Car camping is an activity for which everything fits into your car and during which you experience the outdoors. It’s a simple way to connect with [...]
A Guide to Car Camping with Your Cat
Published: August 19, 2021
Car camping with your feline friend can be an excellent way to bond and explore the untamed wild. Plus, your cat gets to experience new places and take part in some very important exercise. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before getting out the leash and harness.
In particular, car camping can be a tricky experience with cats who are not used to long rides or new places. Thus, before hitting the road, let’s explore the ins and outs of taking your four-legged friend on your next car camping trip.
Can You Go Camping with a Cat?
Whether or not you can or should take your cat on your next car camping trip depends on a few key factors. Some of these include:
- Whether your cat has ridden in a car before
- Your cat’s comfort level outside of the home
- The type of wildlife your cat may be exposed to
- The type of vehicle you own
- The type of activities you have planned
Essentially, a cat’s personality will determine whether or not you may take them on your next camping trip. You may need to plan your activities based on how well your feline friend handles the outdoors.
For car camping, specifically, much of this may depend on how accustomed your cat is to long car rides and confined spaces. If your cat has not ridden in a car before, try taking a test drive to see how they react. This also gives you an excellent chance to try out a leash and harness.
If your cat has been in a vehicle before but hasn’t in a while, still try a test drive to see if anything has changed. Try taking a small trip to a local park and immerse your cat in the anticipated environment. This is a great opportunity to see what type of activities your cat can handle. It’s also a good idea to try to leash train your pet while in this environment.
Is My Cat Suited for Camping?
“Adventure cats” are the best suited for car camping as they enjoy exploration and recreational activities. Most often, an adventure cat will be extremely playful, curious, and explorative of new spaces.
Whereas some cats may be quiet or reserved, an adventure cat is often full of energy. The personality of this type of cat relates to that of an extroverted person.
Can You Bring an Indoor Cat Camping?
Because not all indoor cats have the same needs and personalities, not all of them are made for an extended camping trip.
Indeed, not all indoor cats are comfortable with adventure and exploration, but a few key characteristics may indicate whether or not your cat will have fun on your camping trip. These traits include:
- A playful nature
- Explorative of new rooms, spaces, or people
- An innate sense of curiosity
- Constant running and erratic behavior
- Chasing or staring at objects or animals outside of a window
The best way to gauge your cat’s personality is a test run. You can start with a leashed harness in your yard and work your way up to parks and campsites if successful. This will give you a chance to see how your cat reacts to outdoor adventures before deciding whether to bring them along on your car camping trip.
How to Make Your Cat Comfortable with Car Camping
Traveling with any animal, but especially cats, involves more planning than a solo trip. Indeed, car rides can be stressful and foreign to cats used to roaming around a large living area. Like humans, many cats are claustrophobic, starting from an early age.
The “zoomies” are a common sign that your cat feels trapped or enclosed in a small space. This erratic behavior can provide insight into how your cat may react to extending camping in cars or other vehicles. However, there are ways to ease your cat into a more comfortable car camping experience.
Make Your Cat Feel Safe
First, you need to figure out how long the initial drive will be. If you’re looking at several hours, you will definitely need to pack a few comfort items that your cat can use to stim, such as:
- Their favorite toy
- Something textured for them to scratch
- Their favorite blanket, pillow, etc.
- An item containing familiar scents
- Sounding toys for audio stimulation
Whether the car camping trip will be far away or down the road, there are a few essential items to bring along. To begin, you must find a comfortable cat carrier with several air holes and plenty of room for mobility. Additionally, you will most likely need to be equipped with a standard litter box.
Not only will a litter box give your cat a comfortable and familiar scent to cling to, but it’s also invaluable in case of rain. Not all cats will relieve themselves outdoors, so it’s better to come prepared.
What Is the Best Vehicle for Car Camping with a Cat?
Ideally, a spacious vehicle with plenty of room for your cat to roam is best for your car camping trip. If you have a designated camper or recreational vehicle, these are best suited to help your cat feel comfortable on your adventure.
However, this can vary on a few variables, such as:
- How long you plan to drive
- Your cat’s personality
- Your cat’s familiarity with your vehicle
Recreational vehicles (or RVs) are a great option for giving your cat space to run once you reach the destination. However, no matter the vehicle, your cat should be in a carrier at all times while the car is in motion. While in motion, your vehicle will present dangers to both your cat and the driver if they are able to roam free.
In reality, the vehicle size only matters if you plan to sleep or spend most of your time in the car while camping. If your cat feels cramped and unable to move freely, they may become restless and irritable. Plan ahead for your vehicle and camping needs to give your cat room to play. If your cat isn’t enjoying the trip, neither will you.
Can you sleep anywhere in a camper van? Read this article to find out.
RV Camping with a Cat
Many dedicated car campers invest in RVs for maximum comfort on long journeys and camping trips. This type of vehicle is wonderful to give your cat space to roam when unable to play on camping grounds.
Depending on the location, your pets may be limited in terms of when and where they may travel on private, state, or nationally owned camping grounds. Indeed, many areas have limits on how your pet may travel, as well as how many pets you can have with you.
Plan your camping trip ahead and check out pet-friendly locations where you may park. Many campsites have designated areas for your cat to play. If you plan on taking your cat out of the RV while on-site, make sure to bring a harness and sturdy leash. Most, if not all, campsites require your cat to be harnessed and leashed while roaming camping grounds.
How Do I Get My Cat Ready for Camping?
Once you have a location and vehicle in mind, consider the type of camping experience you hope to enjoy with your pet. Of course, you will need:
- A litter box
- A harness
- A sturdy leash
- A cat crate or cat carrier
- Plenty of food
- Extra water
- Toys and scratching equipment
- Extra litter or plastic bags
If you plan to camp in an area that sees heavy traffic, you may be required to pick up any solid droppings left by your cat. If you want to avoid this, you may attempt to limit your cat’s potty time to a singular litter box. However, you may still want to bring along some plastic baggies, just in case.
You will also want to monitor how often your cat eats before taking off to limit your cat’s potty breaks along the way. You will not want to stop several times to break out the litter box, and your cat definitely does not want to ride in its own waste.
Can My Cat Go Hiking with Me?
As long as your cat is properly harnessed, hiking should not be an issue. It can be a great outdoor activity for getting in some valuable exercise and bonding time. Cats are curious by nature and often love exploring new spaces.
You may want to try small hiking outings before going on an extended camping trip. You can even plan a small trip on your first day of camping to get a feel of how your particular cat will react to this experience.
Some cats are more docile or reserved than “adventure cats.” Where the latter will love the chance to roam free and explore the wild, other cats will feel uneasy in these unfamiliar environments.
If you do plan on hiking with your cat, follow these few simple rules:
- Harnessing – Make sure to have a secure harness and leash while hiking with your cat or any pet on camping grounds.
- Avoid wildlife – You may be camping on grounds native to dangerous animals.
- Stay on designated trails – Many national and state parks have marked areas available for a safe hiking experience with your cat.
- Be mindful of other campers – Camping is a great opportunity for your cat to socialize. Although, respect the privacy and wishes of your fellow campers.
(Source: Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation)
Following these guidelines will help you and your cat have a safe, fun, and adventurous camping experience.
Do Cats Like Camping Tents?
Depending on the type of car you are traveling in, you may still want to have a tent on hand. Many camping areas allow space for your car and other camping equipment on a designated lot. Many campers will bring portable cooking equipment, hammocks, cots, or recreational items to place in their area.
In this case, you may have all of your camping essentials in your car with a tent pitched right beside it. This can be a great way to immerse your cat in nature while being confined to a safe space. You and your cat can lounge around or play in the tent during the day while you’re not out exploring the camping grounds.
This may be a great time to watch your cat while it sleeps so that they have time to relax out of their carrier. This will give you and your cat a safe space to find in the event you two get separated on your trip. If you leave your tent up while on a hike, your cat will be more likely to find its way back to your camping space.
Can a Cat Sleep in a Tent?
Many cats love tents and enjoy the chance to be out in nature. Although you should never leave your cat alone while camping, when you are around, your cat should have no issue sleeping in a tent. However, cats are nocturnal animals, so their sleeping habits may not align with yours.
Many cat-safe tents, such as this one, allow your cat to stare into nature while relaxing by your side. Many tents specifically designed with cats in mind are scratch-resistant, so your cat may be able to sleep freely while you’re awake.
However, if you plan to sleep with your cat inside the tent with you, be sure to keep them safe in their carrier or crate. Most cat carriers and crates are small and can be placed inside the tent. Just remember to put your cat in a safe place if you cannot be alert to their behavior.
Car camping is a perfect opportunity to get some quality bonding time and exercise with your cat. As long as you are prepared with the proper equipment and provisions, you can have the time of your life and the time of your cat’s nine lives.
Be prepared and plan ahead for any obstacles that could hinder your camping experience. Keep your cat in mind while planning outings to maximize the entertainment. In the end, if your cat has a great vacation, so will you!