There are a number of things to think about when it comes to living with a cat in a small RV. The cat’s personality should be taken into consideration, vaccinations and parasite prevention should be up to date, and thought should be given to where the litter box, food and water bowls are going to go. All in all, Julie’s cat Fish has settled in quite well to RV living, and today I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned so far. Some of this is applicable to dogs as well as cats, and some is more cat-centric.
General Pet Suggestions
Think about the personality of your pet, and if it would comfortable living in a small space. Activity level is a good one to think about that will have a greater impact in a RV versus a house. Raising a kitten or puppy in 14′ of living space for instance would be a difficult task, there just isn’t much room for them to run around and be burn off that extra energy, plus they’d be into everything and there are a limited number of places in a RV to put items that aren’t cat or dog friendly.
Health considerations are another good one. Traveling presents a unique set of issues that aren’t going to come up living stationary. Is your pet up to date on all of it’s vaccinations? Did you check what parasites are prevalent where you are traveling to? Heartworm and fleas are the two big preventatives to think about.
Oh, and not all fleas are created equal either. In different parts of the country some brands of prevention work better than others, do a little research to or call and talk to a vet in the area you’ll be traveling in to see what they recommend.
You may plan on your pet staying in the RV all the time and never setting foot outside, but there is only that one door to separate your animal from the outside in a RV, and in a small space they’re never far from that door. Fish hadn’t been outside in years, but within the first two weeks of us living in the Casita he got out late at night when we were stepping out to dump the trash, and the next two hours of searching for him in the dark were nerve-wracking, which brings me to my next point.
Micro-chipping is also a great idea for people with traveling pets, so that if your four-legged friend ever does escape, your contact information is readily available if he or she ever lands in a shelter or vet clinic. We also keep a harness on Fish all the time and have a leash in the RV that is attached to the wall. Whenever we go outside we hook him up now so that even if he gets out the door he won’t run far.
I advocate having an emergency fund for full-timing whether you’re bringing a pet or not, but if you are bringing a pet it’s a good idea to have enough to cover any emergency care your animal may need. Don’t wait until you’re nearly out of food or litter (or medications if your pet is on any) to go shopping for more either, as depending on where you are it may be hard to find what you need. In many cases online stores can ship the food or medication you need to wherever you might be – but it takes some time.
Some campgrounds and RV parks will charge additional fees for having pets along with, and some won’t. These fees are more common for dogs than cats, and the amount varies substantially. Some places will also impose weight or breed restrictions, so if you are traveling with a larger breed dog it pays to inquire about this ahead of time. I have also heard of campgrounds that have a ‘pet section’ to keep RVers with and without pets separate.
Cat Specific Concerns
With space as limited in the RV as it is, the big question for small RV goers becomes where to put the litter box, food and water bowls, and scratching post.
Underneath the bed turned out to be a great place in the Casita for a litter box. There is about 14 inches of clearance down there. Fish needed a litter box with tall sides because he has a tendency to pee on the sides of the box and kick litter out of it. Of course no pre-made boxes were the right dimensions, so after a bit of online searching we bought a cheap plastic tupperware from Walmart that had sides just under 14 inches and cut a hole in it as a doorway.
Julie first attempted to use a scissors to cut it but the scissors broke and cracked the plastic. Then she borrowed a dremel from work and used that. It melted the plastic as it was cutting so it still wasn’t an ideal solution, but it worked better than the scissors.
There are other possibilities for the litter box as well. Some choose to keep the bathroom door open and put it in there – either on the floor or some people remove one of the cabinet doors under the sink and stash it there. Also one of the storage cubbies at ground level in the living area of the RV could be left open or modified for this purpose as well. If you aren’t afraid of a little carpentry work I have heard of cutting out a piece of the wall between the living area of the RV and a basement storage area and putting a litter box down there. This would give the advantage of being able to clean the litter from the outside.
To keep the odor from becoming an issue, Julie cleans the litter box out more frequently in the RV than she did in the apartment – usually the box gets completely emptied and filled with new littter every five days or so. It’s often enough that it doesn’t smell like cat inside the RV, and that’s good enough for me.
In the Casita the food and water bowls go underneath the small bed. For a while they went in the entryway which is right under the wall mounted AC unit, but then we kept having to change the water because stuff would blow out of the AC into the water. They could have also fit under the large bed with the litter box, but we just didn’t feel right putting his food right next to his toilet.
The scratching post was actually a new addition. For the first three plus weeks Fish had to do without because the one he had in the apartment was far too large.
Then Julie found one at Petco that was around $13 and it’s a siesel and carpet wrapped piece of wood with a feather toy attached on one end. It can be hung on a doorknob via the attached rope – here it’s shown hanging on the bathroom door of the Casita – or laid out on the floor. In typical cat fashion, I don’t think Fish has used it even once, but it’s there if he wants it.
A notable difference between traveling with cats versus dogs: cats are usually more set in their routines, and more likely to resent being upended from their familiar environment. Be prepared to give them more time to get use to staying in a RV that you would with a dog. To make the transition smoother, try bringing the cat’s favorite toys, blanket, etc. into the RV to make it seem more like home. Give the cat a place that it can hide in and feel secure. If you can manage it, bring the cat into the RV for shorter visits and first and then gradually increase the time.
You probably don’t notice it as much in a sticks and bricks or apartment, but cats are just as active at night as during the day. If your cat is being a nuisance at night at home, it’s easy enough just to shut him out of your bedroom at night, problem solved. Not so much in a tiny RV.
This has been the number one issue I’ve been dealing with staying with Julie in the RV in fact, and it has nothing to do with her. Fish frequently has a period of activity starting at around five in the morning when he first gets hungry. For owners who free feed this won’t be an issue, but this cat would be grossly obese if he was allowed to eat as much as he liked.
The first week and a half was awful, I often have a hard time getting back to sleep when woken in the middle of the night. Fish had been getting fed twice a day, once whenever Julie got up and once around 6:30 pm since he was adopted and she insisted that it didn’t matter if we started feeding him later, he’d still be up at 5 being noisy. Then we went to a party our second week living in the trailer and he didn’t get fed until we got back at midnight. Low and behold, he did not wake us up at five that morning and we learned a valuable lesson. Now we don’t feed him his pm feeding until after 9, and we given him more food during that feeding (and less in the morning). Sometimes he still wakes us up early, but usually later in the morning and not for as long.
I will mention one more quick thing about cats and RVing, this applies less to smaller RVs but is still worth a mention. If your RV has slides, be sure that your cat is present and accounted for before pulling them back in after camping.
This is a big category to cover, and I can only speak of what I have witnessed living in the Casita with Fish or heard from others. Do you have any other questions about pets and RVing? Want to share your own pet RVing stories? You know what to do, post below and answers will follow.