Travelling in a Motorhome or Caravan with Pets

When we took to the road in 2003, we did so with our two Burmese cats.  Some people have dogs and we have met people who travel with a bird. In this article we discuss the benefits and limitations imposed when travelling with pets. We lost one of our cats (she was hit by a car) after nearly two years of living the bus life. Our other (Tivoli) has adapted very well to life on the road.

Cat-on-toilet

 The Upsides

Just as they do when you live with them in a house, pets add a dimension to your life. They provide company, affection and hours of entertainment. We have watched our cats for hours at some new location as they explore and seek out new things. We have been brought to tears of laughter as we watched one of them run after a kangaroo that was 10 times her size. We have not travelled with a dog, but I’m sure that travelling owners of dogs would say the same about their pets.


The Downsides

National parks do not allow domestic animals of any kind. If you travel with a pet you will not be permitted inside any national park. That said (no emails on this subject please) it is easy to hide a cat inside a bus and if you do not let them out, where is the harm? (rhetorical – don’t email me)

Sometimes we stay in places that are not suitable to allow the cats out. During these times she drives us crazy protesting at the injustice of the incarceration.

 Tivoli  occasionally brings us presents – lizards, field mice, rats etc. Most times these very much alive – not what you want inside your motorhome.  However, we eventually get the unwanted guest out of the motorhome and they normally take off at high speed to boast to their friends of their miraculous escape from the jaws of death.   

They cost money to feed and look after. Vets are expensive. Ticks and other pests are an issue in some parts of Australia so prevention, inspection and treatment is important.

They can be a worry. Tivoli is always locked inside at night, she normally returns to the bus an hour or two before dark. If she is not back by dark, we go looking for her and worry until she is located.
Our two cats were trained from kittens to use a human toilet instead of litter. This means we have no messy litter box, no smell and no cost of litter. It is probably near impossible to train an older cat to do this, but if you are getting a new kitten it is definitely worth the effort.

The mechanics

We fitted a cat door to the step of our bus (see photo).This allows Tivoli to come and go as she pleases.  Obviously, we do not allow her out when in towns and near main roads and as I said, she is always locked in before dark.  

 cat-door-in-motorhome

Conclusion

We really think that travelling with pets is great, for us is never a problem. In fact we think that they are much easier to travel with than children.

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29 Responses to “Travelling in a Motorhome or Caravan with Pets”

  1. Damian Says:

    Oh, I see. You thinks it’s Funny when a Poor Defenceless Lizard or other Animal get’s away from your cat. Ok, That’s Interesting.

    See, This is the reason not to Travel with Cats and people like you, shouldn’t be allowed to own one.

    I really hope you’re proud of yourselves when your cat is killing the local Wildlife and bringing it back to you. Then of course, your cat goes missing and joins the millions of other s in the FERAL cat population.

    I cannot believe you think that your cat, bringing back small animals, is “Cute”. It’s morons like you that don’t think of the Consequences of your Cats actions.

    Cats kill so much of our Wonderful Wildlife and are a menace. If my Dog ever came back with a Lizard Bird or any other Native Animal, I would make sure It would know Never to do it again.

    I hope I never come across you and your Cat among my Travels. If I did, Your Cat wouldn’t last long if it came into our Domain. I would let my Dog Kill your Cat and think “Oh, How Cute”.

    Travelling with Cat’s, in my book, Is Plain Stupid. I bet when you camp near the beach or some Forest, you let your Cat go wandering around without thinking. Of course, Let’s not let the Cat out next to the Highway, It might get killed. Well, we could only hope..

    Damian.

  2. Hobo Says:

    Thanks for the comment Damian. I appreciate your point and understand your position. I have decided to will allow the comment to publish despite the comment deteriorating from reasonable, to name calling (ie “…morons like you…”).

    Constructive comments and reasonable opinions are welcome on the site – name calling and threats are most certainly not.

    To answer your comments…

    Be assured that we do not think the killing of Australian wildlife by domestic animals is ‘cute’. I don’t believe that anywhere within in the article it is stated or implied that we do.

    We enjoy watching and photographing these native animals, seeing them killed (be it by feral cats or trucks) is not something we enjoy.

    We do our best to travel in a very environmentally low-impact fashion. Our cat has been de-sexed so will never add to the feral population, she is locked inside every evening before dark to reduce any impact she may have. She has a number of bells on her collar to make it impossible for her to bother birds. However, on the very rare occasion that she does bring a mouse or other animal into the bus, she is made to understand that this is not acceptable and the animal is released (generally unharmed – as I mentioned in the article).

    We consider ourselves to be environmentalists – we care greatly about Australian native animals and their habitat. Like all people, we arrive at our own level of “acceptable impact”.
    Let’s face it, if we wanted to have no impact on wildlife, we would not drive cars or trucks (which I suspect are responsible for the death of more native animals each year than domestic cats) or live in houses (that clearly deprive native animals of habitat).

    So Damian, thanks again for taking the time to comment on the article. I accept that you have a strong opinion on the subject. Can I suggest that in future when attempting to make your point heard, you refrain from making threats and resorting to name calling.

    Hobo (Gavin)

  3. Barry Says:

    Ah, Damian, how wonderful to be so blissfully unencumbered by the ravages of intelligence and good manners.

    Words fail you. LOL.

    I imagine it’s now well past your bedtime. Is it too much to hope that either your mum or dad might now reply with a tad more civility?

    John

  4. Hobo Says:

    🙂

  5. Denise Says:

    Hi there. I have just come across your website and have spent hours reading all of your travells. Havn’t finished yet!!! Well done. We are green with envy!
    My husband and I are on a coutdown till when we think we may be in a position to leave work and rent out the houses and hit the road. We, unlike you, will be doing it in a custom built Phoenix Caravan. ( Can’t wait ).
    We have a Ragdoll cat. (Cross between burmese and persian). She is only 10months old and has done a 6 week jaunt over to WA last year and lots of little trips with us and copes very well. In fact we feel that she actually missed it when we got home. Got a bit too used to us being in her face every hour of the day, and got lonely when we came home and went back to work.
    We never let her outside unless she is wearing a harness and is on a lead. She has also adapted to this very well and knows that it is her OUT time when we get the harness. She has learnt to climb trees even with it on. We have a retractable lead and always watch her.
    My questions to you are:
    -Are you not afraid that Tivoli will wander off or be taken??
    -What did you do with the cats in the first part of your journey when you went to Frazer Island for the 2 day trip? And of course any other times you leave.
    -Have you ever been quizzed by the Ranger in National Parks? We went into 1 whilst in WA and I was just so nervous all the time at being maybe found out. (Even though Ember was as quiet as a mouse and never left the van) It was only for an overnight stop.
    I would really love to hear more about your life on the road with Tivoli. Might help us with some discision making when the time comes….but she will definately be coming with us.
    Denise
    PS. Tracey, I am so glad you are on the mend and doing well.

  6. Hobo Says:

    Hi Denise – glad you like the site. A lot of work goes into it – getting nice comments like yours makes it worth it.

    To answer your questions…
    For the few outings we were terrified that one of the cats would run off or be taken. After a little while we realized that cats are generally smarter than we give them credit for. Loosing Porscha was just awful – however, this could have happened even if we live a “Normal” life in a house. Don’t get me wrong, we still worry about Tivoli and we like to know where she is (and she is never far away). Tivoli HAS been taken once – despite having a very clear tag “Lives in Blue and White Bus” and being just 20m from the bus. She was dropped off at the local pound by someone who was trying to make some point.
    Tivoli has spent a few days in a cattery when we go places like Frazer Is – she hates it – but is very affectionate for about a week afterward.
    Rangers have never been an issue – she is NEVER allowed out of the bus or to be visible when we visit national parks.

    Thanks again for the comments – look forward to seeing you on the road some time. You will love the lifestyle!

    Gavin (Hobo)

  7. Iain Says:

    How cute is your cat sitting on the toilet?
    Don’t worry about the adverse comment.
    Pets are one of life’s great, and can only enhance your travels.
    The positives far outweigh the negatives.
    Anyone who has no affinity with animals is a sad individual indeed.
    Happy traveling.

  8. Angie Andrews Says:

    My hubby and I are thinking of taking off in an RV for a few months next year. We have two beautiful princesses and would never go anywhere without them. (Norwegian Forest cat and a normal moggy). They have an enclosure at home and I was wondering what it would be like to have an attachable/collapsible cat enclosure to the side of the RV. Or….does this product even exist? I was imagining they would live in their large enclosure during the day and inside at night. What do you think of this idea? Would this work?

  9. Hobo Says:

    Hi Angie,
    I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to travel with cats. You will get a few strange looks – but it is heaps of fun. I have not seen a portable enclosure but I am sure it would work. You might try one of those companies that makes screen doors – they may be able to make you one. Our puss sometimes get put on a long lead – she is not keen on this and I am always worried what would happen if a dog came past. I don’t think she feels safe when she can not run. An enclosure would be much better from this point of view.
    Good luck – I’d love to know how you get on with them.

    Gavin & Tracey

  10. Tracy Says:

    I stumbled across your site by googling “are cats allowed to travel in caravans?” because I had no idea! I was thrilled to find you have made it work so well with Tivoli! My household cats are totally indoor cats so I’m sure they’d adapt to caravan life quite well. Your page has pretty much confirmed this 🙂
    Most of my response to “Damian” is probably quite unprintable! In my opinion “some people shouldn’t be allowed to own dogs”!
    Thank you so much for sharing your truly unique experiences. I’m sure I’m not the only person out there experiencing a marriage breakdown with fur-children and wondering what to do next. Thank you again for showing me that ALL of my babies, both furred and those I have given birth to can accompany me on my proposed road trip 🙂

  11. Hobo Says:

    Hi Tracy,
    Yep Tivoli just loves the travelling life – and we love having her along. She really adds something that is very difficult to explain to somebody who does not have a furry mate. It is interesting to see her behaviour change as she gets older (now nearly 12) – a lot less adventurous now. We know a few people who travel with cats and none seem to have any issues.

    Hope to see you on the road sometime and meet your fury mates.

  12. Wendy Says:

    Hi! Just came across your site while researching cat enclosures for caravans. I have two cats who are indoor, but I’ve had built a large enclosure on the side of the house, with plants, catwalks, benches that go up the side of the house etc, and they are happy as Larry!

    Now I’m going to sell and take us on the road, but I want to be sure my cats are well accommodated (the loss of their current arrangements won’t make me too popular!). For the last year I’ve been researching options for vans and travelling with cats. Being new to the caravan/motorhome lifestyle, I’m trying to make the best informed choices that I can.

    Both of my cats have only had the regular trips to the vets so I was worried about the constant travelling, so have purchased large, very comfy cat carriers, which they are currently using as beds. While very large and well-ventilated (actually medium dog carriers – check our Daily Deals and similar for some really good prices!), I can pop a towel over the sides to create a nice cosy cave if they get distressed, and I can also put both cats into one carrier – otherwise, they have enough room to stand and stretch, and also lay down and fully stretch out. I have now just started taking the cats outside in these carriers to get them used to being moved around in them and being away from their normal surroundings. So far, they seem to be coping really well.

    Cats are territorial, so for those (like me) who are embarking on a new adventure, I think just remember to take it slowly with your cats, give them time to adjust, ensure they have familiar things around them (eg. comfy carrier, which can be used in the vehicle, if you stop in a park and want them out of the vehicle for some fresh air, or even to sleep in once your van is setup for the stay) and, most importantly, take the time to enjoy being with them. I currently work very, very long hours, and so am looking forward to unwinding and enjoying their company as we get out and see what this fabulous country has to offer. W.

    PS. I haven’t yet come across a company that creates the portable cat enclosures, but I’m assured they do exist. I have just joined one motorhome association and figure I’ll ask the other members, as I know there is at least one member that travels with her cat – as they say ‘two heads are better than one’! When I have this info, I’ll post it here for you, if that helps? If push comes to shove, the KittyWalk systems are very clever (although also expensive), but can attach to a catflap on the van and are modular, so you can add tunnels, multi-level cat hammocks etc. I think Pets Paradise are the stockists here in Aust, but otherwise can purchase from the US. Happy travels everyone…and thanks so much Gavin for sharing your experiences (even the sad ones)!

  13. Georgia Says:

    How do you think it would work with a dog if you went through National Park? They do have to go outside to toilet…

  14. Maryanne Says:

    Great website and I am so envious of your travels. We did a bit last year but left our cat with our son for the 4.5 months we were away. We have now taken the plunge and sold our house and will be travelling indefinitely in our caravan. Our problem is our cat. She is now about 14 years old and gets so stressed in the car she soils herself. After 2 ‘goes’ she will settle down and sleep. She is becoming more comfortable in the caravan itself but her stress levels in the car are really high. I don’t want to be giving her drugs each time we travel – I am sure that wouldn’t be good for her. Did you have any difficulties with travel anxiety when you started out, or do you know of others who may have experienced the problem, and if so any tips on getting her more relaxed?

  15. Hobo Says:

    Hi,
    Both of our cats really loved the motorhome and had no problem adjusting at all. We have some friends that started travelling with an older cat and he took quite a few trips to get used to the vehicle, but finally got very used to travelling. My only real comment would be to do a few long days in a row to get puss used to the idea that the car is nothing to worry about.
    G

  16. Patricia Says:

    Given that cats are supposed to be far smarter than dogs (and both are infinitely more intelligent than a certain dog owner who shall remain nameless!) how do you train a kitten to use a normal toilet? We’re about to adopt a new furry baby, and would like to be able to take it with us on trips in our motor home – last year, cattery fees cost us almost $3.000 for the six months we were away from home. Also, how long does it take for them to become accustomed to wearing a harness and lead? Has anyone had any luck in finding a collapsible outdoor pen for cats which could be stored in the van? Thanks. Patricia.

  17. Hobo Says:

    Hi,

    We trained our Burmese cats (when very young) to use a normal toilet. It took about 6 weeks (I think). For one of them it was so engrained that even when she was outside roaming around, she would make a mad dash back into the motorhome to use the toilet – then rush back outside again. The training takes time and lots of patience but is well worth it when you consider that you will have the cat for perhaps 15 years. If you would like an overview of the training concept, please give me a call (phone number on our contacts page of this site) – it is a bit difficult to explain in a posting here.
    Our cats never got used to a harness – they hate it. This might just be a lack of perseverance on our part – but I think a harness signifies some kind of submission of the cats free will (to them) – not something that comes naturally.

    We still enjoy travelling with our cat (she has been travelling with us in the motorhome for nearly 10 years).

    Gavin

  18. Patricia Says:

    Thanks Gavin – As we’re now a couple of poor old pensioners, paying thousands for holiday accommodation for furry kids would put far too much of a strain on the budget, and I have seen people on the road with cats in harnesses, so wondered whether it was worth a try. On the downside, several years aggo we stopped at a roadhouse on the Nullarbor, and saw a young couple heading west with what looked to be all their worldly possessions crammed into their car, including a cat, wearing a harness. The girl was walking the car around the car when it was spooked by a dog, and managed to escape. Everyone looked, but couldn’t find it, and I often wonder whether they ever found it. Lots of pros and cons to be weighed up yet!

  19. Merryl Yet Foy Says:

    I had information from a friend in the states about toilet training kittens. They have a system one can buy, but the concept basically is to make a “surround” for the toilet seat with only a small opening into the loo. The surround has to be able to hold kitty litter. You gradually decrease the size of the surround, still using kitty litter, until it can be removed completely and the cat uses the toilet only. I hope that makes sense, or try googling toilet training for cats in the States.
    I mostly travel with my pooches to dog shows and have used many of the things mentioned: i.e. a portable fence, portable loo (it works for dogs too), crates etc. It is lot of fun and they clamour to come.
    I must say that I would not ever travel them in my caravan.
    Happy travelling with your pets – it is becoming easier!

  20. Hobo Says:

    We used the exact same system to train our cats. Made the adapters ourselves of course. It is quite an investment of time involved – but well worth it we feel.

    Cheers

  21. Caroline Says:

    Hi guys – fabulous website. I travelled around Australia with my 3 children and our cat in a caravan for 2 and a half years. Our cat was on a harness and lead and we think he thought he was a dog! Very easy to travel with him. he certainly added a dimension to our travels and he also loved to cool off in the water on hot days. I only drove off once with him still tied to the outside – We stopped for a wee break and let him out to cool off tied to the step but oops lol. The harness slipped off and a rather bewildered cat was left sitting in the middle of the road! I am about to embark on another Australian adventure as children are all grown up and moved away. I am going to buy a Bedford bus! hence me stumbling across your site! Fantastic being a longterm traveller and I now have a dog, cat and a guinea pig – I hope to see you on the road sometime later this year!

  22. Hobo Says:

    Hi guys, great story. Yup, traveling with pets can be lots of fun. Our puss hates water so much even the sight of one of us getting into the shower upsets her, she try’s to stop us getting in by gently biting an ankle!
    Love to catch up on the road some time.
    Cheers

  23. Ensam Says:

    Reading this, I remembered that oo.com.au often stocks travel pet enclosures. This one has a removable mesh roof, so the cat can’t jump out. 🙂

  24. Ensam Says:

    Doh. forgot the link… http://www.oo.com.au/Pet-Dog-Puppy-Cat-Exercise-Pla_P87822.cfm

  25. Kerry Says:

    Hi there, I’m about to embark on a short trip (3 weeks) in a Motorhome with my 2 poodles. Hope to be able to bring the cats along eventually. I’m renting a motorhome first as I want to see what I prefer, motorhome or caravan. Having had neither before I’d be interested in hearing from anybody the pros and cons of a Motorohome versus a Caravan. Having no towing experience and no car to tow a van I thought the motorhome option to be good but I was wondering on how you go about getting around town, shopping for food etc once the Motorhome is parked and set up at the caravan park. Any tips or advice would be most appreciated?

  26. Hobo Says:

    Hi Kerry,
    The motorhome vs caravan debate has been going on for some time – just throw into the mix a 5th wheeler and you have a recipe for lots of discussion.
    There is an article here on just that subject http://hobohome.com/news/?p=655

  27. Helen Frape Says:

    So glad I found people that travel with cats .That’s exactly what we will be doing shortly .Please keep up the great work

  28. Cheryl Says:

    Just discovered your site – I am currently looking on portable cat enclosures for when we embark on our first camping trip – was very interested in all the comments and your experience travelling with your cats. I will have a cat and dog (who are virtually inseparable) so am trying to find something to cater for them both. I was thinking of a netted gazebo so they had plenty of room and we could also sit in with them. Will be trialing this later this year if I can find one that is fully secure.

  29. Toby Nicholas Says:

    Hi Hobo,
    Damien maaate, your a total nob. I only wish you were reading this but based on your reply, it was probably a one off and you’ll never read my response. Pity the fool. If we did meet I can tell you you’d be hiding, not spouting your useless thoughts. Cats are an integral part of our lives and now our ecosystem. For one thing they can eat up to 64% rabbit when available in quantity. Better rate than myxo maate. Cheaper than poison that rats and mice develop tolerance to. Our failure can be viewed on google maps maate. Look at the queensland nsw border, see all those rectangles visible from the satellite? Habitat destruction dude. Thats the real killer. Top 15 keystone species in Aus, google it. See any that cats impact severely on? No I thought not, maybe the poteroo, and that’s a maybe. Feeding cats roo meat helps the shooters maate, also helps our native grasslands that the cows are killing. Mc donalds and beef are culprits in the native animal debate, all those grasslands with $%^t soil, and no trees support that beef industry. Who gets the money? Not the natives. I could go on and on. Google native animal reintroduction failure maate, we suck at releasing animals into habitat, what’s left of it. We tried it plenty of times and the first few times, wrong area, and the birds of prey ate the hard work, not the cats.
    Absolute kudos hobos for the cat loving and the sane response. God knows if I camped next to such an idiot I’d make him move on. My 7 year old long hair loves the short journeys, and preparing him for longer ones is the go.
    He’s one of those up to 54% of cats who don’t/ can’t/ refuse to hunt. He’s eaten things of course, but generally sucks at catching anything but rats and mice. It’s what they do. Its what their ears are tuned and made for, rodent squeaks. My sisters cat lives right on the forest 500 meters from the deep growth in ravensbourne qld. You know what he eats? Rabbits, loves em. Eats them faster than an old lady eating rabbit stew. I can usually see four to five every afternoon from her front porch, now you tell me whos tellin furfies cause I know hes helping out our bush. Hes got the choice the forest is a stroll away, but no you see cats are smart. They will eat the plague animal every time. They want to restore the balance and take the larger meal from the larger group. The only exception is island groups, or isolated groups of endangered animals. Guess who made that happen, us. Horrible record of wildlife corridors, slaughter on the road, people selling off their bush blocks for clearing and profit. Oh the humanity. Go the cat. Go you survival master. Kill the toads. Put a bounty on them, 1$ each dead one paid by the Aus gov. Wont be a single one left. Marching on they are, and I believe one of our biggest threats. Poisonous to everything but the freshwater snake. 1 tadpole kills a barra. Poison and death to everything but a snake and damn clever crows and maggies. Kill the toad, go the cat, see Aus all over, we have the best land in the world. oozing character and speaking to us in sunsets and the whispers crackles of campfires.

    I saved your senseless comment in case i want to get riled up, or have a good belly laugh. Anyone that agrees with you go get a life, plant a tree, stop yr mate clearing a block, save an animal, donate to a person who rescues natives, but dont be a jerk. The logics in maate, cats aren’t the problem. we are the problem. Cats are the solution to an issue, pest management. If only they could eat toads.
    Hobo, your response was totally appropriate, my long winded speech is here for the unintelligent few that may share knob faces view. Damo I hope we meet one day, I’d stick me 12 volts were the sun don’t shine.
    My names Toby, and I am the authority on the cat issue, and that’s that.

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