As we’ve mentioned in several other posts, one reason we decided to get a camper was so we could take our cat, Alee, on vacation with us. Traveling with a cat can be a challenge, but the rewards were worth it.
In the past, we have left her at home and had friends come by to check on and feed her every few days. She has always survived, but she usually does seem a bit crazier than normal when we return, especially if we’ve been gone for several weeks.
Now, she is able to travel with us. So far, she has done weekend trips to Chattanooga and Mexico Beach, FL, and our five-week road trip to New England.
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Traveling with a Cat in the Truck
Since we have a pull-behind camper, Alee rides in the truck with us, despite her general protests. She is much more comfortable in the camper. We know that is not safe and we just won’t let her do it, no matter how much she tries to fight us.
In the truck, we usually let her sit out loose, rather than keep her in a carrier for several hours.
At home she often likes to “hide” under blankets, dressers, end tables, etc. so we have a blanket for her in the backseat that she can hide under when she is nervous or scared. We tried a dark sheet to offer something less hot for her to hide under, but light still shone through the fabric and she didn’t like it as much as a familiar blanket.
For the New England trip, we brought her cat bed from the house, hoping that it would provide some familiar smells and feelings, but after about two weeks of moving it between the truck and the camper and her completely ignoring it, we moved it out of our way. Ironically, she has slept in her bed upon returning to the condo.
Generally, when we first move her into the truck she will hide under the blanket, then after a while (maybe 10 minutes, maybe an hour… It just depends on the day), she will come out and be social. One of her favorite spots is the console between the two of us. I guess that’s because we can both pet her if she is sitting in the middle! And oddly enough, she usually likes to sit so that she is looking into the backseat. I suppose it doesn’t really matter too much which way she faces, but it is annoying when her tail is constantly flipping on the straws of our drinks!
Alee will occasionally jump down to explore the floorboards or maybe sit in one of our laps. She will sometimes “stand up” to look out the windows. One time, she decided that she wanted to sit on the dashboard. That didn’t last long. She gets up on top of the back seats a few times.
Thankfully, she has only tried to explore the floorboard of the driver’s seat once. Usually, we can stop her if she starts looking that way and distract her with something else.
Wherever she decides to hang out, she will generally stay there a bit then move around a bit. Usually, it is just moving between the backseat and the front console. Occasionally, she will think that if she squeezes herself between the passenger seat and the window she will find something new. She’s always disappointed when it’s just the same backseat as always.
Stops along the way
When driving with Alee, we are much more careful about where we stop and how long we stop for. Traveling with a cat, or any pet for that matter, means you have to take heat into consideration. We certainly cannot stop anywhere for an hour or more and leave her in the truck or the camper (it requires being plugged in to run the AC). Usually, a quick bathroom break which just takes a few minutes is not a big deal. We are always very careful to not leave her in the truck for more than a couple of minutes.
If we are stopping to pick up food and know it will take a little longer, we will usually put her in the camper. The AC isn’t on, but it is usually a lot cooler since we draw the shades when traveling. We also can open a window, if needed.
We have tried to get her to drink water or go to the bathroom a few times, but she will never take advantage of that. I think the stress of driving just throws all her systems “off.”
Pro tip: If you have remote start for your vehicle, you can get out for a short stop, lock up and then start the vehicle to run the AC. That way the vehicle is running but there are no keys in the ignition.
Traveling with a Cat in the Camper
Once we get to our campsite, Alee is always VERY excited to get into the camper. If we aren’t careful she will go running to the back with her leash still on! Sometimes she will hide under the comforter for a while but, usually, she is sitting out on the bed or sofa before too long.
At the beginning of the summer, the electric slide out of the camper somewhat scared her. Anytime I would open or close it, she would jump and then stare at it like she was afraid it was going to “get her.” By the end of the summer, she would sit on the sofa and enjoy the ride without flinching.
The camper isn’t that big, so she doesn’t have much to explore. Usually, Alee will sit on the bed or the couch. She also enjoys sitting on the “nightstand” and looking out the window. Sometimes she enjoys sitting on the footstools, but that is usually only when we need to get into them and she’s in the way! Her toys rarely interest her.
Litter boxes are one of the biggest difficulties of traveling with a cat. We found a corner in the camper to put this triangular litter box. It is deep enough and large enough but fits in a corner very well. Combined with this litter mat, cat litter doesn’t get scattered all over the camper.
On travel days, we clean the litter and then cover the litter box with cheap aluminum foil. That keeps the litter from bouncing out of the box while we tow the trailer.
One thing we have to be careful of is making sure we turn on the air conditioning or open up the windows each day. Just like in a car, the camper can get pretty warm on a hot day. We forgot on the way out to Cape Cod and had to turn around about 45 minutes into our drive out on the Cape. We were just so glad we remembered before it got too hot.
Alee has been an indoor cat her entire life. Occasionally, she walked out on the patio while at our old house (we moved three years ago) while Grant was grilling. Now we live in a condo, so other than looking out the windows, she has no access to the outdoors while we are at home.
Being outside overwhelmed the cat the first few times we let her out. We quickly learned that she seems to like dirt/gravel better than grass. I suppose it is the texture of the grass that she doesn’t like. She also seemed to get a lot more comfortable with being outdoors after a few days of us leaving the windows open. She probably got used to the sounds and scents while still in the comfort of the camper.
We bought a 15-foot leash that attaches to a stake in the ground so that she can explore. She usually stays fairly close, but she does sometimes like to wander out as far as she can go. Alee has not figured out how to not tangle the leash. She is always wrapping herself around the chairs, picnic table, camper wheels, etc.
Towards the end of the trip, she did manage to wiggle herself out of her harness a couple of times. Suddenly, we looked around and realized that she was sitting there, under the camper, completely loose. Thankfully, she came to us fairly easily. The first time she did it, she was just as surprised as us. After that first time, we watched her a lot more carefully, but she still managed to do it again the last night of our trip. I guess it is time to get a new harness! Just another challenge of traveling with a cat!
Alee has done well around dogs, both big and small. While she is interested in dogs in nearby campsites, she is never scared or aggressive. She is curious, for sure, but with us keeping an eye on her, we haven’t had any problems.
She has also seen a few squirrels and chipmunks that she has tried to chase. She hasn’t caught any yet. Of course, we do our best to keep her distracted so that she doesn’t even see them because she definitely has the instinct to chase!
While traveling with the cat certainly does provide a different set of “inconveniences” to have to deal with, we absolutely love having her with us. We enjoy not having to worry about her and not having to inconvenience our friends. We don’t have kids, so I guess introducing the cat to new places and new things is appropriate!
Sadly, Alee passed in February 2019. She got to travel all over the country with us. We miss her every day, every trip. You can read about her passing here.
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As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
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We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.