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Everything You Need to Know About Perfecting Van Life With A Cat

According to a recent study, one in every 100 American campers is now taking their cat with them when they hit the great outdoors.

That joyous stat from the Hipcamp report outlines something we’ve thought for some time - embarking on the van life with a cat is just as rewarding as with your pooch.

It’s a proven fact that life on the road with your dog is incredible. But how about with your other type of furry friend?

In this blog, not only will we confirm that - yes! You can do the van life with your cat. But we’ll also show you how to do, what to know, where to go, and what to pack.

Let’s get you ready for the open road!

Ginger cat lying enjoying her bed and van life with a cat. Photo by Petrebels on Unsplash

Why Van Life With a Cat?

If you’re a cat lover, then you don’t need us to tell you about the unique bond that exists between tabby and owner.

But getting out on the road with your cat can be one of the best ways to solidify that bond even further.

Having your furry companion present during your trip can reduce stress, shrink separation anxiety in them and you, and afford you the opportunity to explore somewhere new with your best friend.

Plus, curious kitties love exploring new spaces - especially if they feel safe to do so e.g. by your side.

However, traveling with Mr. Whiskers can also bring up its own challenges.

What Are The Challenges of Traveling With Your Cat?

As we said, life on the road with your cat is not without its stresses. Some of the most common issues facing feline adventurers are:

  1. Motion Sickness

  2. Litter box management

  3. Keeping them healthy on the road

  4. Escape prevention

  5. Helping them adjust to a new environment

  6. Weather conditions

  7. Limited space

  8. Journey planning

  9. Emergency management

On the face it, that might seem like a pretty daunting list for a first-time cat traveler.

But, don’t panic. We’re all about solutions here, not problems! You can be prepared to face these challenges head-on with a little bit of forward thinking.

Let’s dive into those challenges in more depth and explore some solutions.

Man going exploring with his cat. Photo by Torie Roman

Preparing For Traveling With Your Cat

Motion Sickness

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know before you hit the road, whether your feline friend suffers from motion sickness or not. So, it pays to speak to your vet about motion sickness and preventative measures.

In the meantime, you could think about heading out on some shorter journeys to help build up your cat’s moving vehicle tolerance.

Additionally, ensuring the van stays well-ventilated will also help mitigate the risk of sickness.

Where To Put Your Van Life Cat Litter Box?

Getting a litter box in your van is an important issue. But, before you go placing it anywhere, there are some things to be aware of.

Once you place your Vanlife cat litter box, you should try to keep it in that position as much as possible. As we all know, cats are creatures of habit and their daily grind will already be pretty thrown off by starting a new life in a rolling tin can - without them wondering where the bathroom is every time they’ve gotta go.

Think about placing your portable litter box in a cubby area or secluded space. This should then become a safe space for your cat where they can go to the bathroom in peace.

Preventing Cat Litter Smell In a Campervan

One other point is the smell. Litter trays can smell bad enough in the home, never mind in a small container.

You’re going to want to keep your cat’s tray as clean as possible. Pine pellets can also help battle the odors coming from the tray. Moreover, pellets or crystals will also prevent the litter from sticking to their paws and being carried around the van.

Keeping Them Healthy on the Road

As we said in point 1, it’s important to schedule a thorough veterinary checkup before your trip to ensure your cat is in good health.

But it also pays to carry a copy of your cat's medical records and contact information for emergency vets along your route. So, you’re well-prepped if anything does happen while you’re out and about.

Make sure to also pack any necessary medications. But, just as important, get some familiar comfort items like toys and blankets in the van for them too. The positive association with those items will enhance their comfort levels.

Escape Prevention

Cats can be like cute little Harry Houdini’s even when they’re in a secure home. So, if the van life doesn’t suit them, prepare for one or two great escapes to happen.

You can get pet-friendly locks for your doors to increase the security of your van.

Also, consider harness training your pet before you leave. This can take a few months to nail, but it’s super worth it when you’re able to take them out for walks with you in the amazing places you’re visiting.

As an additional point, you should also get out and ensure the campsites you’re staying in are secure too.

Nobody wants to wake up to the heart-stopping feeling of losing your pet.

Adjusting to New Environments

Getting your cat used to the idea of living in a van can be tricky. But, as we said earlier, one super-simple win is to bring familiar items from home along with you. Their favorite bedding and toys create a sense of comfort.

Next, don’t just plunge straight into the whole vanlife “thing”. Gradually introduce your cat to new environments, starting with the campervan and then expanding to outdoor areas.

It can be difficult to maintain a consistent routine while on the road, after all, the unpredictability is part of the attraction, right? But to ease your cat's adjustment, do try to stay as schedule-orientated as possible - especially when it comes to core activities like feeding, drinking, and sleeping.

Weather Conditions

Okay, admittedly this one is a little out of your hands. However, you are in the driving seat and (presumably) know where you’re going. So, you’ll also be across what weather to expect in that destination at that time of year.

Some things you might want to consider when it comes to keeping your cat warm in the winter or cool in the summer are:

  • Proper insulation for the van

  • Heaters or fans around the camper

  • Create a safe space where your cat can go to cool off or warm up

  • Heat or ice packs are also a great portable option

Limited Space

One problem that isn’t going away when it comes to living the van life with your cat is the space inside your mobile home.

However, you can make the most of the space and ensure your furry friend is comfortable by adding cat-friendly zones within the campervan. Complete with cozy spots and scratching posts.

You should also keep up the fun times. Offer mental stimulation with interactive toys and playtime during stops.

This point goes without saying, but ensure you are providing plenty of love, attention, and reassurance to help your cat feel secure in the compact space.

Journey Planning

You might know where you’re going and how to get there - you might even be mapping out a more scenic route.

But, when plotting your journey, do also factor in plenty of comfort stops at pet-friendly locations.

You can also think about carrying collapsible outdoor enclosures or playpens for safe and enjoyable outdoor breaks.

When you do take 5 from the road, offer water and a small snack to keep your cat hydrated and content. You could also think about stopping off at one of the US’s pet-friendly hotels to mix up your trip - but, again, do make sure your cat doesn’t feel too freaked out by the change.

Cat sleeping in a comfy pet-friendly hotel bed. Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Emergency Management Systems

Nobody wants to think about the worst happening when you’re preparing to take an epic trip together. But it pays to be prepped.

Some top things to think about are:

How To Prepare Your Cat For Van Life?

Whether you’re traveling with one feline or you want to embark on van life with two cats, as we mentioned above, preparation is key.

Admittedly, this level of prep takes some of the spontaneous ‘gloss’ off your van life adventure.

But, before you hit the road you should think about putting together a collection of checklists for everything you’ll need for you, your cats, and the van.

Van Life Cat Prep

Cat prep certainly matters. Your cat van life checklist should include specialist items like toys and bedding, as well as schedules for vet visits, vaccinations, and any necessary medications. It’s also a good idea to ensure they are microchipped before you take off.

What Vehicle Should You Choose for Road-Tripping With a Cat?

One huge part of your adventure is the set of wheels you choose. You want to make sure you get this selection right, right?!

Your van or vehicle should be suitable for accommodating both you and your cats comfortably. However, you can also implement cat-friendly modifications, such as secure screens and barriers.

As we said earlier, you should also make sure your cat has their own “bedroom”. Don’t worry if you prefer them to sleep on your bed, we just mean creating a space just for them where they feel safe and calm. This should also be where your van life cat litter tray goes (and stays).

What Essential Supplies Should You Definitely Take on Your Cat Van Life Adventure?

On the theme of preparing well for your trip, here’s our list of essential items you can’t leave home without - if you want a smooth trip:

  1. Cat Carrier

  2. Litter Box

  3. Litter and Scoop

  4. Food and Water

  5. Collapsible Bowls

  6. Cat Bed or Blanket

  7. Toys and Entertainment

  8. Scratching Post

  9. First-Aid Kit

  10. Grooming Supplies

  11. Medications

  12. Travel ID and Documentation

  13. Cat Harness and Leash

  14. Waste Disposal Items

  15. Seat Belt or Harness Restraints

  16. Window Screens and Barriers

  17. Cat Carrier Cover

  18. Emergency Contact List

  19. Cat Calming Products (if needed)

  20. Cat-Safe Cleaning Supplies

That covers the basics of what you should need to take with you on your trip. But what about when you’re on the road?

Let’s round off by talking about staying sustainable and looking after the beautiful environments you’re traveling around.

Traveling Responsibly with Your Cat

We have an incredibly beautiful country - that’s one of the main reasons so many American campers hit the road in the first place.

So, it’s imperative that we take the utmost care of the environment when you’re experiencing van life with your cat.

Proper waste disposal is crucial. Use biodegradable litter, clean up after your cats diligently, and dispose of waste in designated bins to minimize your environmental impact.

However, you might be driving a gas-guzzler around the country, so environmentalism can’t just start and end with your kitty. Embrace eco-friendly van life practices, such as reducing plastic waste, conserving water, and using renewable energy sources when available.

Leave no trace and respect the environment at every stop.

Travel In Comfort With Your Cat Wherever You Go

It’s not just in the campervan, RV, or caravan where good feline travel etiquette comes in useful.

We also love to get out there with our cats in the car.

So it’s important to cat-prep your auto too. But, don’t worry, check out our tips for nailing car journeys with your cat.


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