8 Tips for RVing with Cats

In the past few decades, RVing has become one of the most popular forms of travel. The freedom to load up your own vacation home on wheels and drive it to your destination of choice is very alluring and convenient to many travel lovers. One of the greatest benefits of RVing is that it allows travelers to bring their pet(s) along on vacations, instead of leaving them home with a pet sitter, as one normally would.

Traveling in an RV with a pet is both fun and rewarding for all parties involved. However, it does bring about an entirely new set of challenges for both the pet and the owner. Previously, we discussed tips for RVing with dogs, but traveling with cats is quite different. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best things cat owners can do to ensure an RV camping trip with their favorite feline is enjoyable for everyone.

Wiley, Goozie & Tyson, @wheres.mal.now

1. Have a driving plan.

It’s no secret that cats aren’t usually huge fans of car rides. Whenever they go for a drive, the final destination is usually somewhere they would prefer not to be, such as the vet, the groomer’s, or a kennel. Because of these factors, it may take your cat some time to become accustomed to taking trips in your RV.

The type of RV you have will also make a difference. If you have a travel trailer or a fifth wheel, your cat will need to ride in the car with you in a carrier. Try to limit trips to shorter distances in the beginning, and consider draping a towel or blanket over their kennel to decrease anxiety. Place something comfortable in the bottom of the carrier, such as your cat’s favorite bed or a comfy blanket. Position the carrier somewhere secure, and be prepared for a potentially disgruntled kitty. Some cats do not mind the car, but many do. Allow your cat time to adjust.

Wiley, @wheres.mal.now

If you have a motorhome, your cat may be able to ride loose in the cabin. If you have never driven the motorhome with the kitty inside before, you might want to kennel them for a little while before allowing them to roam. After all, riding in an RV is nothing like riding in a moving car, and your cat will likely be afraid when the “house” starts to move. Once they have some practice riding in the motorhome from their kennel, consider releasing them into the RV while driving. They may need more time to adjust, but the ride will be so much more comfortable for them once they are able to access their food, water, and litter box.

Stranger, @pleadingthefifth_wheel

2. Designate a spot for the litter box.

This is another tricky subject. Many people like to keep the litter box in a hidden location to avoid dealing with the mess and odor. Some people place it in a cabinet with a cat door built-in, and some place it in an outdoor storage bay with interior access. If you would prefer a location that does not require an extra project, then the shower is a great place. This way, the litter box is out of the way and not taking up precious floor space or sliding around on the floor while you are driving. Before showering, you can just move the litter box and rinse any mess or extra litter down the drain.

Elsa & Anna, @lifeamongpines

3. Keep fresh food and water handy.

Cats like routine, and they like to have food and water accessible, especially in a new place. Be sure to pack plenty of extra food and feed them at the same time(s) you normally do. Keep fresh water handy at all times, and consider bringing along the same food and water dishes your cat uses at home to avoid any confusion.

Abby, @wheres.mal.now

4. Make your cat comfortable.

Cats are creatures of habit, and they love to be comfortable. Bringing along their favorite bed(s) and toys will give them plenty of places to relax and help them to feel more at home. Try placing their bed near a big window to give them an enjoyable view while resting.

Stranger, @pleadingthefifth_wheel

5. Give your cat places to hide.

When cats are placed in a new environment, they often get stressed. Their initial reaction to stress is to hide. RVs are not that large and do not offer many hiding places, so consider creating some places for your cat to hide. Open cabinets can offer your cat a dark place to rest while they survey their new territory. They may also want to hide under the couch, table or bed. Be prepared for this possibility and give your cat plenty of time to adjust. Before you know it, they will be enjoying relaxation in all their favorite, visible spots around the RV.

Anna, @lifeamongpines

6. Be prepared to leave your cat behind.

When you travel with a dog, you can often bring them along for a hike on a dog-friendly trail or to restaurants with a patio. While this is possible for some cats, most people tend to leave their cats at home when they go out. When you leave your RV, you will be leaving your cat behind. Most cats do fine with this, and you shouldn’t experience an issue.

Be sure to leave plenty of water and control the temperature to make sure your cat doesn’t get too cold or too warm while you are away. If you are nervous, plan shorter trips away from the RV. You could also consider setting up a small camera to check on your cat in your absence.

Nimbus, @188sqft

7. Have an emergency plan.

No one wants to think about the worst-case scenario when they are vacationing, but accidents do occasionally happen, and it’s best to be prepared. Keep the contact information for the local vet handy just in case. Pack copies of your cat’s vaccination records, and keep an ID tag on them at all times. This will prepare you in case of unlikely emergencies.

Anna & Elsa, @lifeamongpines

8. Practice/go slow.

Cats do not always adapt to change very quickly. Some cats may be immediately comfortable traveling in your RV with you, but most will need a period of time to adjust. You can practice by bringing your cat outside to your RV and just spending a few hours at a time in it here and there. Consider staying overnight (in your driveway) so that your cat is not as shocked when you stay overnight on vacation for the first time.

Practice driving runs are also a good idea in a motorhome. This will give you a chance to feel out your cat’s comfortability riding in the motorhome. If your RV is towable, practice drives are not as necessary, but you will still want to spend some time in the RV ahead of time to allow your cat to acclimate.

Finally, consider shorter distances for your first few RV trips with your cat. When everything is new, less driving time will likely lead to a calmer cat. Once your cat is accustomed to RV life with you, you may increase the driving distances and vacation further from home.

Greyson, @pheribee

Cats are fun and curious creatures, and many really seem to enjoy the RV life. They are often stimulated by the changing environments, and they love to have views and wildlife to watch outside of the windows. Many cats love to watch the world go by, and they enjoy watching life outside at their campground or Harvest Host location.

Cats’ cautious nature and reliance on routine can sometimes lengthen the amount of time they need to adapt to RV travel. However, patience and planning on the owner’s part will have your cat traveling in style in no time. If you remember to go slow and plan ahead, your cat is sure to enjoy vacation along with the rest of the family!

Abby, Tyson & Wiley, @wheres.mal.now

Have you ever traveled with your cat? Do you have any tips to add? Feel free to share below!

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  1. Shae
    29th May, 2021

    I am about to start traveling the east/north/south coast in a fifth wheel. I have a cat and a dog. My dog loves to be in the truck but my cat likes sleep/roaming/space and my truck probably isn’t “it” for my cat. I really thought I would be able to keep him in the camper. Why isn’t that possible? I have done some research and nothing is giving me answers. I am afraid of something I don’t know about happening and that’s why nobody is talking about it.. Am I unaware of something? Can you give me some more information on why its not a good idea for him to be in the camper? He is fine in vehicles, reminder I’ve never done this.. but I honestly don’t see an issue.

    1. Barbara
      8th June, 2021

      You and your cat could take a practice run. Both of you ride inside the camper, safely of course, and have someone drive you around over bumps, around corners, at speed and brake hard occasionally. You will soon discover why your cat should be in the truck.

    2. Sam Leash
      15th June, 2021

      Hey Shae! I think it’s not recommended because riding in the trailer can be a bit scary and bumpy. I have a motorhome and two cats, and they hang out in the cab (by choice) when driving, because even the back of the motorhome can be much bumpier, louder and more frightening due to all the bumps, road sounds, etc. I’m linking another article here for you: https://www.campendium.com/camping/rving-with-cats/. Best of luck to you and your pets!

  2. Melanie
    14th May, 2021

    I just bought a motor home! I planned to leave my cat at home at my apartment while I’m away for weeks or months at a time with check ins from friends and my mom. She is fine for a long weekend as it is. But now I am second guessing myself. She is an explorer though and always wants to get out. I’m worried she’ll slip out and not come back when I’m somewhere new. I would be absolutely lost without her so it doesn’t feel like a good risk. In previous places I’ve lived she’s gotten out and always comes home. Thoughts on this?

    1. Sam Leash
      15th June, 2021

      Hey Melanie! I personally think you should do whatever is best for you and your cat. I have two cats, and they do really enjoy RV life and would probably be pretty lonely if left at home for more than a week, but they are also very social cats. I think keeping them in the RV is pretty similar to keeping them in the house; I am just really careful when entering or exiting, backing out the door when necessary at times, as well. It may sound a bit mean, but I do also keep a spray bottle by the door to train them to stay away. I am full-time and leaving without them was never an option, but I also don’t want to lose them anywhere. Best of luck to you!

  3. Trinity
    4th April, 2021

    Scenario: Considering independent RV living with one dog and one cat. I plan to stay in Arizona for the majority of the time and summers are extremely hot.
    Question: How do I keep my babies cool and safe while I’m at work?

    1. Sam Leash
      4th May, 2021

      In anywhere with extreme weather, you will definitely want to choose an RV with a good heating and cooling system. As long as you have electrical hookups and run your A/C, leaving your pets while you are working shouldn’t be too much different than leaving them in a house and going to work.

  4. sandy
    24th March, 2021

    I’m moving and I’m planning a trip from Florida to Utah. It should take about three days. I’m taking quite a few cats and four dogs. I will have to leave them in their carrier and it’s stressing me out. I hope that they and I can handle this trip. I’m looking at different articles to see what is the best way to do this. Did I mention that I’m doing this by myself? No choice. No one can come with me. So, this is way stressful. I’m really worried about how the cats will handle it.

    1. Coco
      26th April, 2021

      Hows your trip going with your furry babies.
      That’s alot of furry love traveling with you.
      Safe travels

    2. Sam Leash
      4th May, 2021

      Hey Sandy, this sounds like quite a trip! I did something similar with my pets in early 2020, and it was difficult. I just made sure to stop every few hours to make sure the pets had a chance to use the bathroom and get food/water. Best of luck to you!

  5. Bella
    26th December, 2020

    Hey Sam!

    I’m about to transition into living full-time in a travel trailer with my two cats. I’ve been doing a lot of research but the one thing that I am worried about is leaving them alone in the RV when I go to work. I know that regulating temperature is important, but I’m worried about leaving a heater running. I plan on getting and electric space heater because it’s a little bit more economical than running heat off of propane. But I’m nervous about leaving that running with my cats home alone. But if it’s cold I don’t want them to freeze while I’m gone. Have you had to deal with anything like this? If you did how did you come up with a solution? Thanks in advance!

    1. Sam Leash
      29th December, 2020

      Hi Bella! I leave my space heaters on all the time when I leave my RV, the same as I used to do in a traditional home. Now some people advise against this in any space, but I personally have never had an issue. Certain space heaters are better than others. It’s up to you what works best for you and your space. Best of luck to you!

    2. John Hujet
      5th May, 2021

      How did this work out for you? My wife and I plan on traveling with our two adult cats..14 and 10.

  6. jeannie
    28th October, 2020

    I have 4 cats and I am considering a permanent move out of state. possibly 14 hour drive. My cats do not do well on car trips and get anxiety and have accidents in their carriers. I was thinking of renting an RV to help them with the trip but i am extremely worried it would be too much for them but I am hoping it will feel more like home then being in a car in their carrier. I am going to speak with their vet but I would like to hear if anyone has any horror stories of doing this just incase. All tips welcome

    1. Sam Leash
      11th November, 2020

      Hi Jeannie! I have two cats, and they quickly caught on to traveling in the RV. However, it is quite different for every cat. Fourteen hours is not super long though, they may do okay. I would recommend talking to their vet about anti-anxiety meds to help with the transition. Best of luck to you!

  7. Diana
    11th October, 2020

    To give Princess a scratching post in an 18′ trailer my husband wrapped a piece of carpet around a cut to size cardboard tube on put it on the table leg. For Bonnie in the fifth wheel he made a smaller scratching post. They were both leash trained for moving from the truck to the rig. I look forward to introducing Lil Rascal to the joys of camping. I could have used your tips when we started traveling with the girls 30 years ago, we learned everything the hard way. Thank you for this article.

    1. Sam Leash
      13th October, 2020

      Hi Diana! Sounds like you are very experienced when it comes to RVing with cats. Glad you enjoyed the tips. Best of luck introducing your newest kitty to RVing! 🙂

  8. KT Wong
    29th September, 2020

    Thanks for sharing. We have two cats ( indoor/outdoor)as well. Prepping for our maiden voyage, which is cross country & Trying to find an “outdoor” option for them, when we stop.
    Good suggestion to try a short trip.
    Good reminder about anti-anxiety meds. I found some OTC calming treats that were helpful on a short trip (10h).

    1. Linda
      26th November, 2020

      What would be the name of the OTC calming treats please?

    2. John Hujet
      5th May, 2021

      How did this work out for you. My wife and I plan on taking our two cats on longer trips as well.

  9. Chelsea
    3rd September, 2020

    Just wondering…. Maybe this is a dumb question…. If you are towing a trailer or fifth wheel, why can’t you let the cat roam free in there while driving? I mean, after they are accustomed to being in the trailer with you in it. I wouldn’t suggest the same for a dog, but it seems like a cat would just find a cozy spot and hunker down?

    1. Sam Leash
      4th September, 2020

      Hey Chelsea! That’s not a dumb question. Generally speaking, it is not considered safe for anyone to ride in a trailer while it is being towed. Trailers can bounce and sway a lot while towing, which can be quite scary and even potentially dangerous for anyone inside. It’s considered best practice to keep the kitty with you for a safer trip.

  10. Linda S.
    23rd August, 2020

    We are in month 2 of full time RV living and traveling with our 2 cats. One has taken to it quite well, the other not so much. He is in hiding most of the time, and when it comes time to pack up and move on, it’s a 3 ring circus in our 5th wheel trying to capture him to contain him. We recently had a incident that we spent 2 hours trying to get him out of a hiding spot he wedged himself in to. Out of fear he became quite aggressive. We had to leave him in the RV and head out. We were worried and made several stops, but could not coax him out. Finally at our destination, when we opened up the bedroom door, he was sitting on the bed, completely traumatized and shell shocked. Over the course of the next week while we were camping, he showed several new anxiety behaviors, making our nighttime experience in our RV a nightmare. Finally a trip to the vet and some anti-anxiety medication for the cat, he is acting calmer, although still hides. We are preparing for another move, and are battening up his hiding spots, and will create a new one that we can easily get to him. Also will start medicating him the night before so he is in a more relaxed state.
    The things we do for our fur-babies!!

    1. Sam Leash
      31st August, 2020

      That sounds like quite an adventure with your kitties! I really hope he begins to adjust to RV life. Happy trails!

    2. KT Wong
      29th September, 2020

      Thanks for sharing. We have two cats ( indoor/outdoor)as well. Prepping for our maiden voyage, which is cross country & Trying to find an “outdoor” option for them, when we stop.
      Good suggestion to try a short trip.
      Good reminder about anti-anxiety meds. I found some OTC calming treats that were helpful on a short trip (10h).

      1. Sam Leash
        13th October, 2020

        Hi! I recommend an outdoor cat tent for outdoor options. I use one for my two cats, and they love it! It gives them some time outside in the fresh air, while also keeping them safe and from getting lost. 🙂

  11. Mayle
    16th August, 2020

    My partner and I also have 3 cats and are looking into making this lifestyle a reality. What kind of RV do you use? my biggest concern is providing adequate space for the cats.

    1. Sam Leash
      31st August, 2020

      I think as long as the RV is a decent size, the cats should have plenty of room. I have 2 cats in a class A motorhome, but I have friends who have had 2-3 cats in Class C’s, travel trailers, fifth wheels, etc. As long as the cats have adequate living space and stimulation, they should be happy. 😊

  12. Anne
    26th July, 2020

    We just took our 3 indoor cats on their first 2-night RV camping adventure about 40 minutes from home. Overall, it was successful, but not stress-free, for us or our cats. Openings under the slider made a hiding place that we’ll need to close off. It was difficult to get 2 of the cats out before we could open the slide. We think a slightly oversized foam cushion stuffed into the opening should do it, but I’m open to other ideas! These cats spent part of the ride in various comfy spots/laps, and don’t do well in carriers. We plan to offer them more safe and cozy cubbies…any favorites?

    My husband thinks the corn-based litter we flush at home (urine clumps and feces included) will dissolve in the black water tank, but I’m afraid we’ll have to try an experiment in a bucket of water first. Not looking forward to that.

    1. Sam Leash
      11th August, 2020

      Hey Anne! Glad to hear your first trip with the kitties was mostly successful. I have 2 cats with me in my RV, and they are definitely great at finding places to hide. I have these cute little bed/pod things for them that they like to hide in. I think they’re called the “cat cave.” Best of luck to you with your future kitty adventures!

  13. Caley
    6th May, 2020

    I do Medieval recreation and had a cat friendly vardo built. There is a large space under the bed platform with a sturdy door of wood and galvanized wire. The space contains 2 regular beds, 2 hooded beds in case it gets cold, a big litter box, a saucepan of water, and assorted toys. I do leave the cats unattended in this space; it’s big, and they have access to the litter box and water. They also *can’t* get out. The vardo is wood, not fabric. The only time they are loose in the vardo is if I’m in there with them. I don’t take them outside. If I leave, for any reason, I shoo them under the bed and close the their door. They are loose at night and sleep with me since I have a camp toilet and don’t need to leave the vardo. The exterior door is latched and locked any time I’m inside. They *love* being in the vardo with me, and show no signs of distress when I let them out to roam free. They eat, drink, and use the litter box as if they were home. It helps that I frequently give them treats!

    1. Sam Leash
      19th May, 2020

      Sounds like an awesome setup for your kitties!

  14. Dani
    18th February, 2020

    We got a bunkhouse and modified the bunk beds with ramps to be a large cat tower and also cut cat doors into the section under our bed for them to hide under.

    Reply moderated
    1. Sam Leash
      6th March, 2020

      Sounds like some amazing upgrades for your lucky kitties! I replaced the recliner in my motorhome with a cat tower, and my cats love it. Best of luck to you and your traveling cats!

    2. Julie Earl
      3rd May, 2020

      I would love to see pictures .
      I an considering full time RV living, so my cat would have to approve of the RV.

    3. Meezerville
      29th May, 2020

      Hi Dani, I was happy to see to see your post. We too, will soon be travelling with our TWO Siamese cats. We are looking at a bunk house as well. Do you have any tip to share with us and our fur persons. Thanking you in advance. ;}

    4. Allie
      8th December, 2020

      Dani,
      Do you by chance have a picture you would share of how you did this?
      We are considering a motorhome and trying to find one that will have room for the cats. I have been telling my husband that I think if we got a bunkhouse, that gives us an entire area to work with!
      Thank you,
      Allie

  15. Michael
    27th November, 2019

    Please, please take great care in handling your cats and keeping them secure. You can lose them. Escaped and scared cats in rural areas are very vulnerable.

    1. Sam Leash
      6th December, 2019

      Great tip, Mike! Indoor cats should never be allowed to roam in brand new areas, of course.

  16. Annie
    8th June, 2019

    Having worked with many lost pets by travelers in my state, I have many stories. These 7 suggestions may give you more incite.

    1)MICROCHIP your pet. Always keep your info up to date with the chip company. Update info whenever there are any changes in address phone or name even well after the pet is missing. It can happen that a pet can’t be reunited due to lack of updated information.

    2) If you want your motorhome unscreened cabin area windows open even a little crate your cats. A small opening can be an escape route. Periodically check your window screens and door for any abnormalities that can create an escape route. When set up in your camp stop.

    3) Choose a hard sided carriers not a wire cage for more protection. Do not rely only on the nuts and bolts but ad extra holes and zip tie the sections together more securely. Some people zip tie the door also while traveling.

    4) If possible seat belt the carriers through the handles. In case an accident or roll over the zip tied carriers will protect your pet better with less chance of them escaping and running away during the aftermath.

    5) When using a harness and lead practice at home long before you trust them in a strange places. Introduce them slowly to strange places. When letting your cat loose in the vehicle warn others not to open doors while they are out of their travel containment.

    6) Use a figure 8 type harness. Small Dog step into type harness will have much more stamina then those thin kitty ones. When a cat is in strange surroundings any movement, sound, approaching vehicle or person can spook your kitty and cause them to run and hide. If you must search for your cat use a selfie stick and camera to look into out of the way spaces like trees or culverts. A scared cat is not going to come to you like a dog will.

    7) If you have slides on your RV be sure to secure your cat/s before opening or closing them to prevent severe injury or death.
    A little extra hint- NEVER put litter down any drain or toilet in an RV.

    1. Sam Leash
      9th June, 2019

      Hi Annie!! These are all such excellent tips! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

    2. Dana
      31st May, 2020

      We will be travelling with two cats and are getting a 5th wheel toy hauler. Is is safe to allow the cats the be in either the closed off bedroom or the toy hauler area while traveling to allow them more freedom? We have a king cab truck, but I am worried about longer trips and them not having access to their litter boxes or water.

      1. Sam Leash
        29th June, 2020

        Hey Dana! It’s never recommended to leave anyone in a trailer while it is being towed, which applies to both animals and people. The trailer can catch too much “air,”
        causing a rather scary and bumpy ride for the kitties. They would be best off riding in the truck cab with you, in their kennel. Hope this helps!

      2. Deb
        9th February, 2021

        Hi Dana, I’m in the same situation, we bought a toy hauler and want to travel with our cats. I am quite nervous about this but have a few ideas. They will travel with us in our truck in a larger carrier that will contain a small litter box and food dishes that secure to the side wire of the cage. Inside the trailer, we plan to block off any openings they can sneak in to and open up a cabinet for them to hide in when settled. We also plan to come and go thru the back garage area so there will be less chance of them escaping. We will also micro chip them in case. I wonder too about how long they will be in the truck with us so shorter trips are probably best. I will ask my vet as well for something to calm them before the trip. Not looking forward to the drama but if we take it slowly it just might work. Best wishes for you and your babies!!

  17. Ken Davis
    30th May, 2019

    Never ever allow cat litter to enter your holding tanks. This is bad for your tanks and any septic/ sewer lines. It does not dissolve in water.

  18. Shirly Williams
    29th May, 2019

    Our two cats seem to love traveling with us. We have a class B now and have had a few challenges with the small space but are working on solutions. They are very entertaining and we love having them with us!

    1. Sam Leash
      8th June, 2019

      Traveling with cats can be so rewarding and fun! So excited to hear that it’s been working out for you and your family. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    2. Linda
      26th November, 2020

      I’d really love to hear more about your travels in a Class B. That is my intention as well. I have 2 kitters that will come along and I want to make it pleasurable and SUPER SAFE for them. Thanks a bunch!

  19. Mary Claflin
    28th May, 2019

    Our cats are nervous initially, but once they explore a bit they calm down. One thing that really helped is we found space for their small cat tower. This makes the motorhome feel more like home for them & keeps them out of trouble while we’re driving.

    1. Sam Leash
      8th June, 2019

      That’s a great idea to bring something into the space that is just for the kitties! Glad to hear it worked out for you and your cats. Thanks for sharing!