Camping with Cats: 9 Safety and Travel Tips

camping cat
Cats also like camping

Based on my own experience in “traveling” with cats, you should have no trouble taking your kitties to a cabin. Unlike “camping” with cats, a cabin is an “indoor” experience and provides plenty of safety and comfort for the kitties. (It’s basically the same as keeping them in a motel.)

Safety and travel tips:

  1. Be sure to keep the cats enclosed in the cabin at all times. Do not leave a door or window open so that they can escape. The main problem with “traveling” with cats is that if a cat becomes alarmed in an unfamiliar environment, it may run — and then has no easy way to find its way back to you.
  2. If you do decide to take the cats outside, do so on a secure halter and leash. (Most folks don’t recommend bothering, and frankly, the cats aren’t going to miss “walks.”)
  3. Take along some bottled water from home — e.g., water from your tap, that your cats normally drink. Unfamiliar water often causes diarrhea.
  4. When transporting the cats, make sure they are in a secure crate or cage. Cats can travel together in a single crate or separately. If the cats aren’t accustomed to car travel, don’t be surprised if they spend most of the journey yowling. Cats also become carsick VERY easily. Opinions differ on whether tranquilizers are worth it; personally, I don’t like what tranquilizers do a cat’s system. Drive “gently,” and avoid swooping around curves; that will trigger the tummy upset faster than anything. By the way, I’ve never noticed that it makes any difference if you feed the cats before traveling or not: If you have a “carsick” cat, it will barf regardless, and if you don’t, it won’t.
  5. Be SURE your cat has adequate identification. Make sure it has a collar with an ID tag that clearly identifies the cat’s home. Having microchip ID is also a good idea. But ALSO include a temporary ID that identifies where the cat is staying while you are in the cabin. What works well for this is one of those little “barrel” ID-tags, into which you can insert a piece of paper with the temporary address.
  6. Does the cabin have “maid service” or do you handle that? If someone else comes to the cabin to clean, make sure this person knows about the cats and the rules about not leaving doors and windows open. Expect your cats to be alarmed by the arrival of a stranger. (Although cats aren’t always consistent: My cat liked to “hide” under the covers in a hotel, and when the maid came into making the bed, the cat stood up to the bed by the maid as if asking her to put the covers back on so she could hide.)
  7. Don’t expect your cats to “love” travel. Two weeks is a good length of time; it will give them time to adjust. For the first two or three days, however, don’t be surprised if they hide under the bed or somewhere that makes them feel safe and don’t want to explore the cabin. (Some will explore, others won’t.) Also, don’t be surprised if your cats don’t EAT for two or three days. I’ve found this consistently whenever I travel with cats (we move so often that we’ve done this many, many times). For about three or four days or even a week, the cats just won’t touch their food. They are too stressed. When they begin eating again, you know the stress is going down.
  8. Another note on stress: Cats behave differently when stressed. They often behave the “opposite” of their normal behavior. For example, of our two cats who traveled, one was normally very affectionate while the other was aloof. When traveling, the affectionate one would hide and not want to come out, for petting or anything else. The aloof one, however, suddenly became very close and “clinging,” wanting constant reassurance from us. This, too, is “normal” and after a week, the cats will generally revert to their usual behavior.
  9. Is traveling better than boarding? I think it is. Consider this: Whether you travel or board, you are putting your cat in an unfamiliar environment, so the basic stress of “being someplace new” is the same. However, when your cat is boarded, it is put in a small cage in a room that has unfamiliar (and probably negative) smells, and surrounded by the presence of many other cats. This is definitely stress-producing. If the cat travels with you, it is still going to be stressed, BUT it will have the assurance of your presence and the presence of more familiar things (e.g., bedding, toys, dishes, etc.) Faced with the question of “what’s best for the cat,” I’d vote the following:
    BEST option: A reliable catsitter who can take care of your cats in their home environment; someone the cats know and trust. This provides the least disruption to their routine and you can feel comfortable knowing they’re happy.

SECOND BEST: If you have a SECURE place to stay (such as a cabin), take them with you. (Yes, you can camp with cats — but it’s best to do this only if you do it FREQUENTLY so that the cats get used to it.)

THIRD BEST: Board them.


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