How To Travel With Cats in an RV

soxTravel Days– Feline friends typically do not like car rides. They are usually unsafe if not corralled while driving. What I learned when working in the animal health industry is that cats try to seek the lowest point in the car to hide while traveling. If they are not contained, they tend to crawl under the gas or brake pedals if they are in the vehicle, creating a dangerous situation for drivers.

Having a Class A, 5th Wheel, or multiple other RVs, might change this a little. But how you travel with your cat may change based on your cats reaction to travel. Our cat, Sox, does not prefer to travel, unless she can be with her bed, in a secure location, and confined.

Sox is usually upset for the first few minutes, and then she calms down and sleeps for most of the ride. We do not leave a litter box or water in her kennel, but we do leave food. Before you think we are being cruel- this is the explanation of why. We stop every 2-3 hours when we are traveling and give her access to water and the bathroom. If we were to put either of these in the kennel with her, undoubtedly, she would be wearing both by the time we stop. She does not like baths so it’s best to avoid that situation.

Slide-outs in the RV- Slides can be a potentially dangerous situation for Sox. If we cannot hang on to her while we put slides in or out in the RV she could be hurt. If you are not corralling your kitty in a keennel or safe area, make sure you find them and keep them safe while the slide outs are moving in or out.

Where to keep them while traveling- We have found the safest place for her to ride is in a kennel, in the bathroom, on the floor. It is a very stable point in the RV. We make sure there is nothing that can fall onto the kennel, and we usually put a thick blanket over most of it so it is darker and quieter for her. Depending on the layout of your RV, I would find a way to confine your kitty in a place that does not move as much, and is darker and quieter.

When Parked- Unless you have trained your kitty to use the toilet (we will not try this), there are some supplies that you need to keep the small space livable and healthy for everyone:

  1. Clean Litter Box – Scoop at least daily, and clean/change litter at least weekly. Most litters recommend 3-4 inches of kitty litter in the pan
  2. Clean Litter – There are several made for small spaces that help keep odors under control, if you follow the instructions on the bucket or bag.
  3. Air Filter – Optional, but we place this directly beside the litter box to catch any dust or smells that she leaves. We vacuum out the filter weekly. It’s amazing, and a little gross, how much it’s keeping out of the air.
  4. Litter Genie– This contains the dirty litter so that you can scoop a few times and then empty it, and it is sealed off.
  5. If you have dogs, find a way to keep the cat food away from dogs. Cat food can make dogs very sick if they eat enough, they are not the same food.
  6. Small Cat Tower – if you have room in your RV, this gives them an elevated space off of your counter tops. We have a small two foot tower with a scratching area so she can still scratch her nails, away from the furniture and carpet. Her bed is placed on top, giving her an out of the way retreat from the dogs.

The litter genie is a device that allows us to clean the litter box as often as we want by providing someplace to store the dirty litter. The trash isn’t a preferred option for us, as dirty litter will quickly gather odors. You absolutely do not want to dispose of litter in the black tank, it will undoubtedly clog up your black tank. Living in such a confined space we do everything in our power to reduce or eliminate bad odors. This is the best system we’ve come up with so far.

We have recently started to train Sox to wear a harness and walk on a leash. We wanted the ability to give her some controlled outdoor time. We have never had an outdoor cat, and while traveling it would be a considerable risk for never seeing her again. For the time being we use a tiny dog harness, and attach a leash to her, so that she cannot stray too far. This allows her to still enjoy the outdoors a little.

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15 thoughts on “How To Travel With Cats in an RV

  1. Mark from Missouri says:

    Awesome guide. Karen used to foster and find homes for cocker spaniels. That ended after we kept two of them. Then the vet talked her into bringing two cats home over the years. One is older and one is younger. I’m/we are attached to the older cat – Frank. The young one should have gone to a new home a long time ago. We live where they can run outside in the woods on our old property. I’d think the older cat would slow down and be happy just staying inside – but who knows. Our ultimate goal is to get down to one dog and no cats but mother nature will have to decide that one as they grow older. Still trying to get Karen motivated to finding a home for the younger cat who no way would I think he would be happy stuck inside when he is used to running on our place all day long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hebard's Travels says:

      It’s hard to decide but ultimately you guys will know what is right for you all. We have one “Foster failure” from when I worked at the shelter, in Kansas City. She turned out to be the best traveler out if all three pets! I wonder how much Sox like it but she was always so quiet in a house anyways. Time will tell if she remains OK with traveling 🙂

      Like

  2. RC Keldarion says:

    Ok, how much room do you need per cat? I’m on a very tight budget and would prefer to buy a decent travel trailer rather than a 23 year old motor home, but I did cat rescue for many years and ended up with about 25 cats. They are rescues, so some are extremely skittish and kenneling all of them while moving or putting slides in and out is just not going to happen.

    Is there a way to safely travel with them in a travel trailer, loose? Can I leave the windows open on hot days, or do I need some way to run the AC for them? Can you run the heater while moving? Certainly stopping every couple of hours is an option (I’m a Captain Tinybladder) and I’m looking at a trailer with no slides and extremely good sway bars. Will it still swing all over and freak them out?

    I’m completely new to this. I can’t afford a house, or even a decent apartment on disability. So I will be living in a travel trailer for the rest of my life.

    Thanks for any advice you can give.

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    • Hebard's Travels says:

      Hello,
      Thank you for commenting. You mentioned several things that I think would need to be figured out before looking at this lifestyle:
      -25 cats+food+litter is not only a ton of weight but a ton of space. Our rig is 40 feet long and has 350 sqft. Maybe 100sqft of floorspace or less. We would have to remove all of the furniture and just fill the trailer with cat litter to keep them happy and healthy. That would be very unhealthy for us.
      -Materials in an RV are not meant to get wet. The wood will rot. If the cats are marking or urinating outside the box, your floor will weaken even more. Travel trailers are meant to travel, so light materials are used.
      -You would need 37.5 litter boxes to meet healthy standards for multiple cats. I don’t know how you could arrange this in a healthy way in any kind of tiny home, to where you are healthy with it. The ammonia and dust from the litter would be very unhealthy to you. Cleaning them would be a full-time job.
      -To keep them all healthy and current on vaccines will be a challenge. Working with animals the past 7 years, we never advised an owner to leave cats outside. They were exposed to many viruses, territorial fights, or even hit by cars. Traveling with them will disorient them even more so if one escapes you may not see them again.
      -Most cats will be stressed by travel, especially if it is new to them. This is why we make our kitty a comfortable den and let her settle in before we travel.
      -Leaving windows open will stress them more while traveling and leaving the heat on while driving presents a fire risk. Many say they still leave stuff running, we prefer to turn everything off and unplug and stow everything safely then travel.

      Usually people ascribe to minimalism while living in an RV because you have to be weight and space conscience. I hope you find a solution that works for all of you, and keeps you all healthy and safe.

      Like

  3. traveling-kind says:

    Great Info… we used to travel with 3 cats.. Greything was 22 when she passed and she loved laying in bed when we traveled. Jerry was 21 when she passed and within 5 min in the motorhome she spawled out on the dashboard and enjoyed the ride. Jasper, our current RV cat took a while to adjust.. the first time we put him in the RV he peed all over me, the first trip he laid in the sink panting the entire trip. Now he adjusted pretty well .. when he hears us packing up he usually goes into one of the cabinetts above the bed and lays down there and sleeps ( I check on him when we drive ) once we stop of a bio-break he comes out if he has to use the litterbox. He is well adjusted to his harness and loves parading around the campground on his leash.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tammy says:

    Nice post. I’m currently trying to find the smallest rig for myself and 3 cats that wont make us crazy! You mentioned an air filter next to the litter box. Which one works for you? I assume it’s only turned on while you’re setup and connected to power?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jrzygrl64 says:

    Just found your blog on FaceBook – great post! Since we have a truck/5th Wheel I’d like to add that we believe it unsafe to have our kitty ride in the 5th Wheel, even in her kennel. Our Callie rides in her kennel in the truck (or car) in the backseat, which we seatbelt in. I’ve heard horror stories of cats (or dogs) being left in a trailer while it’s being towed. If you wouldn’t allow your child to do it – shouldn’t do it to your pet either! I also especially agree with having the kitty already in their kennel before moving slides in and don’t let them out until slides are out. Thanks for a great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hebard's Travels says:

      I understand what you are saying. We considered a lot before going this route. Our kitty does much better in the 5th wheel then in the car or truck. We have two dogs who also ride with us in the vehicle and it is usually too much for her. She is in an area where it is dark and quiet and the kennel cannot move, and things cannot fall on her. We picked that spot after debating a lot about it. This is actually safer for us while driving because when she is in a car she typically looses her mind and screams the entire time. When she is in the RV she actually just naps in her bed in her kennel. We have video recorded what happens in a very short trip, and she is actually very comfortable there. I am also a veterinary nurse so I take the safety of our pets and us very seriously. This is what was best for everyone in our family. Thanks for replying.

      Liked by 1 person

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