Safely Letting Your RV Cat Outdoors While at an RV Campsite
Letting your RV cat outdoors while you are at an RV campsite is a controversial issue. There are a lot of politics associated with letting RV cats outside, such as your cats using your neighbor's campsite as a litter box, or killing birds and wildlife. In this article, rather than discuss the political hot issues, we will discuss the practical aspects of letting your cat outside while RVing.
Many of you are probably aware that there are many statistics about how long an indoor cat lives versus how long outdoor cats live. Indoor cats live much longer than outdoor cats. However, there are a few caveats that must be taken into consideration in this statistic, such as whether your cat is unsupervised, whether your cat stays out at night, and your location. One source reports that the average lifespan of outdoor cats is only two to five years. Indoor cats can live nearly two decades.
Before we examine ways to let your RV cat out, there is one caveat–––people who live or are staying on busy roads should really never let their cats out without some kind of containment system. I learned that lesson the hard way when my beautiful Siamese cat, Zeus, was hit and killed on a fairly busy road. He would regularly cross the road to get to the ocean beach on the other side. In fact, sometimes, I would go for walks on the beach and look up and there he would be looking back at me from the wild rose bushes surrounding the beach.
Alternatively, there are times when it is probably ok to let your cat out while RVing. For example, I am currently spending the winter in a park in a nice RV campsite in St. Augustine, Florida. My neighbors have three wonderfully spoiled cats that all go outside around the campsite for brief periods every day. Their owners have even created a large covered enclosure for them to stay in for part of every day. These RV cats are happy and healthy and at minimal risk from predators, traffic or diseases.
In fact, seeing these cats lolling about outside actually made me re-think my hard and fast rule that neither of my two cats were allowed outside. My youngest cat, Ginger, is a stray who thinks back on the time she was stray and never wants to repeat that again. So, she has no desire to go outside. But, my older cat, Pickles, has had periods in his life when he was allowed to go outside in the country. Soooo, a few weeks ago, I let him out for the first time since we started full-time RVing, five years ago, around the RV campsite. The first time we let him out, he didn’t come back for two days. I was sincerely regretting my decision and spent the entire time walking around the RV park looking for him. Then one night I opened the door and in he came as if he had only been gone for ten minutes instead of two days.
Now, this really made me re-think whether or not to let him out again. So, I thought about all of the pros and cons and decided to let him out for brief periods of time in the morning. The factors that affected my decision included: we are in a very quiet RV park, it is always warm out, Pickles is VERY old (16+). So, it wasn’t really possible for him to have much of a shortened life span! Now, Pickles enjoys the life of a mostly indoor cat who is allowed brief interludes of outdoor life without most of the risks.
So, how can you mitigate risk for your cat, while still letting him enjoy the beautiful places where we all spend our time RVing? Let’s review the possibilities…
Consider Containment at the RV Campsite:
There are a few good choices available for RVers. You can buy one of those tall metal cages like the photo from Drs. Foster and Smith. Many of these cages fold up so that you can store them while RVing. We had some neighbors last year who used one of these and also used a cat stroller.
Use a Cat Stroller for Your RV Cat Outings:
Now I will be the first to admit that these seem a little ridiculous, but every time I have seen cats in them, the cats look delighted. They are able to look around from the safety of a stroller. Here is a two-tiered model from www.mightypets.com
Buy a Figure Eight Harness and Lead:
There are special collars designed for cats which go behind their front legs and around their back. The purpose of these collars is to ensure that the cat doesn’t choke on the collar or escape the collar. These are great with one exception. Never leave your cat tied out to your RV around the RV campsite without supervision. With this type of restraint, your cat wouldn’t be able to run away from a dog.
Use an Outdoors Screen House at the RV Campsite:
These are perfect for cats. You can buy one very cheaply at a discount chain or you can spend more money and buy a custom one which fits under your RV awning. Either way, make sure that you pin down the bottom edge so that your Houdini can’t escape.
Hopefully one of these choices will work for your outdoor cat. Just err on the side of caution and closely supervise your cat while it is outside. Your cat can enjoy all of the benefits of the great outdoors yet still stay safe and sound at the RV Campsite.
Read about choosing the right RV campsite
for your next trip.