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Tent Camping with Cats: 10+ Hacks for Your Next Trip

A silver grey tabby cat is standing outdoors in the grass, wearing a cat harness. In the distance people are sitting at a picnic table under a tent.

Have you ever considered bringing your cat along on your next outdoor adventure? While it may seem a little crazy if you’re new to the idea, the ‘adventure cat’ phenomenon is growing, and we couldn’t be more excited! Don’t let the fact that you tent camp stop you from taking this step. Today, I’m going to share my list of tips, tricks, and hacks for tent camping with cats including a few must-have items that make our own adventures 100x more enjoyable.

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Over the years, I have received many funny stares, odd looks, and curious questions when people find out that we have a cat that loves camping.

My favourite being: “Did you know that your cat is IN your tent???

I mean, what were they honestly expecting me to answer to that one? No, What? How did she get there? She must have snuck in when we were packing the tent away to come here…

The idea of a cat as a camping companion is a foreign concept to so many, and even more so if there is no travel trailer or RV for your cat to hang out.

Luckily for me, I grew up in a camping family and it wasn’t uncommon to spot our cats hanging out in the trailer. They would curl up by the windows, basking in the sunshine and watching the birds flying from tree to tree.

When I started camping on my own, I couldn’t imagine travelling without my pets by my side.

This included, of course, the dogs, but also my sweet little cat Pippen.

A long-haired tortoiseshell cat is sitting on a brown and blue blanket inside of a grey tent.

Pippen was adopted from the local Humane Society 12 years ago, when I was still living on my own (and before I had met my husband).

Her journey from adorable rescue and cute house cat to an avid outdoor adventurer didn’t happen overnight. It’s a process led by your cat and their comfort level, slowly introducing new experiences over time.

Today, I’m going to take my knowledge and experience from raising adventure cats of my own and tenting across the province with a feline friend by my side and share it with you.

If you’ve ever considered tent camping with cats but weren’t sure how to get started, the following hacks will help you to get started.

Before you know it, you’ll be travelling the world, experiencing new things and bonding with your cat in new and exciting ways.

Not Every Cat is Comfortable Camping

Before we dig into how to help your cat adjust to the great outdoors, I believe we need to address the fact that not every cat is going to be comfortable camping.

Just like us humans, some cats would much rather relax indoors with all their creature comforts, and that’s okay!

We have 2 cats in our house, Jinx and Pippen. You’ll notice that in the introduction I never mentioned Jinx in relation to our adventures.

Why? She simply isn’t interested in outdoor travel.

She is leash trained and will occasionally come outdoors to hang with us in the backyard, but it’s generally not long until she’s pawing at the door asking to go back indoors again to her comfortable bed.

I’m not sure if she would be more interested if we were camping in a trailer or RV that gave her the feel of being ‘at home’, but the tent is just not something that she enjoys.

If you are working through the process of adjusting your cat to being outdoors and you realize that they aren’t interested, don’t force it.

Slowly introduce them to the concepts, allow them to dictate the pace and be prepared for the fact that it may not be something that your cat enjoys or is even comfortable with.

To better understand your cat and whether they will be a good fit for outdoor travel, check out the nine feline personalities and which personalities are better suited for the adventure cat lifestyle.

Related: ‘Easy Homemade Cat Treats with Pumpkin

10+ Important Tips for Tent Camping with Cats

Start Small and Work Your Way Up

You don’t want to just throw your cat into the environment of being outdoors in a tent without working up to the that point. Doing so could scare them off enjoying camping at all.

Instead, you want to start small and introduce them to being comfortable outdoors.

For Pippen, I started by allowing her to adjust to her harness and leash indoors. This was already her comfort zone, so it allowed me to introduce one ‘unknown’ at a time.

I put the harness on her and allowed her to walk around wearing it, learning that it was nothing to be afraid of.

In time, I then introduced the leash, allowing her to drag it behind her around the house so that she could see that it wasn’t something to be concerned about.

Finally, when she was comfortable with me walking behind her holding the leash, we knew that she was ready to venture outdoors.

Helping her adjust to the outdoors was also a step-by-step experience. Slowly building both her comfort level and her confidence.

First, we took her outdoors in our backyard for a short time. We slowly lengthened the time outdoors before moving on to a walk in the park, a short hike and then her first overnight excursion.

The most important thing to remember throughout this whole experience is that the most important thing is your cat’s comfortable level.

Allow you cat to dictate how quickly you move, when you move to the next step, etc.

You may occasionally have to take a step back for a variety of reasons, and that’s okay too! It’s not a race.

Remember, you are working towards the end goal of having a cat that enjoys spending time camping with you outdoors. That’s what really matters!

Do A Test Run at Home

If you have the space at home, do a test run to help your cat get used to the idea of sleeping in a tent.

Depending on the size of your tent, this can be done in the yard or even on a deck or patio.

Don’t have outdoor space? Even setting the tent up in your living room and camping indoors for the night will help your cat to become more comfortable.

Related: ‘10 Essential Items for RV Camping with Your Cat

Always Research Your Destination

Even if your cat is ready to head out and enjoy the great outdoors with you, your destination may not be ready (or suitable) for your cat.

Take the time to do your research and/or call ahead to verify whether your destination is pet friendly.

This includes learning where leashes are required, what swimming areas they are or aren’t permitted in, any additional costs associated with bringing a pet and more.

You don’t want to get al the way there to find out that you have turn around and head home.

Pay Attention to the Weather Forecasts

The weather during your trip could make or break your cat’s experiences. Keeping an eye on the weather forecasts is key.

If you are bringing a short-haired or hairless cat, they may not be comfortable in cooler temperatures.

Alternatively, many cats would be uncomfortable in the peak summer heat.

This could also influence what gear you need to bring along – coats/sweaters, pet sunscreen, appropriate rain-proof shelter, etc.

Safety is ALWAYS Priority #1

First and foremost, before anything else, you want to make sure that you and your cat are going to be safe throughout your trip.

This includes safety during your trip to/from the campsite as well as at the campsite itself.

Make sure that your cat is fully vaccinated before planning any trips to avoid unnecessary health risks that they may encounter along the way.

If you are not already using a flea/tick/heartworm preventative, this is something that you should talk to your vet about. Spending time in the outdoors puts your cat at a higher risk of encountering these pests.

You also want to be sure that your cat is up to the experience medically.

If your cat is older, living with a health condition or overcoming an injury, you should consult with your veterinarian to ensure that it would be safe for your cat.

A small but often overlooked factor is identification. If your cat does get loose, this could make the difference between getting your best friend back safely or not.

If your cat is microchipped, make sure that the information on file is all up to date.

Every adventure cat should fit with a collar and ID tag with current contact information. Some people will even create tags listing their campsite number for extra reassurance or attach a GPS tracker to their cat’s collar.

Pack a pet-specific first aid kit so that you can address any emergencies that may occur throughout your trip accordingly.

During your travels, make sure that your cat is properly secured in your vehicle.

This means keeping your cat in a carrier and securing that carrier with a seat belt to prevent it from flying around during an accident.

Related: ‘12 Easy Ways to Save Money on Pet Food

Bring Plenty of Fresh Water

If your cat isn’t provided fresh, clean water when camping you are likely going to run into a problem.

Your cat may turn to puddles, streams, or ponds for water. This carries a big risk of exposing your cat to harmful parasites or bacteria.

Alternatively, if they can’t find a source of water, you may find yourself dealing with complications related to dehydration and heat stroke.

We’ve often been told that canned cat food will provide our cats with necessary hydration, but it isn’t going to be enough.

Always pack plenty of safe, potable water so that you aren’t caught without available drinking water.

A long-haired grey and white cat with yellow eyes is standing outside in the grass attached to a blue leash and in front of an orange and grey tent.

Be Responsible in Terms of ‘Waste’

There are two different schools of thought when it comes to your cat ‘doing their business’ while outdoors.

On one hand, some cats will embrace their inner while spirit and do their business in the woods without hesitation. Others, however, are only comfortable if you bring a litter box along.

If your cat does go to the bathroom outdoors, make sure to follow the Leave No Trace principles and pack out any feces.

Not only should you do this out of respect for others that may be coming to camp in this area after you leave, but it is also important in terms of the health and well-being of the local ecosystem.

Cat feces may contain a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii, which may then infect local wildlife.   

For the cats that prefer the comfort of using a litter box as they would at home, there are many lightweight and collapsible options available.

You can also use a collapsible cat tent, cat carrier or other similar structure to provide a little privacy if your cat requires it, or if you simply don’t want to look at the litter box in your tent.

Cat-Proof Your Tent

Speaking of the tent, there are steps that you can take to cat-proof your tent and prevent damage to your camping gear.

One of the first questions that I am asked in terms of sharing a tent with a cat is in relation to our air mattress and how it survives contact with sharp kitty nails.

Yes, we do sleep on an air mattress, even with Pippen in the tent!

Before you head out on your trip, take the time to trim your cat’s nails removing the sharp daggers that can develop over time.

When we set up our air mattress, we put a thick blanket or sleeping bag down on top of it before covering that with a fitted sheet. This holds the blanket in place creating a layer of protection.

If you’re still concerned, another option to consider would be the use of nail caps, however, those would interfere with your cat’s ability to protect themselves if they were to get loose for any reason.

When your cat is in the tent, you also want to take steps to ensure that they can’t escape.

This includes zipping the door up to the top of the door, securing any windows that are within their reach to remove the temptation of climbing/clawing at screens and double checking that there aren’t any openings in the tent.

We keep our zippers zipped to the top of the door and then put a small carabiner through the two zippers so that they can’t easily be pulled apart (you just never know with cats lol).

For example, some tents include a special opening to accommodate an electrical cord. This is often big enough that a cat could slip through if they wanted to badly enough.

Related: ‘Is Catnip Good for Cats?

Never Allow Your Cat Out of Your Sight

I can’t stress this point enough. When you are camping, never allow your cat out of your site.

There are too many potential risks such as wildlife, the risk of escape, etc. It’s simply not worth taking a chance.

During the day, there are a couple of options for your cat to keep them safe and secure.

Some cats are completely comfortable on a leash or tether, exploring the area in a properly fit and secure cat harness.

The other alternative (and the one that we tend to prefer) is to bring along a portable pet playpen or cat condo that your cat can call ‘home’ for the day.

Be prepared to move your cat as needed throughout the day to keep them out of the hot sun.

At night, you aren’t going to be awake to watch your cat closely. Therefore, it is recommended that your cat sleeps inside their carrier, pet playpen or cat condo within your tent for extra security.

If your cat refuses to sleep in a confined space like that, you may choose to keep them on a leash throughout the night.

Secure the leash to a heavy piece of gear within the tent so that they can’t get away if they were to somehow find a way out of the tent.

Try to Maintain Your Normal Schedule

In terms of feeding your cat, giving medication (if they are taking any), etc., try to stick as closely as possible to your cat’s normal schedule at home.

Your cat will already be adjusting to several changes, such as a new environment.

Maintaining your normal schedule will give them something comforting to hold onto, something that they can depend on to know that everything is ‘okay’.

Stick to Your Cat’s Regular Food and Treats

It may be tempting to ‘treat your cat’ with something special when you head out camping. After all, you’re both on vacation! Right?

Unfortunately, introducing new food and treats out of the blue may upset your cat’s stomach causing stomach aches and diarrhea. That fun treat is suddenly ruining your cat’s experience.

Instead, pack plenty of your cat’s regular food. Bring along more than you need for your full trip just in case your return home must be delayed for any reason.

Don’t forget to bring along his/her favourite treats! As I said, you’re both on vacation!

Most Importantly, Have Fun!

You brought your cat along on your adventure for a reason – so that you could share this fun bonding experience with one another.

Things may not go entirely according to plan, you may have some hiccups, the weather may not cooperate.

Whatever comes up while you’re there, don’t forget to have fun and make great memories.

A silver-grey tabby cat is standing outdoors in the grass, wearing a cat harness. In the distance, people are sitting at a picnic table under a tent. Text states: 10+ hacks for tent camping with cats.

Have you ever been tent camping with cats? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

Do you have any hacks that you believe should be added to the list? Let me know…

About Author

Britt is a digital/social media marketer and the owner of The Social Alternative. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending her time with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs Daviana and Indiana and their 2 cats Pippen and Jinx. A proud pet mom, she shares all her pet-related tips, tricks and funny pet antics on Shed Happens.

38 Comments

  • Kat
    May 19, 2021 at 2:31 am

    I’ve never known anyone to take their cat camping, but it looks like it can work very well. I love how you emphasize being responsible, both for the sake of the cat’s comfort, but also for other visitors and the local ecosystem. If everybody was so responsible, we wouldn’t have the litter and pollution issues that my local parks struggle with.

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 21, 2021 at 7:36 am

      It’s sad to see the very people who claim to love the environment and outdoors also abusing it, isn’t it? I will never understand it.

      Reply
  • Trish Veltman
    May 19, 2021 at 4:54 am

    We were talking about taking cats on holiday the other day – not sure how our cat would take to being on a leash, but great tips to try and teach him.

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 21, 2021 at 7:33 am

      It’s a process. The first time that I put the harness on Pippen, she refused to move at all. We gave her time wearing it and experimented with different harnesses until we found the one that she was most comfortable with.

      Reply
  • Sophie
    May 19, 2021 at 12:13 pm

    This was such an interesting read. I’ve never seen a camping cat before but I think it’s adorable when I see them walking on leads. I would never have guessed cats were down to camp at all so it was interesting to find out your two take very differently to the situation x

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 21, 2021 at 7:30 am

      For Pippen, it’s not all that different from hanging out at home – She just wants to be close to us wherever that may lead us. I love her sense of adventure!

      Reply
  • Smita
    May 19, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    I can relate with Jinx, happy to be indoors, in bed, haha!
    Great list of hacks – can see that they come from a place of deep love & caring for your cats.

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 21, 2021 at 7:20 am

      We LOVE spending time outdoors with our cats, so I was more than happy when I saw that Pippen enjoyed spending time outside with us.

      Reply
  • Morgan Paxton
    May 20, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    OMG tent camping with cats is something I’ve never considered. My sister has two cats and she often takes one out on a harness for car rides or just general outside time. But the other is pretty uncomfortable with being outdoors. I think she would have a lot of fun taking her kitty camping. I’ll suggest it to her and share this post!!

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 21, 2021 at 7:19 am

      It’s a lot of fun! Pippen loves relaxing with me in the hammock and watching the birds when we’re out in the middle of nowhere.

      Reply
  • Erica (The Prepping Wife)
    May 21, 2021 at 7:57 am

    My husband and I were talking recently about if we decide to move (I want to go out of state) and how we would do it with our orange turd, since he HATES his carrier. We were thinking a small-ish RV where one of us could hang out with our cat and it would kind of be like at home, just home is rolling down the freeway. I can’t say that I had ever considered traditional tent camping with a cat though. I think the size of the tent can have a lot to do with success too. Like the bigger, the better, so there is room to move around, and the cat could have a bed for themselves too. I’m not doing it with mine because he’s a grumpy old man and would kill me in my sleep. But it is certainly an idea to introduce a future cat to.

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 21, 2021 at 10:32 am

      We’ve been talking about doing an extended RV/Camper Van vacation in the near future and how we would help our cats adjust. Pippen is SO easygoing, she’d be happy wherever we go. Jinx, on the other hand, sounds more like your grumpy old man. She’s set in her ways, knows what she likes and has no desire to give up the luxuries of home. So, we’d have to make sure to put a little extra thought and consideration into how to make her living space on the road as comfortable and ‘home-like’ as possible lol

      Reply
  • Lyosha
    May 21, 2021 at 7:59 am

    awesome tips! my sister considers camping with her cat, I will make sure to show her my most trusted blogger’s tips

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 21, 2021 at 10:30 am

      Thanks! I LOVE camping with Pippen. She’s the perfect little camping companion 🙂

      Reply
  • Tiffany
    May 22, 2021 at 10:25 am

    I’m so glad you mentioned the importance of picking up after your cats. Lots of people don’t realize that it can be super harmful to certain species. And to go your cats speed…so important!!

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 24, 2021 at 1:04 pm

      Yes, allowing your cat to lead the speed is key. If you try to force a cat into going outdoors before it’s ready, you will scare and possibly traumatize the poor kitty. That can lead to a permanent negative association with the leash, the harness, going outside, etc.

      Reply
  • Ruth Epstein
    May 22, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    Fantastic post, It makes sense that cats should be taken on camping trips, they are family and if you train them and help them get over their fears etc it should work really well. Pippen is very lucky

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 24, 2021 at 1:05 pm

      Exactly! If they enjoy the outdoors, why not bring them along? Although we have tried with Jinx multiple times and there is just zero interest in the whole thing lol Some cats are truly happier staying at home in the AC, on their couch, sunbathing lol

      Reply
  • Cathy Armato
    May 23, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    Adventure cats really are gaining popularity! I would worry about my cat’s safety, especially since so many campers take their dogs along. I’d want a good way to secure them.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 24, 2021 at 1:06 pm

      Yes, it’s important to make sure that you have your cat secure at all times, whether it’s in a playpen-type set-up or on a leash. That’s also why it’s so important to never allow them out of your sight.

      Reply
  • Jana Rade
    May 23, 2021 at 2:46 pm

    I am surprised that there are cats that enjoy camping–not something that I would thing. Dogs, on the other hand, love being outside in any shape and form.

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 24, 2021 at 1:07 pm

      It’s a great way to tap into their natural instincts and behaviours just as we do for our dogs!

      Reply
  • Sadie
    May 23, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    I love that Pippen enjoys camping with you. You are so right to point out that it should only be an adventure undertaken by kitties who enjoy such an experience. Great safety suggestions. I enjoyed reading about your experience but my cat and I are happy at home lol

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 24, 2021 at 1:08 pm

      Yes, some cats will never be interested – and that’s okay! We love our other cat, Jinx, to death but when it comes to hiking and camping, she’d rather sunbathe at home and let us do our own thing lol

      Reply
  • Marjorie at Dash Kitten
    May 24, 2021 at 1:38 am

    I went to an adventure cat presentation and the lady said always take a backpack for your kitty so that you can put them away quickly if a dog comes by, which I had never thought of!! This fits 1,000,000% with your safety first message. You can take your cat with you but it is, as you say, a step by step and thorough process to keep them safe and happy.

    Pippen is super confident isn’t she and I bet she is the boss when you travel!

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 24, 2021 at 1:10 pm

      That’s a great tip! I have had to hold Pippen at times just due to loose dogs that we encounter along the way. Another example of why it’s so important for people to follow the posted leash laws… We don’t take her to off-leash areas but we SHOULD be able to take her on an on-leash trail without worrying about a dog running up on her out of the blue. Sadly, that’s not the case.

      Reply
  • Tiffany
    May 24, 2021 at 7:28 am

    Pippen doesn’t try running away? I mean I don’t like camping, but I would be afraid to do that with the bun, she likes to run and I have a bad knee I will hurt myself trying to run after her tbh (which makes me happy she doesn’t like the outdoors tbh). It kind of reminds me of my old neighbors who moved 🙁 two of their dogs loved RVs and camping, but one didn’t and we would go take care of him when they camped.

    Reply
    • Britt
      May 24, 2021 at 1:14 pm

      She’s fully leash trained and generally just wants to hang out near me when we’re outdoors. For example, one of her FAVOURITE outdoor pastimes is to sit with me in the hammock and watch the birds lol

      Reply
  • Laila
    May 30, 2021 at 10:13 am

    This sounds so interesting, I love the photo of Pippen! I think this is a great idea if your cat enjoys some outdoor time and it seems great for you both
    Laila
    http://www.lailanblog.blogspot.co.uk

    Reply
    • Britt
      June 1, 2021 at 1:48 pm

      She ADORES spending time outside. I love that we are able to incorporate her into our travel plans in a way that she enjoys. That being said, I wouldn’t push a cat that isn’t interested – our other cat Jinx is more than happy staying at home lol

      Reply
  • Sophie Harriet
    June 9, 2021 at 9:29 am

    I have never considered bringing my cat camping or travelling with me – to be honest, I think she would hate it! She’s a nervous cat and she likes to stay close to home, and she hates car journeys. But it’s great that your cat has adapted so well to camping! I guess it saves you from having to arrange care for her while you are away too, although I know you still have Jinx at home! x

    Reply
    • Britt
      June 9, 2021 at 11:34 am

      I think Jinx would be fine if she had the comforts of a trailer, but she’s just a little spoiled and prefers to have all the comforts of home lol

      Reply
  • Rosie Ireland
    June 10, 2021 at 7:54 am

    I actually had no idea that you could go camping with your cat!
    You learn something new everyday!

    Rosie

    Reply
    • Britt
      June 10, 2021 at 10:36 pm

      You can do almost anything with a cat that you do with a dog. My cat plays fetch, knows some basic obedience training, camps, hikes, and more!

      Reply
  • shyla
    June 17, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    My cat is so old and set in his ways. I think it would be a very interesting experience to try to take him camping. I do believe he would love the outdoors. He certainly could use more outdoor exercise activity. I love your posts. They always give me cool ideas for things I can do with my pet or even to suggest to others. Perhaps this weekend I can bring my cat along on a hike and camp event we are planning.

    Shyla – sinceremommy.com

    Reply
    • Britt
      June 18, 2021 at 11:02 am

      I love getting out and exploring with Pippen. There’s something about watching her explore that never fails to bring a smile to my face.

      Reply
  • Karalee Shotola
    July 7, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    I have never known anyone who went camping with their cats, but that’s amazing Pippin goes camping with you! This post is so helpful for anyone who is considering taking their cat camping.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 12, 2021 at 7:02 pm

      She’s a very adventurous little ball of fur! I love that she has so much fun getting out and exploring with me.

      Reply

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