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’re 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…