WHEN the engine of Robert and Alex Crosland’s motorhome starts to purr, there is one passenger who is never left behind.

“He only has to hear the key in the engine and he’s straight in his basket, ready to set off. And that’s where he stays for the journey,” says Alex.

Meet Noodles, the globe-trotting cat. The 10-year-old moggie has his own passport and regularly sets off on overseas holidays with owners Alex and Robert in their spacious motorhome; curled up in his cat basket between the driver and passenger seats.

Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, the South of France, Pompeii, Sorrento, Marbella, the Amalfi coast, Capri and the Italian lakes are among the holiday hotspots Noodles has visited on his 'clawsome' road trips - ‘pawsing’ occasionally to enjoy the view.

He loves to stretch out above the dashboard, ‘feline’ just fine as he enjoys the view. And he can often be found exploring campsites and beaches around Europe, or even paddling in the sea. “When we first arrive somewhere he’ll spend an hour or two under the van, getting used to the scent and sounds of the place, then he’ll venture a bit further out. He loves to explore,” says Alex.

“He often sits with us when we’re outside in the sunshine, or having a meal. People walking past do double-takes, they can’t believe we’ve got a cat with us on a campsite. Noodles is more like a dog. He’s a very faithful companion.”

Alex and Robert have had Noodles since he was a kitten and his first taste of adventure was living in France with them for a year. When they retired, the couple moved to St Laurent-sur-Gorre, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in west-central France.

“We lived in a house by a lake and when Robert went fishing Noodles would walk with him around the water,” says Alex. “He loved to chase lizards too, and try to pull off the end of their tails.

“We later lived in Spain for three months and took him with us in the car. We took him to Paris in a car once too. He’s 10 now and he’s been coming on holiday with us for seven years. We’ve been all over with him. He loves travelling in our motorhome; it’s a home from home for all three of us. Even when we’re at home we often take him out in the car; he sits in his cat basket and looks out of the window.”

She adds: “We went to Russia last winter but it was on a Baltic cruise so we had to leave Noodles behind with family - he was really grumpy because he knew we were setting off somewhere without him! He misses us when we’re away and he’s all over us when we return. I feel guilty leaving him.”

Alex and Robert, who live in Bingley, have always been keen travellers and after retiring they decided to buy a motorhome and hit the open road.

“We’d never had one before, but we loved the idea of going on road trips,” says Robert. “We went down to a caravan and motorhome fair at the NEC and that was it.”

The couple regularly set off on European trips; usually sailing to France on a ferry then driving down into Spain and Italy. Their stylish motorhome, a Hobby Premium Drive, has a fitted kitchen, a cosy dining area and a double bedroom with ensuite shower.

“Once you get off the motorways the roads are generally quiet, it’s easy driving. And in a motorhome you’re a lot higher up so you can see more around you,” says Robert.

“You can’t beat the freedom of just setting off, we have everything we need in the campervan,” says Alex. “If we want to admire a view we can just pull up for a while by a lake or a beach.

“If we pull up somewhere we always make sure one of us has hold of Noodles before we open the door.

“When we get to a campsite, we just park up and that’s it. He hops onto the dashboard to take a look then, when he’s ready, he’s off to have a look around.”

Before embarking on a trip, Alex and Robert plan where to stay, always taking Noodles into account. They plot their route and check out and pre-book places to stay using the ASCI campsite guide; the campervan and caravan ‘Bible’.

While they occasionally drive through European cities with the cat in the van, they only park up in quiet campsite spots.

“We don’t stop in cities, there’s nowhere to park a motorhome and the traffic can be a nightmare,” says Robert. “We aim for campsites where we can get a bus or train nearby. Some campsites have bus stops. If we want to go exploring, or head into a city, we can just set off.”

Adds Alex: “We’re very selective about where we stay; we choose places with plenty of trees so it’s cool. We always park it in a quiet, shady spot, away from the road. When we go out Noodles is happy to stay in the campervan; we draw the curtains so he has shade, and open an air vent, and we never leave him too long. We always bring him in overnight too.”

When they’re together at the campsite, Noodles is happy to hang out with Alex and Robert and sometimes he goes off exploring on his own too. There have been times, when the couple have been packing up to leave, that Noodles decides he wants to stay for longer, which can lead to a bit of a cat and mouse game trying to locate him...

“Alex wanders all over the campsite calling: ‘Noody, where are you?’ It’s a bit embarrassing,” smiles Robert. “But he always comes back. He knows where we are, he has a good homing instinct.

“We were once at a campsite in Sorrento, it was almost full and an English couple decided to pack up and find somewhere else.

“As soon as they started the van the cat came racing out of the bushes in a flap - he must have heard their voices and thought we were the ones who were going!”

Noodles has annual injections and check-ups at the vet’s so he’s fit to travel overseas on a cross-Channel ferry.

When they reach the ferry port in Dover, Alex and Robert show their beloved pet’s passport, which bears his full name, Noodles Crosland.

“He’s been microchipped so they check his passport number using a machine with a scanner which links up to his chip,” says Robert. “It’s a lot easier to take pets abroad now, and a lot of people take their dogs with them on ferries, but there aren’t many who take cats on holiday.”

The couple’s next trip - with Noodles - will be a 10-week journey through France, Spain and Italy. They will take in Lourdes, one of their favourite places where they often watch processions, then head over the border to Zaragoza in north east Spain. From there they will drive to the Costa Calida, on the Mediterranean stretch of coastline in the province of Murcia, then on to the port city of Valencia on Spain’s south-eastern coast. Then it’s on to Garrucha in Almería, and the hilltop town of Mojacar, which has a pretty whitewashed Moorish old town and Mediterranean beach.

The couple, who between them have seven children and nine grandchildren, with one more on the way, will return at Christmas to see their family, then set off again - “back to Spain, for the sun” says Alex - with Noodles by their side, naturally. They’re planning a trip through Croatia next year.

“I suppose you might say it’s a bit of a risk taking our cat away with us, but Noodles loves it,” says Alex. “We’re a team and we wouldn’t dream of going away in the campervan without him. He comes everywhere with us.”

Robert took Noodles over to Preston recently, to get the motorhome checked over, and the pair had lunch in a cafe while the vehicle was in the garage.

Ironically, for a well travelled cat with itchy paws, when Noodles is back on home turf, he prefers to be a house cat.

“He doesn’t like going out much at home, especially in winter,” says Robert. “He won’t go out in the cold.”