Tips for RVing with cats blog post

Lippert Scouts Reagan and D’Anne Terrill, also known as the couple behind RV Travelers Voice, have always had cats in their lives. Even when they began their RV journey, they knew they wanted their cats to come along on their adventures. Through the years, they’ve learned several things about making their feline friends more comfortable in their camper. Read on to find out the Terrills’ top 10 tips for RVing with cats.

10 Purrfectly Helpful Tips for RVing with Cats

By Reagan Terrill of RV Travelers Voice

My wife and I have been cat owners our entire lives. They are not just pets; they are part of our family. Thus, when we began our post-retirement camping journey and RV life a few years ago, it wasn’t even a question as to whether we would bring our cats. At the time, we had a senior cat, Brewster, and a relatively young cat, Boomer. Both hit the road with us, accompanying us for thousands of miles while traveling in an RV and hundreds of nights camping. 

Our beloved Brewster has since died of old age, so it is now just Boomer that makes a great traveling companion. We are thankful to Lippert for allowing us this opportunity to share a few of our tips for RVing with cats that have helped to make our trips safe and enjoyable, for us and for Boomer. We know this is not an all-inclusive list and welcome feedback on what has worked for you, too.

1. Do Your Research

Before you travel with cats, be sure to check with your campground regarding their pet policies. Do they have any restrictions for cats? If you are planning an overnight stay at a hotel along your route, investigate the pet policy. If you are in the market for a new RV or travel trailer, what space have you considered to accommodate your cat or their accessories (litter box location, food and water bowl location)? Do you have space available for pet supplies? I’m not saying that you should base your RV layout solely on making your cat comfortable, but if you have options in mind, it will be helpful down the road. I know Boomer appreciates our current layout. 

D’Anne Terrill putting together a puzzle with her cat BoomerD’Anne Terrill putting together a puzzle with her cat Boomer

2. Have a Vet Care Plan

Is your RV cat current on their required vaccinations? Do you have their records? These are important steps to check in advance of your trip. Be sure to carry the shot records and primary vet records with you on the trip. These records will be helpful if you need to make an emergency vet visit on the road. 

The pre-trip vet visit is a good opportunity to ask the vet for advice to help manage your cat’s travel anxiety. Has your cat traveled in your towing vehicle in the past? How did they do? Your vet may have some additional suggestions to help keep the cat calm and have a more enjoyable trip. 

Boomer the cat in his travel crateBoomer the cat in his travel crate

We’ve found one of the best ways to alleviate our cat’s stress is to think “cat first” on travel days. That means we think about getting the Boomer settled in the truck well in advance of hitting the road. We feed and water Boomer very early in the morning. After giving him time to finish the food and make a trip to the litter box, we take him to the truck. Then, by the time we have the final loading and travel preparations done, Boomer will have had time to get comfortable in his bed-lined travel crate. 

Depending upon outside temps, we make sure to cool or heat the truck accordingly before bringing out our furry friend. We have learned the hard way that if we wait until the very last moment, we have a chore on our hands to find Boomer. He’s usually found the most inconvenient small space to try and hide from us and has become quite anxious about the upcoming trip. 

3. Give Your Cat Space

When considering a “space” for the cat, remember that cats like familiar surroundings, both in the tow vehicle and at the campsite. While traveling with cats, a familiar carrying case with a comfy cat bed helps make sure both your cat and you are safe and comfortable.

For extended trips, we have a small litter box available and provide small amounts of food and water along the way. Thus, adequate bowls, as well as waste disposal tools, bags and air freshener, are must-haves. Even though Fred, our 2019 RAM 1500, has factory all-weather mats, we have additional cat litter-catcher floor mats to help capture any stray litter, too. 

Boomer the cat traveling in a truckBoomer the cat traveling in a truck

While keeping Boomer in the crate full time is the safest while on the road, he occasionally gets restless and roams across our back seat and occasionally into the front passenger seat area for a bit of reassuring. To help keep our truck seats clean and in good condition, we have deployed a full waterproof seat cover for the back seat of the truck.

In the travel trailer, we continue the theme of “familiarity” with bedding, a spot for the litter box and a place for food and water bowls. We set up one of our extra bunks as the cat’s bunk. His bed is from home. We put the litter box near the bunk, using the same litter box in the RV as he has at home. The food and water bowls are from home, placed on the same boot tray to help keep things neat and tidy in the back of the camper.

4. Plan Your Time Away

Think about your plan for while you are away from the camper. How well do your cats do when left alone? How does your cat handle varied feeding schedules? Plan for someone to check on them if they get anxious or if your outing plans get delayed. Camper cameras and remote temperature monitoring and controls may also be an option for you. If there is a campground emergency while you are away, does the camp staff know that you have a furry friend in your travel trailer? Some travelers place a decal or magnet placard on their camper door to alert guests or visitors that a cat lives inside.

Boomer looking out an RV picture windowBoomer looking out an RV picture window

5. Keep Your Cat Active

Plan to keep them active and stimulated indoors and outdoors. Bring along their favorite toys and scratching post (this helps protect camper furniture, too). Bring their snug-fitting leash if your cat has been leash-trained. Take them on walks outside, if allowed at your campsite. 

Boomer laying in his outside crateBoomer laying in his outside crate

If your cat is not leash-trained, consider a screened outside play enclosure. This is what we do for Boomer, and he tends to enjoy the fresh air while having his own place outside while we are hanging out around the campsite. However, I would not suggest leaving your cat unattended outside in a screened enclosure. If the enclosure isn’t practical or you don’t allow your cat to go outside, give your cat the opportunity to have interesting views from the camper windows. Our Boomer enjoys chattering at the birds and squirrels outside our panoramic slide-out windows. 

6. Plan for Inclement Weather

The camper environment tends to get hotter or colder more quickly than the typical home environment. Think about your cat’s reaction to these rapid temperature changes and have a plan to keep them cool in the heat and warm in the extreme cold. Have the carrier accessible and available if you need to evacuate under severe weather conditions, too. On particularly cold nights, we relocate Boomer’s bed a bit closer to the built-in electric fireplace.

Boomer the cat laying in an RV bedBoomer the cat laying in an RV bed

7. Get Your Cat Chipped

Losing your beloved cat can be a traumatic experience, whether at home, on the road or at the campsite. Is your cat a “darter,” always looking for the most opportune time to escape out the door of your camper? Having your RV cat microchipped and registered with your up-to-date contact information is a good idea. Boomer is not a darter. In fact, he is a bit timid about leaving our trailer, which may be a throwback to us rescuing him from the wild as a kitten. However, he is chipped, just in case. We keep the chip records up-to-date, and we can easily access them on a handy iPhone app.

RV Travelers Voice cat playing in a bagRV Travelers Voice cat playing in a bag

8. Use Tick Protection

While you shouldn’t let your cat roam freely outside, you may choose to let them lounge in a screened play area or accompany you on a short walk around the campground if they’re leash-trained. During these times outdoors, especially near trees and in the woods, your cat may fall victim to tick bites. If you plan to have your cat spend any time outdoors, take the necessary precautions for tick protection.

Boomer the cat looking out a window in an RVBoomer the cat looking out a window in an RV

9. Follow Pet Etiquette

If you plan to take your cat outside at the campground, and he or she is not confined to a playpen, then your cat needs to be on a leash. Don’t wait for the first camping trip to try out the new leash. Train your cat on that leash well in advance. Know what rules apply to your specific campsite regarding allowing cats outside the camper. Although this is great advice for many folks, we have tried several harnesses and have yet to get Boomer outside. This might be related to his general timidity about the outdoors.

Boomer sitting in his crate on a picnic table outsideBoomer sitting in his crate on a picnic table outside

10. Be Wary in the Wild

The camping environment often provides many new and different wild animals to experience, and some may not be too friendly to your feline friend. Some of these wild animals may consider your beloved animal their prey. Check with the park ranger or camp staff about predator hazards that you might encounter at the campground or on hiking trails nearby.

Boomer the cat walking out of his cat carrier at a campgroundBoomer the cat walking out of his cat carrier at a campground

Thanks for reading! After reading these tips for RVing with cats, I hope you’re more comfortable taking your cat along on your RV journey. To keep up with our many adventures, don't forget to follow RV Travelers Voice on Facebook and YouTube!