RV Traveling With a Cats
For anyone traveling with a cat in an RV, a vital piece of equipment should always be a well-secured cat cage – cats like to have their own private cavern. Because the RV pet now associates its cage with security, the traveler may also find that his cats learn to self-crate, i.e. the moment the engine starts is the moment when the cat will retreat to its crate.
Some cats, however, may make their own preferences about a travel hiding place known. So long as there are no moving parts that will trap paws and tails, many RVers prefer to simply let their cats stay where they are most comfortable.
Always Check Where the Cat is Prior to Departure
The traveler should always check his cat’s location before operating the slides or setting out. If there is an emergency, it is useful to know where to look.
Over time, the traveling cat may establish a variety of favorite hidey-holes; one favorite hiding place for cats is behind the RV toilet. This may or may not be a good idea, but is usually amusing. Be sure to keep closets closed as they tend to lead deep into the vehicle’s innards.
If the travelers find that rare creature, the cat who loves to travel, by all means have the pet in the RV cab. Cats have been known to sit contentedly on the passenger’s lap or may even balance on the dashboard, peeking as the world goes by. Such RV cats are rare, but delightful.
When the traveler stops for a break, she should always open the cat cage so that her RV pets can come out, stretch their legs and visit the food bowl and litter box (which should be very well secured, covered and free from obstruction). Cats quickly learn the difference between an RV engine and a generator and come out to do what they must; they should be given time to self-stow before departure.
Keep water available at all times, especially since RVs can quickly become hot and uncomfortable. While the cat may hate such an indignity, dousing its neck with cold water on a hot day can help keep it cool. When stopped, where possible keep a fan running with windows cracked open. A cool cat is unlikely to become sick and will recover quickly from the drama of motion.
Litter Boxes for an RV
Taking cats in an RV means there will be cat litter and cat litter boxes – and all that these imply. Choosing the right covered litter boxes for RVing can make the difference between a stressful, sneeze-rich experience and a delightful tour with the traveler’s feline friends.
Considerations include the suitability for each cat litter box during transit; the traveler’s and, even more important, the cat’s preferences; and the location of the boxes.
Covered Litter Boxes Contain Mess During Transit
Any RV traveler will be aware that the contents of the motorhome may shift in transit. With cat litter boxes, this can be a disaster: Not only may dusty litter spill, so too may the contents of the box. This latter issue will be offset if the traveler first scoops the litter box clean as part of a pre-flight routine, but Murphy’s Law dictates that the one day this trick is missed is the day the RV hits a crater-sized pothole.
The first rule of choosing covered litter boxes for RV travel is to pick models with a lip deep enough to contain spillage during normal travel. Additional peace of mind can be provided by securing the covered litter box to a fixed object using bungee cords. However, care must be taken that, during stops, there is no barrier to the cat’s entry into its covered litter box. If there is, the cat will rapidly let its displeasure be known.
Where to Place Cat Litter Boxes in an RV
A common location for cat litter boxes in an RV is the bath or shower, but this is seldom convenient. While the bath is easy to clean, spillage from the cat litter box may enter the drain, causing havoc in the RV’s plumbing and, potentially, the entire septic system. To some extent, this may be avoided by blocking the drain hole, but this still leaves the issue of extraction. The covered litter box must be removed in order to allow use of the bath, a task which, repeated daily, rapidly becomes laborious.
In the larger RV, it may be wise to convert an under-the-bed space into a litter box space. A drawer or drawer cavity may be converted into a suitable location for cat litter boxes. Alternatively, the covered litter box may be secured to an internal wall. The smallest covered litter box that the cat will accept is probably the best solution.
While it may be tempting to cram a covered litter box beside a chair or beneath a table, the traveler should always consider accessibility and odor. The less accessible the litter box is, the less likely it is to be cleaned regularly, and the less likely the cat is to use it.
Cleaning Cat Hair in a RV or Trailer
When an RV traveler brings his cats along, it is his responsibility to keep his pets happy and healthy. Cats, being the independent and often cantankerous creatures that they are, feel no such obligation towards their humans. One of a cat’s immediate responses to stress, annoyance or a change in weather is to leave its fur everywhere. On top of this, excess fur leads to excess cat hair balls which, despite their cute name, are neither cute nor round.
Why Cleaning Cat Hair in an RV is Important
Cats have an endless supply of fur which, by instinct, they lick clean and then leave on every possible surface. Dark cats will gravitate to light-colored surfaces; light cats will gravitate to dark ones. Cat shedding and cat hair balls are unavoidable, but in the confined space of an RV they can be particularly troublesome. Not only does flying cat hair cling to everything, it rapidly irritates the nasal passage and can cause uncontrollable sneezing.
Every cat owner is familiar with the foul sounds that preface a cat hair ball event. Cat hair balls form when too much fur from the cat’s grooming ends up in the gullet. The cat cannot digest the hair, so it brings the hair up as a pellet. The primary solution is to reduce the amount of loose fur the cat can shed. Some cat foods are formulated to control cat hair balls, and for a chronic problem a vet may be able to suggest medicine.
Grooming a Cat Can Reduce the Amount of Cat Hair Cleaning
Daily combing of a cat takes out loose hairs and reduces the amount of hair a cat swallows. Whether the grooming experience is positive or negative depends mostly on the mood of the cat. The potential cat groom should start with a standard flea comb, teasing rather than tugging at cat dreadlocks; he should then finish with a softer brush. Assuming the cat tolerates grooming, much less hair will shed.
For the hair that escapes, a hand-held vacuum cleaner can be a godsend. A daily run-through with such a machine makes cleaning cat hair easy. Another consideration: if adopting a new cat or kitten, the traveler should consider a short-haired breed, or resign herself to much more cat hair cleaning. Persians practically guarantee endless hours of cat hair cleaning. It is not necessary to go quite as far as acquiring a bald sphynx cat, but a domestic short hair would definitely be a better choice.
How to Handle Cat Scratching Problems in an RV
In the wild, cats scratch to keep their claws worn down and to remove a transparent layer that is part of claw growth. In a motorhome, this natural instinct can cause severe damage. Fortunately, cat-owning RVers who wish to avoid harmful cat scratching do have several options.
What to do About Cat Scratching and Damage in an RV
Any size RV can hold a cat scratching post. In medium to large motorhomes there is usually room for a sisal post with a carpet base. Even the smallest RV can accommodate inexpensive scratching posts made from a block of catnip-laced corrugated cardboard.
Problematic cat scratching is also eased by keeping the cat’s claws trimmed. The cat is held firmly but gently so that the claw may be clipped in one quick motion. The cut should be kept above the pink part of the claw. Clipping scissors may be bought in any pet store; for the nervous, groomers and vets also clip claws – at a price.
Deterrents to Cat Scratching Inside the Motorhome
If the cat does not use its scratching post, it may be necessary to train it not to scratch. A squeezy bottle filled with water or a garden mister works well. The average cat dislikes loud, sudden noises as much as it hates being damp, so rattling some coins in a tin can be an effective deterrent.
However, cats are smart and associate such deterrents with their humans. They may simply wait until the RVers leave before attacking the furniture again. If so, trouble spots may be covered in aluminum foil, tape or even plastic sheeting. Carpets and upholstery alike can be sprayed with a citrus-scented spray, but the furniture should first be tested for reactions.
Where cats attack the carpet, stair runners might help. They are easier to clean and can be replaced if they become damaged. Dollar stores sometimes sell such runners, or they can be made from carpet remnants. Alternatively, the carpet may be dispensed with entirely; plain floors with space rugs are easier to clean.
Cat Nail Caps are a Humane Way to Prevent RV Claw Damage
One solution that should never be considered is declawing the cat. This surgical procedure is brutal: the cat’s toes are amputated at the first joint, crippling the animal and causing it excruciating pain. Declawing surgery is outlawed in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Israel and New Zealand.
A much more humane solution is to buy cat nail caps. These are plastic sheaths that are glued onto the cat’s claws, turning them “soft.” Application may be tricky to begin with, not to mention annoying to the cat, but cat nail caps do take care of any damage. (The fact that they come in several pretty colors may please the humans more than the cat, but does make the claw sheaths easy to find when they eventually fall off.)
Cats that go outdoors may be able to get the scratching out of their system, but the constant motion of most RVers may make such cat excursions impossible or unwise. However, for those with the space, portable, collapsible tunnels and pens give the cat an outdoor playground with scratching opportunities.
With patience and care, it is eminently possible to prevent cat claw damage. Learning how to do so pays dividends in the RVer’s ability to live peacefully with his cats.
Keeping a Traveling Cat Happy in an RV
An RV is a small space and cats are natural-born roamers. If a cat has been brought up in an RV it will be happier than if it is introduced to one after living in a house; however, cats do adapt. A covered litter box should be kept in the same place at all times, and cleaned daily – odors are very much heightened in a motorhome.
Leave a variety of toys around for the cat to find, and spend some time each day engaging the RV pet with ticklers. A laser pointer can cause a cat to gallop from one end of the RV to the other.
One must-have for a cat in an RV is a simple scratching post – an inexpensive piece of corrugated cardboard infused with catnip is ideal. Bored cats scratch, and giving them a place to scratch can save a great deal of damage.
Brave Traveling Cats Can Go for a Walk
Many RV parks and state parks forbid loose and unattended animals, with good reason. Cats used to a town may well become “coyote candy.” However, with patience and kindness, and a well-developed sense of humor, cats can be trained to walk on a leash. This may deeply offend them, but will at least give them exercise and stimulation.
Consider opening the door, latching the screen closed and letting the cat peer out of the door at passers-by and birds. This is akin to giving the travel cat its own television, and watching the cat watch the outdoors is entertainment all by itself. However, be sure that the cat is not surreptitiously clawing its way through the screen.
Cats can become fat in their much smaller space. It can help to not leave food out at all times, but to simply drop small amounts of food in the cats’ bowl at intervals. Consider a lower-calorie brand of food (kibble is easier to clean up than canned food).
Cat Health While Traveling in an RV
Full-time RVers do not have the luxury of a familiar vet. When staying in a campground they should be able to get recommendations for a local vet, just in case, and learn where the nearest emergency vet is found. When on the move, the easiest way is simply to find a phone booth and look in the Yellow Pages. Keeping a folder with vet records is also a good idea.
Some big box pet stores run walk-in clinics. Keep the cat up to date with its shots and consider having it micro-chipped. If the cat ever does go outside, keep flea medicine on hand.
Cats have delicate stomachs and are known to have accidents. A bottle of Nature’s Miracle is good for cleaning up stains. Some cats genuinely do get travel sick; medications for this are available. Keeping the cat groomed helps reduce hairballs, doubly helpful in a small RV space, and gives the RV pet much-needed attention.