Look around any RV park and you’ll notice many canines going on the road with their humans. But did you know that lots of full-timers are RVing with cats too?
Cats are the silent full-timers of America and many travel comfortably by RV. Over the last few years, I’ve spotted many people RVing with cats, to include full-timers and holiday RVers. Recently my curiosity about feline co-pilots got the best of me. Since I travel with a dog, I turned to a full-timer to get her insight on what it’s like to live with cats on the road.
Tips for RVing with cats
Cija Black is full-timing with her husband Dave Jenkins. Nearly one year ago they sold their suburban Portland home and moved into a 30-foot motorhome with two cats. They made inventive adjustments for the cats that helped make their transition easier. The stability of being in a familiar, comfortable and non-threatening shelter with cat-friendly features also makes changing locations much easier.
Some cat-friendly features Cija and Dave built just for their cats include:
- The “Cat Cave.” Dave built a larger platform for the master bed mattress. The mod enabled them to create comfy, hidden nesting places for the cats. As a bonus, the space is always about five to seven degrees cooler than the rest of the RV.
- A pet net for safe moving. When an RV is in motion, it’s smart to crate pets if they’re already comfortable with confinement. If not, you’ll have to get creative. “I really didn’t want to put them in crates because they really would have lost it,” says Cija. Instead of forcing her two cats to use the crates, she put up a large “pet net” typically used to keep animals in the back seats of passenger vehicles. The net keeps the cats confined to the Cat Cave area while they’re moving.
- Beds in sunny locations. Cats love gazing out the windows and surveying their domain. “When we’re not driving we try to make sure they can be in their favorite spots, like in the sun, so they can look outside and feel safer,” says Cija.
- The hidden litter box. The one mod the family loves the most is the hidden litter box under the front steps. After realizing their entry steps had dead space behind them, Cija and Dave cut into the space and slid the cat litter box behind it. With a covered pet door-style entry and space for supplies, life is more comfortable and odor free.
Skip the clumping litter
Cija and Dave tried using the clumping litter their cats were used to. “Moisture in there would turn the litter into a gluey, disgusting mess.” In addition, the litter would track all over the RV. So, they switched to a cedar pine litter, and the moisture problem, odor and mess disappeared.
Most cats don’t have the adaptable nature of dogs, but these mods helped their cats to adjust fairly well. If you’re going to start RVing with cats, allow plenty of time for the transition. “It’s just a matter of figuring out what they will tolerate,” advises Cija.
See also: What You Need To Know About RVing With Cats
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
We have two cats, and this whole topic has been on my mind because my wife (who isn’t much of a road tripper, so she has stayed home with the cats while the rest of us head out for epic adventures on the road) will spend the summer in Viet Nam with our kids next summer. This means my dad and I can take off and travel to anything we’d like to see that doesn’t interest kids (I’d like to go back to the Little Bighorn Battlefield and walk the whole trail, for instance), but the cats will have to go with me. One of them is big and confident and was always a house cat, but his former human fell on hard times and couldn’t take care of him anymore, so we got him via a no-kill shelter. He will probably adapt fairly well to life on the road. The other went from street to shelter, and I suspect she was dumped rather than born feral. She’s tiny and sweet, but even after 6 months in our home is still fairly wary and is just recently getting used to petting. She may not take as well to motorhome life.
My big question is, “How did you get your cats used to the RV, especially any that are fraidy-cats like our little one?”
Re: the hidden litter box, how do cats find it if it’s hidden? Do they just sniff it out?
Litter question: we’ve only ever used clumping litter. It gets all over our enclosed porch, but we sweep it every day. Sweeping multiple times a day is something we do in our RV anyway, so that’s probably not a big deal. The pine litter might be good, and is certainly lighter weight than clumping, but how do you scoop it to get rid of urine if it’s not clumping? I like that clumping litter quickly dessicates poop (we scoop twice a day, and it’s always fairly dried up), but what about in pine litter? Does it dessicate, or is it nasty?
RE: the pet net, if they’re confined in the cave by the net, what happens when they need to get our and use the litterbox? Our cats both like to roam the house and might not appreciate the net, but the shy one, at least, would certainly stay in whatever cave we made. I expect they’d hang out on the queen bed all the time. They like beds 🙂
I’d also very much welcome ideas to keep them from scratching the interior. I’m glad one of my house sofas needs re-upholstery anyway, because the cats have ruined it. I don’t want them trashing the RV interior. They have and use rope scratching posts, but they don’t confine themselves to rope. They never scratch the wood furniture, but fabric seems to be fair game.
Thanks for any and all advice!
Can’t remember all the details but there is a method to training a cat to ride comfortably in an RV. And it requires a cat carryall that they’ve come to think of as home. Using treats, than meals, along with a comfortable blankie, preferably one (or part of one) they’ve used for years. Small so they feel protected.
I remember reading an article about it and pretty sure you’re cats, properly trained, will have no problem adapting.
Purple Nancy says
I bought a corner scratching post that I use in my 5th wheel, my cat loves it. When I visit other places I bring it with me so he feels at home and doesn’t cause damage.
Purple Nancy says
I started with my cat in a carrier, he wanted out, hated it. I have a big truck, he has the entire mega cab area with a scratching pad, dry food dish and cocoon bed. He’s very needy and sometimes wants to be on my lap or on the transmission hump behind me so I can rub him while I drive. Cats are wonderful travel companions, don’t underestimate them.
My Mimi was a rescue; I took her to town once a week so she cd get used to Walmart parking lot w strangers walking all around, then to the post office, and back on the highway to home. The hideaway idea is important, if they know they can scoot out of site, that’s the main thing. They don’t like feeling vulnerable and they internalize their stress. Mimi loves those cardboard scratchers, they make one that’s like a bed (Walmart or Petco). I had to cross country in November 3,538 miles. Mimi made it w a Badge of Courage. Then back again ! Just act normal ~ they know when yr stressed. ; D
Get some Recue Remedy for Pets. It’s a homeopathic, just put 2 drops in their food. Mimi is very sensitive so she only gets one drop. It’s a charm and helps them immensely.
cliff s french says
I have a big keystone montana i put a cat door in steps that lead to really big cargo area. Its big enough to put a litterbot down there and still plenty of room for food bowls and for them just to chill down there(its heated and cooled with central a/c unit) if they don’t want to deal with dogs. I also put a floor to roof mounted cat tree that lead up the 4 cabinets we don’t use. I took doors of them so cats could chill in them. Wife is traveling nurse and we are about to be living in camper full time 3 dogs 4 cats. That why we bought a really big 5th wheel. We are animal people Yeah it would be heck of alot easier without animals but im not about to get rid of them. We are way to attached to them.
Hi, JB, and thanks for your post, Rene!
I’m a veterinarian, and my husband & I do *a lot* of traveling with our cats. We only recently purchased an RV for travel, so prior to that, all our travel was by car.
To get the cats used to the RV, we first started taking them on the RV when we weren’t traveling and let them hang out in the still vehicle. The next step was to have them on the RV and start the engine. Once it came time for travel, we ended up using our cat carriers, but more for safety to keep them from moving around with the vehicle running (the carriers could be buckled in). Luckily, our cats are already used to being in the carriers. You can see a step-by-step video on how to train your cats to travel – go to this website put out by the CatAlyst Council:
If you’re planning to travel next summer, now is the perfect time to start training – giving you plenty of time!
Before we traveled in the RV, we used large dog-sized crates to travel. The crates were fabric and could be collapsed to put away, but were big enough to accommodate a cushion for resting & a litter box for emergencies. This may be an alternative option for you.
My husband and I also make extensive use of the product called Feliway (similar product – Comfort Zone with Feliway). This is a product based on feline facial pheromone, a comforting pheromone that cats naturally produce & mark with (when you see your cats rubbing their faces on things). The product comes as a spray and as diffuser (like a “Glade” plug-in). We spray it in the RV before we load the cats, and we repeat spraying during our trips. We also used it to help with the cat carrier training. The product stinks a little when you first spray it, so spray it ~ 15-20 min before you (and the cats) are going to be in the area. Otherwise, it doesn’t have an odor.
You can find more about the product at this website:
The product can be purchased online, and some veterinarians also carry it.
Regarding the cat scratching, you may try:
– Placing scratching posts or flat scratching items over the areas they scratch.
– Covering the fabric with a cushion or piece of cardboard or double stick tape.
– Using a product called Soft Paws (or something similar). These are nail caps that cover the nails so they can’t be damaging. You can find information here: http://www.softpaws.com
Some owners use these regularly, while other owners don’t like having to reapply them as the cat’s nails grow. However, for a temporary trip, they may work for you.
Make sure you continue to have something appropriate for the cats to scratch on, as this is a natural behavior for them.
Regarding the litter & litter box:
We generally show our cats where the litter box is, just to make sure 😉
Most litter, even “non-scoopable” ones, can be scooped, even the urine spots. It just requires a little more care, and isn’t quite as convenient. The urine usually sinks to the bottom, so if you shuffle the top layer a little, you can find it and scoop the urine soaked litter. Scooping the urine out regularly helps cut down on the odor.
Consider consulting with your veterinarian if your cats are especially stressed, as there are also other supplements, diets, and potential medications that may help with your training process. Gradual training will give you better effects, and hopefully help you avoid problems like stress urination, etc. You will also want to make sure your cats are up-to-date on their vaccinations & flea preventative when traveling, have identification (collars & ideally microchipping), and you have copies of their most relevant medical records (rabies certificate).
Hope this is helpful and you (and the cats) are able to enjoy your travels next summer! Thanks, Rene, for a great post!
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Aww thank you so much Nina! I can tell you are a GREAT vet! These tips are spot on and really add to the information. Thanks for making RVing more feline-friendly!
Michael Smith says
Us too…TY, Nina.
Thanks for all the info, Nina! Like Rene said, you’re a great vet! I don’t suppose you practice in San Diego? 🙂
Neither of our cats much likes being in a carrier, especially big (17.5 pound) ol’ Sami – he’s so scared of being in a carrier that he poops every times he’s in there and gets it all over himself. Enter cat shampoo, stage left lol. It takes 2 or 3 of us to get him in the carrier, too 🙂
Lyn the fraidy cat spent a night in the RV with our daughter once, not long ago. I don’t think she exactly enjoyed it, but she didn’t freak out, either.
Will definitely check out Feliway and the video you recommended. Thanks again!
Purple Nancy says
Feliway is an excellent product. I have used it successfully. Plug it into every new place where you bring your cat. I have an outlet in my truck that I use during transportation. I did have a cat who needed prozac, not all cats are fit for the road, but most will adjust.
Bill Ingraham says
I glued indoor/outdoor carpet to a 2 foot by 4 foot plyboard that is accessible while driving and is placed in an unobtrusive location when parked with the slide out. For additional protection, we cover all the upholstered areas with small blankets.
Our cat is toilet trained and had no problem adjusting to the commode in the motorhome.
We started her early and she has adjusted well to camping. Cats are very inquisitive and this one has figured out how to pull the screen door lever and gain access to the outdoors. We use a short bungee cord to hold the door shut. A bit of a nuisance but good security for a house cat unused to the outdoors.
Sanford Simmons says
We travel with 3 cats and they stay in back and ride on the King Size Bed, but if they venture toward the front we have a “crate” that they are put into so as not to get under my feet while I’m driving. It doesn’t take long and they learn it is better to stay in back on the bed. Their litter box is under the rear King bed out of sight and no smell with the Costco sand. We have a bunk bed under the dinette with heating pads for their mattress so they sleep in their own beds. When we dry camp and it’s cold they sleep under our covers with us.
Deen Adolphe says
I’d like to post some pictures of my cats and the RV Kitty Kondo’s we used to have made and sell but this forum won’t accept pictures.
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Deen, we’d love to see what you created for your RVing cats! The best way to share your images is to upload them to a photo sharing site like Flick’r or Facebook, then paste the image URL here in your comment.
We will be snow birds traveling with 3 cats. All this information has been great! Thanks for all the advice. Is it really safe to keep my kitties in the travel trailer instead of the truck?
Purple Nancy says
It’s not advised. Inside the trailer on the road is akin to an earthquake, hurricane and tsunami all at once! It’s a tin can on wheels. Keep your animals with you so they are secure. You never know if your trailer is going to disconnect from your vehicle, don’t risk loosing them!!
Sharri Moore says
Our biggest problem in our motor home is keeping our cats out of the queen bed box (and the sliding mechanism inside). The platform has what I assume to be ventilation holes and if they get in the only way get them out is to disassemble the lid from the bed box and lift them out. The mechanism inside for the slide is dangerous and greasy. They also get under the dash AND inside the folded hideabed. Does ANY know where to get some sort of shields, covers etc for this sport of problem? I cannot possibly be the only one faced with it.
Our kitten got into the dashboard and I thought we had lost her. I was inconsolable. Later on, her brother kept sniffing the foot hole in the dash. We pounded on the dash and out she came! My husband cut a board with a handle the same size as the hole and we keep it there all the time. Hope that helps
Holly O. says
This is such great info. Thank you all for the ideas.
GRETA COLEMAN says
When we traveled with our cat she kept wanting to get out of the travel trailer during the night. She would paw at the door and try to get out when we would go in and out. A couple of times she did get out just luckly we caught her. We also tried walking her with a lease and ended up draging her. Any ideas for us.
When I walk my cat its more him just walking alittle + smelling alot!! Cant really walk a cat like you would a dog!
Victoria Banaszak says
LOL! I know right. Also they will lay down to rest and as soon as you sit yourself down they get up and start walking. I leash trained my cat because my friend and I want to get an rv, but that hasn’t happened yet. I got him a kitty holster. At first they lay down and act like they are dying, then it is drunk walking and eventually they realize that if they want to go out they have to have it on. Well not really, mine still tries to sneak out with me. He will jump up on my walker(unless he is throwing a tantrum) and let me put it on him pretty well now. When I first started walking him, I used his collar and quickly knew that he was headstrong and would choke himself to death if I didn’t find an alternative. We are still working on dogs are friends not punching bags. He was doing pretty well today. I was petting the neighbors dog and he was laying down and not doing the halloween kitty thing. He even let the dog walk up to him several times and sniff. Then he just got up and walked over and smacked the poor dog. He also freaks around people if there are too many. He’s not much for strangers petting him either. It’s only been 2 years. We are making slow progress though. That is just his personality though. I’m sure a normal cat(LOL) would make life easier for you.
Full-time RV w/ several dogs and have recently added a cat. Looking for a double door type system that will guarantee “Cat” does not escape when we are in new areas.
We rescue cats and have nine living in our home permanently, so nine travel with us in the motorhome! Once we get them in there things are fine, they just hate the move from the house to the house on wheels, only 3 of them act up and hide, the others are tolerant. I don’t switch cat litters, cats may not be happy with a changes in the cat box. We take two boxes from the house when we move to the motorhome for the continuity. (2 boxes – 9 cats-they are cleaned a few times each day!)
Taking toys, bowls, beds, blankets-anything with familiar smells to give them a bit of security will help calm them – especially your skittish one. They are afraid of the unknown, just as we are. Our cats just love to lounge in the sun on the dashboard when we are parked. Hanging a curtain keeps the sun out of the motorhome (and gives us some privacy) yet allows the cats to observe the goings on outside. But we do have to clean off the nose prints on the windshield! We travel with the generator running so that we have full electrical power, so we usually run the ‘house’ air conditioner to keep everyone comfortable.
We also travel with cats and have cut a cat door under the closet that goes to a cat area in a cargo bay below. We have never had any prob.lem with clumping litter becoming gluey. We use the same litter we always do, which is the smaller plastic containers of lightweight litter such as Tidy Cats or Scoop Away. It works the same in the RV as at home with no problem. (We were out for 4.5 months recently.)
Our cats adapted great to the RV, just by spending time in it before our trip. They have beds in the cabover area and on the sofa. They roam freely while we’re in motion.
We put them in through the hatch with the litter box in it each time we go on a new trip, to remind them of where their litter box is.
I’ve motorhomed with cats for over 40 years, with great success and little effort on my part. Most did not like it initially (good if someone can hold and comfort), but they all ultimately got used to and even liked it, e.g., one adjusted so well that, when driving, he sat on the dash so he could watch the traffic and country side. All the others preferred a “hidden spot” when the vehicle was moving. They found their own, e.g., under the driver and passenger chairs, under an open ottoman that I covered with a blanket, in a cabinet that I left open above the bed. As for walking with a leash, most loved it once they realized it was a way to be outside. Several would walk the loops just like dogs and one, if there was a trail, would go full speed for over half a mile. His logic was the farther he got away from the RV the longer his walk and exploration. On the way back, however, he had to stop and smell everything! As for the liter box, I keep it in the shower. As for how to keep them from going somewhere (e.g., one liked to get up under the dash), I used netting like some cars/SUVs have in their trunk. Be patient, they’ll come around.
Michael Smith says
Mike,Patty,Miss Molly & Mr Murry. 🐱