Thousands of RVers hit the road every year to go camping with their furry friends. For many pets, this can be a stressful situation. You are putting them out of their element and into a moving vehicle, which they may not be used to. Other pets absolutely love the travel and adventure that they get out of it.
We could easily argue that dogs enjoy it more than cats do, TYPICALLY. However, we know many full-time RVers whose cats have totally adapted to the lifestyle and are just as happy or happier than they would be if they were still living in a sticks and bricks. But these kitties have had time to adapt.
Your pet is going to have their own idea of how much they like or dislike your imposing a move or trip on them. What we can offer here are ways to help them acclimate to their new situation.
1. Keep Things Familiar
Your pet usually has a schedule at home. A food schedule, walking schedule, a time that you come home, entertainment time and so on. When you go on a trip, try to keep some of that schedule the same. Bring the things they use from home such as their bedding, food and water bowls and any toys that they like to play with.
Make an effort to feed them around the same time you usually do at home. This isn't rocket science, but it might not cross your mind until it's too late. Your pet(s) will appreciate your keeping some things familiar to them. Your payback just might be that they don't bark or meow incessantly. They will also settle in faster.
2. Exercise Your Dogs As Much As Possible
Dogs need stimulation. The best stimulation you can give them is a structured walk. No, we don't mean taking them out to a dog park and letting them run around with crazy energy. This is akin to letting kids out to play at recess. When they come back in, they are even MORE wound up than they were before recess. Dogs need a mental challenge and a structured, calm, LONG walk is the #1 best way to achieve this. It will get you off of the couch at the same time. What are you doing on the couch on a camping trip, anyway? ????
Get out there. Bring your dog(s) with you. If your dogs are out of control and not fun to take out, we recommend looking up trainer Cesar Millan for advice. He has plenty of books and videos and shows out there to guide you in the right direction to making your lives much happier together.
Cats may be conditioned to walk outside on a harness. They too may enjoy walking around in new scenery. We have friends who full-time who can even let their cats out NOT on a leash, and they go explore, then always come home. Caution- not all cats will do this. Know your cat(s). If they tend to follow you around the block at home, they may do the same on the road. If not, a harness might be in order.
3. Don't Put Pets In Your RV Trailer While Driving
We understand that not many dog or cat owners out there use a harness/seat belt for their pets when in transit. This was going to be our #1 recommendation, until we saw a video about how many of them fail. (Video below)
We still believe the car will be safer and more comfortable than in your trailer.
Why not in the trailer? First, you aren't there with them so their fear factor is likely to rise. To them, they are riding alone in what to them could be a building having an ongoing earthquake. They don't know what's going on really, so why throw them back there to be alone and scared?
It's not a good idea. Secondly, in an accident, the trailer may tip over but the tow vehicle might not. They have a better chance in the tow vehicle than they do in a towed trailer. If the towed trailer starts swaying, and potentially tips, or has a blowout, you don't want them to be back there.
It's hard to keep your pet safe in a moving vehicle either way. Especially when it's reported that 15 out of 16 pet harnesses failed in a crash test. We inserted the video below for the results of that, plus the danger of flea collars.
4. Watch Where You Leave Your Pets
As you hopefully are already aware, most RVs can quickly get hot in the sun, much like a car can. If you are camping in an RV park, and you have your A/C on, be aware that the power can shut off without notice, leaving your pet(s) in a very deadly situation if your windows are all closed and it's a hot sunny day. What can you do to prevent disaster for your pets?
First, never leave your windows closed and fans not running if the temperatures are going to be even as high as the low 70's. You should have a good idea of how quickly and how much hotter than the outside temperature your rig gets before you ever leave your pets in your rig at temperatures over 70.
No matter where you are, turn on your RV roof vent fan(s). If you have a Fantastic Fan with an auto-rain sensor, this can be problematic if it does rain. The sensor gets tripped, the vent stops and closes, and in most cases it won't open back up even if you push the button to open it because the sensor is still wet. This can also be disastrous.
We recommend turning the rain sensor off in such a case, if possible. It's going to rain? Then disable the rain sensor, or stay home if you don't have any other means for keeping your pets cool. If you have a Maxxair vent fan, you can keep it open even when it's raining outside because it has its own vent cover and can stay open even if it rains.
You can also keep a fan on inside of your rig. You can purchase 12v fans, so that even if the power does fail, your RV battery can help keep air circulating inside of your rig.
Put out your awning if the winds allow. If you are boondocking, you can always try to angle your awning so that it faces South and shades your rig.
Also, there are temperature monitors that you can install in your rig. Some of them will actually call or text your cell phone in the event the temperature goes higher or lower than your set temps. This is helpful in the case that the RV park loses power and your A/C shuts off. It's also helpful in the cold. Say your LP tank switchover valve fails to switch to a new tank, allowing your rig to start getting close to freezing. You can set an alarm for a high temperature and a low temperature.
An example of such a device you can use to monitor the interior of your RV is the MarCELL. The MarCELL will monitor interior temperature, humidity, and if the power goes out. It will then call a preset phone number (or numbers), send you a text or send you an email - your choice!
The MarCELL utilizes the Verizon cellular network and includes a cellular device inside the unit. It DOES require a monthly/annual subscription (pays for the cell service). NOTE: You must be in a Verizon coverage area for the MarCELL to be able to call you.
The way the MarCELL works is that it will call you at the phone number that you tell it to (the cell phone you carry with you) when the temperature gets higher or lower than the temperatures you set for it. It will also notify you if the power goes out.
5. Get Your Pets Ready For Road Trips
If you never take your cat or dog in the car for trips, it's a very good idea to acclimate them to the motion and feeling by taking short trips before your big one. Start with a simple around the block drive.
Don't get all excited before asking them to get in the car, stay calm and assertive. Praise them if they are behaving properly but don't get too overzealous about it. Once they realize the car isn't going to kill them, start extending the duration of your trips. Treats may help them learn to associate the vehicle with positive things, but only give the treats when they are being calm, not if they are shaking or are barking/hiding.
6. Bring Your Pets Medications And Vaccination Records
This may seem like another no-brainer, but people do forget these things. If your dog or cat needs a daily medication at home, he's going to need it on the road as well! Don't forget these items. It's just a good idea to have their vet records as well. Don't want to haul the paper? Scan it into an app on your phone.
7. Get Your Pets Microchipped
If you haven't done this already, now is the time. If your pet gets out and runs away, their collar with name and phone number is their best friend.
However, if they lose their collar somehow or you had it off, say to give them a bath, then the chances of you ever getting them back is extremely low. Microchipping will be the only hope if someone finds your pet and takes them to a vet to see if they are microchipped.
8. Be A Good Neighbor
Let's be honest. If you have a dog that you KNOW barks incessantly when you leave, you shouldn't be bringing them with you to an RV park if you plan to leave them in your rig. It's just totally inconsiderate.
Please, for the dogs' sake, get yourself some training to figure out why your dog has this separation anxiety. Dogs that bark incessantly tend to either be under exercised or they haven't been taught how many barks are ok/that you want. Sometimes, teaching them to bark on COMMAND can help you to also teach them to be silent.
This video might help you learn to de-sensitize your pet to not bark at certain stimuli:
Hopefully, you already know that It's not any fun for your dog at home being alone, either. What you have is a stressed out dog, every time you leave. It doesn't have to be that way, but it will take a fair amount of training. Your dog is miserable. Don't make your neighbors suffer too. Get yourself trained to train your dog, FIRST. All of the RVers out there will silently thank you for it!
That's a wrap! Get out there and have fun. Just don't forget to keep your pets safe at all costs. Always leave plenty of water down for them and don't let them get out!
Camp on, Addicts!
Author: Kelly Beasley
Kelly Beasley is co-founder of Camp Addict and loves sharing her enthusiasm for the RVing lifestyle. As a full-time RVer since May 2015, Kelly's playful writing style helps make learning about the sometimes dull subject of RV products a bit more interesting.