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. Or, planning to travel full-time in an RV, these tips are perfect for you as well. 

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. Kimberly
    24th December, 2022

    I got an “adult” cat that was about 11 months old shortly after I moved into my 21′ camper. I work at an animal shelter and she seemed shy and quiet, but sweet, there. The first night in the camper, she settled down and slept right next to my face. Ever since then, she has become more and more restless/energetic. She used to be indoor/outdoor, but had a tree climbing problem and now has to stay inside. She definitely doesn’t get enough exercise and spends a lot of time attacking us playfully because she just needs to outlet her energy.

    I can’t say I would recommend getting a kitten in a camper. We have to spend a lot of time every day exercising her just to keep her happy. If I were you, I would adopt a chunky/slow or older adult cat that has aged out of their feisty kitten stage, or just a sweet cat that is soothed by petting/affection. Though every cat is different, your experience may be completely different.

    You should also consider that unless you have a large RV, you may not be able to shut the cat in another room when you want to do things for which you don’t want an audience or just want to sleep in peace. Our camper is very small and the only interior door goes to the bathroom. Unfortunately, that door has a large gap at the bottom and she can fit under it so we just have to be good about going to bed early because she WILL wake us up in the morning because she wants food. Just a few things to consider.

    We have also gone on a couple short trips (not with the RV) since getting her and you have to consider that if you can’t take the cat with you, they still need a pet sitter for longer trips (we’ve left her alone with a big pile of food for about a day and a half before without issues). Unless all of your friends are RVers and know how to stay in your RV or visit it without ruining it, that may mean that you need to board your cat at a kennel or see if one of your friends can pet sit your cat at their place.

    I love her and I don’t regret getting her, but she is a handful! 😊

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  2. Cassandra
    18th October, 2022

    I just purchased an RV with the intention of living in it full time for at least a year or two. I have been considering getting a cat, now that I own my space. (My lease prohibited one before) I’m debating an adult cat vs. kitten. I expect an adult cat will be calmer and happier in a relatively small space. But a kitten would grow up with that as their normal. Anyone have experience with a kitten in an RV?

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  3. MJ
    9th May, 2022

    Would it be OK to leave kitties in the “home” portion of a class B, self-contained, van-type of RV?

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  4. Kirstie
    12th April, 2022

    We travel with 5 cats and find it easier than traveling with dogs. Our rig is a travel trailer, 33 feet long. We have a 4 way tunnel and 4 cat tents that attach to the tunnel. We try to set it up so cats have a view of the wildlife. We keep a litter box, folding cat tree, food and water in the tents when cats are outside. We also use pine litter with sifting cat boxes. Cat boxes are under our bed and no order except at initial pooh but dries out quickly and no urine smell whatsoever. Best system ever! We have 4 cat boxes in our trailer with no order!

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  5. Sharon Kuritzky
    28th February, 2022

    When we first got our motorhome, we took an elderly cat along with us. He did fine! After he died, the next in line was our travel companion. Younger and more creative, he found hiding spots we didn’t know existed. After a stop at a Walmart, we went back to the motorhome and couldn’t find Eli! We searched all his usual places, worried that he had managed to sneak out when we left the RV. FINALLY, we looked under the driver’s seat and that’s where he was hiding. Love to travel with him. We have a small cloth stuffed “cat” on the bed that he thinks is real. Use your imaginations to picture his actions.

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  6. Donna P
    11th February, 2022

    My vet recommended a pheromone spray or diffuser to calm the cats anxiety. Pet stores carry it. I think it’s called feniway or something starts with an F. We just bought our first travel trailer and are hoping our cats will enjoy joining us.

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  7. Pat Dougherty
    26th November, 2021

    I’m new to rv-ing, but use a Litter Genie in my apartment. It’s excellent at holding odors. The box will have to be emptied at least once a day to work best.

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  8. Pat Dougherty
    26th November, 2021

    I’m new to rv-ing, but use a Litter Genie in my apartment. It’s excellent at holding odors. The box will have to be emptied at least once a day to work best.

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  9. Alex
    21st November, 2021

    I think you should consider it, it sounds like sans safety concerns it’d be a great experience for both of you, so on that side of it… I’d recommend getting her chipped with a tracker. It’s not very expensive and the subscription for the service to track them should something happen is really reasonable. I’d recommend just doing the lifetime fee. I went through 24petwatch.com because that’s what the shelter gave me. Lol.

    Another idea is getting a nice, comfortable cat harness and mid-length (non-retractable) leash she can be on when you’re there but are going to be opening and closing the door a lot… like setting up and taking down camp. And even in the car when transferring because cats are slippery little boogers sometimes so it’s good to have a backup if the slip the crate mid flight. Only use when she’s being fully supervised or seen/checked on every few minutes though, because while it’ll allow her freedom to roam a little and get comfy while being safe, they sometimes tend to get themselves tangled up if on it long enough.

    Happy travels!

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  10. Sam Leash
    18th October, 2021

    Hey Bob, thanks so much for this excellent suggestion!

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  11. Sam Leash
    18th October, 2021

    Thanks so much for this suggestion, Angela!

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  12. Sam Leash
    18th October, 2021

    Great suggestions. Thanks Breezy!

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  13. Tami
    27th September, 2021

    Melanie, we care for our neighbor’s cat while he is gone. He is a Wildlands Firefighter, so is often gone for weeks and months at a time. His cat gets very lonely for him. The cat likes us and visits often for company but he is very different with us than with his owner. If at all possible, especially if you want to be gone for over a month, I would encourage you to take your cat with you.
    Happy traveling!

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  14. Bob
    21st September, 2021

    You may want to try a Purrified Air litter box air filter. Works great for us. They have a kit for use in RVs.

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  15. Sam Leash
    20th September, 2021

    Hey Sharon, thanks so much for sharing these excellent tips. Your cats are lucky to have you!

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  16. Sam Leash
    20th September, 2021

    Hey Verona, I think this would depend on the cat litter and litter box used. Many folks utilize enclosed litter boxes to help with these issues, as well as high quality cat litter with excellent odor control. I also recommend scooping out the litter box 1-2 times per day. Hope this helps!

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  17. Apple
    14th September, 2021

    I travel with my (reluctant) cat kind of a lot: short drives are best, and four hours seems to be her sweet spot. Enough time to get used to the car, not so much that she thinks this is the new normal. She also does a lot better on the floor or with her head facing a corner. For some reason looking out the windows freaked her out (too much stimulus?). She truly enjoys drive through, though, and tried to leave me to live at McDonald’s. XD

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  18. Angela
    3rd September, 2021

    We got the Litter Robot for your home, and it has been a game changer. It is larger than a normal litter box, but it automatically dumps the litter into a sealed area with carbon filters that trap the smell inside. You do need to change the filters every month or so. It’s not cheap, but it has significantly improved our lives.

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  19. breezy
    29th August, 2021

    they sell heated pads, they plug in but only go on when animal is laying on it. Only go up to animal body temp. In winter, just get a couple tent beds and put the warmers in. Cats less likely to freeze, they have fur and can burrow under covers, small spaces that hold heat. LIke a cooler with an entry hole lined with reflective stuff and a warmer. I’d worry more about cooling.

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  20. Sharon
    23rd July, 2021

    Please, please, please never leave an animal in a fifth wheel or travel trailer while traveling. It’s quite dangerous. I’ve heard of a cat dying in a travel trailer while traveling and there was a blow out. It was a very sad story. Someone posted it in a group to let others know. Your cats should travel in a carrier or crate in the back seat of the truck for their safety. If you have a Class A or C, they can travel loose but it’s really best for them to be secured if possible in case of an emergency.

    Sharon from S & S and the RV Cats on Youtube.

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  21. Sharon
    23rd July, 2021

    Having been full time in our RV with our three cats for almost 4 years now, I would also suggest that everyone get a partition or barrier of some sort and do everything possible to ensure that their cats don’t escape from the RV. I’ve heard of so many escaping and it’s very sad.

    We bought a four panel divider and put it in front of our door and it acts as a hallway to help keep our cats inside. We’re also very careful about opening windows and only have them open when we are in the RV and able to see that our cats are safe.

    We also don’t leave them alone in the RV on dangerously hot days.

    Sharon from S & S and the RV Cats on YouTube

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  22. Verona
    22nd July, 2021

    Since it’s such a small space, it does smell bad because my cat goes #2 three times a day. Is there a litter box or litter that could help this issue? Thanks!

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  23. 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!

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  24. 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!

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  25. 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.

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