When downsizing from our Kentucky home to our RV, we knew we’d have lots of challenges ahead. But those challenges become a whole other ball of yarn when it’s come to RVing with cats. From where to put the litter box to finding their favorite napping spots in our RV, we had to re-learn it all. We had to figure out how to accommodate their needs as well as create an environment where we all can survive. We’re living proof that you can RV with cats and want to share our experiences on the road as full-time RVers.
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How to RV with Cats…and SURVIVE!
WARNING! Cute cat photos are in this article. Yes, you do have to read the words in this article too!
Never could we ever prepare ourselves for some of the uncertainties we’ve faced on the road while RVing with cats. Cats are their own species. They are far from their dog counterparts who are simply happy to go, see and do anything we humans want. Cats are fickle creatures. We as cat owners can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do and and when. Because they’re cats. But, we love them. We love their 6:00 a.m. jovial hungry faces rubbing their whiskers on our faces to wake us up. And their epic timing of when they use their litter box while we’re eating dinner in our tiny home on wheels. If I’ve not announced that RVing with cats can be challenging, well, consider it to be an understatement.
So, we needed to learn how to make them happy cats; all while our tires are rolling forward. Because, face it, if our cats aren’t happy, guess what!? It’s a given that neither of us would be either.
Even seven years after commencing our RV adventures, we continue to learn, experiment and try new things in managing our cats. The RV lifestyle isn’t easy to begin with; especially in such small confines. But add in two mouthy, very hairy felines who’s number one mission in life is to trip us up, demanding our attention 100% of the time, we have the perfect concoction of fuzzy chaos.
If you’ve not caught on by now, cats are their own species. Unlike dogs who have the ‘gimme a biscuit and let’s go for a ride’ mentality, cats are quite different. Cats are narcissistic, opportunists and are creatures of habit. And, they won’t ever let us forget it. If we change one thing, quite literally, their world turns upside down.
Despite our nomadic ways, our Maine Coons are far from adventure seekers. Their outside world is the next room, which laughing out loud, doesn’t exist now that we live in a one room motorhome. And sometimes they are afraid of their own shadows. They typically don’t go outside, except for an occasional obligatory photo session and breathe in some fresh air in whatever state we’re in.
Since we travel all over the United States, we are extremely mindful of the outside environments that aren’t really suitable for two extremely spoiled domestic cats. There are things that can hurt them. And as you’ve heard the old adage “curiosity killed the cat”, cats really can’t differentiate what’s harmful or even deadly until it’s too late. We’d prefer them not to play with or make friends with big tarantulas, toxic scorpions, venomous rattlers and God knows what else they may want to bless us with. So, we just keep them inside.
Our RV Cats: Krissie and Kandi
Before sharing our helpful tips on how to RV with cats, let’s meet our two little heathens. Krissie is our Tortie Maine Coon; born in 2008. She joined our small family as a rescue to help Dan recover from a motorcycle accident. To say she’s the bossy one is an understatement. Krissie rules the roost. However, now at age 13, she’s living out her senior years as a window watcher and long naps in her cat bed. But she makes no qualms in reminding Kandi that she’s the lead cat.
Kandi, our bigger Maine Coon calico, is two years younger than Krissie. Also rescued as a kitten, Kandi is the most loving and sweet cat we’ve ever known; hence her name. She yearns to please us with her beautiful golden-eye stares and sweet purrs. Kandi loves peering out the windows; watching squirrels, birds and mocking every dog that passes our RV. Kandi is more of an explorer than Krissie. She’s also our gatherer which is why we don’t let her have outdoor reign. Kandi is one of those cats who would bring us lots of presents if she were allowed.
Since both of them came from litters who lost their moms, they were introduced to human interaction early. We adopted both when they were old enough to get their kitty girl parts sewn shut.
But, unbeknownst to us, they brought with them health issues that haven’t been easy to manage. Both, Krissie and Kandi are special needs cats. Kandi is was diagnosed with a neurological condition, Feline Hyperesthesia, as a very young kitten. And Krissie, was diagnosed just a few years ago with feline diabetes.
We manage Kandi’s needs with kindness, understanding, encouragement and love. Krissie’s diabetes is managed through diet and stress management. We’re happy to say, she’s been off the juice (diabetic remission) and hoping it continues (yay, no insulin injections). You can read about her story in Krissie’s Journey.
Check out our YouTube video below of how we RV with our cats!
So, let’s get on with our tips on how to survive RVing with cats!
Where to put the cat litter box?
The single most asked question amongst those who RV with cats is “where to put the cat litter box?” And believe me when I admit, that was our biggest concession we had to make when purchasing our RVs.
We just keep Krissie’s and Kandi’s kitty litter box in the shower. We just move it whenever we want to take a shower. However, not all RVs have a shower large enough to accommodate a litter box. And, in some RVs, even if the shower is large enough, the shower door remains closed when not in use. Or, the door to the bathroom itself, closes which wouldn’t allow kitty to come and go as they please. When we were shopping for our RVs (all of them), we wanted to make certain there is constant bathroom access.
But, we’ve seen a lot of other RVing cat owners come up with their own ways of hiding the kitty litter box (or not?). Some just don’t care and leave it in the open while others care to conceal it while allowing their cats a little privacy.
We’ve seen some RVers modify their dinette seating and under bed storage with cat doors that lead to their litter box. Others have incorporated their cat’s litter box into a stylish piece of furniture. The door opens so they can pull the cat litter box out to scoop their presents, clean or refill cat litter.
So, if you’re on the verge of buying an RV motorhome or towable camper, the litter box location will be your biggest feat. But, we all made concessions and make it work for all of us.
Speaking of cat litter boxes and living in such small confines such as an RV, it’s super important to keep their boxes clean and odor free. Because let me just warn you, it won’t take long for the smell to take the enjoyment out of RVing. But isn’t that the way it is really, anywhere you place their litter box? In my opinion, it’s far better and easier than having to walk a dog in the rain, sleet, snow or dark of night.
Because of space restraints, we can only have one litter box. So, we bought an inexpensive large cat litter box with a detachable hood and odor-control filter on the top. We also use a high-quality clumping litter. We usually clean their litter box twice daily however, if they let out a real stinky one, we scoop instantaneously. One thing we constantly contend with having their furry little feet track litter throughout our small RV. So, we have a cat litter mat to keep any their cat box litter contained.
Also, in case you don’t know already, never flush any cat litter down an RV toilet. So, when scooping their little presents, simply dump it into the trash. We think this cool inexpensive bagging system is genius! It’s design replicates the diaper genie made for soiled baby diapers. You just scoop and dump their precious little presents in the can. No touching their smelly ew-ews. And their little presents are closed in the bagging system. We just throw the bag in the dumpster.
Keep Calm and RV on!
While there are a few cats who actually enjoy travel days, our two nomad cats aren’t fond of change and loathe any type of vehicle movement. We had to find healthy solutions to control their anxiety (and ours?) and help make their ride a little more comfortable for them (and us!).
During our first year of RVing with cats, we’ve tried practically everything under the sun to help make our cats’ travel experience more pleasant. First, we got them their own collapsible cat carriers so they can feel contained and safe. It’s imperative that they have their own portable pet kennel anyways for veterinarian visits, inclement weather evacuations, and if we need to contain them in the event of emergency or RV repair.
We also found little compression cat shirts that hug them. These little shirts seem to have a calming effect like a snug hug. As you can see above, Kandi doesn’t seem to mind hers. However, Krissie isn’t a fan. So, we had to find something to help with her anxiety.
For one, I found a safe, aromatherapy calming spray for cats that supposedly helps reduce anxiety. We’ll spray their little bed and inside of their cat carriers about 15 minutes before loading them in.
For added reassurance for their comfort, we used Rescue Remedy but seemingly, our two did respond to this highly-recommended OTC anxiety treatment. Kandi acts like she was doped up and Krissie is too stubborn to even allow her narcissistic self to accept it.
So, after a little research through online cat owner groups, I learned about CBD oils for pets. We finally found a safe CBD pet formula that works for Krissie! Now, anytime we get ready to put our motorhome in drive or a thunderstorm rolls through, we put a few drops on Krissie’s paw to lick off. It takes approximately 10-15 minutes for it to take calming effect. She then heads to her cat bed or cat carrier, grooms like there’s no tomorrow and then for her long relaxing nap.
Exploring the Outdoors
As we mentioned earlier, our kitties do love to go outside with us while enjoying a campfire in their own camp chairs or just to walk the perimeter of our campsite. However, they always wear their cat harness and cat leash. Let me preface this by saying, “nothing is escape-proof” when it comes to cats. So even though a cat harness may read ‘escape proof’, I urge you to not trust that claim. Always watch your cat when he or she is outside. And, keep their leashes short so if in the event your kitty needs to be pulled in quickly.
We never allow them to come into contact with other cats or dogs. So, we had to come up with another safe and more comfortable way for them to enjoy the outdoors. We found a cool cat screen tent where they can walk around at will yet be protected by a barrier of sturdy tent screening.
Entertaining and Exercising Indoors
Our kits loved looking out our workspace windows in our fifth wheel. That was their form of entertainment. They loved watching the birds and wildlife do their thing wherever we parked. So, we set up their own cat tv with a suction-cupped small window bird feeder so they can get an up close and personal view of any visitors. We can put it up and remove it quickly and easily. What’s cool is the birds don’t see what’s going on inside because of the tinted windows. And, if we’re in Hummingbird country, we set up their Hummingbird feeder that also attaches to the window. If their favorite perching window is near a tree, we would hang a bird seed bell.
But in our motorhome, the only window our RV cats have access to is over the dinette table. We had to overcome not allowing cats where we ate. So instead of fighting their urge to look out the window (because that’s what cats do), I just constantly wipe down the table with disinfectant wipes.
Bird-watching isn’t their only form of entertainment. Krissie loves chasing her red dot, swatting around her sparkly puff balls and catching whatever is on the end of her fishing pole. And Kandi loves carrying around her shoe strings, flicking her catnip mouse in the air and sleeping with her little teddy bear.
Anyone who has cats already knows that cats prefer to perch on high places. Their ancestors and wild felines perch on the high ground on tree branches or rocks for them to prey on their dinner. Or, to sleep without fear of being preyed upon themselves. Kandi and Krissie are no different.
Krissie and Kandi love jumping up to the cab-over loft bed for their afternoon naps without worry of getting stepped on or disturbed. Oh, and believe me, in our current tiny motorhome, their little piggies and fluffy tails get stepped on…often. They are underfoot 99% of the time. As I mentioned earlier, their mission in life is to trip us up and laugh at us at the same time.
In our former fifth wheel, they loved napping and bird-watching in their little cat beds on either sides of our workstation desk. And, they loved our two recliners where they would nap in our laps during evening movie hours. Now, in our much smaller motorhome, they lay where they feel they must.
So, as you see, it’s important to cats to have their own safe and comfortable space for them to nap and do whatever cats do. And, to keep us from tripping…and falling…and being laughed at.
Living in a cat’s world
So, that’s how we make our nomad cats comfortable and happy. Because when our RV nomad cats are happy, we’re all happy! We hope you enjoyed this article highlighting how we RV with cats (and SURVIVE!). Please pass it on to those who may be setting out on their own adventure in an RV, boat or even in a tiny home.
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