But I’ve been noticing a growing trend as I travel the country: camping cats! Bringing your cat along makes sense, as they are small, don’t need outside walks each day, and love to be with their owners. The only problem? There’s a wealth of resources for training dogs for travel and keeping them safe on the road, yet the Internet sounds like crickets when it comes to this type of information about cats.When I first started RVing, I had a head start: I had been traveling with my cat, Firefly, extensively for several years, and had added my husband’s cat, Gilligan, to the mix fairly recently. Now the two of them and my late mother’s cat, Turvy, (as well as my other creatures) are full-time RVers right along with us, and really enjoy their mobile lifestyle.
It’s well-known that RVers love their dogs. Many people choose to hit the road in a camper instead of staying in hotels because of how much easier it is to take along their canine companion. There are even entire RV clubs dedicated to traveling with dogs!
My first challenge to traveling with cats was keeping them safe as we drove down the road, and in this blog, I’ll help you to do that as well.
ALWAYS CONFINE YOUR CAT
There are lots of options for traveling with cats, but you should never decide to let your feline run loose in a moving vehicle. Loose cats can slip through open doors at stops, run off in terror after a fender bender, and even cause accidents that injure you and them by climbing under your feet (or on your head, or under your dash, or inside your seat, or…). Cats lost in strange places are hard to find, and even the most outgoing, friendliest cat can become too scared to return to you in a crisis. Just don’t risk it.
CHOOSE YOUR RESTRAINT
The safest restraint for an animal in a moving vehicle is a properly secured, hard-sided crate. If, for whatever reason, this does not work for you, there are other choices, from soft sided crates and pet “booster seats” to my personal choice, car seat harnesses with tethers that clip into seat belt receptacles. I have decided on the harnesses with tethers because I can loosen them enough that the cats can reach the floorboard, where I keep a travel sized litterbox with a disposable liner available for them. You may have trouble finding products that are specifically designed for cats, but most items intended for small dogs will be useful for your cat as well.TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN
Once you have chosen how your cat will ride, introduce them to the new items in a place they are comfortable. Lay out the product and let the cat investigate on their own time. Later, you can convince them that the restraint is a good thing by associating it with catnip or yummy treats. Next, use small steps in clicker training or luring to teach your cat to go inside their crate or wear their harness, then to stay in it for ever-longer periods, then to walk or be carried in it, then to go into the car, then to have the car be driven, etc. If your cat gets scared or refuses, go back to the previous step and work on it until your cat is ready. Use what your cat considers the best reward for training. My cats like being petted, being near their dog, or chewy cat treats as rewards.TAKE YOUR TIME
Cats need plenty of time to get used to new things. It’s your job to give them that time. Don’t get discouraged or upset if your cat is not seasoned traveler right away – after all, you’ve been riding in vehicles your whole life, and they’ve just started.