RV Camping with Cats and Dogs

small, happy dog in window of RV

Bringing your pets along for an RV camping trip can be a delight. It presents some special challenges, though. To create the best experience for all involved, take a few steps before hitting the open road.

Preparation Basics

If this is the first time your pet will be traveling in the RV, you want them to be accustomed to the layout, decor, and smell of the interior. Remember, this is new territory for them, and it can be scary.

To avoid panic-stricken pets on the day of departure, place some of your pet's personal items, such as a blanket, pet bed, or favorite toy(s) in the RV a few days before you leave. Bring the dog or cat inside with you, secure the door, then let them explore the interior.

Make the visit positive by giving your pet a treat or two as they make their way around the interior. You can also incorporate feeding time inside the RV to make them feel more at home. Repeat this step over several days

You also want them to become familiar with the sound of the RV (especially if this is a motorhome style) so they aren't afraid of the noise while driving. Once you have your pet secure within the RV, start the engine and let them get used to the sound.

You may want to take the motorhome for a short spin so your pet can become accustomed to the motion. Be sure your pet is safe in a secure pet crate or carrier before taking to the highway.

Before leaving for your camping trip, set up this safe secure spot with some cuddly amenities. A pet crate fitted with your pet's sleeping blanket or toys can help lessen any stress they may be experiencing.

Stick to the same routine, such as the time you feed your pet and any outside walking excursions. You want them to feel like the RV unit is the same as being at home.

Items to Bring

cats with leashes in an RV door

Pet crate

Pet carrier

Bedding or pet bed

Pet car seat

Harness and leash for cats and dogs. (Bring along an extra set)



Portable radio playing classical music can help soothe/calm a nervous pet

Pet food (don't change their brand prior to leaving as this can lead to upset stomachs)

Litter pan, liners, scooper, and bags

Extra water bowl and food bowl

Extra newspapers for lining and paper towels for cleaning crates and carriers

Medical Items

It's always a good idea to have your pet microchipped and registered, as a precaution. Your pet should also be wearing a collar, at all times, that has a tag with identification and contact information.

If your pet is on medication, have it filled prior to leaving. Bring along the name, address, and phone number of your pet's veterinarian in case of any health issues or if you're on an extended trip and need additional prescription refills.

Bring vaccination records for both dogs and cats. Also, have a current picture of your pet readily available in case he or she gets past all your security measures.

Put together a first-aid kit for your pet to contain basic items such as gauze, adhesive tape, ice pack, cotton swabs, wound cleaning spray, alcohol wipes, hydrogen peroxide, styptic powder, tweezers, blunt-end scissors, saline solution, and antibiotic ointment.

Consult with your vet about any other types of items you should pack and how many to bring along in case of an emergency.

RV Safety

young dog with blue eyes in carrier crate and open door

Strap down the safety carrier to prevent it from sliding or turning over. Allowing your pet to roam freely inside the RV while it's in motion is not recommended as it is dangerous especially if you are involved in an accident. Just like you're wearing a seatbelt, your pet's carrier should be secure.

If you're traveling with an RV that's being towed, such as a fifth-wheel unit or travel trailer, don't put your pet inside, unattended, to ride along. Your pet should be with you in the car, truck, or van hauling the unit. Like you, they should be buckled up, either in a seat belt harness designed for pets or a carrier that's strapped/buckled in place.

This will provide protection from injury in case of an accident. It also keeps your pet in one place versus roaming around the RV, which can be a dangerous distraction for the driver.

Safety-wise, allowing your pet to have free access to the RV can lead to your pet bolting out the door and getting lost, or worse. Your pet's safety always depends on you keeping them secure.

One option for keeping your pet safe in one part of the RV is to install a folding barrier to block the doorway. This will allow your pet to roam freely within a designated area without having access to the door of the RV where they can escape. A pet gate is another alternative for small pups, for example, that can't jump too high. Cats will be able to climb or jump, so this won't work for felines.

Campground Safety

happy dog getting a leash put on at a campground

Before leaving on your trip, make sure the campground or campgrounds you plan to stay at are pet friendly, and familiarize yourself with any animal policies they have.

As a general rule, you should keep your dog on a leash and your cat on a harness whenever you're out and about in the campground or hiking a trail.

Never leave your pet unattended outside the RV, and never leave your pet outside overnight. Both scenarios leave your pet open to being attacked by wild animals.

Never leave your pet alone in a travel trailer or other unit that has no air conditioning or heat while you forage in the forest. If your unit does provide heat and air conditioning when you are away, be aware that things can happen that will cause a power outage. For your pet's safety, have a backup plan, such as an RV generator equipped with an auto-start feature, to ensure your pet is never left in harsh cold conditions or stifling hot temperatures—that can be lethal.

A trip with your canine or feline friends can be enjoyable for all of you. Just take the necessary precautions ahead of time to ensure their well-being along the way.