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.

Some nosy cats love to watch whatever is going on outside.
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 loves to watch the views pass by while driving in her motorhome.
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 loves to ride in the bed while his RV is moving down the road.
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.

Desert views are Anna and Elsa's favorite part of RV life.
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.

Window-licking is a popular RV life kitty activity.
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 loves his comfy RV ottoman.
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 loves her harbor view, brought to her by RV life.
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 enjoys relaxing at his big comfy booth with a nice view.
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.

Some cats may even enjoy pop-up camper life.
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 loves traveling in the car while towing his vintage RV.
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!

Cats love the expansive views offered by the large RV windows.
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. 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!

  2. 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. ;}

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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. 🙂

  7. 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!