Is it possible to camp with a cat? Most definitely! But it’s not as simple as bringing your cat and some cat food along to the campsite. Step one is getting clear on whether camping with your particular cat is a good idea. Step two involves some specific planning and prep to make sure you both have a safe and enjoyable time in the great outdoors.
Do Cats Even Like Camping?
Just like humans: some cats like camping and some don’t. Consider the following questions to determine if you should take your cat camping:
- Is your cat okay on car rides?
- Does your cat enjoy new people and situations?
- Does your cat like watching birds or other wildlife through the window?
- Will your cat let you put a harness on them?
- Is your cat leash trained?
- Can your cat spend time exploring outside without getting spooked?
- How does your cat react in the presence of unknown dogs?
Cats that do well on camping trips are willing to wear a harness, leash trained, and comfortable spending time outdoors. If your cat seems like the perfect camping companion, that’s great! If not, it’s still great information to have. Depending on your cat’s personality, you may be able to train your cat so they’ll become a great camping companion in time.
How to Camp With a Cat
First things first: do your research and find a campground that specifically allows cats. Make sure cats are also allowed on trails, beaches, and any other places you want to visit. For your cat’s first camping trip, choose a time of year when it’s not too hot or too cold, and limit your stay to one or two nights. You’ll also need to pack the right supplies and introduce your cat to the sleeping and living arrangements you’ll have at the campsite.
Camping With a Cat Supply Checklist
Cat carrier: A must for the car ride. Consider a lightweight collapsible cat carrier since you’ll be lugging plenty of gear. Bonus points if your cat also uses their carrier as a bed!
Cat bed & blankets: Bring whatever bedding your cat normally sleeps on so they’ll feel more at home away from home.
Cat food & treats: Bring more cat food than you think you’ll need, just in case. Plan on feeding your cat the same way you do at home. Keep all cat food and treats in air-tight containers in bear-proof storage along with your own food.
Food & water bowls: Collapsible travel bowls with lids are easy to pack for car rides or hiking. If you’re RV camping with a cat, consider non-tip bowls with non-skid rubber bottoms.
Harness & leash: Make sure you’ve found the right type of harness for your cat before you go camping – your cat will need to be leashed the entire time you’re outdoors.
Litter box: Some cats will do their business in the woods, and some won’t. (If your cat uses the forest floor as their litter box, make sure you bury or bag the poop.) There are portable litter boxes designed for travel, as well as biodegradable disposable litter boxes you can try.
Cat first aid kit: Pack it where you keep your own first aid kit, so it’s easy to find in case of emergency.
Cat toy: Your cat’s favorite toy can also help them feel more at home, and can help distract them if any of the new sights, sounds or smells make your cat anxious.
Brush: Brushing your cat encourages shedding when it’s warm, and removes any woodsy debris they may have collected in their coat.
Cat Safety While Camping
Reduce the chances of your cat getting injured or lost while camping by keeping these safety tips in mind:
Make sure your cat’s collar or harness have tags with up-to-date information, and get your cat microchipped as a backup form of identification. You should also have at least one current photo of your cat in your phone (the easiest safety tip of all!).
Your cat should be up to date on all the flea, tick, and heartworm vaccines recommended by your veterinarian. Save your vet’s contact information in your phone, as well as the number of the emergency vet closest to your campsite.
Clip an LED to your cat’s harness as soon as the light starts to fade so they’re easier to keep track of.
Keep your cat hydrated while camping, and never let your cat drink from a puddle, stream, pond, or lake. Take a collapsible bowl and fresh water with you on excursions.
Read about birds of prey, snakes, spiders, wild animals, and poisonous plants that are common in the region you’ll be camping. Cats are naturally curious, so you’ll need to be vigilant about monitoring for potential threats.
Never, ever leave your cat alone when camping: not even if they’re leashed, in the tent, in the RV, in the car, or in their carrier. If you can’t commit to sleeping near your cat and bringing your cat along on all activities, then don’t take your cat camping.
Training Your Cat Before Camping
Even if your cat seems like they’d be a natural at camping, it’s a good idea to help prepare them for the new adventure.
If you’ll be sleeping in a tent, pitch it in the backyard and let your cat explore (you might want to get a special tent liner to protect the floor). If you’ll be camping in an RV, let the cat get familiar with the space and try some short drives before you hit the open road.
If your cat isn’t used to being outdoors, spend plenty of time outside together before you take them camping. You can start with letting them explore the backyard while on a leash, and eventually take a hike with your cat on a local trail to see if they’re more comfortable hiking on a leash or in a cat backpack.
If your cat isn’t leash trained, make this a priority before you take your cat camping. You need to feel confident your cat won’t squirm out of their harness and disappear into the woods.
Build a fire in a fire pit, bring out the camping chairs and marshmallows, and let your leashed cat experience being around a fire. Make sure their hair or leash doesn’t get burned!
Cats at the Campsite
You’ve done everything you can to prepare, and it’s finally time to enjoy the getaway! Here’s how to make sure your cat is a happy camper.
When you first arrive, use a clothesline tied between two trees (or attached to a stake in the ground) so your cat can explore the area while you set up the tent. Keep an eye out to make sure they’re not getting tangled up or into trouble. Provide a safe place for your cat to retreat to in case they get scared or overstimulated. Whether their safe space is in the tent, car, RV, or cat carrier, put a blanket or toy with familiar smells in there to help them relax.
Camping is a great way to “get away from it all,” but try and keep as close as possible to your cat’s normal routine. Feed them the same food at the same time, and stick to your cat’s usual daily playtime and bedtime.
If hiking with your cat in a backpack, stop and let them out to take a relief break, rehydrate, and get some exercise at regular intervals.
As a cat parent, you should be prepared to change your approach to camping when bringing your cat along. You’ll need to constantly be aware of where they are and what they’re doing, just as you would if camping with a child. To make sure your cat is safe and comfortable, you might need to take shorter hikes, miss out on canoeing or otherwise limit your activities. But camping with your cat can also be rewarding: your cat can help you notice things you wouldn’t otherwise, and spending lots of time together sharing different experiences can strengthen your bond.
Earn cat parent bonus points and be ready to handle emergency situations at home or away with our guide to pet first aid.
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