Considering bringing your pets along in the motorhome? If so, you’re in good company; a huge number of RVers travel with animals. Dogs and cats are obviously the most common, but we’ve also seen a monkey (wearing a diaper, no less) and heard tales of rabbits, birds, reptiles, and even pot-bellied pigs!
GENERAL TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH PETS
KEEPING YOUR RV CLEAN
There is no escaping excessive pet fur in the best of times, and conditions only worsen in the confined spaces of an RV. Pets also add additional wear and tear on motorhome furnishings (which sometimes aren’t the most durably-built in the first place). However, there are a few things you can do to protect your coach or travel trailer from grime and excess fur:
ALL ABOUT DOGS
How and where your dog(s) ride when you travel will largely depend on their size and temperament, but generally speaking there are three options: confined to their crates, secured in an extra seat using a pet seat harness, or roaming free in the vehicle. Many pet owners insist that pets should always be firmly secured while the vehicle is in motion… but in reality some dogs are much happier when they’re curled up at your feet, in your lap, or in the backseat on their travel bed. It’s your call.
For us, using a crate or pet harness weren’t really options; we don’t have an extra seat to use for a harness, and there isn’t space near the front of the motorhome to fit a crate. Our 40lb. border collie gets very nervous riding in vehicles (much to our delight as full-time RVers!) and it would have been traumatic for everyone involved if we kept him alone in a crate near the back of the RV. After much troubleshooting, we’ve found that he rides best laying down in the space between the two seats in the cab with bones to chew on.
KEEPING THEM ENTERTAINED AND EXERCISED
The biggest question we’ve run into while traveling with a young border collie is how to keep him adequately exercised while on the road. Border collies are one of the most intelligent and tireless breeds of working dogs, which is great in theory but also means a simple walk doesn’t do the trick; he needs to run. We try to thoroughly tire him out at least every other day, but he’d love us more if we made it daily. As such, we’ve come up with a lot of tricks and exercise options that might be useful for folks with larger or high-energy dogs.
When you’re RVing you don’t exactly have a backyard, so to let your dogs hang outside you have to get creative.
If there’s plenty of space you can use some long line (we just went to REI and had them cut a 75-foot section of rope). Clip one end to your dog’s collar with a carabiner and attach the other to a sturdy base — viola! Seventy-five feet is obviously waaay too long for most occasions, but we already had that length to use for training him at a distance so we just alter it as needed. Leaving your dog outside on a long lead only works in some situations, though; namely, where there’s abundant space and not too much going on (so NOT most RV parks).
Another option, particularly for small dogs, is to use an exercise pen. These are basically wire panels that interconnect to create an enclosure. You can get them with or without doors, at various heights, and with covers or mats. The best part is that they fold up easily for transport and storage, and often you can add as many panels as you’d like to alter the size of the pen. Some RV parks may not allow these outside enclosures, though, so check before you set it up.
DOING THEIR BUSINESS
Please, don’t put 100% biodegradable dog waste into plastic bags that can take over 100 years to decompose! You’ll need to clean up after your dog frequently, so I would suggest buying biodegradable pick-up bags in bulk (and using a handy little dispenser that attaches to the leash). If you’re feeling creative there are also more crafty options, like cutting the bottom off a plastic milk or juice container to make a “scooper” for depositing waste directly in the trash can, but you should also have some bags available as a back-up.
USEFUL COMMANDS FOR TRAVELING
We’re all about teaching our dog fun and useful commands. He knows a lot of ridiculous stuff, but there are a few things that routinely make our life easier on the road.
ALL ABOUT CATS
Traveling with cats in an RV is slightly different than doing so with dogs. Cats are usually less accustomed to being outside or to riding in vehicles, so they’re more likely to be nervous or scared… and in my experience, a nervous cat in a car results in a nervous cat wedged under the seat refusing to come out! In this case it might be a much better option to keep your cat safely stowed away in a carrying case or crate. However, many cats do enjoy riding in cars and love to ride on their owner’s lap or shoulders while in transit. Like most things, it all depends on their personal preference, but luckily cats aren’t usually shy about letting you know.
The other thing to consider when traveling with cats is the difference between a motorhome and a fifth wheel. With a fifth wheel, you have to get into a truck (or other towing vehicle) each time you drive. If your cats aren’t fans of the outdoors and dislike being repeatedly carted between home and car, you might consider getting a motorhome or at least spending some effort acclimating your kitty to its crate to ease the tension of transport.
Cats like to go outside, too! You can train a cat to walk on a leash (make sure to use a figure eight harness, so it doesn’t slip off), but without training most will just collapse into a puddle and refuse to walk if you put a leash on them. You can also use an exercise pen (similar to those used with dogs) with a wire top, or get a tall one with perches. There are many cat-specific outdoor equipment options, so you can probably find something your kitty enjoys.
DOING THEIR BUSINESS
One of the biggest challenges when traveling with cats is deciding where to put the litter box in the RV! This is really going to depend on your own rig and preferences, but I’ve listed some of the possibilities I’ve heard below. Regardless of where it’s put, though, everyone we’ve talked to recommends using a covered litter box to help keep everything contained on the road.