It’s been estimated that up to 75% of RV owners go RVing with pets. And why not? Your RV is a home away from home—especially if you’re full-timing—and dogs love outdoor adventures as much as you do.
But before you take your pet RVing, make sure to prepare pets often ahead of time for a successful trip. Your pet has needs that you don’t have, and it’s important to be aware of them so that everyone stays safe and happy.
Acclimate your pet to the RV
Humans adapt to new places pretty easily, and RVs can quickly become “home” for us. But it’s different for your pet. Before you travel anywhere, slowly introduce him to the RV by letting him discover it on his own terms. He should freely go in and out so that he doesn’t feel trapped or forced, which could increase his anxiety.
Once your pet is familiar with the RV, get him used to driving by taking short trips around town. Start with a 10- or 20-minute trip and increase it as he gets accustomed to riding.
RVing with pets takes special planning beforehand. You’ll need to bring pet necessities, so create a pet packing list of everything you can’t leave behind. Your list should include the basic bedding, like food and doggie bags, as well as medical history, prescriptions, and emergency supplies.
Do your research ahead of time. Find a pet-friendly campground before you hit the road—and call ahead to make sure their policies haven’t changed. Find out if the destinations and activities on your itinerary will accommodate pets, and check if the national park you’re visiting allows your type of pet.
Tip! “Pet-friendly” doesn’t mean that all pets are welcome. There might be size or breed restrictions, or a limit on the number of pets allowed.
If you’re towing an RV, never keep your pet in the trailer while it’s in motion. She should stay in the vehicle with you so you can make sure she’s safe. Also, use a seat belt harness, so she doesn’t get tossed or jostled if you have to make quick stops or swerve around hazards.
Don’t forget medical readiness
Research veterinarians ahead of time, so that if a medical emergency occurs, you know exactly where to go. Also make sure your pet’s vaccinations and flea & tick treatments are current. You don’t want uninvited guests in your RV!
Get lots of exercises
Your pets need their exercise—especially dogs! Always keep your dog on a leash, for their safety as well as the safety of other pets and people. You can give outdoor cats the exercise they need by placing them on a harness and leash. They won’t like it at first, but most cats eventually get used to it.
Keep a routine
A regular routine is a must for your pet! Routines help her feel safe and at home. Keep your pet on a set feeding schedule (which also keeps pottying predictable—fewer surprises on your carpet!), and go for walks at the same time each day.
Leaving pets alone
You won’t have your pet with you 24/7. There will be times when you’ll have to leave him behind in the RV. Whenever you leave your dog or cat unattended in your motorhome, follow these practices:
• Crate your dog, or use a hard-sided pet carrier for your cat. Crates make your pet feel safe, and it keeps him from getting into trouble or destroying your furniture.
• Make sure the AC is running, and there’s plenty of ventilation.
Be a good neighbor. Familiarize yourself with the campground rules, and follow them. Keeping a pet at the campground is a privilege, not a right. We recommend introducing yourself to your camping neighbors and letting them know that you’re RVing with pets—ask them to tell you if your pet is ever a nuisance to them so you can correct her behavior.
And of course, clean up after your pet!
Figure out the litter box
Finding a spot for the litter box can be a bit of a challenge because your RV is a tiny space. Here’s a helpful post with a few suggestions for dealing with litter boxes.
Escape-proof your RV
Cats and dogs are great at taking off when you’re not expecting it. Don’t count on your screens to keep cats indoors, either! You may need to barricade doorways and keep windows shut to avoid escapes.
And if your pet is successful at getting out, be prepared!
• Keep a photo of your pet handy so you can post Lost-Pet signs
• Microchip your pet
• Update your dog and cat tags with your cell phone on them, since you won’t be anywhere near your permanent address.