OK….So we’ve been traveling since 2008, full timing since 2013 and our kitties (four at that time) have been with us way longer than that. When we started this adventure, we did not want to leave part of our family at home. So we had to figure out how to bring them with us, in a moving vehicle.
Recently, a friend of ours from Wisconsin, asked when we were going to blog about traveling with cats. We get that question often.
I have been apprehensive in writing about this subject for a few reasons. Everyone’s cat’s will act differently. Every coach/rv is different. So where I put my litter box may not work for you.
So, I can only tell you what has worked for us and hopefully this can give you the confidence to try traveling with your cat.
Now for those of you that have cats, I would imagine this scenario will sound familiar.
Picture this, you need to take your precious cat to the vet. They seem to have this sixth sense about them that knows this. While you are getting their carrier ready, they take this opportunity to hide under or behind the smallest area possible, where it’s impossible to get to them. You try to ignore them so they feel comfortable enough to slowly slither out from what ever hiding spot they had found. You slowly and casually walk toward them, without making eye contact, so as not to scare them away again. Once close enough, you make your move and swoop in and scoop them up. Then comes the fun part of getting them into the carrier while keeping all your skin intact.
Sound familiar? Or maybe this was just us and our luck. Either way, I can tell you that taking your cat to the vet in the carrier in the car, with them howling the whole way, is much different than how they will travel in the rv.
So this how we started. At the beginning of our travels, we still had our house. We wanted to get our cats used to the coach before we just threw them in there and took off, so to speak. So we parked our coach in front of the house, opened it up and loaded all the cat essentials into it. Their beds, blankets, food and water dish, litter box, toys etc.
It was then time to bring the cats out to the coach. We brought them out in our arms and not their carriers. We did not want to start with a negative experience for them. We sat in the coach with them as they sniffed every single inch of the place. We showed them where the litter box was. We took them to their food and beds. We turned on the tv because that’s what we would have on in our house, familiar sounds and all. We ate lunch and worked on our computers, acting like we normally would act in our house, all the while the cats were getting used to their new digs. We tried to make things as normal as possible for them so they felt like this was home. it had all their familiar stuff after all.
We did this for a couple days in a row. Hoping they would get used to things and they did.
Once we were confident that they were used to the surroundings and everything was ok, we put the slides in to give them a different perspective. They were fine with it.
So then, we started the engine. Yup, we had to see how they would react to the rumble. It’s important to note that we acted as if this was all perfectly normal. They pick up on so many of our nuances that we had to make sure that we didn’t feel anxious because then they would feel anxious.
They actually did well. They perked up a little bit from their naps but once they saw that all was good, they went right back to sleep.
We now felt that we were prepared as best we could be with the cats traveling with us. So for our first trip, we planned pretty close to home. Giving the cats time to figure out that shaking and rattling and rolling of this giant home on wheels is normal and everything is good in the world. At least their world.
We’ve come along way since that first trip with the cats. We’ve learned a few things while on the road.
For instance the litter box. In our first coach, the box fit nicely between the back bathroom shower and toilet. When we were parked that was all good and well. However, when we travelled, this back bathroom sat above the engine (it was a diesel pusher) and the cats did not like to go back there to use the litter box while the engine was running. So we learned that while traveling we needed to move the litter box up into the mid-coach more. Not ideal but not the end of the world.
In our current coach, the Tiffin Allegro Bus 45LP, we have a closet above our engine. When we were looking for floor plans for full timing, where to put the litter box was high on our list.
This back closet was a perfect fit for the litter box. It would be out of our way but we would easily have access to it to clean. We still had the issue of traveling though. The back closet sat above the engine and we knew from past experience, this would not work while driving down the road.
So when we are packing up and getting ready to hit the road again, one of our must do’s is moving the litter box to mid-coach. Again, not ideal but it works for us. The cats use it while we are driving down the road and we’re perfectly happy with that.
As you can see, when we are all closed up, the litter box is underneath the table and out of our way. We can still walk to the back for the bathroom and the cats are in their respective traveling places.
Yes, this is how we actually look driving down the road. When the slides come in and we are all packed up, the cats get into their pre-claimed spots and nap the entire way. They really do travel well. Once in a while, if we haven’t moved in a long time, one of them may throw up but alas, that is the nature of cats.
All our cats have always been indoor cats. Everyone has their own opinion on this subject but this is what works for us. So when we started traveling with the cats, they get excited to see different things out the window. Here’s a picture of Whisper watching some birds out our window.
Some people have outdoor cats. And if that works for them, that’s great. We have known some people to have leash trained their cats and therefore take them for walks around the park. If they do go outside though, there are other factors to consider. Such as what wildlife is around where you are parked to what plants they could accidentally ingest (good to remember for dogs too). Just some things to consider when thinking about what environment you want your cat around.
Our way is certainly not any better than what others have done. This is just what has worked for us and our cats. Only you know how your cat will act.
Something that we feel is important for cats is having a place to hide. When the thunderstorms come up or the vacuum. That can be more difficult in an RV. The couches are usually bolted to the floor and there is no room underneath for a kitty. The bed can have storage underneath it and really, where else is there?
Well, we have storage underneath our bed but David modified the box for the cats to get in there. He cut a hole in the back of the storage box and we put there beds and collapsable cat carriers in there. They can now go behind the bed, through the hole and get into their own little hide-a-way to escape their high stressed lives. Cause let’s face it, they obviously have things rough :)
Just like anywhere, their are always grocery stores for your own shopping needs, their will be pet stores for your pets needs. Whether you get their food in a pet store or online, you will always be able to get what you need. We order our cats food through Amazon. Their prices are better than Petco or Petsmart and we can get it delivered through Prime (in 2 days) anywhere we are in the country.
Finding a veterinarian can be more difficult. While their are lots to choose from around the country, you really have to do your research. To put it bluntly, not all vets are created equally. For instance, if you’re in a sticks and bricks house, you will have one vet that you take your cats to that you trust and that will get to know you and your cat very well. On the road, you have to rely on reviews. First I ask the campground office. Most of the time their will be a local vet that they can recommend. I also look on Google reviews and Yelp. It’s difficult to really know and it can be hit or miss. Unfortunately, one of the things I have personally come across is a vet that really does not take the time or effort to get to the problem. It’s my opinion that once they find out that you are just traveling through the area and won’t be returning to their practice on a regular basis, they don’t really do as much, unless you insist. On the flip side, I have found some great vets on the road and when we find ourselves in that area again, I make sure I take our cats there if need be.
Another option is PetSmart. Around the country, they have a network of vet clinics that you can take your cat to. Their records are supposed to be all tied together which can be helpful for one vet to know what another has done. However, I have known some people that take their cats there and have the same issues that I have run into in an independent vet clinic. We have no experience taking our cats to these PetSmart clinic but it’s another option that I wanted to mention.
On the flip side, it can be difficult for the vet as well. They don’t know your cat and what is normal for him/her. It’s helpful to bring all the vet records you can with you on every journey. You never know when an emergency will arise and to have the current records of your pet are helpful to where ever you bring them. I keep all of BK and Whisper’s records in a folder. Any blood work they have had, anything, it’s all in there. That way, if their is an emergency, I can just grab the cat, the folder and go.
Some campgrounds will require to see the cats vaccine records as well. Just like if you were traveling with a dog. So make sure you have everything you need.
I hope this helps put some questions to rest in how to travel with your cat. In the end, they are our family and we would not be without them. Just try to make them feel at home and as long as they have you, their favorite person, all will be good. As I said going into this post, their are many ways to travel with your cat but I can only write about what works for us and what we have come across. I hope this can at least give you some pointers or helpful hints that you can try with your cat to make your travels more pleasant for all.
Cute kitty’s!! Would definitely not travel without them, they are a big part of our family along with Raven. Unfortunely we only have a queen bed so it’s quite crowded in bed with the 4 of us. They don’t “share” well!! Ha! Unfortunately Jazz, our BIG black cat does not travel well. He hides when we pull in the slides and start the engine. He has a hiding place but either throws up or poops back their because he’s so nervous. I’ve been told Rescue Remedy drops work but we are workcamping this summer in Utah and don’t travel again until the middle of September. But if someone has any suggestions I’m all ears!!
Thanks for your experiences Brenda. It’s always fun to know how other people deal with their cats!
Thanks for the cat post! We too have a RV kitty and we always appreciate any fellow rv cat traveler purrents input on what works for them!
Good article. We have done something similar to getting our cats acclimated to the RV. We acquired another motorhome after years of not having one. In the past, if we were gone for 3-4 days, we left the cats at home where they were happier. If we went for a longer trip (10 to 12 days) we had someone come to the house to check up on them and clean their letterbox and put more food down.
Since we don’t full-time and are only out occasionally, the cats have to get used to the traveling each time. One cat, 18 years old, mostly blind, mostly deaf, and some dementia would sleep on the bed usually under the covers. The other cat would be nervous for a while (maybe throw up) then eventually look out the small pet window on the floor. We currently have a 38 foot motorhome with a really large bathroom so there is a great place for the litter box. We don’t have to carry the cats medical records since my wife is a retired veterinarian. We are trying to get out more often for longer periods of time now that we are both retired.
We will go for our longest trip (the whole month) of next March where we will be staying at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Last year we had to do an emergency evacuation from the RV park in the Houston, TX area we were staying in due to flooding. No time to pull our coach out. I neglected to grab our cat’s folder with his records. Fortunately we were able to work things out with the kennel we had to board him at in TX and our vet in Florida to obtain his records. As a result of this though – I now have his shot records, etc. saved as PDF documents on my phone that I can email to any vet, kennel etc. we may need to use in an emergency.
We’ve been traveling with our kitty, Cali, since January 2013. We found that she feels very secure while traveling on the road if she can hide in her crate (small dog crate since she’s a big cat). Because we sometimes hit bumpy roads, I put several layers of blankets under a cardboard box and then line box with her favorite blanket. Finally, I cover the crate with a dark blanket and close all the shades but leave enough room for her to look out at us to know she’s safe. She sits on the couch behind us so if there is an accident we can grab her crate and go! We discovered she’d complain if the crate was latched, so we leave it open and she hops down only if she needs to use the litter box … then she gets right back in :)
This is all great information. One suggestion is to always leave the cat carrier out where the cats get used to it and it’s not a big deal. My husband is a veterinarian and I have worked alongside him for 30 years. Leaving the cat Carrier out all the time really works. We have actually trained our cat to sleep in it from the time they were very tiny so the cat carrier is The sanctuary.
Great article David. We are looking at getting a Tiffin Aleggro bus next year and full time with our cat. I am very nervous about her scratching the leather furniture. I know its supposed to be scratch proof but is it really ? I will trim her nails weekly but still concerns me. You ?
Hi…We have had zero issues with it. Not to mention, it is not real leather. :) But we have zero marks and we had 4 cats in here at one time at one point. :)