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Guide to Taking Your Pets on the Road

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Harvest Hosts
June 21, 2024

TL;DR: RVing offers the convenience of traveling with your own kitchen, bathroom, and pets. Tips for bringing pets include ensuring their comfort during travel, designating sleeping areas, packing sufficient food and water, providing exercise, and planning for non-pet-friendly activities. For dogs, create a comfortable travel spot and follow a consistent routine. For cats, provide familiar items, a designated litter box area, and hiding spots. Other pets need secure enclosures and temperature control. With preparation, RVing with pets can be enjoyable and stress-free.

Guide to Taking Your Pets on the Road

RVing is an excellent form of travel that allows people of all backgrounds to take their own small apartment on wheels along with them on road trips and travels. A major perk includes traveling with your own kitchen and bathroom, which allows travelers to grab a snack and use their own (clean!) bathroom during pit stops, as opposed to having to stop at travel centers and gas stations to use their facilities.

In addition, this form of travel can help to save costs, allow travelers to feel a sense of having a home while on the road, and so much more. However, perhaps the biggest perk of RV life is the ability to bring your pets along with you wherever you go.

While navigating and acclimating to the world of RVing can be tough enough with a family, considering the family pets throughout your travels adds a whole additional level of considerations. Between getting your pets’ supplies situated and helping them adjust to RV life in general, this can seem like quite a daunting set of tasks. However, Harvest Hosts has put together some tips, tricks, ideas, and tactics to help you get your pets set up to travel along with you. Before you know it, your cat, dog, ferret, fish, bearded dragon, or any other critter included in your family will be seeing the sights alongside you as you venture from place to place.

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Dogs

The idea of bringing your beloved dog along on an RV camping trip may seem daunting. After all, traveling in an RV is most likely entirely new for most dogs, and owners may not know what to expect with their furry companion alongside them. Consider the following tips for the successful planning of an RV trip that the entire family can enjoy.

Designate A Place For Your Dog To Travel

When you are moving your RV from one place to another, you will need to choose a location for your dog to ride. If you are towing a fifth wheel or travel trailer, your dog will need to ride in your truck with you, as it is typically not considered safe for anyone to ride in the trailer while towing. In your tow vehicle, many dogs enjoy stretching out on the back seat, but some dogs may need to be crated due to travel anxiety.

Since most dogs tend to enjoy riding in the car, this shouldn’t be too much different from any

other time you take your pup for a ride. If your RV is a motorhome, your dog may initially be

nervous. After all, the feeling of being inside a moving motorhome is much different from being inside a moving car. Your dog may need some time to adjust. Consider

laying his bed somewhere near where you will be riding or encouraging him to rest on the couch. This will ensure he is relaxed and less anxious during travel.

No matter where you choose for your dog to ride, be sure that he is comfortable when driving long hours, and plan to stop every few hours for bathroom and water breaks.

Decide Where Your Dog(s) Will Sleep

Your dog may not be accustomed to sleeping outside of your house. In this case, be sure to emulate a similar scenario to his sleeping situation at home. If he typically sleeps in your bed, allow the same in the RV. If he has his own dog bed, be sure to bring it along for your trip. This will ensure that your dog is comfortable and receives a good night’s sleep, which will also allow you and the rest of your family to rest as well.

Bring Along Plenty Of Food, Toys, And Water

This is fairly basic, but it’s also important. Plan to bring along extra food for your dog, in case the worst should happen and you break down or are away longer than you initially expected. Keep their water bowl clean and accessible at all times, and bring plenty of fresh water along. Pack your dog’s favorite toys to ensure they have something to occupy themselves when you are relaxing in the RV. Even your four-legged friend loves a good camping treat, so be sure to

toast them a few marshmallows too!

Provide Exercise And Mental Stimulation

Your dog may be accustomed to frequent exercise in their own backyard. If you are staying in a campground or at a Harvest Host location, you likely will not have a fenced in area for your dog to play in. Some RV parks and campgrounds have fenced-in, off-leash areas for traveling pups. If this is not the case, you could find a local off-leash dog park, or take your pup for a nice long walk or jog to wear him out.

Whatever you do, try to provide your pup with the same amount of exercise that you typically do at home. After all, your dog doesn’t know that they are on vacation and will likely expect the same amount of mental stimulation as usual.

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Decide Where To Leave Your Pup When Engaging In Activities That Are Not Dog-Friendly

This tends to be one of the biggest factors when bringing your dog along on an RV trip. Perhaps you want to check out a local restaurant without a dog-friendly patio, or maybe you want to take a hike in a national park that does not allow dogs. This may require you to leave your dog alone for a few hours at a time.

RVs tend to have ample space for your dog to wander, and most dogs should be fine with being left behind for a little while. After all, most dog owners leave their dog alone at home whenever they are working or running errands, so this is something your dog should be accustomed to. Draw the blinds and play some soothing music to block out extra light and sound. This will encourage your dog to spend more time snoozing and less time barking while you are away.

If you are truly uncomfortable with leaving your dog alone for a few hours, try to plan only dog-friendly activities. If this is not entirely possible, seek out a local pet-sitter or dog-walker to spend time with your dog while you are away.

Have A Plan In Case An Emergency Situation Should Arise

Emergencies are unlikely, but it is always good to be prepared. Have the number for a local veterinarian handy just in case the worst should happen. Be careful not to let your dog out when coming and going from your RV, and keep an ID tag on their collar at all times. This will ensure that someone can find you if your dog were to escape.

Go Slow

Remember that RV travel is likely brand new for your dog. They may adjust immediately, but they may also need some time to become fully comfortable in the RV. If you plan to bring your dog along for a long trip, consider practicing with a few shorter trips first. Perhaps you can plan to spend a few hours in the RV while it is parked in your driveway so that your dog can familiarize themself with the new environment. You could even plan to spend a night in the RV ahead of time, so that your dog knows what to expect.

Every dog is different, and some may adjust more quickly than others. You know your dog best and can develop a plan of action that works best for you. RVing with your dog may seem like a hassle, but most dog owners can agree that it is more fun to bring your dog on vacation than it is to leave them at home. In addition, you will forgo the cost of a pet sitter by bringing your dog along. Most dogs are fairly adventurous and enjoy experiencing new things with their owners. With some prior research and thoughtful considerations, you can surely plan a trip that both you and your dog will enjoy together.

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Cats

Cats are fun and curious creatures, and many really seem to enjoy the RV life. They are often stimulated by the changing environments, and they love to have views and wildlife to watch outside of the windows. Many cats love to watch the world go by, and they enjoy watching life outside at their campground or Harvest Hosts location.

Have A Driving Plan

It’s no secret that cats aren’t usually huge fans of car rides. Whenever they go for a drive, the final destination is usually somewhere they would prefer not to be, such as the vet, the groomer’s, or a kennel. Because of these factors, it may take your cat some time to become accustomed to taking trips in your RV.

The type of RV you have will also make a difference. If you have a travel trailer or a fifth wheel, your cat will need to ride in the car with you in a carrier. Try to limit trips to shorter distances in the beginning, and consider draping a towel or blanket over their kennel to decrease anxiety.

Place something comfortable in the bottom of the carrier, such as your cat’s favorite bed or a comfy blanket. Position the carrier somewhere secure, and be prepared for a potentially disgruntled kitty. Some cats do not mind the car, but many do. Allow your cat time to adjust.

If you have a motorhome, your cat may be able to ride loose in the cabin. If you have never driven the motorhome with the kitty inside before, you might want to kennel them for a little while before allowing them to roam. After all, riding in an RV is nothing like riding in a moving car, and

your cat will likely be afraid when the “house” starts to move. Once they have some practice riding in the motorhome from their kennel, consider releasing them into the RV while driving.

They may need more time to adjust, but the ride will be so much more comfortable for them once they are able to access their food, water, and litter box.

Designate A Spot For The Litter Box

This is another tricky subject. Many people like to keep the litter box in a hidden location to avoid dealing with the mess and odor. Some people place it in a cabinet with a cat door built-in, and some place it in an outdoor storage bay with interior access.

If you would prefer a location that does not require an extra project, then the shower is a great place. This way, the litter box is out of the way and not taking up precious floor space or sliding around on the floor while you are driving. Before showering, you can just move the litter box and sweep up any extra litter to avoid

letting it rinse down the drain.

Keep Fresh Food And Water Handy

Cats like routine, and they like to have food and water accessible, especially in a new place. Be sure to pack plenty of extra food and feed them at the same time(s) you normally do. Keep fresh water handy at all times, and consider bringing along the same food and water dishes your cat uses at home to avoid any confusion.

Make Your Cat Comfortable

Cats are creatures of habit, and they love to be comfortable. Bringing along their favorite bed(s) and toys will give them plenty of places to relax and help them to feel more at home. Try placing their bed near a big window to give them an enjoyable view while resting.

Give Your Cat Places To Hide

When cats are placed in a new environment, they often get stressed. Their initial reaction to stress is to hide. RVs are not that large and do not offer many hiding places, so consider creating some places for your cat to hide. Open cabinets can offer your cat a dark place to rest while they survey their new territory.

They may also want to hide under the couch, table or bed. Be prepared for this possibility and give your cat plenty of time to adjust. Before you know it, they will be enjoying relaxation in all

their favorite, visible spots around the RV.

Be Prepared To Leave Your Cat Behind

When you travel with a dog, you can often bring them along for a hike on a dog-friendly trail or to restaurants with a patio. While this is possible for some cats, most people tend to leave their cats at home when they go out. When you leave your RV, you will be leaving your cat behind.

Most cats do fine with this, and you shouldn’t experience any issues. Be sure to leave plenty of water, and control the temperature to make sure your cat doesn’t get too cold or too warm while you are away. If you are nervous, plan shorter trips away from the RV. You could also consider setting up a small camera to check on your cat in your absence.

Have An Emergency Plan

No one wants to think about the worst-case scenario when they are vacationing, but accidents do occasionally happen, and it’s best to be prepared. Keep the contact information for the local vet handy just in case. Pack copies of your cat’s vaccination records, and keep an ID tag on them at all times. This will prepare you in case of unlikely emergencies.

Practice/Go Slow

Cats do not always adapt to change very quickly. Some cats may be immediately comfortable traveling in your RV with you, but most will need a period of time to adjust. You can practice by bringing your cat outside to your RV and just spending a few hours at a time in it here and there.

Consider staying overnight (in your driveway) so that your cat is not as shocked when you stay overnight on vacation for the first time. Practice driving runs are also a good idea in a motorhome. This will give you a chance to feel out your cat’s comfortability riding in the motorhome. If your RV is towable, practice drives are not as necessary, but you will still want to spend some time in the RV ahead of time to allow your cat to acclimate.

Finally, consider shorter distances for your first few RV trips with your cat. When everything is new, less driving time will likely lead to a calmer cat. Once your cat is accustomed to RV life with you, you may increase the driving distances and vacation further from home.

Anxiety In Cats

It’s not uncommon for cats to suffer anxieties throughout their life, but this can become a problem if their home causes them anxiety. Many RVers have reported that their feline friends did not take to RVing as quickly as they’d hoped, and have become frightened, even hiding for long periods of time. Below are a few solutions that can help your cat and even get ahead of any potential problems that could incur.

Positive Reinforcement And Associations

Similar to dogs, cats can actually be trained. Your cat may never learn to play dead, but you can train their brain and the associations that it makes. Previously, we recommended going slow and taking short trips first. But before ever taking your first trip with your cat, it’s absolutely crucial that your cat gets to tour the RV for itself.

Give your cat plentyof time and space to become comfortable. It’s also helpful to bring treats, special food, or toys along to allow your feline friend to create positive associations with the RV. Practice doing this until your cat thinks of this as a second home. Then stay overnight in your RV, taking it out for short trips later on. Soon your cat should be a traveling pro. If your cat begins to become afraid, then go back a step and wait for your cat to become more comfortable.

Many pet owners struggle with fearful cats after they begin traveling, and it can be harder to help them once they reach this point of negative associations.

Veterinary Advice And Medication

Some cats become so anxious about traveling or car rides that they need medication. It’s not uncommon for anxious cats to vomit or soil their carriers, or hide for extended periods of time. Cats oftentimes will hide in small, dark places to make themselves feel safe but these can be unsafe places in an RV, such as under slide outs or behind drawers. If your cat reaches a level of anxiety that you feel that you cannot help, consult your veterinarian. They can address your cat’s anxiety, provide helpful tips, and may even prescribe medication for your cat.

Over-The-Counter Solutions

There are some over-the-counter solutions that have proven helpful for cats experiencing anxiety, such as CBD or calming treats. Some big-name suppliers, like Petco, Chewy, or Zesty Paws, offer over-the-counter solutions that may help calm your feline companion. Another solution is using a thunder jacket on your cat. The effectiveness of these can vary greatly from cat to cat, but some cats find the tight wrapping to be comforting.

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Adding Cat-Friendly Spaces

Some RVers have taken to converting parts of their RV into cat-friendly spaces. Some examples include cutting a hole that leads to the underbed storage and creating a cat’s paradise with toys or even converting top bunks into cat spaces. A more simple solution is adding window pods or similar spots where your cat can hide or bask in the sunlight.

Outdoor Spaces

It’s no secret that some cats enjoy a taste of the great outdoors. Unfortunately, letting cats roam free in new places poses safety issues. Below are two great ways to allow your feline friend to safely enjoy the great outdoors.

Made For Cats

There are several outdoor cat enclosures that can make great on-the-go solutions for your cats. Many collapse down small and are lightweight, making them the ultimate RV accessory for frisky cats. Be sure to keep an eye on your cat when using these, and frequently check for tears or weak spots. While in their outdoor enclosure, your cat should have access to water and a litter box and should not be placed in direct sunlight.

Spaces You Can Both Enjoy

If you’d like to enjoy the great outdoors with your cat, then consider getting an outdoor room that attaches to your awning. Your cat can still be stimulated by birds and other wildlife, while you relax in the shade closeby.

Trial And Error

Sometimes you just need to practice different techniques to figure out what works best for your cat. If you have multiple cats, remember that what works best for one of your cats may not help the other(s) at all.

Slide Outs And Other Hiding Spaces

Some RVers have reported having issues with their cats hiding under slide outs or in other unsafe places. If this happens, it’s absolutely crucial that you coax them out as calmly as possible to prevent further anxieties from developing. Unfortunately most cats do not have recall like dogs, so treats or patience may be the best approach.

Speak to your cat in a quiet, soothing voice or give them space to come out on their own. Do not attempt to move the slide out until they are safely out of harm’s way. Some RVers have even constructed temporary covers for their slide outs to prevent the cats from going under there in the first place.

Carrier Or No Carrier?

Some cats do better in carriers, and others do not. You’ll need to make your best judgment calls when it comes to transporting your cats. This can involve testing how your cat does on short trips to see if they travel better one way or another. Even some of the most confident and adventurous cats prefer the comfort of a carrier.

On long journeys, remember to let your cat out for periodic water and bathroom breaks. Cats’ cautious nature and reliance on routine can sometimes lengthen the amount of time they need to adapt to RV travel. However, patience and planning on the owner’s part will have your cat traveling in style in no time. If you remember to go slow and plan ahead, your cat is sure to enjoy vacation along with the rest of the family!

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Other Pets

While dogs and cats may be the primary pets who come along in RVs, we can’t forget about fish, reptiles, and other small critters. Ensuring they’re safe and comfortable is also a top priority for any pet owner.

Set Up A Safe Place For Their Enclosure

Each type of small pet will require different consideration when choosing where to store their enclosure. Does your pet need access to daylight? Is it small enough to sit on a counter? Will I need to plug anything in (lights, filter, etc)? These are all important considerations.

A small mammal enclosure could fit into a closet, whereas a small fish tank would need to be on a countertop most likely. No matter where you store your pet’s enclosure, be sure it’s secure. A sliding cage could result in injury to your little pet. For more active animals that may need more than one enclosure (indoor/outdoor, sleeping cage vs playing cage, etc), consider storing the larger one in a bay and setting it up upon arrival.

Store Their Food, Bedding, Snacks, And Accessories Some Place Easy To Access

Small pets can require a lot of accessories. Hamsters and gerbils can require bedding and sand, for instance, while reptiles require live insects and other considerations. It’s important to store all of their accessories in an easy-to-access place. Depending on how much your pet needs, it could be wise to designate an entire cabinet or drawer to them. Be sure to seal the bags and containers to help prevent pests from soiling your pets’ food, since RVs are not aways pest-proof.

Ensure Their Temperature Needs Are Met

Reptiles, fish, and small mammals are typically sensitive to temperature, so be sure to take this into account when bringing them along on a trip. They may need heating pads, lamps, or heaters to help keep them at an appropriate and safe temperature. On the other end of the temperature spectrum, they should not get too warm either. Staying at a campground or Harvest Hosts location with an electric hookup may be the best option to ensure your pets’ temperature needs can be met consistently.

Keep Them Safe While Traveling

Some small pets may not do well staying in their enclosure during travel. Parts of their exhibit can fall and hurt them, or it may just be too stressful with all of the jostling. Consider keeping your pet in a small travel carrier either in their enclosure or close to passengers so they can be monitored and protected when en route.

Take It Slow Until They’re Comfortable

Throwing your little pets in an RV and driving several hundred miles can be very traumatizing. It’s important to respect them as you would a larger pet and gradually introduce them to the process, especially if you’re unable to bring their usual enclosure with you, which will require even more time to acclimate them to their new cage that sometimes moves!

Hacks, Tips, And Tricks

Bringing pets along on your travels can also pose some challenges. Most of these challenges come from the lack of space found in RVs and the difficulty finding room for pets and their belongings.

For instance, when you are already lacking in floor space, it can be difficult to dedicate precious square footage to food and water bowls, your cat’s litter box, your dog’s crate, or any small pet cages or enclosures you may have. However, with some simple ingenuity, you can easily “hide” your pet’s necessary items in places out of the way of the walking area. This will clear up precious floor space and also give your pet stationary places to expect to find their belongings. Continue on for a list of hacks you may find useful if you struggle to know where to put your pets’ things.

Built-In Dog Crate

One of the biggest challenges of RVing with dogs is knowing where to set up their crate (if you utilize a crate with your dog). This is especially tricky for large dogs who require a fairly large crate. As a solution to this issue, some folks will build their dog’s crate into their living space.

For smaller dogs, some travelers have found it useful to build their crate into the dinette benches. This would take away some of your storage space but would clear plenty of floor space out of the center of the room.

For larger dogs, or dogs who prefer to sleep in the bedroom with you, some RV owners have found success with building their dog’s crate into the area under their bed. Still others have built their dogs’ crate into another piece of furniture in the room, such as a window seat or corner nook. Any of these options may require some trial and error, but the end result will make traveling with your dog much more convenient.

Hidden Litter Box

As mentioned above, one of the many conundrums cat owners face is where to store the litter box. When dealing with a smaller space, such as an RV, floor space is everything. Below are our hacks for hiding a litter box while RVing with cats.

Our first hack idea is hiding the litter box inside a dinette booth and installing a cat door so they can access it. You can also consider putting a litter box in a closet and cutting a hole for access. This is a great choice if you can clear out some cabinet space, and this also makes cleaning the litter box very easy.

Another option is hiding it under the bathroom sink and either removing one of the cabinet doors, or cutting a hole in the side. If you choose to remove the door, a curtain can be hung in its place.

Lastly, we’ve also seen cat owners create an access point from the inside of their RV to an outdoor storage bay. If you choose this route, be sure the outside compartment door is secure so your kitty can’t escape. Also take care to ensure there are no exposed wires or anything the cat can get into on their path to the litter box.

Hiding your cat’s litter box in your RV may require some handiwork and planning, but having it out of the way and in a stationary location will make traveling with your cat that much easier. Be sure to plan well and measure everything before cutting into your RV.

Food And Water Bowl(s)

Finally, whether you have a cat, a dog, or some other sort of small pet, your pet will likely require food and water dishes of sorts. If you want to avoid tripping over these, you could consider installing wall mount platforms for food and water dishes. This clears floor space and eliminates tripping hazards. If you would rather go for a simpler solution, just be sure to choose a space out of the way of the walking path to avoid spilling the dishes.

Specialty Items

Does your pet require special food, medications, or supplements? This can be very tricky to access on the road while away from your usual stores, vet, and pharmacy. Consider ordering from online pet companies, such as Chewy, to obtain specialty pet foods and even some medications. Even with autoship, Chewy allows you to update your mailing address so that you can still receive packages on the road to a nearby post office, package-receiving business, or even a campground.

If your reptile or small critter requires live bugs, consider looking for a reptile store along your route, or in a nearby town to get what you need. These can typically be refrigerated or frozen to help them stay good for longer for your pet to enjoy.

Some pet owners feed their cats or dogs a raw or homemade diet. In cases like this, it can be tough to find quality options on the road. Did you know that there are many farms within the Harvest Hosts network? Consider checking to see if you’re able to purchase meat and vegetables directly from them for the freshest option for your pet (and family!). This can allow you to support a small business while also getting to stay the night on their scenic farm, which surely beats a campground.

Lastly, if your pet requires a product such as CBD, you can find many retail CBD outlets across the United States. CBD is legal in all fifty states, and many pet owners use it to alleviate symptoms caused by arthritis, muscle stiffness, epilepsy, and other ailments. Pets should never consume CBD with any THC in it, meaning that you’re safe to travel with this product anywhere in the US. Be sure to check with CBD stores to ensure they have pet-safe CBD products, and always check to ensure that there is absolutely no THC content.

Bringing the family pet on your RV adventures is such a rewarding experience. This keeps them from having to go to a boarding facility or allowing a stranger to take care of them. While away, you and your pet would miss each other too! Take these steps and tips into consideration when committing to bringing your pet(s) with you. This should make things easier for the whole family!

About Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that offers self-contained RVers unlimited overnight stays at over 5,657 small businesses across North America with no camping fees. Boondock at farms, wineries, breweries, attractions, and other one-of-a-kind destinations throughout North America, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing that a safe place to stay is always nearby!
Harvest Hosts-profile-image
Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is an RV membership program that allows self-contained travelers to overnight at unique locations around the country including farms, wineries, museums, breweries, and more!