Greetings fellow feline wanderers! Skye Blake here, with exciting info I tracked down about camping with a cat.
Believe it or not, this is becoming more interesting to outdoor adventure-type people, thanks to inspiring internet videos*.
So, yes, it is possible… let’s discover more…
The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.
- Who Is Skye Blake?
- What Is Camping?
- What Kind of Camping Are You Planning to Do?
- Do You Have a Travelin' Cat?
- Hiking With a Cat
- Don't leave your cat alone in the campground
- Staying in the car unsupervised isn't a good idea
- Learn how to handle your cat around people and dogs
- Campfire safety
- Keep your cat in harness and leash
- Make it feel like home
Who Is Skye Blake?
Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you!
Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides and explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, linking you to experts on each page.
All sources are given at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping.
What Is Camping?
Before grabbing your cat, jumping in the car and setting off for Yosemite National Park, there are very important things you need to know.
Just like people, some kitties prefer to stay home snuggled up in bed.
Forcing the issue could be disastrous for everyone!
Let’s start by defining what camping is. According to Definitions.net…
“Camping is an outdoor recreational activity.
The participants leave urban areas, their home region, or civilization and enjoy nature while spending one or several nights outdoors, usually at a campsite.
Camping may involve the use of a tent, caravan, motorhome, cabin, a primitive structure, or no shelter at all.”1 What does camping mean? (definitions.net)
Camping is often done at national or state parks and private campgrounds.
It differs from day trips and hikes because you’re staying overnight for one or more nights.
What Kind of Camping Are You Planning to Do?
First of all, if you have no experience camping… don’t take your cat!
Get some experience and learn what it takes to be a responsible camper before deciding if your cat will enjoy it.
The more comfortable you are, the more secure your cat will be.
Do You Have a Travelin’ Cat?
Before you do anything else, find out if your cat’s a camp-purr!
If he’s a door dasher, loves to watch the birds and bugs, and meows to go outside, you probably have an adventurous cat.
However, a cat who is an escape artist and doesn’t fully accept harness training is at high risk for disappearing and should be left home.
If your cat is shy, has medical conditions like diabetes, or simply isn’t interested in being outside, he should be left home.
Don’t ever force a cat just because you want him to do something. You’ll both be unhappy!
Find out how to determine if your cat has a ramblin’ purrsonality at “You & Your Traveling Cat“.
Once you have some experience, plan what type of adventuring you’ll be doing and decide if it’s realistic to expect your cat to do it.
Don’t expect her to take a long hike like a dog. Short exploratory walks are best before heading back to camp.
No matter where you go, there’s the risk of your cat not being happy with her new surroundings.
Cats are territorial and when they’re insecure in a new environment they start marking to have ownership of the territory and secure themselves from predators.
If you believe your cat is fine with adjusting to new places, smells, sights, etc., you need to know certain things…
Hiking With a Cat
Expect on any hike that your cat will walk and explore for a bit, then be done. Some cats will enjoy walking further than others.
Cats don’t walk with you like dogs do, so don’t expect that of us. When we’re done, that’s it!
You won’t be carrying your dog, but you’ll sure be carrying your feline friend!
What you plan to do will be greatly affected by your cat’s abilities, interest, stamina and familiarity with the camping lifestyle.
Don’t expect your cat to spend the whole summer hiking and biking unless you have a very unusual cat and you accommodate his needs.
Getting to your destination by car and doing some exploratory hikes with her is realistic.
Walking many miles just to get to camp isn’t going to happen with a cat.
You’ll be carrying her most of the time, along with her water, food, first aid kit, and other supplies.
Plan for that and use a special backpack or bike carrier, depending on your mode of transportation.
If you want to do more strenuous activities like rock climbing, either leave your cat at home or use a cat backpack to carry her and all supplies she needs.
You can’t leave her at camp while you run off to go boating.
Are you comfortable doing this or will it ruin the fun? Will she enjoy boating with you?
Ask Yourself a Few Questions
- How will I be able to do my activities (eat, sleep, hike, canoe, ski, etc.) while keeping constant watch on my cat?
- Will he be with me doing these activities or will I have to leave him at camp?
- Will he enjoy the great outdoors or be happier at home?
- What kind of camper will we be in? A tent, RV, pull-behind camper, lean-to, tent on top of a truck, under the stars?
- How secure will my cat be in them?
- Will I be in a noisy campground with other people and dogs or a quiet spot on my own?
- Will I be doing a lot of hiking or biking? If so, how will I carry my cat and supplies?
When you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be able to gauge your ability to enjoy having your cat with you and care for his needs.
Here’s an interesting blog about a camper’s experience with her cats.
It might help you understand what’s involved… A Guide to Camping With Cats, by Shalee, ShaleeWanders.com
Only Trained Cats Should Go Camping
Another very important part of this is training… yes, I said training!
If you don’t want to invest some time teaching him to come to his name, be comfortable in a carrier and wear a leash and harness, don’t take your cat.
Most campsites and parks require all animals to be contained, not roaming loose.
The best benefit of training is the bond it creates between you and your cat.
A bonus is it’s easier to get him to the vet and could save his life in an emergency!
Find out more at …
These pages on training will also help you prepare for whatever mode of transportation you use on your trip.
Discover more about air, sea and land travel at “What Mode of Transportation Are You Using?“
If you’re doing a bicycle or motorcycle tour and camping as you go, check also “Biking With Your Cat” for more specifics about this type of feline traveling.
After the Training
Once you know your cat is fully trained and think she’ll enjoy camping, try it first at home.
Start going for walks in your backyard and watch her reaction.
When you’re comfortable knowing she’s happy walking outside and won’t try to escape, go camping in your backyard.
Set up a tent and everything else just as if you’re in the wilderness with her there contained the same way you would on a trip.
Stay overnight in it with your cat and see how she does.
If she drives you nuts all night, you can either keep trying to get her used to it, or plan to leave her home with someone to check on her.
If you don’t have a big enough backyard, perhaps a friend or family member will let you use theirs for your experiment.
By the time you go camping, you’ll know whether you have a camp-purr cat or not.
Camping With More Than One Cat
What if you have more than one cat you want to take camping?
If so, you must go through the same process with each one.
Determine if each has a camping purrsonality, train them appropriately, and do some test camping in your backyard.
Think of taking multiple cats like taking toddlers… planning and supplies grow exponentially!
Think carefully if you can handle the added responsibility of supervising them while camping, hiking, boating, etc.
Packing for a Feline Camping Trip
Camping can require quite a bit of gear… and that’s just for you!
If your cat is going on your adventure, take everything he’ll need to be safe and comfortable.
We’ll be discussing these later but, for now, the main things your buddy will need are…
- fresh water
- grooming tools (comb, brush, tick key, etc.)
- tent or enclosed playpen
Your main tent should be durable and can be securely closed so she can’t escape.
Mesh is a great type for good air circulation (tents can get hot), but if your cat gets startled and panics, she can very quickly shred whatever she’s in.
There’s a helpful list at “WHAT TO PACK: 14 ESSENTIALS FOR HIKING AND CAMPING WITH A CAT“.
To be sure you’re preparing properly, go to “Preparing for a Trip“.
Does the Campground or Park Allow Cats?
Check ahead to be sure cats are allowed where you’re going.
National and state parks in the U.S. often allow pets (including cats) on trails and in campgrounds but nowhere else.
Parks that have tourist areas sometimes only allow pets in carriers.
Others allow them only in outback wilderness areas and even then, must be on-leash or contained.
Free-roaming cats aren’t allowed in most parks. A good place to start is Pet Friendly Campgrounds.
This site gives info on pet friendly campgrounds, parks, hotels and other places you might want to visit.
Be sure any place you want to go accepts cats. Often “pet friendly” means dogs only.
Are you going out-of-state or to another country?
Be sure to find out any laws about transporting cats. Get more info at “What Is Your Travel Destination?“.
What’s the Weather Where You’re Camping?
Weather is a big consideration with domestic cats. Check it before going.
Cats dehydrate easily and don’t do well with extreme cold or heat, so it’s best not to take them where extremes of temperature occur (e.g., desert, high mountains).
If you’re camping in the dead of winter or heat of summer, be extra careful to keep him hydrated and properly cool or warm.
How much fur he has is a concern in any weather…
- Does he have a double or single coat?
- Long, medium, short hair or hairless?
- What color is his fur?
If you have a Sphynx or other hairless cat, his health can be easily affected by exposure to sun, wind, rain and snow.
He may do fine on a walk in your backyard, but outdoor adventures are a whole different ballgame.
Prolonged exposure to the elements can become life-threatening and you’d be nowhere near a vet.
Light-haired cats are more easily sunburned than dark-haired any season of the year.
Take sweaters, jackets and vet-approved cat sunscreen for the conditions or leave him at home.
Don’t ever put human sunscreen products on a cat!
Can A Declawed Cat Go Camping?
If you have a declawed cat, the great outdoors is more dangerous because he’s missing some of his defensive weapons.
It’s also harder for him to balance and walk comfortably on rocks, limbs, etc.
If he loves being outdoors, give him a catio or other protected outdoor area at home.
Some declawed cats have pain when walking, digging, or otherwise using the declawed paws.
For these reasons, experts recommend leaving declawed cats at home.
Campground Cat Etiquette
There are a few commonsense do’s and don’ts when camping with a cat…
Don’t leave your cat alone in the campground
If you go boating, climbing, hiking or other activities your cat doesn’t do, consider where he could be that’s a safe place.
He can’t be alone in a tent or campground are as he’d be susceptible to predators and his own curiosity.
Staying in the car unsupervised isn’t a good idea
If the car is the only possible place to keep him out of trouble, he’s better off happy at home.
Then you can enjoy your adventures without worry.
Learn how to handle your cat around people and dogs
If you’re on a popular trail or at a campground with other people and dogs, be sure your cat is on-leash and away from dogs.
If you’re passing by dogs, pick her up and carry her until they’re safely past you.
An unknown dog can suddenly react badly no matter how friendly the owner says it is.
Campfires are fun… think s’mores! But be careful with your cat around them.
She can easily burn her paws on ashes, fur can catch on fire from being too close, and her leash can be damaged from flames.
Keep your cat in harness and leash
Always keep your cat’s harness and leash on him since sudden noises and movement can scare him.
When startled, having him on-leash makes it easier to grab him as he runs to find a hiding place.
Many people have a breakaway collar on him with LED lights to make him easier to find and some attach a GPS locator.
This is helpful if he gets loose or you have a problem with having him on a leash.
Make it feel like home
Be sure you bring his favorite toys, blanket, bed, scratching post, and whatever else can help keep him busy when not on walks, sleeping or exploring.
See “Preparing for a Trip” for more details.
You can also use outdoor mesh enclosures if you wish to bring them. They’re portable and they give your cat room to lounge and play… think “portable catio”!
Here are a few travel enclosures…
What To Do At Your Campground
When you get to the campground, you’ll have things to set up and handle, so your cat needs to be safe while you do them.
When you set up or break down equipment, keep your kitty safe and happy in his carrier in a safe place like the car or his travel enclosure.
It’ll be easier for you and less stressful for him during the chaotic activity.
Be sure the tent and anything else you set up is absolutely secure before bringing your cat in. If it falls down with him in it, it’s game over.
Consider taking some clothesline or other rope that you can tie around a couple trees and clip her leash to it.
That’ll let her do some snooping around without being able to run off. However, someone should always supervise.
If he’s left alone, he can either escape or become food for local predators!
Feeding Your Cat When Camping
Be sure to take her food with you. Not just any old food… the food she eats every day at home.
Camping is not the time to suddenly change what she eats.
Most cats don’t take kindly to sudden food changes and would rather starve than eat something with a weird texture they don’t like.
Ever heard of Montezuma’s revenge??
Don’t share your hot dogs, burgers and s’mores with her either!
The stress of travel, new routines and territory can easily cause feline digestive upsets. Take enough food for each day of your trip plus extra for emergencies.
Check with your vet if you need help figuring out what type and how much food she’ll need.
If you have to change to another kind of food, do it well ahead of any trip so she’s used to it before going.
Bring her special treats to reinforce her training and for situations where you need to distract her.
When not in use, it’s imperative that you keep all food sealed in plastic bags or containers.
Wild animals can smell food miles away and you certainly don’t need dangerous furry visitors!
Coolers, properly used, will keep perishables, but this will only work overnight.
There are no ice machines in the wilderness!
Discover more about cat nutrition and food starting at “What’s the Best Cat Food?“
Take the same water she drinks from home. It’s just as important for your cat as it is for you!
You don’t want her turning up her nose and not drinking when you’re out camping.
Wet food also gives cats water but isn’t always enough for her daily needs, especially outdoors.
If you won’t have access to bottled or other purified water, take a good water filter or water treatment drops.
Don’t use pond, lake, or other freshwater sources without boiling for at least one minute, then cooling it to a safe temperature.
Untreated water often has parasites and bacteria that can make cats and people sick, especially housecats who aren’t acclimated to wilderness food and water.
Read more about cats and water at “Can Cats Drink Milk?“
If your cat refuses to eat out of anything but his own bowl, bring it!
There are collapsible travel bowls available or use any clean container that will hold food and water.
Many cats don’t like their sensitive whiskers brushing against containers, so shallow containers are best.
Cats like to nibble on plants, but some are poisonous and can be deadly, so don’t let her chomp on anything you don’t know is harmless.
When out on your walks together, keep an eye on what she’s investigating.
If your cat just has to chew on something, try bringing a pot or two of wheat grass or other safe plant.
Find out more at “Preparing For a Trip“.
How you handle keeping him safe and comfortable at night has a lot to do with knowing his purrsonality and habits.
How and where does your cat sleep at home?
Does he cozy up with you, sleep in his carrier, curl up atop his cat tree, or wander the house at night?
He’ll most likely be the same way when camping.
Set up his bed like it is at home as closely as you can. Bring his favorite bed if you think that will help him feel safe.
The best sleeping setup for your cat is in his carrier with a bed or blanket. This is where a portable cat cage or playpen setup comes in handy.
He can sleep in it and also have his litter box nearby if needed during the night.
The more exploring and playing your buddy does during the day, the more tired he’ll be at night.
That will help him sleep when you do, but if he gets up and wanders around, make sure he stays inside with you.
Don’t ever leave him outside during the night since he could easily become prey for a hawk, fox, coyote or other predator!
If you’re in a camper or RV, your cat will be safe indoors with you.
Another possibility is for him to sleep in the car, preferably in his carrier or a blocked off area in back.
Cats can get into trouble, especially when unsupervised!
How will you deal with your cat’s waste while camping?
You may think “Why bother? We’ll be outdoors in a giant litter box!”
Think again… the litter box setup is needed in the car and tent.
If you don’t have a box in the tent at night, you’ll end up taking your cat outside periodically.
Experienced campers use various methods of dealing with cat waste.
Most of the time cats are fine using the great outdoors, but if you’re hiking on a trail that others use, it’s polite to pick up a cat’s poop just as you would a dog’s.
There are also campgrounds and parks you might go to that require waste pick-up. So bring those poop bags!
If you have a picky cat who won’t go anywhere but her box, take it!
If not, there are travel boxes you can use.
Be sure to use the litter she’s used to at home. Find out more at “What’s the Best Type of Litter Box?”
Don’t forget the scoop!
First Aid & Safety
Always bring your cat travel first aid kit when you go on any trips.
Find out what’s in a cat first aid kit at “First Aid for Cats“.
Be sure before you go that your buddy’s up-to-date on all vaccinations, flea, tick and heartworm treatments, and you have any other medications with you.
Know ahead of time where a vet is located in the area where you’ll be camping. It’ll save valuable time in an emergency.
Recreational Vehicle Camping
A recreational vehicle (RV) is basically a home on wheels.
It has sleeping accommodations and other modern amenities, depending on how fancy you want to get.
There are three classes of RV’s, all of which are useful for various camping and travel situations.
RV’s are great for people who travel and go on adventures frequently or full-time and prefer to have some comforts of home.
They can be a home-away-from-home for both you and your cat.
If you’re thinking of camping with multiple cats, RV’s are a good option since the cats have a safe place to stay when not out exploring with you.
If you want more information about the various types of RV’s, check “A guide to the 8 types of RV explained, from Class A to camper vans“.
Videos About Camping With a Cat
There are quite a few YouTube videos about traveling, camping, and RV’ing with cats.
They show you the ups and downs, joys and woes of taking cats on camping adventures.
One thing they all have in common… you must be prepared and have some experience with the type of camping you’ll be doing BEFORE you bring your cat.
Hopefully, you can use these tips to begin having a great time camping with your cat… as long as your cat agrees!
This video shows Mia the Adventure Bengal Cat enjoying tent camping on a beach…
This is one of a continuing series of videos chronicling Nala and Dean Nicholson, famous for their travel and camping adventures across Europe…
This next video is one of a few from Radar Road Warriors about RV camping with cats…
It’s important to train your cat for traveling and adventures. Here are some tips…
Some cats enjoy winter camping… some breeds like Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cat are made for colder weather!
Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.
Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.
Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.
Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.
However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.
When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.
List of Sources
“10 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR CAMPING WITH A CAT“, by Becca Monahan, Tent Report, June 4, 2019
“Camping with Cats“, by Jessica Bowser, Virginia State Parks, March 09, 2020
“Camping With Cats: The Ultimate Guide, by Laura Moss, The Basics, Adventure Cats™, November 19, 2015
“Can Cats Go Camping? Yes, and Here’s the Cutest Proof Ever, by Roofnest Team
“Car Travel With Cats — Road Trips & Moving“, by Jason Nicholas, BVetMed, Published: August 4, 2018, Updated: May 10, 2021
“Do Cats Make Good Camping Companions? (19 Things to Consider!)”, By Brian Newman, Camper Smarts
“A Guide to Camping With Cats“, by Shalee, ShaleeWanders.com
“A guide to the 8 types of RV explained, from Class A to camper vans“, by Brittany Chang, Insider, Jul 18, 2020
“Keep your cat safe while adventuring – 8 things to keep in mind“, Cat/Explorer
“Pet Friendly Campgrounds, PetsWelcome.com
“SHOULD YOU PACK A LITTER BOX FOR CAMPING?“, BY LAURA MOSS, THE BASICS, Adventure Cats™, October 13, 2015
“Tips for Taking Cats Camping”, by Shane, Traveling with Cats, Cat Expedition
“What to Pack: 14 ESSENTIALS FOR HIKING AND CAMPING WITH A CAT“, by LAURA MOSS, Adventure Cats™, October 17, 2015
“Would You Ever Go Camping With Your Cat?“, by Caitlin Seida, Catster™, April 11, 2014
Updated May 3, 2023