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How to Help your Cat Adjust to RV Life

Sam Leash-profile-image
Sam Leash
January 12, 2021

TL;DR RVing with cats can be challenging due to anxiety issues. Positive reinforcement, vet advice, and over-the-counter solutions help. Create cat-friendly spaces, consider outdoor enclosures, and practice trial and error. Address hiding spots and carrier preferences for a smoother travel experience.

How to Help your Cat Adjust to RV Life

Our first article, 8 Tips for RVing with Cats, had many of our wonderful Harvest Hosts members asking additional questions. After all, deciding to begin RVing full time with a cat or even just deciding to take your feline companion on trips is a huge decision. We’re answering some of the most frequently-asked questions surrounding RVing with cats and have more tips to provide all of you cat-lovers out there!

Cats tend to enjoy the views and freedom of RV life just as much as a dog.

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. In our last cat article, 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 plenty of 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.

Just like a dog, your feline friend is more than capable of enjoying RV life, with the right practice and accommodations, of course.

Veterinary Advice and Medication

Some cats become so anxious about travelling 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, can provide helpful tips, and may even prescribe a 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.

Cats tend to enjoy the views and freedom of RV life just as much as a dog.

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, like this one from Chewy, where you 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.

An outdoor catio or cabana can be a great way to allow your feline to spend time outdoors without risking their potential escape.

Made for Cats

There are several outdoor cat enclosures that can make great on-the-go solutions for your cats, like this one from Chewy. 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 not be placed in direct sunlight. 

![An outdoor catio or cabana can be a great way to allow your feline to spend time outdoors without risking their potential escape.]](https://media.graphassets.com/2zQUCTFeRoSyL4wkEiJI)

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, like this one from Amazon. Your cat can still be stimulated by birds and other wildlife, while you relax in the shade nearby.

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 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 judgement 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.

We understand that your pet is an important member of the family and deserves to explore the world with you! The more at-home your cat feels in your RV, the less likely they are to become anxious or frightened. We hope these additional tips can help you and your cats adventure more safely and confidently.

What issues have you encountered with your feline friend? Which of these tips will help you the most? Are there any other questions or tips that you have? Tell us about it in the comments below!

About Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that offers self-contained RVers unlimited overnight stays at over 5,619 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!
Sam Leash-profile-image
Sam Leash
Sam is a seasoned traveler and RVer of 4+ years. She loves adventures of all kinds and spends as much time on the road as she can. When not exploring in her RV or writing about her travels, you can find her reading a good book, cooking a delicious meal, caring for her plants, or hiking with her dogs.