. Keep your fingers crossed Mel becomes the next adventure cat!

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Oh you 2, I’ve been thinking about you and your 3 RV babies ever since Mel came down out of the magic tree. Wish I would have paid more attention to your cat-in-the-RV management strategies…lol! I have a fantastic picture of you and your cats in their play tent at the campground, and I just hope someday that will be Mel and us! xoxoxo

    14. Sue Ann Jaffarian

      I can’t wait to see mods to Lance since I may be taking a cat on my future Travato. BTW, how effective will that bear alarm be once Mel figures out he can walk along the bannister and hop the fence?

      James, give up the fight: No outfit is completed without cat hair.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        LOL! I totally agree. A little cat hair is just part of the charm of cat-ownership. And as for that bear alarm, the only thing it’s effective at is waking me up. Mel especially likes to come up the stairs (triggering the alarm) at around 5am. Alarm blasts, and we get up to look at the staircase, and there sits Mel next to the alarm, meowing, “good morning! come down and play!”

    15. Gary

      Hey Stef,

      Gone with the Wynns kept two cats onboard their (admittedly full-size) RV all over the country, and even into Canada. As someone who prefers animals to people, my Bubbas go everywhere with me (they even have their own passports for entering the EU.) I’m a dog man but like cats- I’m just, unfortunately, ridiculously allergic to them. Like eyes and throat swelling shut allergic.

      Here’s hoping Mel has a wanderlust heart.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        ugh, Gary, allergies that severe suck, and I bet that makes parties, visiting others, etc. challenging. OR! Maybe it’s a good excuse when you want to get OUT of events, “Awww, man, sorry I can’t come to your party because of my cat allergies…” Silver linings are everywhere! And as for Mel’s “wanderlust heart”, apparently, it needs some work. Tried going for a drive yesterday and he freaked out yowling and panicking. We’re not off to a good start with our future “RV cat”, lol.

        1. Gary

          You nailed it with the excuse to bail! I actually own a T-Shirt that reads: “Introverts Unite! We’re Here! We’re uncomfortable, and we want to go home!”

    16. Ted

      Looks like the top of James agenda will be to trim and fumigate the “Magic Kitten Tree” to vacate an active infestation of Keebler Elves and negate other “Miracles” from crawling out of the branches such as: Cute bunnies, extra grandkids, or a Vespa to ride in the next brutal bike race.

      1. James

        After this latest stunt, I was tempted to remove the tree altogether. But… according to aerial photography, the tree seems to be about 70 years old. So it’s earned a certain amount of deference.
        Extra grandchildren though, might change my mind… 😉

    17. Alain

      We have 3 “barn cat” from our days of more active hobby farming. They come in the house on occasions, and are real cuddly, but they live outside year round. We keep permanent cat food available in a big chicken feed dispenser, as well as heated water in the winter. From a travel perspective, this is ideal, since we can leave for extended periods and they take care of themselves, with the occasional neighbor looking in to make sure the feeder is full.

      If you could train Mel to become a neighborhood cat like Crabby and set up a feeder station, then your travel issues would be resolved.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Yeah, you’re probably right Alain. Crabby came to us already trained to stay in the backyards of our Salt Lake City neighborhood, so she was easy. But when I let little Mel go out wandering, he loves to go to the voices…people on the sidewalks out front and the school (and playground) next to our house. So I’m being a like a fretful new mommy and following him around while we’re outside. Hopefully when he’s a little older he can get better at sticking close and he’ll be more like Crabby!

    18. Linda Calabrese

      Hello, Stef! This encourages me. Tom is cat-resistant and I am going to be looking in my trees for one to show up. Particularly fond of Siamese. I once had a half Siamese whom I called Semi-Simon. Of course! That cat was meant for you!

    19. Lynn Carr

      A sweet kitty! I take it “Mel” is short for mellow? For a cat that climbs a high tree that gate will be no problem. Anyway, I think Siamese don’t shed.

    20. Andy & Kim

      What a wonderful story! It reminds us of our dear Chubby (The Camping Kitty) who passed away at 16 years old last October. She was also a stray that miraculously walked into our life as a 5 week old kitten hiding behind a rain gutter down spout.
      She loved to travel, camping and hiking (head sticking out of Kim’s backpack). The camper was her Kitty Condo on wheels, Kim and I were just house guests!
      If Mel likes car travel (not all cats do) then you must take him with you. It only requires a couple of things. We used a small plastic box with a lid for a litter box and a plastic tray with a 2″ high lip to hold the food and water dishes which contained spills.

      When a cat walks into your life …. joy follows closely behind,
      Andy & Kim

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Hi Andy and Kim! You took Chubby HIKING?!?! Oh wow, that’s so inspiring! I wonder if Mel would be a good hiking cat. We just got done paddle boarding, and the whole time I kept thinking how much fun it would have been if Mel was hanging out on the board with me. Maybe he could be a hiking AND paddle boarding cat! And also, I love your last sentence…I totally agree.


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