Why You Should Leash Your Cat While Camping

Does your cat like to go camping with you? If so, do you leash your cat or allow him to explore on his own? If you do allow your cat to roam or free range, you may want to read this because your cat’s life depends on it.

Taking your cat camping exposes them to a new environment and wonderful experiences. It’s a great way for your cat and you to bond and spend cool days investigating the outdoors by day and cuddling by the campfire by night.

In fact, that’s what we do. Especially since we live in a tiny motorhome, it’s important for our kitties to get to stretch their legs and explore the world outside our RV door. However, we don’t just open the door and allow our cats roam and explore on their own. We always put on Krissie’s and Kandi’s harness and leash and here’s why.

Why You Should Leash Your Cats While Camping

Cats on Leashes - Kandi
Always On Liberty©

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We are cat owners. We never allow our cats to roam freely anywhere outside; even with us standing near them. In fact, even when we lived in a house in a safe neighborhood, we always kept our cats restrained. And the reasons are many. But, especially now that we are full-time RVers who frequent campgrounds and RV parks, it’s extremely important to leash your cats regardless of where you and your cat are camping, hiking and/or  environment. 

Lessens a cat’s life expectancy

Regardless if they’re feral cats or domesticated, free roaming without a leash will lessen a cat’s life expectancy significantly due to the many dangers outside the door.


Let’s be honest here. Not every cat owner takes diligent care of their cats’ health. Therefore, allowing your outdoor cat to roam the campground is putting other cat’s at risk.

Case in point; when we were starting our RV adventures in Kentucky, there was a mangy looking white cat that roamed the campground. And because this cat was fearless, she made no bones about coming right up to our screen door. The first time she visited, she hissed and spit at our two indoor cats through the screen. Only 3 days later, our cat’s exhibited respiratory infections which, we were told, came from other cats.

Getting lost

If you camp or park your RV  in many different places often (like full-time RVers), your outdoor cat may loose his sense of direction or not remember where home is once he’s out. Especially in big RV parks or campgrounds where your RV may be amongst hundreds of others.

Someone else takes your cat

Your beautiful and friendly Ragdoll cat that you let out to roam freely may very well become someone else’s. Especially if your cat doesn’t have a collar with identification tag or isn’t microchipped. Others may think a cat was left behind either intentionally or unintentionally. Good hearted people who love cats appreciate the severity of leaving domesticated cats to fend for themselves outside. Therefore, they bring them in to make them a new home for kitty.

Cats become stowaways

Cats becoming stowaways is more common than you think. We’ve even had friends who left their cargo doors open during the day to air out their RV’s basement compartments. A few days later, they packed up their RV and headed down the road. While getting set up at another campground 1000 miles away only to hear a cat meowing.

Wildlife encounters

You don’t have to be camping out in the wild to encounter owls, hawks and eagles, bears and big cats, javelinas, alligators and even rattlesnakes! In many parts of the country, wildlife is present even in busy campgrounds and RV parks.

Not only will free roaming cats will become their prey, but they also will be subject to diseases other wildlife carries (rabies, Feline Panleukopenia, parasites, Feline Parvovirus, etc.). If bitten, your cat can bring home the disease to you and your family.

But it’s not just bigger animals who may be a threat to cats who aren’t leashed. Depending on where you’re camping, your loose cat may be exposed to venomous spidersinsects, toxic toads, lizards and other living things out there that can sicken, injure or kill your cat.

Please watch this PSA video about the highly toxic and deadly toads:

Detriment to the environment

Unfortunately, domesticated cats can upset the balance of nature. Thus, becoming a detriment to the environment. We’ve talked with several campground owners who complain about unwelcome cats killing birds, chipmunks, squirrels and even the good snakes that keep the rodent population down.

Other dangers

Cats are curious creatures. They will sniff, touch and even sample anything that’s remotely interesting to them. This includes getting into garages and sheds that may have antifreeze and chemicals left exposed or uncovered.

Restricted areas

Some campgrounds and RV parks may have restricted areas where pets are not allowed like private lakes, ponds, creeks and even some backcountry. And let’s not forget private property next door to the campground or where you and your cat are camping.

Wheels, wheels and more wheels

Campgrounds are busy places. There’s lots of motion going on from golf carts and bicycles zooming around to large RVs parking and cars. Unfortunately, RV and vehicle operators aren’t looking for cats crossing the road or sunbathing where they are parking or driving.

Tormenting other cats (and dogs)

Unfortunately, outdoor cats may cause chaos or become a nuisance to other campers’ restrained or leashed cats and dogs.

In fact, we had an unfortunate situation when a neighboring camper’s cat came to visit our two cats who were sitting at our RV screen door. The loose cat not only tormented our kitties causing distress but also scratched one of our cats on the nose.

Spraying and Clawing

Loose cats are notorious for marking their territory through destructive methods. This includes cats spraying or clawing your property such as camp chairs, tarps, bike covers, and even your RV tires. And, how many times have you found paw prints and scratches on the hood of your car? I’ve even seen cats roaming on the roofs of RVs! Particularly for those RVs with rubber roof membranes, a cat can puncture or slice it with their claws that will end up an expensive headache.

Campground leash rules

While municipal or legal jurisdictions leash laws typically don’t apply to cats, campground  owners do note in their campground rules that PETS must be kept on leashes, which applies to cats also. Don’t believe me? Next time you pull into a campground, read their campground rules.

Cat haters

Let’s face it. There are people out there who just plain hate cats. That alone should worry you enough to keep your cat indoors or at least on a leash in your company. Because there are evil and vindictive people who would go out of their way to harm cats. Why would you want to subject your feline friend to this type of behavior?

Animal Control

Should you allow your cat to roam free without wearing a leash, they will become a target for local animal control. Even if your cat gets loose and escapes unintentionally, they can be caught and sadly, euthanized. While most municipalities don’t apply leash laws to felines, if your cat is destructive or causes problems, authorities may be called to collect him.

Human health concerns

While we may think our fluffy felines are beautiful and cuddly, others may not. Some people are highly allergic to cats. Even the close presence of a cat sitting on their RV steps peeking in to say hello could trigger an asthma attack or anxiety for those who have Ailurophobia.

Check out these cat harness and cat leash sets:

Cat Harness and LeashCat Harness and Leash - ReflectiveCat Harness and Leash - Pink and Blue

Final thoughts on why you should leash your cats while camping

Cats on Leashes - Badlands
Always On Liberty©

So, let’s wrap up with these final recommendations in keeping your cat safe while camping: 

      • Microchip each of your cats and keep an identification tag on your cat with your name and phone number.
      • Spay or neuter your cat.
      • Protect your cat against fleas and ticks as well as heartworm.
      • Before letting your cat out, always put their cat harness and leash on.
      • Never attach a leash to a cat collar.
      • Keep your cat on a short leash; 6′ is a safe length.
      • Follow good pet etiquette wherever you camp.
      • Respect your fellow campers and their pets.
      • Never leave your cat in a hot vehicle unattended
      • Always provide fresh drinking water.
      • Be sure your cat is in good health and is up-to-date on all required vaccinations.
      • Never allow your cat to enter restricted areas and private property.
      • Comb your cat for fleas and ticks after each outing. Also keep an eye out for ear mites.

We hope this article gives you insight on why it’s important to leash your cats, not only for your cat’s health and well being but also yours and your family’s.

Check out our YouTube Video “RVing with Cats”!

More RVing with Cats Articles

Where to Put the Cat Litter Box in an RV

How to Keep Cats from Scratching Furniture in your RV or Boat

How RV Travel with Cats is Easier (Than with Dogs!)

How to Survive RVing with Cats

Always On Liberty - Leash Your Cats While Camping

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