:: how to travel with cats

C A T S, we have two of them, both very different in size, shape, colour and most important character. Every cat is unique and so is their travel behaviour… this will be a post about our cats and their story. Maybe you can relate or maybe this story will be useless… just read it anyways hahha

>>First a little intro

Cat 1: L O K I
Breed: Maine coon
Gender: Male
Weight: 7,5 kg
Age: about 4,5 years old
Colour: blond/ ginger
Favourite spot while driving: on top of the bed or in the kitchen bench box

Cat 2: M O E N A ( pronounced as moona)
Breed: European shorthair
Gender: female
Weight: 3,5 kg
Age: almost 4 years old
Colour: grey and white
Favourite spot while driving: a tucked away corner on the floor next to our bed

By only the descriptions, you can tell they are quite the opposite of each other. And so is their character. Check out the A B O U T page to get to know them a little better.

Loki & Moena are Dutchies, just like us. They’ve been indoor cats for the first three years of their lives and traveled with us from the Netherlands to Canada. From a big Dutch apartment, to a small Canadian apartment, to an even smaller motorhome….They’ve seen it all! We’ve always wanted to give our cats the wild outdoor lifestyle, but living in the centre of big cities never gave us that opportunity. The neighbourhoods were mostly too busy, with not much green and lots of traffic. As soon as we moved into our motorhome, further away from Vancouver BC, we could give the cats their freedom. With lots of beautiful nature around us and a quiet hood, they could finally smell the flowers, touch the green grass and hear the wildlife. The outdoors changed their characters, in a positive way. They became more happy, more brave, their instinct ( catching mice and stuff) got sharpened and they were finally sleeping during the night. They lived this ‘ RV-parked-on-one-spot- lifestyle’ for about a year and experienced all four seasons, from meters of snow to hot hot summer evenings. We believe this made them more tough 😉

From the moment we decided to go travel with our home and thus the cats, we googled and YouTubed a hell of a lot about “ how to travel with cats / pets? “. We found it very interesting and useful to read people’s travel stories and experiences, so that’s why we want to share our travel cat experience with you.

Helpful tips we found online:
– Let your cat get used to the sound of the engine.
– Make some small trips ( that could be anything from driving a couple of block to a weekend trip) with your cat before you go on your big trip.
– If your cat will be loose in the RV, make sure to give him/her some hiding spots. It could be something you specially build for your cat, but it could also be behind a cabinet, in a dark corner, or a simple cardboard box. As long as your cat can find a safe place.
– Your cat should always have access to water and a litter box when roaming free in the RV. If crated, stop every two hours and let your cat drink, go to the toilet and stretch his/her legs.
– Don’t expect your cat to like the driving part. Some cats might adjust over time, and some will always hate it. That’s fine. As long as you give your cat lots of love and water.

>> What did we do?

| Food, litter box, and chill spots |

While renovating the interior of our motorhome, we already thought about chill spots for the cats and where to place the litter box, food bowls, toys etc. Living in a tiny space forces you to think about where to place what so that it’s not in your way.
We made a closed off chill box underneath our kitchen bench, full with cuddle blankets, that is accessible via a cat door. A perfect spot for the cats to relax or hide when they get scared. Besides that, we have some cabinets next to our bed that they can climb in, a scratch pole, a sleeping bed on our dashboard, a hanging seat that you can attach to a window and basically they can chill everywhere in our home besides the kitchen table and countertop.

When we bought the motorhome, we had an open space underneath our gas stove, where most probably was a dishwasher or laundry machine before. We figured that this was the best spot to place the litter box and store some cat stuff. The litter box is closed off because we are not really a big fan of poop smell while cooking delicious food. Weird eh? Although a lot of RVers place the litter box in their bathroom, for us this wasn’t really an option. It’s a tiny space and placing it in our shower ‘cabin’ means cleaning ever time before taking a shower…. No thanks. Maybe your cat is very clean and tidy but ours throw a lot of litter around hahha.

For their food and water bowls, we actually wanted to buy a nice design that you can build in the wall. We have a fairly small ( not wide) RV, so with that design the food bowls wouldn’t be in our way. But we end up not buying it for two reasons, too expensive and too big. Maybe the design is working perfectly for you, so check it out here. At the moment we use normal food and water bowls with anti-slip strips underneath and move them around every now and then. It works for us.

| Being on the road |

As for some people, it works great to place a cat in a crate/kennel/cat bag while travelling, but for our cats that’s a NO go. They hate to be “locked up”. Moena, the little lady, will panic, gets kind of hysterical and miaows till she will drop death ( that’s what we assume as she barely stops). Loki, on the other hand, will become very quiet, but is super stressed out and if he gets scared he might even pee. We don’t want that for our cats, especially not when we are travelling a lot. The RV, their home, needs to be a comfortable safe place, whether it’s parked or moving. Thus we let them roam free.
In the beginning they were both not very happy with the driving part, but nowadays it’s getting better. Loki is the brave one ( which we totally didn’t expect) who will chill mostly on top of our bed and walks through the house. Moena is still afraid and has her own hiding spot on the floor next to the bed. To make it more comfy for her, we placed a fleece blanket in her little nook, which she seems to like. Because they won’t eat, drink or go to the toilet while driving, we try to stop every 2-3 hours to let them do whatever they want to do. It seems to work.

There are two things we figured out since we’re on the road:

– Driving while it’s getting dark makes the cats very nervous. They will suddenly start talking a lot, running through the RV, looking out of the windows and trying to find a way to escape. This is quite stressful for us, as we can’t really calm them down. We normally don’t plan on driving in the dark, but sometimes it just happens. Now we aware of this situation, we try to plan even better, so that everybody is happy

– Driving while it’s very hot is very stressful. If the air around a cat is way warmer ( 40 Celsius or higher) than their body temperature, they will start panting as a way to get rid of the heat. Cats don’t sweat and therefor can easily get a heart stroke. Panting for cats doesn’t really help, but it’s their instinct. This is stressful for them, but also for us. A car can get very fast super hot and is not easy to cool. While driving, we have switched the generator on multiple times, just to run one a/c unit. Because our RV is pretty big, we have to close of the bed room area to get that room fairly cool. Besides that, we have to stop quite often to let them drink and cool their fur with wet towels. We have experienced this twice now and have learned to check the weather forecast of our driving day and the area of our next destination.

| camping with cats |

Before we started our trip, we discussed this part with some friends. What to do with our cats when we are parked? They are outdoor cats, so making them indoors was not an option. What about a harness and leash? In that way they can go everywhere outside, without taking off or disturbing other people’s privacy. Mmmm, we could try that right? I mean, they have never been on a leash before, but YouTube tells us it’s a matter of training and patience. Ok but what if we just let them roam free? There is a chance they can get eaten by wildlife, or run back to Vancouver BC ( our home for the past 3 years), or it is just not allowed to let your pets off leash….. what to do?

We actually figured this ‘ dilemma’ out while being on the road. We bought some harnesses and leashes just in case, but after a couple of failed attempts, we gave up. Moena kind of was ok with the leash, but Loki couldn’t handle it. He was soooo afraid. It makes total sense, if you are all your life used to run around free indoors and later outdoors, you don’t want to be suddenly tightened to a leash. And yeah we were a little lazy too hahah. But we also had a big faith in our cats, that they would make wise decisions because they are smart and that they just unconditionally love us ( read: they need food).
Since we are boondocking most of the time, we don’t have to follow any campground rules, which is super cool. So we decided to let them outside every time we are free camping in a beautiful area, and let them enjoy the nature. When we are for some reason parked on a Walmart parking lot or campground, we keep them indoors. Fortunately this doesn’t happen very often, cos they get pretty grumpy if they have to stay inside. Hahha allure cats!

Anyway they are doing just fine outside. Loki normally hangs somewhere around the RV while Moena is a big explorer. We try to have them inside at night, that feels safer. Our tricks to call them involve shaking with a bag of delicious cat treats and whistling. Mostly they will come unless something very exciting is happening outside. We are totally aware of the dangerous wildlife, but agreed that we rather want to see them happy outside than bored and sad inside. When we are gone for the day, we mostly kick out the cats as well, as we don’t feel comfortable leaving them in a motorhome that can get really hot without a lot of airflow. Of course this is related to the late spring and summer, and also depending on where you travel in the world. You get my point! As long as they have always access to fresh water and shade, they should be fine. There is only one exception, if there is a heat wave, you keep your cats, and yourself, inside with A/C on. Obviously!!!

We think as long as you give your cats time, love, food and space, they will adjust to your travel life. No matter how you do it. Just monitor their behaviour and take it from there.
Comment or email us if you want more info or you just want to share your story! We love sharing!






  1. Leuk om te lezen Eelke! Wij hebben ons hondje Milou ook van Nederland meegenomen naar Nieuw-Zeeland. Voordat ze het land in mocht moest ze een hele reeks aan vaccinatie en bloedonderzoeken ondergaan in Nederland. Vervolgens het meest heftige, een vliegreis van 24 uur met een stopover van 12 uur in Hongkong. Ik denk dat het een groot voordeel was dat ze doof is! En al die tijd in een bench, hoewel ik denk dat ze in Hongkong wel even de pootjes mocht strekken. Gevolg door een verblijf van 10 dagen in een Nieuw Zeelandse quarantaine, ver buiten de stad. We hebben haar een paar keer kunnen opzoeken; we moesten wel een grote witte ‘labjas’ aan. Ik vond het heel sneu en voelde me schuldig. Maar ze heeft zich nu geweldig aangepast een geniet veel van onze lekkere tuin, de strandjes op loopafstand, en het Nieuw Zeelandse zonnetjes 🙂 Het is fantastisch dat ze bij dit grote avontuur kan zijn!

    • Voordat wij naar Canada verhuisden, hebben we ook heel even nagedacht over Australië en nieuw zeeland, maar het hele quarantaine proces zat ons een beetje dwars. Knap dat jullie hondje het heeft gered. Zal idd heel pittig voor haar zijn geweest. Wij waren ook al wat gespannen voor de katten vlucht naar Canada. Uiteindelijk hebben zij ook iets van 20 uur in hun kennel gezeten. Je leest wel vaker van die enge verhalen over pets die vliegen. Blegh. Jullie helemaal naar jullie zin in nieuw zeeland?

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