How To Travel With Cats in an RV

RV Life With Cat Companions

Have you got an RV trip planned for the year? Are you taking your beloved kitty along? One of the joys of traveling like this is that you have far more freedom to take pets along, but how do you do so in a way that’s safe and enjoyable for the cat?

The best ways are to build up to RV life slowly and to design your RV to suit your feline friend. While many people successfully travel with their cats, you’ll have to think about ways to minimize stress and maximize safety and comfort.

RVing with cats can be rewarding and great fun when done properly, so spend a bit of time planning so you can have the best possible trip.?

How Should I Introduce My Cat To The RV?

Before you set off, it’s important to make sure your cat is comfortable in the RV.

  • You should leave the RV parked while you let them explore and understand the space. Allow them several days to acclimatize if possible, making sure they feel safe there.
  • You can buy sprays that contain pheromones which help to calm cats down, and if your cat is generally nervous, you may find that this helps. Spray some around the RV, particularly low down, and give your cat plenty of time to explore, sniff, and examine things.
  • It’s also a good idea to put some of your cat’s things in the RV. Toys, blankets, food bowls, treats, etc. These will help to establish the RV as a safe space.
  • You may then want to try the cat in the RV with the engine running and see how it responds. Don’t drive anywhere, but let it get used to the vibration and sound. If your cat is a nervous traveler, this should help it get used to the idea that the RV moves.
  • Next, make a few short trips with your cat in its carrier. If you have a motorhome, you may be able to let your kitty roam free once you’re both comfortable with space, but it’s best to use a carrier for the first few adventures so you can be sure the cat isn’t going to distract you while you’re driving.
  • If you have a travel trailer, you’ll need to keep your cat in its kennel in the cabin. A blanket over the carrier can help to keep the cat calm and make the journey easier for it, especially if it dislikes being in a vehicle.

Only set off on your trip once you’re sure your feline friend is getting comfy with the RV, or you may find that you’re in for a stressful trip for both parties!

How Should I Ease Into Traveling With A Cat?

  • Make your first trip a short one. In fact, some people simply stay in the driveway but spend a night in the RV so the cat can get used to the idea of sleeping out there. Others might drive a short distance and spend a night or two somewhere local.

This will let you return if the cat is getting too stressed by everything. Even once you’ve had a bit of practice, it’s good to go slowly and ease them into traveling with short trips. Many cats are slow to accept change and easily stressed by new environments.

  • You should plan plenty of stops during your trip so that your cat has time to relax and calm down, as most cats do not like moving vehicles at all.
  • Don’t go on long-distance hauls when your cat is first adjusting to the idea; you may traumatize it. Choose nice, easy, local journeys, no matter how much you want to take off and see the world. This is crucial to minimizing the stress for your little friend.

It will also let you work out any kinks in your system while you are still close enough to home to head back and make alterations.

For example, if you discover your cat doesn’t like its in-a-cupboard litter tray and won’t use it, you can drop back and grab its normal tray, at least temporarily.

Equally, if you discover you need to redesign or rethink a “cat space” you’ve created, you can do this more easily if you can go home and get the equipment and materials that you need.

Practicing is important for your cat and also for your own sanity. It can be hard work adjusting to life on the road, and few people manage a perfect setup straight away. Being able to drive back and take a break if it’s getting too much is important.

How Do I Pack For The Trip?

What are you packing for you, and what should you pack for your kitty? This might sound silly, but you need to ensure all your cat’s needs are going to be met on the road.

  • A good supply of food, plus some for emergencies, is a must.
  • Toileting must also be thought through; where will the litter box go, and where will you store litter? You should get a covered litter box so it won’t spill while you’re on the move, and check your cat will use this.
  • A covered litter box has the advantage of containing any mess that your cat accidentally kicks out while using the box, and it will also help to deal with the smell. Remember, you are going to be in a very small space; a litter box can be a surprisingly painful experience.

You will still need to clean the litter very frequently, but having a covered box is a good idea nonetheless.

Many people choose to store litter boxes in the shower, as it gets them out of the way, contains any mess, and (assuming you have a door on the shower area) gets the box out of both sight and smell range.

  • You will also want a first aid kit for your cat. If your cat has any medication, make sure you have extras and include their vet records, microchip information, etc. You can also add spare collars and numbers/addresses for emergency vets, just in case, there is an accident on your trip.

How Do I Make A Hideaway?

If your cat will have the freedom to roam while you drive, it’s really important to establish a safe space for them, particularly if they don’t enjoy traveling.

  • If they have a favorite den at home, you could replicate this in the RV, or simply move it in there.
  • Put them in or near it before you start the engine. Many cats will choose to retreat while the vehicle is moving, so having a safe space established straight away is a good idea.
  • Some cats may prefer to hide under the bed or beneath a seat. As long as they aren’t at risk of getting hurt or distracting you, that’s fine.
  • If you’ve got a cat loose in your RV, it’s even more crucial to secure anything that might move while the vehicle is in motion. You do not want something – even something small – to fall on your cat en route.
  • Many people prefer to secure their cats in carriers while the RV is in motion, even if there is technically space for them to roam because the carrier will protect them if there is an accident, and can also stop them from getting too close to the driver.

How Can I Make The RV Cat-Friendly?

You’ll need to think about how your cat will interact with space on a day-to-day basis as well as during the actual traveling. If your cat is happy to nap in the same room for an hour after hour, they’ll probably be fine in an RV.

If your cat likes more mental stimulation, you’re going to have to think creatively. For cats that are happy to walk on a leash, this may be less of an issue, but you don’t want your cat wandering free in a strange new environment, or you are highly likely to lose it.

While space is always limited in an RV, you’ll have to dedicate some to making it suitable for your cat. Fortunately, this can be done very creatively.

  • Make shelves so your cat has access to different levels, and ensure they have a window seat so they can enjoy the new scenery as much as you do. Look at utilizing both horizontal and vertical space.
  • You should also aim to make some hideaway spaces. For example, cutting a hole in the door of a cupboard will give your cat a good den that they can get into whenever they feel stressed or unsure, or if they just want some peace and quiet.
  • Boxing on shelves is also an option. You can fully box them with an opening, or just add a ledge around the edges to make them feel better enclosed. Most cats will love this.
  • Alternatively, consider using sturdy cardboard boxes or buying “cat caves” online. There are lots of options available.

How Do I Deal With Temperature?

RVs are not as easy to keep either warm or cool as a normal house and while cats enjoy the sunshine and are good at finding snuggly places to burrow into when it’s chilly, you need to think about your cat’s comfort.

Ideally, you want to provide both a warm space and a cool space for your cat so it can choose.

  • A high shelf with plenty of blankets is a good option for warmth, while lower down in the RV will be cooler, so an under-the-bed space will be useful.
  • You can open windows in hot weather, but you will need to screen them very securely to ensure your cat can’t escape. A cat running loose in a strange area is likely to panic and get lost, so make sure they cannot get out, especially if they’ll be unattended in the RV for periods of time.
  • Make sure that your cat has water, particularly if the RV is hot. Water can be a pain while you’re moving around, but you must always provide it when stopping for a break or parking up for the night.

How Can I Use Outdoor Spaces?

Whether you can offer your cat access to outside spaces will depend very much on the cat, but remember that even a cat that is reliable and calm at home can get easily freaked out, confused, lost, or injured in an unfamiliar environment with new dangers and experiences.

  • You should never let your cat out of the RV in an uncontrolled manner until you are both seasoned travelers and confident that you can handle it. A cat harness and leash may prove a solution. Encourage your cat to recognize a safety radius around the RV and stay within this space.
  • Once your cat is comfortable in the RV, there is a higher chance of them returning to it if something does frighten them, so establish this first.
  • Do not leave your cat unaccompanied outside; you don’t know what might spook them into running off, and they’ll have little chance of finding their way back if they get lost in an unfamiliar place. Traffic, dogs, wildlife, and other people may pose problems to them.
  • Cat tunnels, cat cages, or even tents designed for people (provided they can be secured) are also great ways to help your cat enjoy the outside world without less risk of losing them. It can be a good idea to let your cat try the tent out inside the RV if you have space, and then move it outside.
  • If you’re not comfortable with letting your cat out but you want them to be able to enjoy the world beyond the RV, there are plenty of clever solutions you can try. Some people build ingenious catteries on the outside of their RVs, accessed via the windows.

Some are fixed in place at all times, and some are able to be set up once the RV is settled. It is best to ensure you can easily block access to the permanent ones if you need to; you probably do not want your cat to decide they’re the perfect place to chill while you’re on the highway.

Most cats probably wouldn’t do this, but it’s better to be safe, so make sure there is a sliding panel or screen that you can put across to prevent your cat from accessing its outdoor space when necessary.

  • Ensure that any outdoor spaces you build are very secure, especially if you don’t trust your cat not to get lost if it manages to get loose. Check, double-check, and triple-check, and supervise when your cat is using them, especially early on. Look for any weak spots that may fail.

Once you’re satisfied that the space is safe, you and your cat can enjoy chilling outside any time you fancy! This will massively enrich the life of your cat, especially if you are on the road a lot; they are likely to get bored and restless if permanently confined to the inside of an RV.

What Should I Do When I Have To Leave My Cat?

Sometimes you’re going to want to go off and do your own thing, whether that’s a hiking, visiting, or just dropping in to pick up some groceries. You can’t always take your cat along, so you need to think about this in advance.

How long will you be gone? Will you ever need to leave your cat overnight – or perhaps even longer?

Your setup will need to take this into account.

  • Firstly, you have to be sure that your cat is comfortable being alone, and that the RV is secure, so they can’t escape. Always check screens and windows are shut before leaving.
  • Secondly, you need to think about temperature. If you can’t control the temperature, you should make sure you’re parked somewhere shady, or that there is a safe source of heat that will keep your cat snug while you’re gone.
  • Plenty of food and water and a clean litter tray is also important, and many pet owners like to have a pet camera linked up to their phones so they can keep an eye on their feline friend, checking in regularly to make sure everything is okay.
  • It will depend on the cat, but most should not be left for more than 24 hours, even if all their needs are met. You will need to return, clean the litter tray, and give your cat some attention and affection.

If you can’t do that, consider hiring a pet sitter to check in on your cat, meet its needs, and provide some companionship.

  • Early in your traveling days, you shouldn’t leave your cat alone in the RV unless necessary, and only for short periods (e.g. while shopping). As you and the cat both become more accustomed to RV life, you will be able to judge how long is safe and alter your behavior accordingly.

Conclusion

It’s perfectly possible to enjoy RV life with a feline (or several) in tow, and many people do. Remember to work with your cat’s unique personality and think about their needs.

If they are high stress and hate traveling, they might struggle and need a lot more time to adjust to RV life (indeed, some may never adjust), while laid-back kitties who enjoy being in a vehicle will have an easier time.

Careful planning and plenty of practice will be key to making life on the road easy and fun for all parties.

2 Comments

  1. Good overview of what it’s like to travel or live in an RV with a cat! I hope that anyone who is worried about it will realize that it’s very doable, though it may require some getting used to! 🙂

  2. Kathy Deatherage

    Since I lost my cat of 17 years out of our RV never to be seen again, others might take precautions. If and when I travel with another cat I will be sure to have some kind of tracking device. The chip didn’t do any good in my case. We did extensive work to get the word out that our cat was missing, but all for naught. After two weeks of searching and staying up at night outside, we had to leave. Another thing about RVing with a cat is that in most cases you have to move on. So, even if you cat has never attempted to leave the RV, be vigilant. All it takes is once.

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