Tips for Taking Cats Camping

taking cats camping

Have you ever thought about camping with a cat?  Well it is possible!  With just a little planning this idea can actually come true.  Camping is also an excellent way to exercise the bond you and your cat have for each other.  It may sound as simple as attaching a leash to your cat’s collar, packing a can of tuna, and venturing off into the woods, but that’s just the start of it!

If you want to ensure that both you and your cat have a good experience, it is going to take a little bit of planning.  If you are new to traveling with your cat then you came to the right place.  Here is a complete how to guide on how to go camping with a cat.

What Type of Camping Trip Will You Be Doing?

Decide what type of trip you will be taking with your cat.  Will you be sleeping in an RV?  Or will you be camping in a tent with a car nearby?  You will want to make sure that you properly prepare based on what type of camping trip you will be going on.  Will it be a camping trip for a few days or a week?  These details will help you decide what to bring as well as how much.

If you are just going to go for a small hike with your cat that’s perfectly fine as well.  Don’t expect to venture out and be the next survivor man with your feline friend by your side.  If you have never taken your cat on a hiking trail it isn’t too late to try it out.  Hiking is a great activity that you can both do while out camping.

Properly Leash Train Your Cat Before Going Camping

Before heading outdoors you will first need to properly leash train your cat.  It is better to familiarize your cat with a leash before the camping trip.  Your cat’s first trip into nature shouldn’t be when his paws first touch the ground at the campsite, so being prepared in this aspect is a plus.  Training your cat to walk on a leash can take a little bit of patience, but the benefits in the end are well worth the effort.

You will thank me later when you realize just how many situations a leash and harness can come in handy for.  After your cat is leash trained you will be be using it a lot more than just for camping.  It’s great to use at the vet, walking your cat around the block, and any other outdoor activities where you will need to make sure your cat is safe and secure.

I personally use this harness and leash  from amazon.  It works well for what it is and it’s completely escape proof.  Having a harness that is escape proof should be your main priority.  I don’t care if the leash and harness can make your cat levitate; if it isn’t escape proof then it’s not worth it.  The last thing you want to be doing is spending your whole trip running around trying to chase your cat in a forest because he slipped out of his harness.

Is Your Campsite Pet-Friendly?

Make sure to do your homework about where you are traveling to make sure if cats are allowed.  Some national parks allow pets on certain trails and in campgrounds, but some will not allow them in the back-country.  Pets are allowed in all U.S. national forests, but they must be secure by a leash at most places and are not allowed to be in the swimming areas.  Some campground will also charge a flat fee if you are bringing your cat.

You may also want to research your specific campsite to see how prevalent the wild life is in the area.  It’s always good to know what types of animals and critters have been seen in the areas that you are going to be camping at.  There are many animals that may want to prey on your cat while out in the wilderness.  Animals like mountain lions, bears, bobcats, coyotes, wolves, and many other carnivorous animals.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Check the Weather at the Campground

camping with a cat

Checking the weather is the next vital step before you even set foot into your campsite with your cat.  It would not be wise to take your cat camping in extreme weather conditions.

In extremely hot conditions your cat may not be able to do much without getting dehydrated.  Dehydration in cats is a common problem when taking your cat out during warmer weather.  Another thing to consider is your cat’s coat during the hotter season.

If you have a hairless breed or your cat has fine, light hair, he may need to use sunscreen. This sunscreen from amazon works very well for protecting your cat’s skin and is highly recommended.  Cats are also at risk for sunburn just like humans.  Sometimes even having a nice fur coat isn’t enough to protect from the suns strong rays.  Even if your cat has a thick fur coat I would still recommend some type sun protection.

This also applies to extremely cold weather.  Certain times of the year warrant very cold nights when out camping.  Not many people talk about how well cats can handle the cold.  Many people think that cats will be just fine in the cold, but sometimes that is not the case.  In some instances you will have to dress your cat up a little bit to bring his internal temperature up to par.

Pack the Proper Camping Gear for Your Cat

So you have all your stuff packed and are ready to go right?   Wrong!  Your cat also needs to be properly accounted for.  Along with this harness and leash you will also need to make sure you have a comfortable sized cat carrier and all his essentials.  Not only will the cat carrier be useful for the car ride, but it will also make a great place for your cat to sleep.

It is a very good idea to invest in the proper supplies for your camping trip.  Once you have selected the supplies you want to take be sure to pack your cat’s supplies separate from yours.  This will make it so much easier to access your cat’s items as needed without having to dig through your items in the process.  It will make caring for your cat 10 times easier during this trip.  Consider this your cat’s survival kit.

Pack the same food that your cat eats at home.  It’s never a good idea to test out a new brand of cat food.  Especially when you’re a hundred miles away from the nearest pet store.  You can’t control every situation when camping, but you can sure as heck control your cats food consumption to avoid any digestive issues.  Bring enough food for every day that you plan to camp and then some.  Your cat may need extra food due to the extra physical activity they will be doing at this time.

Water Is You and Your Cat’s Best Friend

Both of you need to stay properly hydrated.  Do not rely just on wet food to keep your cat hydrated.  Some people think that wet cat food is enough to keep your cat hydrated, but that is far from the truth.  Your cat will need to have fresh drinking water.  Avoid giving your cat water from streams, ponds, or creeks.  Letting your cat drink from a stream can sound very tempting since they are commonly found while hiking.  Still avoid this as there are mainly negative side effects that can happen if your cat were to drink from them.  These water sources can contain parasites or bacteria that can cause infections and illness.  If you or your cat gets sick during the trip it will be a long agonizing ride back home.  A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t drink the water, your cat shouldn’t either.

There are many survival guides out there saying that you can boil out all the bacteria and diseases from the free flowing water sources.  I still recommend that your stray away from doing so and just bring plenty of bottled water.

Always Keep an Eye on Your Cat

camping with a cat

Always keep your cat on a leash.  Never let him roam the campground unattended.  Either have him on the leash or inside the carrier.  Keeping him inside the tent unattended without a leash is also a bad idea.  Cats are notorious creatures when nobody is around.  They will bite, claw, and scratch at anything to try an escape if they feel as if they are boxed in.  Securing them with a leash or locking them inside of their carrier is only way to ensure that your cat doesn’t wander off and run into any potential dangerous wildlife.

While you are out with your cat you will need to keep a close watch on what he sniffs and tries to eat.  There are many poisonous plants and other wildlife that can harm your cat if ingested.  This goes along with keeping him away from water sources that may get him sick as well.

Your cat will be encountering many new insects, plants, and sounds in the wild.  In turn this will be a time where your cat will be very curious.  Let him engage in this curiosity, but make sure its under your discreet supervision.  Watch out for anything that you deem dangerous.  Be extra cautious with rocks or big boulders.  Reptiles, insects, and bugs that may or may not be able to harm your cat usually love to live under these formations because of the shade and darkness that they provide.  One wrong move and you could put yourself in a situation with a very aggravated snake.

Outdoor Camping Safety for Your Cat

In addition to bringing a first-aid kit, make sure that your cat’s harness and leash are decorated with some type of led lights.  This will make your cat easier to spot in case he were to get away.  Using some sort of GPS tracker is also a great idea.  If you were to lose your cat you can simply look up his GPS location using whatever device you may have.  There are lots of different GPS devices available on the market.  If you read my article up above then you already know what tracker I recommend.  Just be sure to purchase one that will work even without reception from a cell phone.  Also make sure he is properly identifiable with tags in case somebody were to find him.

Make sure your cat is up to date with all his vaccinations.  Take him a week or two in advance to the vet to make sure everything is up to date.  This includes any flea, tick, and worm prevention treatment.  Your cat will be exposed to many different types of insects and making sure he is protected from the basics is essential.

What About Fleas, Ticks, and Mosquitoes?

Since your cat will be exposed to nature, there is a high chance that he will attract these types of bugs.  Vaccines will only go so far as to protect your cat from deadly diseases.  Your cat will still be at risk of being bitten by these insects.  It would be in you and your best interest if you were to invest in some type of bug repellent.  The last thing you want on your camping to do list is fleas jumping all over you at night in the tent.

There are lots of different bug repellents out there for animals.  I like to use this bug repellent from amazon for my cat personally.  It is an all in one repellent for fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes so you won’t be needing to spray your cat with 3 different products.  The less supplies you need to pack your cat’s bag means there will be more room for more important items like food and water.

Where Does My Cat Go to the Restroom?

Some cats may just do their business in the woods, while other cats may still be accustomed to using a cat litter box.  The only downside to your cat doing his business in the woods is that your will have to use a leash and walk him out every so often unless you want a soiled tent.  Remember that there are no washing machines in the wilderness.  The best litter boxes for traveling will be lightweight, portable, and collapsible which makes them easy to haul around.

It’s always a smart idea to have a litter box handy especially for the car ride.  Not only will these help while camping, but in any situation where your cat will need to use the restroom.  This can include a long car ride, a plane trip, train ride, or any other situation which will warrant your cat being away from home for an extended period of time.

Where Is the Best Place for My Cat Sleep?

The best place for your cat to sleep is inside his cat carrier in the tent.  Having your cat sleep in his carrier will keep him safe if there were an emergency.  If for some reason you needed to leave in a hurry all you would need to do is grab his carrier and leave.  Keeping him inside his carrier will also protect him from any wildlife that may wander by.

If your cat keeps you up at night by meowing in his carrier then a good alternative is to keep him on a leash.  Take him outside of his carrier and make sure the leash is secured to a tent peg or any other object.  You want to make sure that your cat can’t dislodge the leash.  This option is a little more risky than keeping him in your carrier.

Make Your Cat Feel at Home

Along with all the required supplies and travel gear, don’t forget to bring some cat toys and a familiar blanket.  This will help your cat feel like he is still in his environment at home.  Try to bring items that your cat plays with often or sleeps on.  You want all the items to be well used by your cat so that his scent is embedded into them.  It is not the actual physical items that help your cat feel comfortable.  It is the scent that is attached to each item.  Keep that in mind when choosing which items to bring camping.

If your cat doesn’t use any toys, blankets, or beds at home then you can use his food bowls as an alternative way to try and bring his scent with you.  I know it may seem weird, but it’s a proven fact that the familiar scents will help with your cat’s anxiety levels.

Cats are more aware of smells and scents than us humans are.  When you bring your cat to a new area, like a campsite, they will be overwhelmed with new senses.  Having a few items with his scent on them will give your cat some remembrance to calm down.

Do a Practice Camping Trip with Your Cat

If your cat has never traveled before it would be a good idea to do a mock camp trip.  Pack all your belonging as well as your cat.  Take him for a quick ride around the block.  Having your cat ride in the car around the block with you will help you see how your cat will react to a car ride.

When you get back to the house, set up a tent in your backyard.  Stay one night in your backyard as if you were camping with your cat.  Use the same supplies as you would if you were really out camping.  This exercise will help you see what you will need to prepare for with a night out with your cat.  Some cat’s won’t mind being cooped up in a tent for hours at a time.  Other cats may cry and meow a lot until you let them outside.  You will never know until you try a mock camping trip in your backyard.

If you don’t have a backyard you can still do this exercise.  The only difference is that you will use your living room instead of a backyard.  Try to open all the doors and windows in your home.  This will help let some of the outside noise from birds and other insects come in.

If you have a front yard you can try it their as well, but it’s less safe than inside your home or the backyard.

Watch the Campfire

camping with a cat

Always have an eye on your cat while there is an active campfire nearby.  Your cat may be scared from the sight and heat of the flames.  If there is no fire, but you plan on starting one, make sure he is properly secured.  The sudden start of the fire may startle your cat.  Keeping him secure will help him avoid any injury.

Your cat may have enough common sense not to venture into the flames, but he is not smart enough if his leash were to get caught up in the flames.  It is your sole responsibility to make sure he doesn’t end up too close to the campfire when you’re making s’mores or trying to keep warm.

Provide Your Cat with a Safe Zone at the Campsite

This safe zone can be an open tent door, an open car door, or even an open carrier.  If your cat gets spooked he should have a place that he can run off that is familiar to him.  This will help keep him from running into the woods.

The most important part of camping with a cat is to never leave him unattended.  You can’t control all events during a camping trip, but after reading this article you should be more confident if you do decide to venture into the wildlife with your feline friend.

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