We had no idea what we were getting into when we decided started RVing with pets.
We were so busy cleaning out the house and getting everything loaded up, that we didn’t really consider the ramifications of having pets along for the journey.
Now that we have the experience, we want to pass it along to you so you can be prepared to keep your pets safe while RVing.
This post contains affiliate links. We receive a commission for purchases made using these links.
How our RV with Pets Story Began
We started RVing back in 2015. Back then, we had 2 cats (Bart & Carrie) and 1 dog (a German Shepherd named Dessy). We only had 30 days to go from sticks and bricks life to RV life. Add to that 2 kids and 3 pets…and yeah. We weren’t totally prepared.
Fast forward 5 years and we now have zero pets. Our tiny cat, Carrie (AKA Tiki) passed away in 2020, and Bart and Dessy have also passed away. We miss them so much.
In this blog post, we will be sharing what we have learned as a family RVing with pets to help you as you start your own pet-friendly RV journey.
How to Handle Travel Days with Pets
When RVing with pets, you have to be prepared for travel days. Whether you drive 200 miles or 600 miles, you need to be prepared.
If you travel in a motorhome, travel days will be simple for you. Your dog or cat will be able to roam around their home all day. If you have slides though, make sure that your pet can’t get inside your slide. We once put our cats back inside our RV after a long travel day before we deployed our slide. One of our cats got under the slide and it took a good hour to be able to reach him and get him out safely.
If you have a towable trailer, please do not leave your pet in the RV while you drive. This is very dangerous.
Travel trailers and fifth wheels are not designed to have passengers:
- You can’t maintain a constant and safe temperature
- You ou won’t know if something has fallen on your pet
- It is not safety-rated for passengers
Make sure that your pet travels with your family. If you have space, bring bedding and water, litter box for the kitties. If you are unable to have either of these, make sure to stop often to give your pet a break. Even our kitties got to come in the RV with us every-time we stopped – they would get snacks, water, and the ability to stretch their legs.
How to Handle Limited RV Space & Pets
OK. This is really obvious, but I have to reiterate that RVing with pets means sharing an already small space with your four-legged children.
This means you will always be tripping over them or sitting down and putting your feet on top of them. It means tripping over their food and water.
We were constantly spilling their water. CONSTANTLY.
We dedicated the bottom of our pantry to pet food storage. Cat food is fairly small and didn’t take up much space, but the dog food took up quite a bit of space. If you don’t have a pantry area, you will have to find another location to store their food and supplies.
No one really has their own spot.
We have 26 ft of living space. That’s no much. Cats of course just find a quiet spot somewhere (sometimes even in a closet or on beds) and just nap.
Our German Shepherd (RIP sweet girl), Dessy, had a way of fitting under our dinette (it is cozy down there with fluffy carpeting). She amazed us with her ability to occupy such a small space. We initially purchased an awesome dog bed, but guess what, we just ended up tripping over it!!
Eventually, we purchased a dog crate for Dessy. Unfortunately, it was mesh and she punched right through it! So, we had to purchase a hard-sided crate. It made a big difference.
We recommend getting a hard-sided crate for your dog as well. If you can bring the one from home, even better. A crate is the easiest way to create a place that is specifically for your dog. A crate will also help with separation anxiety issues and escape attempts (those few seconds might save your pet).
How to Limit Pet Fur in an RV
Swirling bits of fur everywhere…
Our Dessy didn’t shed much, really, she didn’t, but we were constantly sweeping with little relief.
Things that helped with the never-ending pet fur:
- Air purifier: helped pick up dust and dander. We could tell a difference when we didn’t have it on.
- Dehumidifier: also purifies the air. Bonus: It keeps the air comfortable. Pets + People = lots of humidity (especially in the South!)
- Lint roller: the cheapest and easiest way to pick up unwanted fur (and lint).
How to RV with Dogs and Cats that Escape
The likelihood of your pet escaping and getting lost while RVing is higher since you are always moving and your pet may not be familiar with their surroundings.
One of our cats escaped one night without us realizing it. We had to search the campground in the dark. Luckily, we found her, but have been much more vigilant since then.
If you have a dog or cat that is prone to escaping, make sure they have a collar and an up-to-date tag. Bonus points for microchipping your pet. Collars and tags can get lost or be removed, but a microchip is forever.
Our cats did not have collars or microchips. We definitely tried to put collars on them, but they wouldn’t have it. With our cats, we ensured that we saw them before we left the RV and double-checked the outside to ensure that we didn’t see them outside.
It became a family affair to always check the RV for our kitties when we returned whether it was a simple walk around the campground or a full day out exploring.
RV Parks and Aggressive Breeds
Not all RV parks will welcome Fido, especially if they have been identified as an “aggressive breed”.
This tends to include, but is not limited to: Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Dobermans.
Make sure to disclose what kind of dog you have, even if they don’t ask. By asking, you can avoid any unpleasantness when the park discovers you have a restricted pet. Depending on their policies, the RV park may deny your stay.
Our Dessy was a German Shepherd. While she was our RV dog, we didn’t have issues finding RV parks and campgrounds.
“Maximum Pet” Restrictions at RV Parks
We have run into the “2 pet maximum” policy in the past.
When we had 3 pets, we sometimes said we had 1 dog and 1 cat. This probably wasn’t the best policy, but we didn’t always have a choice in where we stayed. Remember, Robert had a site specific job and we couldn’t be anymore then 60 minutes from his office. The cats didn’t go outside and weren’t going to use up campground resources. When we were vacationing or had more flexibility in our schedule, we would look for another place.
Dog Poop & RV Living
Almost every park that allows dogs has a dog park or an area large enough for walking your dog and having him/her do their business.
We have been to some places though that are basically parking lots and don’t offer green space for dogs (or people).
The best places we have been to not only had a dog park/walk area, but they also provided plenty of doggy bags and waste receptacles. They made it super easy to take care of dog waste.
Some places don’t have any of these things, but still, allow pets. Make sure to either save your plastic grocery bags or keep your own stash of doggy bags. You don’t want to be that RVer that doesn’t clean up after your doggy. Seriously, don’t be that person!
If your dog has a habit of pooping right after you get close to the RV or you are boondocking and there are zero dumpsters, you might want to get a special place to dispose of your dog’s waste. You can use a simple trash can. That way you can keep it outside in a sealed container and don’t have to worry about putting stinky poo in your RV trash can.
How to Create an Outdoor Dog Area
Some campgrounds and RV parks will allow you to create a small corral or dog run at your campsite. Both options will allow you and your dog to enjoy outdoor time without having to be on a 6-foot leash at all times.
When we had our German Shepherd, we opted for a dog run. It was really great to have her outside with us while the kids played and Robert and I relaxed. She was leashed, but the run gave her a lot more flexibility to move around.
NOTE: A corral or run are not a place to stick your dog while you are inside. You still need to supervise your dog because your dog or someone might get hurt. Safety is key!
How to RV with Cats
RVing with cats is doable and enjoyable. The most awkward thing about bringing your cat on your big RV adventure is the litter box. Where the heck do you stick a stinky box full of poo and urine?
If you are really creative you can make secret cubby areas for the litter box that grant the cat a more private experience and keeps the air fresher.
However, if you are not a DIY type like us, you have to get creative in other ways.
We purchased a top entry litter box and placed it in our TINY bathtub. Was it the best decision? Not really. It was simple and easy though. Taking a shower or prepping it for the kid’s bath was a pain, but overall it was the most out-of-the-way place to keep it. When someone was in the shower/tub, we simply moved the litter box into the kitchen/living room area.
Best Cat Litter for RVing
When we first started RVing, we used our regular clumping litter. In an RV, clumping litter tracks everywhere. If you have the space for it, a litter catcher mat might solve the tracking problem. Our tiny bathroom doesn’t have extra room for this.
The first non-clumping litter we tried was oatmeal litter. All the oatmeal litter did was amplify the cat urine smell. YUCK!
Just when we were ready to give up, we found the best cat litter for RVing, pine litter. It smelled like pine and did track all over the place. Win, win.
How to RV with Outdoor Cats
First, I will always recommend that you don’t allow your cat(s) outside without supervision. Regardless, make sure your cat has proper identification – a collar and tag, plus a microchip. That is the best way to get your cat back in case it runs off.
If you want your kitty to be outside and safe, I recommend a cat habitat that will keep your cat outside, but enclosed. Some cat habitats are made of mesh, they are lightweight and easy to store, but your cat might just eat through it (don’t ask me how I know about this). An alternative to mesh enclosures, is to use a small metal dog crate and just set it up outside.
How to RV with Clawed Kitties
Our friends at Always on Liberty have kitties too and they made their own scratching posts to accommodate their clawed cats.
If you aren’t interested in having something like this for your cats, get some claw covers. They can be really cute too.
How to Handle Vaccines for Your RV Pet
Some, not all, campgrounds and RV parks will ask for vaccine records. Two years ago we went from Florida to Maine with our two cats. During our research, we found that a few of the parks that we were going to visit required vaccine records. So, before we left our hometown, we made sure to get our babies vaccinated and kept our records and tags in our truck at all times.
If you are RVing full-time and don’t go “back home” often, you can easily search and find reputable vets along the way to get vaccinations and other wellness checks.
How to Keep Your Pet Safe in all Weather Conditions
As you travel, you might find yourselves encountering fluctuating temperatures. This can happen even when you’re following those wonderful 70s…cold fronts, heat waves, and severe weather can show up anywhere. Make sure that your pet has everything they need to be comfortable and safe – booties, jackets, sweaters, etc.
Monitoring your RV Temperature
If you will be away from your RV and your pet, you might want to consider a temperature monitor. This device monitors the temperature in your RV and then alerts you on your phone. This will give you peace of mind and gives you time to get back to your pet if the temperature changes in your RV.
There are a lot of RV temperature monitors for pets out there. So, how do you choose the best one? Read reviews, know your budget, and…remember you can always try it out and return it if it doesn’t meet your expectations. If you are interested in an RVer’s recommendation, the Getaway Couple reviewed and recommend the Waggle RV/Dog Safety Temperature & Humidity Sensor.
The biggest thing to do when RVing with pets: research.
Make phone calls, watch videos, and read various blogs, especially if you will RV with exotic pets or livestock. We know of full-time RVers that RV with chickens, goats, snakes, and birds. So don’t think you can’t!
Take a deep breath, you had your pet before hitting the road and things aren’t as complicated as you might think. Just be vigilant and enjoy your journey with your furry babies.