Living with Cats in an RV

Many people ask… “Can I bring my cats in the RV?”   We had the same question about 2 months ago before we set off our journey.  I spent hours researching the blogs and Instagram accounts of other RVers traveling with cats, and trying to find guidance and tips on the subject.  We decided on a motorhome vs. a trailer/5th wheel because we learned that cats can’t be left in the trailer alone while driving, and our kitties are not fans of the carriers.

After finding many examples of cats who adjusted well to the RV life, we decided to pack up our 10- and 8-year old kitties, Scarlett (black/white) and Juke (orange tabby), into the RV (after a few practice rounds) and off we went.  Both Scarlett and Juke had never lived anywhere but the confines of our 750 sq foot condo in Atlanta, and didn’t “get out much” except to go to the vet.  Scarlett has always been more of a drama queen (hence her namesake, Scarlett O’Hara) and especially hated going in the carrier and driving in the car.   Here’s our story of what happened next…

Although we had introduced the cats to the RV several times pre-trip while not moving, the first few days were rough – especially with Scarlett.  She still hated driving, even though she wasn’t contained in her carrier and had full roam of our 23-foot motorhome (we initially tried putting them in carriers when we drove but couldn’t handle the surround sound meowing and howls).   The cats did adjust to the RV while we were stopped eventually, and Juke started to chill out a lot even while driving.  Scarlett on the other hand, never stopped her angry meows, panting and pacing each time we got on the road – despite the calming spray I applied liberally across the RV before we took off, her fancy purple calming collar, and the treats I gave her each time we pulled away.

We endured a full month of stressful drives before we took my sister up on her gracious offer to care for a temporary kitty in her SF apartment.  So, long story short – some cats do great and others just don’t.  Juke is still with us, and seems to enjoy the RV so far except when we are on really bumpy roads.  He lounges in the sun and watches birds and scenery outside, and always greets us when we get back from our adventures.

We keep him cool while boondocking with fans, reflective window covers and occasionally the generator A/C (if it’s really hot) but that hasn’t been necessary very often.  He puts up with the harness and leash, and we are going to slowly start bringing him outside the RV soon to have a look around, we’re hoping he will continue to embrace the Adventure Kitty life!

Some of the things we brought along which have been great in keeping the cats comfortable:
o Thermal cat bed: – these cozy beds have a lightweight core that reflects the pet’s own body heat back to the animal without the use of electricity. The cats love them, and they will be great in winter!
o Cat gate: – I got this great retractable gate that has two different hooking brackets so I can stretch it out across the cab when we drive (it extends to 72”!!) so kitties can’t scramble under the pedals, or switch it to stretch across the RV door when we are parked to keep them from sneaking out.
o Cat bed warmer: – my mom has a farm in WI and uses these great electric pads to keep the farm kitties warm in the winter.  She gave me one to use, and I will definitely be trying it out this winter under Juke’s bed so he has a warm place to retire to when the temps get cooler!
o Calming spray and/or Rescue Remedy (Petsmart, Amazon) – helps reduce anxiety, I sprayed it liberally around the RV each time we prepared for a long drive.
o Hard sided carriers: we left these open in the RV for a few weeks so the cats could hide in them while we drove if it made them more comfortable.  We keep the carrier in the trailer now in case of emergency/RV repairs/travel needs.
Other helpful tips for driving with kitties:
o Monitor their whereabouts closely, especially when using slide outs.  Our kitty Juke keeps trying to get up in the small space above the slide out and we’ve had to close it off with pillows while the slide is in.  Make sure you know where your kitties are!
o We keep one closet door open most of the time, so Juke can retire to his own space – I think it reminds him of hanging out in our closet in the condo!
o Litterbox – keep it somewhere where the cats can use it even while driving.  Juke seems to take a (nervous?) poo every time we start driving!
o We use a rubber mat under the food and water dish, and it keeps them in place even while we are driving!

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