How to Keep Your Cat Happy in a Van with AsoboLife

Published on February 4th, 2022

RV life with a cat – is it even possible?

Couple eating dinner with their cat in an RV

The short answer? YES! It’s absolutely realistic to travel with your cat in a camper. In fact, we’ve been doing just that with our own cat, Maya, for almost a year without any real issues.

Since cats usually don’t handle unfamiliar environments well, we think traveling with your own tiny home on wheels is the best way to have adventures with your feline friend. It allows them to travel yet never be too far away from home. It’s the best of both worlds.

Below are several tips to help make camper travel more enjoyable for your cat.

Preparing Your Cat In Advance For Life On The Road

cat sitting on a table in an rv
  1. Health Check

If your cat hasn’t visited the vet in a while, it is time to do so before you set out on your adventure. You must make sure that your cat is healthy enough to travel, with up to date vaccinations and flea/tick/parasite medication. There’s no telling what kind of animals (wild and/or domestic) your cat will encounter while on the road.

If your cat hasn’t been sterilized yet, now is a good time to take care of that. You don’t want your cat wandering off in the night in search of a mate.

  1. Harness & Leash Training

While this may not be every cat’s cup of tea, it never hurts to try and start training them to get used to wearing a harness and walking on leash. If your cat can get accustomed to it, you’ll be much more likely to spend quality outdoor time with your pet.

In the outdoors, it’s difficult to control all the stimuli that your cat will experience. And in many cases, your cat may become scared and freak out. But when on leash, you can at least control the distance between you and your cat, which easily allows you to pick your cat up and return home, if needed.

  1. Get Your Cat Accustomed To Being In A Van

Moving to a new place requires an adjustment for your cat.

Instead of starting your travels right away, give some time for your cat to get used to living in a camper. To start, park your vehicle outside your house and begin letting your cat roam around in your camper every day for a few hours. This is a great way to study your cat and learn where he/she likes to hang out, nap, etc.

Once your cat feels comfortable in your camper, do a test drive around the neighborhood so that they can feel comfortable being in a moving vehicle. And once your pet is comfortable with that, you can take them on short trips.

RV Modifications For A Cat

  1. Litter Box Placement

Just like humans, cats prefer to do their business in a relatively private space. The litter box is best placed in a spot where there is less human traffic, yet easy enough to access for you to clean the litter frequently. For more information and best practices, check out our RV litter box post. 

  1. Create A Safe Space 

Once you’ve figured out where your cat’s favorite place in the camper is, put your cat’s bed or toys in that spot. For example, when parked, our cat loves to chill out in the front of the van on the dash where she can see outside through the windshield. And while we drive, she likes to sleep between the two front seats, next to the handbrake. We put her favorite bed and blanket in both places.

  1. Variety Of Toys And Scratch Pad

Whether you’re going on a hike or simply exploring a city, there’ll be many times when you’ll have to leave your cat inside your camper for long hours at a time. So it’s important to create a space where your cat doesn’t get bored while they wait for you to return. This is especially true in a vehicle because space is so limited. So keep a variety of toys that your cat can play with, like a treat ball or their favorite stuffed animal. Having a scratch pad lying around also helps to prevent your cat from scratching the furniture or fabrics in your RV.

  1. Temperature Control

Regulating the internal temperature of your van is critical because it can be dangerous for your pet to be trapped in a vehicle during times of extreme heat and cold. There are three things we do to manage the temperature inside our van:

Park In The Shade

The simplest method. How and where you park has a big impact on the internal temperature of the vehicle. On a hot day, make sure to park under a tree or in the shade of a tall building where direct sun doesn’t constantly hit the camper. On a cold day, parking the van in a way that sunlight can enter through the windshield to help keep the vehicle warm.

Properly Insulate Your Vehicle

If you are building a camper van from scratch, taking the time to properly insulate the vehicle is worth the effort and investment. Without adequate insulation, the camper’s bare metal frame can get extremely hot and/or cold, and the van quickly becomes unbearable to live in. 

Lastly, utilizing windshield sunshade covers and blackout curtains (to separate the cab from the back of the van) are useful products to prevent sunlight and freezing air from entering the back of the vehicle.

Air Circulation

Air circulation helps to cool down the van during warm days. This is especially true if you use a vent fan in conjunction with a slightly open window. This really helps to promote air flow and creates a more livable environment for your pet.

Learn More: How To Regulate A Vehicle’s Interior Temperature For Your Cat or Dog

Spend Time Outdoors Together

cat on a man's shoulder in the woods

Cats are known to be independent creatures, but don’t forget that they actually enjoy spending time with you, too! House cats tend to be left alone to their own devices, but since you’ll be traveling with your cat, why not take the opportunity to spend some quality outdoors time with them?

Put the harness and leash on and try to walk with your cat on short trails that don’t experience much traffic. You can even wake up early and bring your cat to the local park.

Your cat is physically and mentally stimulated by seeing, smelling, and touching new things. If your cat is not used to being outdoors at first, start with a cat backpack. This way they can still enjoy experiencing the different views without walking.

Choose Quiet Places To Camp

cat sleeping on an rv dashboard

Most cats hate places with lots of strangers and noise. So choosing quiet and peaceful camp spots really helps to keep your cat at ease. Campsites that have less outside stimuli are also great places to train your cat to become more comfortable with being outside.

Final Thoughts

Traveling with your cat in a RV certainly requires planning and preparation but it’s absolutely possible. We’re proof of that! After almost a year of traveling with our cat, we’ve never once regretted our decision to bring Maya along on our trip.

Lastly, if you plan properly, we believe that traveling with a cat provides a win-win situation for everyone. Not only is your cat happier, both physically and mentally, but traveling also helps to strengthen your relationship with your pet.

For even more information, check out our guide to van life with a cat.

Happy Travels!

How To Contact Us

For more campervan living tips, check out our blog: www.asobolife.com.

We also love getting mail! For any questions or comments, please send us an email at [email protected].Or for more on our current Pan-American road trip to Argentina visit us on Instagram: @asobolife.

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