How to Help your Cat Adjust to RV Life

Our first article, 8 Tips for RVing with Cats, had many of our wonderful Harvest Hosts members asking additional questions. After all, deciding to begin RVing full time with a cat or even just deciding to take your feline companion on trips is a huge decision. We’re answering some of the most frequently-asked questions surrounding RVing with cats and have more tips to provide all of you cat-lovers out there!

Anxiety in Cats

It’s not uncommon for cats to suffer anxieties throughout their life, but this can become a problem if their home causes them anxiety. Many RVers have reported that their feline friends did not take to RVing as quickly as they’d hoped, and have become frightened, even hiding for long periods of time. Below are a few solutions that can help your cat and even get ahead of any potential problems that could incur.

Positive Reinforcement and Associations

Similar to dogs, cats can actually be trained. Your cat may never learn to play dead, but you can train their brain and the associations that it makes. In our last cat article, we recommended going slow and taking short trips first. But before ever taking your first trip with your cat, it’s absolutely crucial that your cat gets to tour the RV for itself. Give your cat plenty of time and space to become comfortable. It’s also helpful to bring treats, special food, or toys along to allow your feline friend to create positive associations with the RV. Practice doing this until your cat thinks of this as a second home. Then stay overnight in your RV, taking it out for short trips later on. Soon your cat should be a traveling pro. If your cat begins to become afraid, then go back a step and wait for your cat to become more comfortable. Many pet owners struggle with fearful cats after they begin traveling, and it can be harder to help them once they reach this point of negative associations.

Veterinary Advice and Medication

Some cats become so anxious about travelling or car rides that they need medication. It’s not uncommon for anxious cats to vomit or soil their carriers, or hide for extended periods of time. Cats oftentimes will hide in small, dark places to make themselves feel safe but these can be unsafe places in an RV, such as under slide outs or behind drawers. If your cat reaches a level of anxiety that you feel that you cannot help, consult your veterinarian. They can address your cat’s anxiety, can provide helpful tips, and may even prescribe a medication for your cat. 

Over-the-Counter Solutions

There are some over-the-counter solutions that have proven helpful for cats experiencing anxiety, such as CBD or calming treats. Some big-name suppliers, like Petco, Chewy, or Zesty Paws, offer over-the-counter solutions that may help calm your feline companion. 

Another solution is using a thunder jacket on your cat. The effectiveness of these can vary greatly from cat to cat, but some cats find the tight wrapping to be comforting. 

Adding Cat-Friendly Spaces

Some RVers have taken to converting parts of their RV into cat-friendly spaces. Some examples include cutting a hole that leads to the underbed storage and creating a cat’s paradise with toys or even converting top bunks into cat spaces. A more simple solution is adding window pods or similar spots, like this one from Chewy, where you cat can hide or bask in the sunlight

Outdoor spaces

It’s no secret that some cats enjoy a taste of the great outdoors. Unfortunately, letting cats roam free in new places poses safety issues. Below are two great ways to allow your feline friend to safely enjoy the great outdoors.

Made for Cats

There are several outdoor cat enclosures that can make great on-the-go solutions for your cats, like this one from Chewy. Many collapse down small and are lightweight making them the ultimate RV accessory for frisky cats. Be sure to keep an eye on your cat when using these, and frequently check for tears or weak spots. While in their outdoor enclosure, your cat should have access to water and a litter box, and not be placed in direct sunlight. 

Spaces You Can Both Enjoy

If you’d like to enjoy the great outdoors with your cat, then consider getting an outdoor room that attaches to your awning, like this one from Amazon. Your cat can still be stimulated by birds and other wildlife, while you relax in the shade nearby. 

Trial and Error

Sometimes you just need to practice different techniques to figure out what works best for your cat. If you have multiple cats, remember that works best for one of your cats may not help the other(s) at all. 

Slide Outs and Other Hiding Spaces

Some RVers have reported having issues with their cats hiding under slide outs or in other unsafe places. If this happens, it’s absolutely crucial that you coax them out as calmly as possible to prevent further anxieties from developing. Unfortunately most cats do not have recall like dogs, so treats or patience may be the best approach. Speak to your cat in a quiet, soothing voice or give them space to come out on their own. Do not attempt to move the slide out until they are safely out of harm’s way. Some RVers have even constructed temporary covers for their slide outs to prevent the cats from going under there in the first place.

Carrier or No Carrier?

Some cats do better in carriers, and others do not. You’ll need to make your best judgement calls when it comes to transporting your cats. This can involve testing how your cat does on short trips to see if they travel better one way or another. Even some of the most confident and adventurous cats prefer the comfort of a carrier. On long journeys, remember to let your cat out for periodic water and bathroom breaks. 

We understand that your pet is an important member of the family and deserves to explore the world with you! The more at-home your cat feels in your RV, the less likely they are to become anxious or frightened. We hope these additional tips can help you and your cats adventure more safely and confidently.

What issues have you encountered with your feline friend? Which of these tips will help you the most? Are there any other questions or tips that you have? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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  1. Jennifer
    12th February, 2021

    How do you train your cat to use the sandbox during travel potty breaks? Last summer was my first time taking my kitty in my trailer. I would stop every hour for about 15 minutes and try to coax him to pee. In between potty breaks, he would pee in his carrier.

    1. Sam Leash
      16th February, 2021

      I tend to travel for 3-4 hours at a time in the RV, so my cats just hold until we arrive at our next destination. Most cats won’t have accidents in a carrier unless it’s an emergency or unless they are fearful. Does your cat usually seem nervous in his carrier or when you are driving?

  2. Anne
    11th February, 2021

    We have 3 unrelated cats and had ample driveway time in 2020 to get everyone acclimated before spending any nights at nearby campgrounds. We use Feliway (multicat formula) diffusers at home and in the motorhome, and found that they prefer to hunker down together in the bottom of the wardrobe while we’re underway. We stuff pillows into the slider openings because they’ll climb in there if they can. Not a problem, of course, once we’re parked and the sliders are extended. Although they are indoor cats, we would love to find one of those screen rooms (WITH a FLOOR) that attach to the outside. If the skirting had zippers running around the bottom and a heavy-duty tarp floor that zipped in, we could cover it with a mat and feel that everyone is secure and comfy. The search continues!

    1. Sam Leash
      16th February, 2021

      Hey Anne! I’ve been considering getting a screen room myself. I have yet to find one with the quality I’m looking for. I’ll write about it if I ever find one. Thank for your input here!

  3. Margie
    11th February, 2021

    My vet recommended Feliway Classic. It is a plug in diffuser that diffuses pheromones for up to 30 days. It gives off something similar to feel-good scent that the cat leaves when rubbing her whiskers on something. My cat is 15 years old. We had been leaving her home with caretakers coming in, but decided to try bringing her with us now. This stuff really seems to work in the camper. She doesn’t hide anymore and she seems rather content in the trailer. This product is available from Chewy.com and probably Amazon.

    1. Sam Leash
      16th February, 2021

      Hey Margie! I love Feliway, and my cats love it too! Thanks for the tips.

  4. Babs
    11th February, 2021

    Our cat rides in the car in a crate, but he has free range in the camper. He hides when he senses we are getting ready to hitch up, but the rest of the time he is quite comfortable. We put his crate outside if we are going to be sitting around camp, and he seems to enjoy the fresh air as long as he isn’t in direct sun.

    1. Sam Leash
      16th February, 2021

      Great ideas here! My cats enjoy being outside a bit, too.

  5. Laura P
    11th February, 2021

    My main concern with taking any of my cats with me is that I’m afraid they’ll dash out the door when I open it. I really wish screen doors weren’t attached to the outside door (when opening it from the outside) as then I’d be able to see where they are before I open the screen door. My trailer doesn’t have a separate room with a door where I could close them up while I leave the trailer. So, yeah, they stay home.

    1. Margie
      11th February, 2021

      I have a similar concern, but my current cat does NOT want to go outside at home or while in the camper. I am so blessed. It still concerns me. I agree about the screen door. I woukd also prefer it staying closed till I can see in and see where Kitty is. I wonder that dog owners don’t have similar concerns.

    2. Diane
      11th February, 2021

      I have the same concern, especially since they go outside at home whenever they want to, and they like to hunt. And the younger one loves to dart around when you try to pick her up. We also have a dog, but dogs are different, they actually follow commands, most of the time. A cat does what it wants. I would hate for one them to escape just when we are getting ready to leave the campground. I’m so torn because I really hate to leave them behind also.

      1. Sam Leash
        16th February, 2021

        I do think it’s different for cats who are used to coming and going. My cats are indoor only, so the transition to the wasn’t as difficult. Best of luck to you and your kitties!

    3. Stan Shiderly
      12th February, 2021

      Look at your screen door. My Terry travel trailer had the screen door attached with magnets to the main door. Removing the magnets let the door open while the screen door stayed shut. The screen door had a roller style latch to hold it shut.

    4. Suzanne L
      16th February, 2021

      I keep a harness on my cat and attach a leash that I hook on something inside the RV when I’m going in and out.

    5. Sam Leash
      16th February, 2021

      Hey Laura, that is definitely a concern! My cats have been trained to stay away from the door in my house, so it wasn’t a difficult transition with the RV. I’m glad you’ve found what works best for you. Happy trails!