Travel Tips on RVing with Pets

As full-time RVers, pet owners, and professional writers, we’ve often been asked what it’s like to actually live and work in an RV with pets. After all, we’re not exactly the average RVing family. For the last three years, we’ve been living in a 34 ft. motorhome with two large German Shepherd dogs and three cats. This would be a lot of animals in a regular house, but in an RV it is sometimes ridiculous. Yet here we are and here’s what we’ve learned so far. How Pets See RVing. From what we’ve observed, our dogs absolutely love the camping and RVing lifestyle. Compared to living in a fenced-in yard, they have a life filled with exciting new places, interesting smells, new people, other dogs, and an endless assortment of fascinating wildlife. Our cats seem to really enjoy RVing as well. Instead of nearly freezing to death in the North every winter, they get to enjoy warm sunny days all year long as a result of heading south every autumn. We’ve concluded that most pets, if given the choice, would rather be close to their family at all times. Fortunately, in an RV, you’re never far away. Rules Are Good But Flexibility Is Better. With so many creatures in such a small space, you might think that strict rules would be the key to survival. Ironically, flexibility is a better model. For example, when we first started living in the RV, we had a rule that read: “No dogs on the sofa”. However, after stumbling over the dogs on the floor for six months, we covered the sofa with a sheet and abandoned our rule. Today, our dogs are more comfortable and we have a lot more floor space. When we want to use the sofa, they move on to the floor and we simply remove the sheet. It isn’t elegant, but it works. Of course, our sofa which is 3 years old does now look like it is 20 years old, but we don’t mind because we love our doggies. We have learned that the secret to living in close quarters with other creatures isn’t about rules. Instead, it’s about tolerance, patience, and endless flexibility. Make Sure You Design An Exit Strategy. We enjoy our pets, but there are times when we need to make them disappear. For example, we have some friends that are a little uneasy about dogs. When they come over to visit, we put the dogs in the bedroom and lock the door. Likewise, when we have to take our motorhome to the shop for repairs, we put the dogs in the car. If it’s hot, we drive around with the air conditioner on. During service, we keep the cats locked in the RV’s bedroom. Make sure you tape a note to the bedroom door to let the technicians know that there are cats inside the bedroom. Keeping Them Safe and Healthy. If you have a medical emergency on the road, you can’t simply pick up the phone and call your family vet. So whenever we stay in a new area, we locate a phonebook and write down the telephone number and address of the nearest emergency animal hospital. We then tape it to the refrigerator and hope we never have to use it. Other than that, make your own pet first aid kit. Besides the usual gauze and bandages, keep some Kaopectate® on hand. A few tablespoons can stop a serious attack of diarrhea in a matter of hours without any side-effects. Lastly, purchase a good book on animal first-aid. “The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats” by Amy D. Shojai is a good example. The book lists the contents of a good first aid kit. Besides medical problems, the biggest risk to your pets is the possibility of them getting lost. When we first started RVing, we noticed that our youngest cat was somehow getting out of the RV. After several more escapes, we discovered a narrow opening to the outside underneath the bathroom vanity. It’s been fixed and the cats are now safe inside. With dogs, we always put their leashes on before we take them out of the RV. That way, if there’s something exciting outside (like a coyote), we can keep them under control. We’ve never seen a dog get lost while it’s on a leash. Food And Water. There’s only one hard and fast rule about feeding pets in an RV. Don’t switch foods. Whatever they’re accustomed to — stick with it. If their particular brand of pet food is hard to find, stockpile enough to last until you can locate a new supply. If you’re staying in an area with questionable water supply (i.e. the water tastes or smells odd), give them bottled spring water. Clean water is one of the secrets to having healthy pets. The Cat Litter Box Controversy. Search for the words “cat litter boxes” on any RV forum and you’ll invariably generate page after page of heated discussions about where to keep a cat litter box in an RV. The short answer is anywhere you can. With three cats, we have a relatively large and heavy litter box. It has a cover to help keep the litter contained, but the stuff still migrates everywhere. We’ve tried keeping the litter box on a shelf, in the bathroom, inside a cabinet, and in the shower. Each litter box location had its advantages as well as some drawbacks. It’s one of those problems that can only be resolved by trial and error. At The End Of The Day. All things considered, RVing with pets is basically a lifestyle decision. Whether we lived in an RV or resided in a house — we would probably always live with a lot of dogs. They’re good company and they provide a considerable degree of protection. In terms of keeping cats, we have a weak spot for abandoned animals. Hence, all of our cats were originally strays. Again, it’s not about RVing. It’s about sharing your space and your resources with other living things. On that note, in the United States, it’s been estimated that somewhere between 20 and 40 million pets go camping and RVing with their families every year. By any measure, that’s a lot of pets. So whenever people give us that look like we’re totally insane for RVing with so many dogs and cats, we take comfort in knowing that if we are crazy — we certainly have a lot of company. Read about ten more reasons to bring your pets camping and RVing.