Many full time RVers live with pets, usually cats or dogs. Since we only have cats, that will be the focus of this list of products, but many of them can be used for dogs as well. This gear for traveling with pets isn’t meant to be all-inclusive, but to give you some options of how we keep them clean, fed, and entertained in a small living space.
Obviously, one of the most important items for keeping pets alive is feeding them. Its kind of critical to them being happy. With pet food though, comes the danger of mice. I do not recommend storing pet food in the basement units unless it is in some sort of air tight container. If you are going on a long trip and need to stock up on your pet’s preferred food, buy it in the largest bags you can find (it will save you money that way), and put it in one or more Vittles Vault. It would have to be a very determined mouse to chew through one of these, and with an air tight seal, the food will stay fresh and the mice can’t smell the food to even know its there.
Canned food is easy to store and carry and no mouse is going to chew through a metal can.
For treats, many of them come in small pouches that are no match for a mouse, so I recommend getting a smaller air tight container and dumping them in there. Being air tight, they will also help the treats last longer.
Bowls should ideally be lifted off the ground. It helps the pets eat easier if they don’t have to bend over as far, and it reduces the amount of food knocked out of the bowl and onto the floor that has to be cleaned up. There are many options to choose from, but most also have a matching water bowl to keep the aesthetics of your RV interior clean.
If you have cats, you have a litter box. That’s a given. But what do you do with it so it doesn’t smell and look unsightly?
First off, get clumping litter that is easy to scoop and scoop it every single day. The smell won’t build up, the cats won’t get unhappy with a dirty box and go elsewhere, and its just more sanitary that way. For clumping litter, we found an amazing product that we now use exclusively. It may seem weird at first, but its NEON clumping litter. At first, I was skeptical. I thought having brightly colored litter was a gimmick and one that would be just brightly colored litter with no other benefits.
I was wrong.
I have no idea what the difference is with this litter and other litters, but the reduction of smell was incredible. It does clump very well and unlike other clumping litters, the urine clumps don’t stick to the bottom, they seem to stay at the top and float in the dry litter, making it very easy to scoop out. It seems like a weird idea, having bright neon green cat litter, but the cats don’t mind and it doesn’t smell at all. I highly recommend this stuff. It is available on Amazon in a few colors, but their website (www.neonlitter.com) has even more. The do have images of people making art by using two or more colors, but cats don’t care about art and it quickly gets mixed up and the image destroyed as they use it. Cats also don’t seem to be able to see neon colors, so the fact that it looks different hasn’t affected them at all.
Now a little bit about what to do with litter boxes. We bought one of those litter boxes that is made up of three parts. It has two full pans and one with a screen built in to the bottom. The idea is that you can lift the screen out, dump the clumps, put the screen in the second pan, dump the litter in there, and put the now empty pan underneath and it all fits together. Sounds great in theory. Well, its not. Its much more of a hassle to do all that work than it is to simply scoop the litter frequently. Once every few weeks, it will help to clean out the pan and give it a whole new fill of fresh litter, but if you scoop it every day, there shouldn’t be a buildup of residue. A simple sanitizing hand wipe should be enough to clean it out completely, then refill it and the cats can get back to their business.
If you don’t want to see the cat litter, you can get a covered litter pan. Some of them can be massive though, taking up lots of space and looking like what they obviously are. Some cats do not use covered litter boxes comfortably though; they want to be able to have a way to quickly exit if they feel threatened. If you have multiple cats, especially ones that don’t always get along, then a covered box may not be worth the extra cost.
Don’t bother with those self-cleaning litter boxes. They are expensive, many require their own brand of litter, and they scare the hell out of many cats. Just get a scoop and clean out the box frequently and you’ll be fine. If you have an issue with cleaning out a litter box and think its gross, then make sure to clean it every day so it doesn’t get gross. Also, what would you rather do, scoop dry dirty litter, or pick up steaming hot pieces of dog feces outside?
Pets need to be kept busy. A cat that plays often will sleep often. A dog that is taken for walks every day, multiple times a day, should not keep you up all night barking and running around. It is essential that you think of your pets and what they do all day and not assume they’ll be happy and content living in a small RV.
The easiest and most convenient toys are the ones that pets can use without your help. Also, its sometimes the simplest toys that entertain pets best. When we get an Amazon.com order, we keep the box for a few days, removing anything plastic that might choke the cats. For whatever reason, cats love empty boxes. I used to have a cat named grapejuice who would squeeze his big, fat butt into shoe boxes. And only shoe boxes. He would sit in them all day and the sides would bow out until it became nearly circular. But he loved them for his own reasons.
That’s not to say you should only let your cats play in boxes. There are many other toys, but again as with litter boxes, the simplest solution is usually best. Balls that roll around, toys that require the cat to reach in and bat at something, hanging feather toys, these are the easiest and most affordable ways to keep a cat happy.
There are things like automatic moving laser pointers, or balls with motors and batteries inside them, but those are extravagances that are not needed. A cat will just as readily knock a ball around as play with a moving dot, but the cost of the ball is far cheaper and easier to replace.
We also found some spring toys that one of our cats loves. He’ll play fetch with them, chase them when we throw them, bat them around, lose them in the crevices of the RV. We’ll find some in random places and have no idea how he managed to get them stuck there. But the best thing is they are $7.49 for 20 of them. When we found out he liked them, we bought the 20-piece pack and still have over half of it stored away. He hasn’t destroyed any of them, but they do get lost or we step on them and break them, so having backups is great.
Cats especially like to look outdoors. They are even more entertained if their are birds or squirrels out there to watch. I don’t think they’d ever be able to catch one if they did get out, but don’t tell them that!
If you have the space, get a cat tree. I know, I know, space is limited in an RV. Cats like to climb though and the higher they can get up, the happier they usually are. This also makes it easier for them to look outside too if a cat tree is in front of a window. You don’t need to get one that reaches to the ceiling and has all sorts of cubbies and tunnels and scratching posts and things hanging and whatever. A simple carpet-covered platform is really all they need.
About scratching posts though: Get some. Get several. If you like your fabric upholstery, you will want scratching posts. The cardboard ones are usually fine and often come with catnip that interests the cat even more.
However, don’t declaw your cats. I’m not going to rant here, but information can be easily found online about bad declawing is for cats. Its literally amputating the last knuckle of their fingers. It can make it painful to walk, use the litter box, and they are defenseless if they happen to get outside. If you value your furniture more than your cats comfort and quality of life, then don’t get a cat.
Keeping them cool
First off, keep their water bowls full. Add ice if you need to. Cats and dogs can have a more difficult time in the heat than humans do and they may not show signs of being overheated. Always watch for heavy breathing and panting. If they seem really uncomfortable, get them wet to help cool them. We also put standard household ice packs (wrapped in socks!) in their carriers when traveling so they don’t get too hot. Shade is also important and animals will go where it is cooler on their own.
After that, there are cooling mats. I can’t say which of these works best as we haven’t tried any. Be proactive though and read the reviews. Some work better than others, some commenters have said their dog tore theirs apart. As soon as we can, we will be adding a few around the RV in places where the cats sleep anyway and I assume they’ll continue to sleep there.
Fans are also very important. We have fans all over the place to keep air circulating and give us a breeze. We’ve found that most of the time, the cats sleep in front of a fan or open window.
And that’s about it!
Well sure, it was more about cats than I expected, but I think I covered everything to keeping them safe and happy in an RV. Please follow any of the links to products in this article to Amazon.com as we get a percentage back from any purchase you make which helps us keep posting content and bringing you new information.