Their staunchly aloof nature may never garner cats the title of “man’s best friend,” but Muninn Myrkvi, an over-the-road truck driver for GP Transco, has found his ideal travel buddy in Pickles, a Maine Coon cat.
“Pickles has the ability to brighten anyone’s day,” Myrkvi said. “Whenever anyone spots him through the window, I get smiles and a thumbs up.”
A cat is perhaps a good match for Myrkvi, a self-described loner who said the relative independence of truck driving is what drew him to the industry a couple of years ago. Although he values the solitude of the open road, he said, he wanted a companion to accompany him. That’s what led him to adopt Pickles, then 6, from a friend in August 2019.
“Pickles had never been in a truck when I adopted him,” Myrkvi said. “At first he was very curious about everything, exploring every nook and cranny — but he was very confused and skittish when the truck started moving.”
It only took a week for Pickles to settle down and begin peeking through the passenger window during drives, Myrkvi said, adding that the feline still has a fear of truck washes. Pickles spends most of his time snoozing in the passenger seat, on the sleeper bunk or — his favorite spot — the upper storage area above the top bunk of Myrkvi’s 2019 Volvo VNL 760.
Pickles enjoys the same pampering as any house cat … with a few modifications. Myrkvi said he keeps Pickles’ water dish inside another container to avoid spills while the truck is moving, and he uses pine pellets instead of clay litter to reduce odor and facilitate easy cleanup.
“I feel really fortunate that Pickles is so attached to being in the truck,” he added. “One of my greatest fears is that he’ll somehow get out, and he’ll be lost forever.”
Indoor cats make great truck pets because they’re content in confined spaces and view the outside world with a leeriness that discourages them from running away, Myrkvi said. He advises truckers to avoid adopting outside cats that wouldn’t appreciate being cooped up in a cab.
Unlike dogs, cats do not need to be walked, he added. Myrkvi said he knows a few road cats that enjoy outdoor strolls, but Pickles is not among them.
“In the early days, I would occasionally encourage him to take walks with me outside on a harness and leash I got for him, but he made it very clear that he wasn’t interested,” Myrkvi said. “Occasionally he’ll work up the courage to come out of the door and sit on the step if I’m nearby, but he’ll dart back into the truck at the slightest strange noise.”
Myrkvi said he would recommend a truck pet to any driver with the ability to care for the animal (along with a pet-friendly company policy). Myrkvi’s company, GP Transco, allows drivers to take their pets on the road without paying pet fees, he said, but drivers are responsible for any damages to the company’s trucks.
“I’m fortunate that GP Transco has a liberal pet policy,” he said. “Other drivers at GP Transco also have cats. We keep in touch from time to time regarding our cats and their various adventures.”
Myrkvi drives to all 48 contiguous states, but he prefers to stay close to Indiana, where he is starting an alpaca ranch.
“I’ve always wanted to be able to get into farming of some sort. Preferring animals, yet preferring not to kill them, led me to alpacas,” he said. “I love their demeanor. They’re a lot like cats in some ways — curious, affectionate, but on their own terms.”
The alpacas are currently being boarded while he fences the land and stocks up on supplies in hopes of bringing them home next spring, he said, adding that he has lined up a couple helpers to care for the animals while he drives.
Myrkvi takes Pickles to visit the property, where his mother lives, when he has home time every other weekend.
“He likes it there, possibly even more than the truck, although he never has time to fully adjust,” Myrkvi said.
He added that he is thinking about leaving Pickles at “home” for longer periods of time if his mother is willing to care for the critter — but it is clear that Myrkvi enjoys having his furry friend with him on the road.
“Just knowing Pickles is around helps keep my anxiety down as I go through my day,” he said. “I tend to keep to myself even more than the typical OTR trucker, so Pickles helps alleviate loneliness. I also love when he cuddles up at night.”