camping with cats

Do Cats Make Good Camping Companions? (19 Things to Consider!)

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Have you ever considered bringing your precious little cat on a camping trip? It’s not as easy as packing food, bowls and a leash like you would with a dog. Cats don’t always adapt easily to new situations and surroundings. An unhappy cat makes for an unhappy camping experience.

In this article, we’re going to provide some important things to consider as well as tips to help make the process more pleasant.

Before You Even Think About Bringing Your Kitty Camping

Camp with your cats

As mentioned, cats are not as adaptable as dogs. They have different personalities that you need to assess before deciding to bring a cat with you.

If you have a very friendly kitty that is used to being outdoors and roaming the neighborhood, she’ll most likely enjoy going camping with you. However, she won’t like being stuck in an RV for the duration of the trip. If you have an indoor cat that is not subjected to new people or things regularly, or unless you can leash-train her, she is probably not a good fit for the camping lifestyle.

If you’re an outdoorsy person and love to camp, it’s best to train your cat from a kitten so he/she adapts to your lifestyle. Trying to get an older cat to adapt to an outdoor lifestyle is probably not a good idea.

Once you’ve decided your cat is okay with going camping, there are many other considerations that you may not have thought of, especially if you’ve never had a cat. Packing for and camping with a cat is pretty close to camping with a baby, so keep that in mind when weighing all the factors.

1. Is Your Cat Vaccinated?

Be sure your little friend is up to date on all of her necessary vaccinations before you hit the road. Many unknown parasites are in the forest and trees, so current vaccinations are crucial in protecting against any deadly diseases.

In addition to her vaccinations, make sure you have feline-safe bug repellent for those pesky ticks, fleas and mosquitoes, too.

2. Is Your Cat Declawed?

Your cat’s claws are their main tools for defense. If you plan to allow your cat to venture outdoors or go camping with you in the future, you don’t want to opt for de-clawing her. For obvious reasons, you really don’t want a defenseless cat outdoors.

3. What’s the Weather Forecast?

Weather forecast and camp with cats

Cats don’t fare well in the heat as they dehydrate rather quickly. They’re also not good with frigid weather. If you want to take your cat camping with you, make sure it’s during a mild season without any extreme temperature changes.

4. Does Your Cat Go Outdoors Frequently?

One of the first things you need to keep in mind is, not every cat will want to be outdoors or even leave home. Some cats don’t even enjoy a short trip in the car let alone long-distance traveling. And if your cat isn’t happy, she’ll let you know! Imagine driving for hours with a noisy cat, scratching at the inside of her carrier, whining and crying to get out. This can make for a very unpleasant road trip.

In addition, if your cat won’t do her business anywhere but in her litter box, you will have to keep one in the car with you. Make sure it’s small enough to fit in your tent or camper, but large enough so your cat will still want to use it.

Keep in mind for outdoor cats that they cannot simply roam free in a state or national park. You don’t want your cats killing birds or other small animals and bringing them back to the campground with them, which may result in some hefty fines.

5. Does a Cat Poop in the Woods?

If your cat is outdoors most of the time at home, she’s probably used to doing her business outside and won’t miss her litter box. During the trip, she’ll be happy to find a grassy area. Other cats, however, won’t go anywhere except their litter box, so that makes extra gear for you to pack. If your cat is comfortable with going outside or in the woods, make sure to scoop it up just as you would with a dog. Cat feces have protozoan parasites that are harmful to other warm-blooded mammals and especially toxic to pregnant women.

6. Feeding Your Cat While Camping

I’d suggest that you feed your cat the same food she eats at home. Vacation time isn’t when you should introduce new foods. It may add to any anxiety and make her sick while you’re away. It’s also important that you keep your cat on her regular feeding schedule.

Be sure to keep a close eye on her that she doesn’t start eating things off the ground or start nibbling at unfamiliar plant life. Many plants are toxic to felines, so it’s critical that she only eats the food you bring from home.

Between feedings, make sure her food is in a sealed bag or container. If you’re camping where bears may visit, make sure her food goes in a protective container at night or any time you’re away from the camp.

7. How Is Your Cat on a Leash or Harness?

White and black cat with harness

Unless you’ve gotten your little furball used to being on a leash, this may pose a problem once you reach your destination. If your cat roams away from the campground to explore, she may get lost or worse, meet up with some wild forest creatures and not make it back to camp.

Make sure your cat’s collar and leash are equipped with LED lights. If she happens to get away from you, she’ll be easier to spot, especially from dusk till dawn. Additionally, you can add a GPS tracker to her collar in case she darts off into the woods. A GPS is almost a must if you’re in a large campground.

It’s best to keep your cat on a leash in a harness that she can’t wriggle out of whenever she’s out of the tent or camper. If you go camping near a lake, for example, you don’t want your kitty to get away and near the water.

If you can’t get your cat trained to be on a leash, you may want to leave her at home or with a friend while you’re away.

8. What Are Her Normal Sleeping Arrangements?

Cat is sleeping in the RV

You may not want to go tent camping if your cat is used to roaming around the house at night. She may be more comfortable in a camper or RV. Plus, if she’s not declawed, she may use the tent as a scratching post and rip the tent to shreds during the night.

If your cat is comfortable in her carrier, she may curl up and sleep in it, or she may decide to cuddle up under your covers for the night. Regardless, it’s a good idea to keep her carrier in the tent with you in case she wants her own sleeping space. Be sure to put her favorite blanket inside the carrier so she’ll feel more at home.

9. Have Her Favorite Toys on Hand

Cats are curious by nature. To keep her entertained and not wandering around everywhere, be sure to pack a few of her favorite toys to keep her occupied and entertained.

10. Setting Up Camp without the Headaches

It can be like having a small child with you that you always have to keep an eye on. While you’re setting up the tent or the camper, you may want to keep your cat in her carrier so you can relax and focus on your duties and not have to keep watch on your little friend at the same time.

11. Open Doors and Escape Havens

Cats can be very skittish at times. Loud or unfamiliar noises may cause them to dart and run to a place where they feel safe. If you camp in a family-friendly area, there may be a lot of loud children and sudden noises that will scare your cat.

If you have your cat outside with you, even if she’s nestled in your arms, make sure you leave your tent or camper door open in case she needs to run and hide from something. You don’t want her making a mad dash into the woods where she may get lost or worse.

12. Avoid Long Hiking Trips with a Cat

Avoid Long Hiking Trips with cats

It’s a beautiful area, and you want to explore. A dog will love going on long hikes with you, but not cats. If you want to go hiking, be prepared to carry your kitty and all of the necessary gear that goes with her.

If you love long hikes, it’s best to leave your cat at home while on that type of trip or invest in a feline backpack, so you can carry your cat and her accessories when she’s tired of walking.

13. Cat Meets Dog in the Campground

If you’re camping with cats, many other campers may have their dogs with them, especially in state or pet-friendly national parks. If your cat is on her leash, it may not be a problem at all. She may hiss or raise her back and hairs, but secure on her leash, she’s safe.

Even if she is on her leash, however, if you see a dog approaching, it’s probably best that you pick up your cat and carry her until the dog and his owner are a safe distance away.

14. Open Campfires and Cats

If your cat is on her leash, make sure she doesn’t get too close to the fire, not only for her safety, but you don’t want the leash to burn either.

15. Never Leave Your Cat Unattended

This is especially important if you’re camping in a wildlife area like a state forest. However, even in an RV campground, you never want to leave your kitty unattended while you head out hiking, swimming, boating or any other extra activity.

Cats are curious creatures and left to their own devices may get into trouble or a dangerous situation. Like a human baby, you need to keep an eye on your kitty at all times for her own safety and your peace of mind. Unlike human babies, however, you can leave your cat in the car overnight if you’re tent camping, especially in a forested location prone to fox, coyotes, and bear at night. If you set up camp near your vehicle, your cats can settle into the safety of their carriers inside the vehicle.

If you know you won’t take your cat everywhere with you, it’s best to leave her at home or plan a different trip for the extras.

16. First Aid Kits for Your Cat

If your cat gets injured or sick while you’re camping, you can’t run to the human first aid kits. Your cat needs her own kit. You can get a list of important supplies and a feline first aid kit to take with you from your local Humane Society.

If your cat is on any special prescription medications or foods, be sure to keep her on that same schedule while you’re away.

17. Secure Your Cat While Traveling in the Vehicle

Whether you’re taking a van, car, or RV to your camping destination, your cat should never be allowed to roam free inside the vehicle on long road trips. A nice-sized, hard-sided travel carrier secured with a seat belt is the safest way to travel with your kitty.

Like a baby in a secured car seat, it will keep her protected in case of any sudden stops or unfortunate accidents. It also keeps her from creating chaos inside the vehicle, which could cause you or the driver to have an accident.

18. Have a Mock Camping Trip with Your Cat

Mock camping trip with cat

If you haven’t been camping with your cat yet, you may want to do a trial run with her before booking your vacation trip. Take a day and go on a ‘mock’ camping trip. Pack all of the essentials in your car and drive around a while to see how your cat handles lengthy car rides.

If you have a nice sized back yard, set up camp outdoors like you would at the campground. Do everything at home in your yard that you would do away from home and monitor your cat. If you don’t have a yard, maybe a friend or family member will let you use theirs for a night to do a test run.

If you’re going to camp in an RV, make sure you can acclimate your kitty to the surroundings inside the vehicle. Set up her feeding and sleeping areas and spend a night in the RV with her.

If your cat makes it through a night of camping in either the tent or the RV without causing you too many headaches, she may be a good fit for a camping lifestyle. If not, then you’ll know ahead of time to make other arrangements for her while you’re away.

19. Camping with Multiple Cats

If you decide to camp with more than one cat, know that you’ll have to pack double or triple of almost everything, including cat carriers, food bowls, and litter boxes. Whatever your cats are used to doing at home, they’ll want to do while camping too, so it’s best not to upset their regular home schedule.

Enjoy Camping with Your Cat

Cats can be fun to have on your camping trip, especially if they’ve become your best friend. As long as you and your kitty are well prepared for the adventure, you should have a safe and happy cat that will enjoy the outdoors as much as you do.