13 Essential Tips on How to Live in an RV with Cats

You’ve likely heard that dogs make great traveling companions in an RV. But what if you want to bring your cat along on your adventures? Here are my best tips on how to live in an RV with a cat.

To live with a cat in an RV:

  1. Bring familiar bedding and toys
  2. Use a scratch tower so cats don’t scratch the RV
  3. Affix a covered cat box to the floor of the RV
  4. Take your cat on small trips first to acclimate them to the RV
  5. Use over-the-counter medications to help with anxiety or motion sickness

But that’s not all there is to know about traveling and living in an RV with cats!

So in this article, I’ll explore all my best tips from being a lifetime cat owner and an RV owner. Cats aren’t going to be quite as excited about RV travel as dogs, as dogs love a good road trip. But there are plenty of ways to make it work, even in a small space.

Just keep reading to learn more!

Tips for successfully living with a cat in an RV

Below are 13 tips for successful living with a cat in an RV. These tips will ensure that your cat is happy while making it convenient for you on your next RV trip.

1. Get a covered litter box and secure it to the floor

Whether you build a litter box into your RV or purchase a litter box, it needs to be covered and secured to the floor. You don’t want it sliding around while you are driving down the road.

If it slides around, not only can it make a huge mess, but your cat might not want to use it. If they do use it, and it moves while they are in it, it could scare or even injure your cat.

You can secure it by screwing it to the floor or even using heavy-duty velcro strips. Just attach one side of the velcro to the floor and the other side to the bottom of the litter box. This will make the litter box easy to dump when necessary, too.

Covered litter boxes will provide security and privacy for your cat. It will also help keep the area clean and reduce smells.

2. Get an automatic feeding food and water dispenser & secure it to the floor

A food and water dispenser makes feeding your cat easy and keeps things clean, too. Gravity pet food dispensers are convenient and let your cat have food and water whenever they want it.

A non-skid mat can keep the area clean and keep the food and water dishes from sliding around. When traveling, an open water dish can make a huge mess.

While you should make sure that your pet has plenty of water, it may not be feasible to leave an open water dish out while traveling. You can try purchasing a splash-free water bowl, or you can make frequent stops to make sure your cat is happy and hydrated.

3. Add Rescue Remedy to their water to help with anxiety

Not all cats enjoy traveling. If you find that your cat is distressed or uncomfortable, try adding a few drops of Rescue Remedy to their water. Just click that link to see it on Amazon.

It’s an all-natural, non-drowsy formula that reduces stress without sedatives. We don’t always want our pets to sleep the entire time they are traveling. But we do want them to be as comfortable as possible.

Rescue Remedy is suitable for all kinds of animals, and the dosage doesn’t depend on the weight. So you don’t have to be a pharmacist to make sure your pet gets the right dose.

It’s safe to give to your cat as often as needed, depending on how stressful they are feeling.

It’s easy to administer, too. You can either put it in their water, their food, or directly in their mouth. If you can’t get your cat to ingest it, you can even rub it in their ears or on their paws. It’s vet recommended and gets excellent reviews by pet owners on Amazon.

4. Always leave your heat/AC on when leaving your cat unattended in the RV

If you plan on leaving your cat unattended, make sure to leave your AC or heat running. RVs can get too hot or too cold very quickly, especially in extreme temperatures. In order to keep your cat safe, you must control the climate as much as possible.

If your air conditioner is well maintained, you can run it all day and all night using very little gasoline. However, they can only cool the ambient temperature about 20 degrees, even if it’s working perfectly.

To read more about how long you can run your air conditioner and how to optimize its performance, read this recent article. After all, an RV’s power system can be confusing, and running it IS possible even if you aren’t connected to shore power.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

5. Bring a small cat tree, so they scratch it and not the RV

Cat trees like this one on Amazon are great for scratching, climbing, or just hanging out. Its compact design includes a scratching post, a ball to swat, a house to hide in, and a perch to watch the world go by. The small footprint is perfect for a camper while still providing lots of options for your cat.

It comes in several colors, so you’re sure to find one that matches the decor of your RV.

It’s reasonably priced and gives your cat a place to play or relax. According to one customer review, the perch measures just over 12 inches long. Keep that in mind when shopping for your cat. You don’t want to buy something too small for your cat!

The scratching tower is covered with natural sisal rope to withstand lots of scratching. It’s also made of heavy-duty tubing and particle board to ensure that the platform is sturdy and free of wobbles.

It has four and a half stars and more than 1,500 ratings, making it an excellent choice recommended by many people!

6. Place their familiar bed in a dark or hidden place (until they get acclimated)

Cats love to be comfortable. They are also creatures of habit. So, if they’ve never ridden in an RV before, it’s a good idea to bring along their favorite bed and toys.

At first, you might want to put their bed in a dark or hidden place.

When cats are stressed or in a new environment, they like to hide in a safe space. Because RVs don’t offer a lot of hiding places, put their bed under a table or bed. If your bed is on a platform where there isn’t any open space, leave a cabinet open or purchase a covered cathouse/bed for your cat.

Once they get acclimated and see the RV as a safe place, and aren’t as stressed, you can move the cat bed to a window. This way, they can relax while watching the world pass by.

7. Never let them ride in a towed camper

Your cat may roam loose in a motorhome, but generally speaking, it’s not considered safe for anyone, including pets, to roam free in a travel trailer.

Trailers can bounce and sway a lot while towing. This can be very scary and potentially dangerous for your cat. If you have a travel trailer or fifth-wheel, your cat should ride in the towing vehicle.

If your cat is comfy in the vehicle, they can be loose. I’ve even seen perches for the dashboard so cats can look out of the windshield!

However, if your cat is not comfortable or is acting nervous, they should be in a cat carrier. A stressed cat could distract the driver and make driving dangerous.

While it may seem like cats need a lot of stuff, they really don’t. In fact, they need so little that you could dry camp with them quite easily.

If you or your cat is brand new to dry camping, you may not want to do it for more than a few days until you get more familiar with it. After all, you don’t want to be stuck with an overflowing black water tank and an unhappy cat!

Once you get used to it, you can dry camp for up to 14 days before needing to dump your tanks, charge your batteries, or add gas to your generator.

To learn more about dry camping and tips on how to do it successfully, check out this recent article. Dry camping doesn’t have to mean roughing it, but there are some things to know to make sure your batteries last.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

8. Attach a Bluetooth tracker to the cat’s collar in case they get lost

The last thing you want while camping, hiking, or exploring is to have to look for your cat. Especially if they don’t respond to you calling their name.

Cats are excellent at hiding, and it can be very challenging to find a cat in unfamiliar territory. Flashlights may help catch the reflection of your cat’s eyes if it’s not too bright outside. But you can’t count on them calling out for your help when they are distressed.

A Bluetooth tracker like the Tile Pro from Amazon will make it much easier to find your cat.

It’s small and lightweight, so you can hook it right on your cat’s collar without aggravating him. It’s got a range of 400 feet, and you can use the Tile app to see your cat’s exact location.

And if your cat gets out of range, you can track its last known location, which can help you get back in range. It’s water-resistant, and you can replace the battery yourself. No need to buy a new one just because the battery dies!

9. Reduce how much food is given due to reduced physical activity

Unless you have a cat that is already relatively inactive, you should reduce how much food is given. Your cat may reduce the amount of physical activity they were getting at home, which means that they will need to eat less.

You should also bring along the exact same food that your cat eats at home. Switching cat food can cause digestive issues. If your cat is already stressed out while traveling, digestive issues will just add to the stress.

If you’re not sure how much to feed your cat, refer to the label or talk to your veterinarian. But generally, cats need about 250-300 calories a day to maintain their weight.

An automatic food dispenser can make sure your cat gets enough food, but not too much food. If you find that your cat is getting enough exercise while on the road, then feel free to give them more food.

10. Note the nearest vet and/or animal hospital in each city you visit

That way, the info is ready in case of an emergency. Even though your cat may be healthy and rarely needs veterinary care, make note of the nearest clinic and/or animal hospital.

Just like with people, unexpected things can happen. Especially while camping. A new environment means new places to explore and new encounters with different bugs and animals.

If your cat gets stung by a bee or bitten by a venomous snake, it’s important to know where to take him for treatment. And you want that phone number handy before you’re panicked.

Also, if your cat is just showing signs of being unwell, you probably don’t want to pay for an emergency vet. Chain clinics like Banfield Pet Hospital and VCA Animal Hospital are located all across the country.

Because they are chains, they are able to share vet records electronically and seamlessly between offices. So no matter which office you choose, it’s a good idea to go with a national chain as they will have accurate records for your cat.

11. Make a few small RV trips with your cat before embarking on long journeys to get them used to it

To ensure the best experience for you and your cat, start slow. Let your cat explore your RV before it even leaves the yard, and especially before you go full time in the RV.

Go ahead and put all of their favorite toys in there, so they know that it’s their space, too. After all, this is a new space.

It may take anywhere from a few days to weeks, depending on your cat. But be sure to hang out in the camper with your cat.

This way, you can get a feel of where they like to be in there, too. This will be essentially their new home. Make sure they have enough time to get comfortable with just being in the RV without it moving.

After they’ve had ample time to explore and check out the new surroundings, go on a short trip. Let your cat get a feel for the ride and for camping at a campground.

Taking short trips is the best way to see how your cat will handle longer journeys. They may not enjoy the commute but may enjoy the new sights and sounds of the campground.

It’s going to take some trial and error, but if you are up for creating a comfortable and supportive environment, the payoff of hanging with your furry friend will be worth it.

Once your cat is comfortable on short trips, it’s time for longer trips! But how long can your long trip be? Well, that’s really up to you. Many RV parks have a limit of 28 days, and others have no limit.

Ultimately, the length of your stay depends on the park itself and availability. To learn more about park rules and where you can stay long term, just read this recent article.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

12. Bring vet and vaccination records if you plan to cross into another country

If you are planning on crossing the border, you are going to have proof of Rabies vaccination at a minimum.

If you are traveling to Mexico, they must be in a clean carrier. Your cat will have to be inspected at the Mexican Animal and Plant Health Inspection Office. If the carrier is dirty, contains any disposable material and/or food, it will need to be disinfected and discarded.

There, they will inspect your cat for signs of infectious and contagious diseases. They will also be examined for parasites, open wounds, and skin infections. If your cat is under the care of a vet for skin infections, you will need to have proof of treatment written on veterinary letterhead.

Additionally, you can only bring the amount of food used to feed your cat during the day of arrival. For more complete details and instructions, see the USDA page regarding pet travel from the U.S. to Mexico.

If you are traveling to Canada, you can have a USDA Accredited Veterinarian to complete a health certificate for your pet. Luckily, cats don’t need any health certificate.

The only thing they need is a rabies vaccination certificate dated within the last three years. (source)

13. Get an escape-proof harness & leash if you plan to take them outside (and make sure it’s not against your campground rules)

Finally, if your cat enjoys spending time outdoors, you will need to get your cat an escape-proof harness and leash.

This Dociote Kitten Harness and Leash from Amazon is reasonably priced and has a size for all cats. It comes in fun colors and is super lightweight.

It’s got a step-in vest design that makes it easy to get on and off. It has a velcro closure that keeps your cat from slipping out, and it’s adjustable, leaving some room for growth.

It’s got reflective straps and has a D-ring on the vest to attach the leash.

So you can leave the harness on your cat when the leash isn’t in use. Leaving the harness on your cat without the leash will get your cat used to it, so they don’t fight it when you put it on.

This is one of the best ways to ensure your cat doesn’t get lost on your next trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you live in an RV with cats?

Cats can definitely travel in RVs on vacations as well as live with someone full-time in an RV. They’ll need familiar toys, bedding, a cat box that can be held in place while in motion and may benefit from anxiety treats or medicine.

The first step is to make sure your feline friend can handle riding in a vehicle.

If your cat is fine in the car, then they will likely be fine riding in the camper, too. This means that you are on the right track to having your traveling feline companion.

Many cats either don’t like or can’t handle commuting. This could be due to motion-sickness, or they just don’t enjoy riding in a vehicle. If this sounds like your cat, there are some steps you can take to help them feel more comfortable.

Honestly, while I’ve traveled with our 2 dogs in our RV, it never occurred to me to bring our 2 cats until a recent trip to Disney World’s RV campground Fort Wilderness.

There I saw several cats just hanging out sunning themselves in the windows of some of our neighbor’s RVs.

Traveling in a motorhome, with the living space directly accessible to the driving space, will help you keep an eye on your cat. You’ll be able to comfort them if they are stressed, and they can join you to check out the scenery if they want.

One of the nice things about cats is that, unlike many dogs, you can leave them alone without worrying too much about them. They don’t need bathroom breaks and don’t annoy the neighbors with their barking.

If you have a dog or are just interested in reading about taking trips with dogs, check out this recent article. I get into all the best tips for helping your dogs to make the most of RV life, including 3 tips I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Where do you put the cat litter box in an RV?

The best place for a cat box in an RV is in the shower or under the dinette table. It also needs to be one with a lid to minimize the mess. Velcro strips can help secure the catbox to the floor under the dinette area and then it can be moved when using the table.

You probably don’t want to keep a litter box out in the open, especially while you’re driving. It could slide around and make a mess. Not to mention that they are not very aesthetically pleasing.

Take a look around your camper, and you’ll find lots of storage places.

Find one on the floor that you can spare. Can you spare some space in a closet? Cut a cat hole in a door, and install a cat hole like This one from Amazon.

It’s a cute and convenient way to hide a litter box while still providing access and privacy for your cat. Most RV closet doors are off the ground, but most cats will be fine jumping up a little.

You can do something similar with the storage area under bench seating or inside of a storage bay. You can even forego a built-in vacuum system to make space.

You can put the litter box under a sink, too.

You can cut a hole in the cabinet door, or just remove the door. But if you put a cat door with a flap in the hole to keep the smell down. This way, if you no longer have a cat, or if you decide to sell the RV, all you have to do is replace the cabinet door—no more cat holes.

Another great place to put a litter box is in the shower area as I mentioned above.

You can purchase a large cat box with a locking lid and cut a hole in the side of it. Make sure to sand down the hole, so your cat doesn’t get hurt on it. Then, if the area gets a little dirty, it’s not a big deal.

But I really like this Portable Cat Litter Box on Amazon.

It’s cheap, has great reviews, has a convenient carrying handle, and keeps the mess at bay. Hundreds of near 5-star reviews don’t lie. Just click that link to see the current price on Amazon.

Can you leave pets unattended in an RV?

You can leave pets unattended in an RV, as long as the heat and/or air conditioning are set to come on as needed to avoid the animal over-heating or being too cold. Also ensure, food and water are accessible, and at least with dogs, don’t leave them in the RV longer than 6 hours as they will need to walk and go potty.

It’s important to make sure your pets are safe in your RV, especially when leaving them alone.

If you want to do some exploring or plan on being away for an extended time, there are a few things you can do to make sure your pet is safe and happy.

If you have a dog, you want to make sure you follow campground rules, especially if they like to bark. At least you don’t have to worry about your cat violating any noise rules!

Pay close attention to the weather.

As I mentioned, you don’t want to just leave them and not have the air conditioning or heat ready if they need it. Without power, if the weather is mild, it’s fine to leave your pet alone for short trips.

Open or close windows for ventilation, and as I mentioned, make sure your pet has adequate food and water.

Pet cameras and temperature monitoring systems can help provide some assurance regarding your pet’s well-being while you are away. A system like this one from Amazon has a camera you can view from your phone. It also monitors the temperature, humidity, and air quality.

So you can have peace of mind knowing that your furry friend is always safe and happy!

Final thoughts

Cats can be great traveling companions!

They may require a few extra amenities than dogs, but they can be left home alone without worrying too much about them.

They don’t take up too much space, and you don’t have to worry about them annoying the neighbors with their incessant barking. While cats don’t really require a lot of extras, there are plenty of extras you can purchase if you want.

Photo which requires attribution:

Westbury White Horse by Kent Wang is licensed under CC2.0

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