How to travel in an RV with pets: an in-depth guide

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When people think about getting an RV, Camper or Motorhome their biggest concern is who is going to take care of the pets while they are on the road in an RV? The best solution would be to bring your pet with you on your next RV trip. Keeping your pets in a moving motorhome that has limited space is a lot different than keeping a pet in an apartment or a home. But with proper preparation and knowledge, you can easily travel in an RV with your cat or dog without any problem.

You should note the following things if you want to travel in an RV with your pets:

  • Pack all the essential items that your pet might need during the trip
  • Pick a campground that is pet-friendly to park your RV because some campgrounds don’t allow pets
  • Familiarize your pet with the RV 
  • Keep your pet safe from wild animals while traveling
  • Make sure your pets get enough exercise during the trip
  • Bring necessary pet documents with you

Traveling with pets is a great way to spend as much time as you want on the road because you don't have to worry about your pets being away from you. And in this article, we will explain how you can enjoy the company of your pets while traveling in an RV.

How to travel in an RV with pets: an in-depth guide 1

Make sure you have all the things that your pet needs

You might not notice this when you are in your home but your pet needs a lot of supplies every day. And when it comes to RVing with your pet there are some additional items you should keep with you so you can make your pet feel at home while traveling in the RV. Some necessary items your pet needs for a road trip include:

  • Food: This is a no brainer. You will need to buy enough pet food before leaving for the trip that should last you for at least a few days in case you are traveling through less populated areas where it is difficult to find pet stores to buy more pet food. Another thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t change the type or brand of food for your pet during the trip because it can upset your pet’s tummy. So always try to find the same brand food you normally feed your pet to keep your pet healthy and save your pet from developing digestive issues. Speaking of digestive problems, it is best to give as little human foods to your pet as possible during the trip as this can also cause stomach issues in pets.

Note: While traveling it can be difficult to come by good quality pet food because rural areas don’t usually have a lot of pet stores. So it is advisable to buy as much pet food as you can when passing through bigger towns so that you will always have good quality food available for your pet along the way.

  • Water: Make sure you have plenty of water for your pet because pets, especially dogs, need a lot of water during summers. So it is always a good idea to keep a separate container with clean water for your pet in your RV and refill the container whenever you make a stop.
  • Food and water bowls for pets: Pack separate bowls for food and water and it is a good idea to get anti-spill water bowls because it is very easy to spill water all over the RV floor from a water bowl. Anti-spill water bowls are designed to be used inside an RV or a motor home so you can make sure your pet will have plenty of water and food whenever they need it.
  • Medicines And other supplements: If your pet is receiving medication for a health issue make sure that you have enough medicine to last you at least a monthbecause pet medicine can be difficult to come by if you are traveling to a remote area. Similarly, if you are giving your pets any supplements you should buy enough supplements in advance so that you don’t have to skip a dose if similar supplements are hard to find in other areas.

Tip: When buying medicine for your pet make sure that the expiry dates of the medicines are long enough for your trip. Because you don't want to end up buying a lot of medicine only to find out that the medicine is expiring before the trip ends.

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  • Seat harness: While you might be tempted to let your pet roam around the RV while you are driving it is very dangerous for you and your pet. Not only can your pet lose its balance and fall or slip when you use the brakes but a pet roaming inside the RV while you are driving can be distracting for the driver. Therefore it is important to set up pet harnesses similar to car harnesses in your RV to buckle up your pets and prevent them from moving around and falling over if you have to brake suddenly or avoid an oncoming obstacle on the road by making a sharp turn
  • Leash: It is necessary to take a leash with you when traveling with pets no matter how well trained your pet is. Your pet might be tempted to explore the new surrounding while you are camping or making a stop. So if you let your pet outside the RV without a leash or harness then your pet is at the risk of getting lost since they are not familiar with the surroundings and they can’t find their way back to the RV. So make sure you keep a leash in case of a dog or a harness in case of a cat with you before leaving on an RV adventure with your pets.
  • Pet crate: A crate is going to come in handy if you want to keep your pet safe in case of an emergency or a mishap such as the RV breaking down or severe weather. Under these conditions, it is safer for your pet to be inside a crate and besides pets find it comfortable to be inside their crate.
  • Bed for your pet: While you are camping your pet might want to sleep in their bed because just like humans get tired from driving long distances animals are even more prone to fatigue after being harnessed to a seat in a moving RV. Therefore it is important to keep your pet’s bed with you so they can sleep comfortably when you are camping at a campground. Not only is the pet bed comfortable but it also protects your pet from any harmful critters that might be crawling around at the campground.
  • Litter tray: This one is for pet owners who want to hit the road with their feline friend. You would want to keep a little tray and a stock of litter to give your cat a clean place to go to the bathroom instead of wandering outside to take care of business.
  • Bags and gloves to clean up after your pet: When you get a pet, you sign up for cleaning up for them all their lives. And when camping you might be required to clean up after your dog or cat to keep the campground clean. Therefore it is best to keep waste cleanup bags and disposable gloves with you to deal with any cleanups when needed.

Pick a pet-friendly campground

When traveling in an RV the best way to camp is to park your RV at a campground and set up camp at one of many camping sites available at the campground. Once you have picked a route for your RV trip, check for the campgrounds that are located along your route and make sure that these campgrounds allow campers to camp with their pets before booking your camping spot. Some campgrounds might not be safe for pets or have general restrictions against pets so always check for the campground’s pet policy before parking your RV at it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some campgrounds might be dog-friendly but this doesn't automatically make them cat or rabbit friendly. While some parks might allow pets around the camping area but won’t allow pets on trails or other activities. If you want you can also book a campground that has a boarding facility for pets which is going to allow you to enjoy different activities such as hiking or boating. Even if a campground has a pet-friendly policy you should still take care of other camper's comfort and clean up after your pets.

Note: Your dog might not be allowed inside a campground if it belongs to a certain breed. That is because of misconception about some dog breeds being aggressive or vicious. So it is a good idea to mention the breed of your dog when asking for the pet policy of a campground.

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Familiarize your pet with the RV ahead of trip (RV training your pet)

If your pet is going to be traveling in an RV with you for the first time then you will have to familiarize your pet with various sounds, space limitations and being in motion before you embark on the trip. Here are some ways you can familiarize and train your pet to be on the RV:

  • Introduce your pet to its new home: If you are planning an RV trip that stretches to multiple months or even a year you will have to start introducing your pet to the interior of the RV at least a few weeks before starting the actual trip. You can help your pet get used to living in an RV by:
  • Bringing some of your pet’s favorite toys and items such as bedding, their favorite blanket or a ball inside the RV. The idea here is to allow your pet to sniff around in the RV.  When they smell familiar scents of their favorite items inside the RV it is going to calm your pet down. You can even allow the pet to play with their toy inside the RV for a while every day leading up to the start of the trip so they can associate the RV with a fun memory.
  • If your pet is crate trained then bring your pet along with the crate inside the RV. This way your pet can familiarize itself with the RV from a space that makes them feel safe.
  • Give your pets some tasty treats when introducing them to the RV so that they enjoy being inside the RV.
  • Let your pet sit inside the RV with the seat harness on to get them used to being inside a seat harness because your pet is going to be harnessed for hours at a time when on the road, so it is best to start introducing the seat harness to them ahead of time.
  • Get your pet used to the engine noise: Your home is usually quiet and calm which is why your pet might get anxious or scared inside an RV due to the sound of an engine and other road noise. That is why it is important to get your pet used to the sound of a running engine before leaving for the trip. You can start getting your pet used to the engine and other RV noises once your pet has gotten used to being inside the RV. When your pet is familiar and comfortable with the concept of being in the RV you can start the engine of the RV without driving the RV just yet. It is best to have someone by the pet’s side while you start the engine to comfort your pet in case it gets startled by the sound of an engine starting up and running. Let the engine run for a few minutes and give your pet a lot of praise and a few treats to make them more relaxed. You will have to repeat this process at least once a day for a week before your pet is ready to start the journey in the RV.
How to travel in an RV with pets: an in-depth guide 4

Note: While most pets will get used to the engine noise quite easily others might get scared or anxious when the engine starts. If you notice that your pet seems scared and is getting uncomfortable when the engine starts then you should cut the engine off immediately and comfort your pet. When your pet has calmed down a little try turning the engine on again if the pet is still reacting by being scared then turn the engine off and return your pet inside the home after it has calmed down.

  • Get your pet used to being in motion: Pets who are not used to being inside a car can become anxious when the RV starts to move. Therefore it is important to get your pet familiar with the feeling of being in motion with the help of some simple exercises. After the first step where you familiarize your pet with the RV you will then have to make the pet feel comfortable inside the RV before you give your pet a quick ride around the block. So you will need to keep your pet’s favorite toys and treats with you when doing this exercise. Once your pet seems to be calm and comfortable with the sound of the running engine, secure your pet in a harness to prevent any injury in case your pet loses its balance due to being in motion. Next, ask a family member or someone your pet is familiar with to sit next to the pet and start driving the RV. If your pet stays calm while the RV is driving then reward your pet with a treat and praise your pet to reinforce this behavior. But if you notice any anxious behavior from your pet stop driving immediately and park the RV on the side until your pet calms down. Repeat this exercise daily until your pet is completely used to being driven around in the RV.

Note: Some pets might get used to being driven in an RV after a few training sessions while others might take weeks. But if your pet is constantly reluctant to calm down when the RV is in motion then your options are either to seek professional help to make your pet feel comfortable while in motion or to avoid bringing your pet with you on the RV trip because forcing your pet to be inside a moving RV can be bad for both you and your pet.

Keep your pets safe from wildlife while traveling

When you are traveling with pets especially while passing through nature reserves, your pet is in real danger of being attacked by wild animals or parasites. Not to mention your pet can even eat a poisonous plant out of curiosity and harm itself. So to keep your pet safe from dangerous wildlife and plants here are a few precautions you can take:

  • Don’t take potty breaks in areas with wildlife danger signs: When passing through nature reserves, rural areas or even long highway stretches you will come across warning signs that are a clear indicator that, letting your pet out in these areas is dangerous. So it is best to only let your pets out on a leash if the area is a wildlife reserve or an animal crossing.
  • Keep your pet on a leash when hiking or taking a walk: Pets especially dogs have a very strong sense of smell and if you let your dog out at the campground on its own it might catch the scent of a wild animal, decide to explore and find out it’s a bear or a coyote. There are plenty of cases where dogs went to explore around a campground and ended up being attacked by a wild animal. So it is best to keep on marked trails while hiking and keep your pet on a leash or harness when you are hiking or simply taking a walk in an area with the presence of wildlife.
  • Apply tick and flea medications: It is almost impossible to avoid getting fleas, ticks, and other parasites when your pet is out in the great outdoors. So always keep flea medication with you and look for signs such as frequent scratching or biting the skin, which are telltale signs that your pet has caught ticks or fleas.
  • Give your pet a safe place to sleep: Your pet might be a family member for you but it is still prey for wild animals. Therefore it is important to keep your pet safe when it is sleeping especially when you are camping in a park surrounded by forest. You should always set up a bed for your pet either inside the RV or in a safe tent to keep them safe from wild animals.
  • Make sure your pet doesn’t come in contact with a poisonous plant: Your pet might be tempted to sniff or rub against every bush and tree but you never know which plant is poison ivy. So before stopping in an area or camping at a site, inspect the surrounding area for any harmful plants and then let your pet out after making sure there aren’t any harmful plants nearby.

Exercise your pet regularly

One of the biggest problems faced by people who travel with their pets in an RV is keeping their pets well exercised and entertained during long trips. Pets don’t play board games or enjoy music like us humans do because the idea of fun is different for them. So while you might not mind being in an RV for a long time without breaks your pet is going to get bored eventually. So it becomes very important to give your pets, especially dogs, an opportunity to go for a walk at least once or twice a day. Find a safe area away from the road so you can let your dog out on a leash and if you can find a fenced area inside a campground let your dog off the leash and have some fun. While indoor cats don't require a lot of outside activity time, it is still a good idea to take them for a walk now and then with their harness on and let them stretch their legs. When staying at pet-friendly campgrounds you will even get the opportunity to play games with your pets and whenever you find such a campground take full advantage of it.  

How to travel in an RV with pets: an in-depth guide 5

Make sure you have all documentation related to your pet

Keeping your pet’s documentation up to date is your responsibility as a pet owner but it is even more important to have all your pet’s documents with you when you are traveling. Here are some of the documents that you must have ready and up to date before leaving for an RV trip with your pets:

  • ID tag: Make sure that your pet has an ID tag with the correct information of your pet and your contact information. You can simply get an ID tag printed from your nearest PetSmart store and attach it to your pet’s collar.
  • Vaccination records: Almost all campgrounds are going to ask for your pet's vaccination record before they allow your pet to enter their premises. Therefore if your pet's vaccination is not up to date get all the necessary shots and keep the vaccination record with you at all times while RVing with your furry friend.
  • Ownership record: Make sure you have your pet's ownership record with you in case your pet gets lost and you have to prove ownership to get them back.
  • A photo of your pet: Accidents can happen to the best of us and in case your pet goes missing you are going to need some high-quality photos of your pet to post missing signs. So as a safety precaution keep at least 2 high quality printed photos of your pet with you when leaving for the trip.

Conclusion

RVing with your pet is possible and it can be a rewarding experience for both you and your pet. While not all pets can handle living in an RV with you, if you have a pet with a great temperament that loves outdoors then you are going to have a blast while on the road with the whole family. And by using the guidelines provided in this article you should be able to sail through the RV trip with your pet rather smoothly. The final word of advice we would like to give you is that don’t go for a very long trip if it is your pet’s first RV experience. Take it slow and start with short RV trips and move onto longer multiple month trips as your pet gets used to the RV lifestyle.