Preparing our RV for full-time living with three cats, how they’ve adapted to living the nomadic life, and lessons learned.
When we started looking at RVs, we had several discussions about what type of RV would work best for us. In the end, much of the decision to purchase a Class A was because of our cats – partially because of space and also because we wanted them to be able to stay in their home, with all their safe hidey-holes, while we were driving. A Class C might have worked, but we also needed space for two desks.
As we shopped for RVs we asked questions:
- Where will the cat food and water go?
- Where will their litter go?
- Will we have space to store all their food/toys/etc on top of our stuff?
- Will we be able to provide them space where they can hide and feel safe?
- Will we be able to block any spaces we don’t want them to get into (that aren’t safe?)
Of course, we asked many more questions but these were the primary cat-related ones.
Once we purchased our RV, we made some modifications for ourselves and for our cats.
We had a whole slide to convert into desk space and decided we’d use a litter cabinet as support. We already had a larger litter cabinet and decided to get something smaller (though big enough to fit a large litter pan since we have three cats.) I found one on Amazon and had it shipped to us. Brian found our amazing bamboo desk tops and separate support legs at Ikea. The desk top already has holes drilled for the legs, so setting it up was pretty easy. We used Dual Lock tape (similar to velcro, but more easily removable) to attach the desks to the litter cabinet to secure them. We think the results are awesome! The only thing I would change is to have the cabinet match the bamboo better. Someday, I might get around to painting the cabinet.
Brian then converted one of the old tube TV boxes to a cat bed. It’s up in the air and fits all three of them if they want to curl up together. Mostly, though, it’s Callie’s space. We left all the wiring from the TV and hid it behind panels that Brian made. They’re attached with that same Dual Lock, so they can be removed if we need to get in there. Add in their favorite fleece blanket and Voila! Happy cats!
Knowing cats like to be up high, we also pulled the door off a smaller cabinet that’s the highest in our motorhome. It only fits one cat at a time, but they enjoy it.
We also took down the old box valances and accordion blinds (that we knew would be shredded pretty quickly), replacing them with a layer of climate-controlling sheers and a semi-sheer linen curtain. You can see these in our Tour Our Class A Motorhome video. Besides losing the scratching post valances, it also seriously lightened up the interior of our home.
We were expecting to move into the RV in February (because our lease was up) and wanted to be sure the cats had warm places to be where they’d feel secure. I found these Cat Caves (I call them pods) on Amazon and snatched them up! The cats LOVE them! Mind you, they prefer to lay on them instead of in them; so ours are all flattened, but they’re still used most of the day every day. We currently keep two on the dash and one in the bedroom window since that’s also a favorite place for the cats.
Of course, we also brought things they already had in the apartment – such as their nail scratcher, a favorite throw rug, toys, etc, so they would have things with their scents on them.
Move-in day was actually a two-day job. We moved almost everything into the RV on Saturday, St Patrick’s Day, and I started putting as much away as possible – with help from a good friend, Kristen, and our daughter, Chelsea. We stayed in the apartment that night and brought the cats to the RV the next morning. We let them hang out for a couple of hours and they seemed okay…until we started the engine. Oh, that was so not good! Callie hid. I don’t even remember where Slinky was, and Coyote looked like he was having a stroke. (Thank goodness he wasn’t.) Seriously though, his eyes were all bugging out like nothing I’ve ever seen before and he was completely freaked. It was awful. We drove about 30 minutes to our local Thousand Trails and set up. The cats calmed down pretty quickly after we stopped and continued investigating their new home.
First Few Move Days
The cats continued panic the first few times we moved. They learned that certain things (like placing artwork on the bed) meant the scary noisy earthquake time was coming. Callie would immediately hide, Slinky would start meowing, and Coyote would look completely stressed while trying to protect Callie from the danger.
Drugs Can Be Good
Around the 4th or 5th move day, I found some homeopathic travel drops. I’ve used two different kinds and both are great – though we use HomeoPet the most. You can sometimes find them at PetCo and PetSmart, and definitely on Amazon. I give them about 1/3 of a dose in their wet food and it takes the edge off. If we’re having a longer travel day, I give them another 1/3 dose when we stop for a lunch break.
The cats are now fully adapted to their RV home. They love napping on the large dash when the sun’s out and watching the birds outside. They chase each other all over the RV and seem friendlier when strangers come to visit…even Callie. Callie still hides when we’re packing up, but they’re all fine while we’re actually driving and go right back to life as usual as soon as we stop.
A note about the outside. We don’t take our cats outside. We thought about it, especially because Slinky started door-diving when we moved into our apartment. We even bought a harness and leash and let him explore outside the door. Noises made him book back to the apartment, though, and we never got below the next stair landing after a few months of it. We also thought about fleas, ticks, heartworm, diseases, and all the other dangers and realized it’s just easier to keep them indoors. They always been indoor cats, and they seem to prefer it; so inside they’ll stay. They do love sniffing the outside air, either through a window screen or when we open the door to come in or out; but so far (knock on wood), they haven’t been interested in getting outside. Coyote actually got one of our window screens open while I was sitting at our picnic table and just sat there with the window open until Brian found it. Goofy cat! (We now put a dowel against the screen frame if the window’s open.)
We also have a monitoring system that allows us to check the temperature of our RV while away from home. We can’t turn on or adjust our A/C or heat remotely, but we can tell if there’s a problem. We make it a habit not to be more than an hour’s drive from home. We know some people use only their cipher locks and not the deadbolt when they leave their RV, so they can call a manager if there’s an issue and give them the code. We’re not quite there yet. We prefer to use our deadbolt as well as our cipher lock, but it’s an option. At this point, we’re more willing to have damage to our RV in favor of a secure home and safe pets. If you have a newer RV, you may be able to control your A/C or heat remotely. That’s really helpful if you have pets you need to leave at home while you’re out and about.
There are a few things we probably would change in hindsight…
The cats didn’t travel well in carriers in a car. In fact, Callie was a good escape artist and just wanted to be on top of her carrier so she could see. We thought this meant they needed to be free to roam and so chose the Class A. We realize now that they would probably be less stressed in a truck (less earthquake) if we gave them space in the back. We envision a quad cab with a box and blanket on the floor, and carriers on the seats (buckled in). I know. I used to work for a vet and dogs and cats free to roam and be all over the driver is not good. We’d try to find a way to separate the back from the front, so they can’t get to the driver. They may not like that, but we think it’d still be better than the Class A quaking and shaking. A 5th wheel may be in our future (which was our second choice when we first started looking.)
We may have moved the cats into the RV after we parked at our first campground. This is hard though. What’s worse? Letting them think the RV is ‘safe’ and doesn’t move, then driving two hours their first time or driving 30 minutes and getting it out of the way their first day? I can’t really say at this point. I still lean toward the short drive, but maybe the other would have been better.
I definitely would have gotten the homeopathic travel drops before our first drive day. We did use feline Rescue Remedy, but it didn’t seem to help.
Skinny cats might be able to get on top of your slides while they’re pulled in by jumping off of the cockpit chairs. Yep. Coyote has spent time investigating the tops of our slides. We roll up the Reflectix we use on the windows for hot days and place it in the space when the slides are in. There’s also a hole leading to the inside of our bed slide when it’s in. Brian built a wood baffle for that space as well. We place it in front of the hole as soon as we start pulling in the slide.
The underside of the dash, in the driver area, leads to a great hiding spot. Callie found it. She crawled up and into the dash. Thank goodness, the dash top screws off and Brian was able to lift her out before she caused any damage to herself or all the electronics. That under-dash area is now covered with corrugated plastic.
If you’re planning to RV with cats, ask yourselves a lot of questions about how they’ll thrive in your potential RV, check every nook and cranny – with your slides in and out – and close off places that might be dangerous. Figure out ways to make them feel safe and comfortable while you’re parked and while you’re moving, and have a way to monitor your home to ensure they’re okay when you’re not there.
Want a additional perspective on RVing with pets? We collaborated with other RVers on a video about traveling with our pets!
Thanks for reading, friends! Be groovy and remember to live your journey…
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