Are you a devoted cat owner who also loves the outdoors? If so, a lot of people are in the same situation as you, and many of them run into the same dilemma: what to do when you want to go camping?
Most cats (with the exception of kittens and cats with specific medical conditions) can safely be left alone for up to 24 hours as long as they’re provided with enough food, water and enrichment.
However, if you want to go camping for more than one night, you may end up wondering what to do about your cat during this time.
Not everyone is able to have someone watch their cat while they’re away, so can you bring a cat camping with you? Luckily, the answer is yes!
If you’re interested in taking your cat with you the next time you go camping, this guide is the perfect resource for you. We’ll be covering all the information you need to know about going camping with your cat, from how to prepare beforehand to the trip itself.
By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to take your feline friend on an amazing adventure!
Table of Contents:
Planning And Preparations
Bringing your cat on a camping trip starts well before the trip itself. Taking your cat with you into the great outdoors is a big decision that requires a lot of planning to ensure that you can have a good time while making the safety and wellbeing of your pet a priority.
1. Harness-Train Your Cat
You will need to have your cat on a harness or a leash while you’re roaming around the campsite.
Even if your cat is used to wandering around outside by themselves, the campsite will be a new environment and you’ll need to keep them close by so you can always supervise them and find them when you need to.
We recommend using a harness instead of a leash because harnesses are more difficult for cats to escape from and less likely to put pressure directly on the throat.
However, even though harnesses are usually the better option, they can take quite a while for cats to get accustomed to.
Therefore, it’s best to start getting kitty used to their new harness by putting it on for small periods of time at home, gradually building up to longer stretches including going for walks outside.
Eventually, before you set off for a camping trip, it’s a good idea to practice using the harness on longer walks such as hikes.
2. Buy Your Equipment
Going camping by yourself already involves quite a lot of equipment, but if you’re going to bring your cat, you’ll need even more gear to ensure that the process goes smoothly.
Here are just some of the things you’ll need if you’re planning on taking your cat camping:
Playpen Or Mini-Tent
We don’t recommend keeping your cat in a separate tent from your own while you’re camping because you need to be close by in case anything goes wrong.
However, since your cat may want to have their own space to play and sleep overnight, and since you’ll probably want to make sure your cat doesn’t get into any of your own camping supplies, it’s a good idea to have a smaller pen or tent inside your tent specifically for your cat.
You just never know when something might go wrong when you’re camping. If you only bring one leash or harness with you on your trip and it breaks, you might have to keep your cat enclosed in the tent the whole time, or worse, your cat could end up running away.
So, we always recommend bringing an extra harness and leash just in case.
It’s never a good idea to leave your cat unsupervised while you’re camping, but at the same time, you may want to just be able to keep an eye on your pet in some situations without having to actually hold their leash.
A cable leash can easily be tied up to trees and other structures at your campsite using a carabiner and an extra leash. This way, you can continue to supervise your cat while leaving your hands free for a while.
Wipes For Cats
When you’re out in the great outdoors, your cat will probably encounter some mud and debris. Having a pack of cat-safe wipes with you means you can clean up your cat whenever they need a helping hand with washing.
Pet-Friendly Bug Repellent
Taking your cat camping means they’re likely to be exposed to more bugs. Depending on the types of bugs in your area, this could result in some nasty bites if you don’t bring pet-safe bug repellent, so make sure this is on your packing list!
If you’re going to use pet-friendly bug repellent as suggested above, don’t put it directly onto your cat’s fur!
Even the pet-safe brands can cause sickness if ingested, so the best thing to do is bring a little bandana for your cat and put the repellent on the outside. This way, your cat will be protected and also look adorable!
First Aid Kit For Pets
Of course, nobody wants to think about the idea of their pet getting injured or sick on a camping trip, but the reality is that accidents do happen.
You’ll want to make sure you have a complete pet first-aid kit with you, containing what you would need to clean and dress any wounds plus tweezers, a thermometer, eye wash, a towel, and more.
You might need to take some bread ties camping with you anyway if you’re planning on bringing a loaf of bread, but they can be extra useful when you’re bringing your cat camping with you since you can use them to keep the zips on your tent securely shut.
You shouldn’t be letting your cat roam around alone at night, but in case they do manage to get out, a glow-in-the-dark (LED) collar will help you to spot your pet.
Extra Collar Tag
Another item you should prepare prior to your trip in case the worst happens and your cat gets lost is a collar tag with the details of your campsite.
This way, if someone finds your cat while you’re still at the site, they can bring them straight to you. You should also have your regular address and contact details on a separate tag.
You may not want to bring the toys you use for your cat at home in case they get dirty or lost. If that’s the case, investing in a couple of new cat toys for the trip may be a good idea. You’ll want to have some way of getting your cat exercise before bed to make sure they don’t wreak havoc in your tent overnight.
3. Test Some Camping Scenarios
We mentioned the importance of getting your cat used to their harness in outdoor situations before you go on your camping trip.
However, an even better way to prepare once you build your cat’s tolerance to their harness and being outside is to try mini camping situations inside and outside your home.
Start with something simple like setting up your tent in your home, for example. Then, you can try spending the night in the tent with your cat in your backyard.
Your cat might be unsure about the tent at first so try making the experience more appealing by offering treats. You can even use catnip or a calming, cat-safe spray to reduce any nervous feelings.
4. Research Your Campsite
Make sure to thoroughly research any campsites you’re planning on bringing your cat to before you head off.
The first and most important thing to establish is whether cats are allowed at the site. Not all campsites will allow cats or pets of any kind, so check this first to avoid being turned away.
5. Look At The Forecast
Depending on what the weather is like on the days of your camping trip, you may or may not need to reschedule for your cat’s wellbeing. Us humans can cope with most weather conditions with the right equipment, but the same can’t be said for cats.
If it’s meant to be freezing cold on the days you planned to go camping, your cat could be at risk of hypothermia, and if it’s too hot, dehydration and heat stroke are serious risks for cats.
It’s always best to be safe and reschedule in extreme weather conditions to ensure the health and safety of your pet.
6. Plan Food And Waste Disposal
You’ll obviously need to feed your cat while camping, and they’ll still need to go to the bathroom while you’re away. So, you should plan ahead regarding how you’ll deal with mealtimes and dispose of waste.
It’s best to keep to your cat’s normal routine as much as possible. This means you should try to keep mealtimes roughly the same and avoid switching to a different type of food.
If you usually feed your cat a wet diet, for example, it’s not advisable to switch to dry food for the trip just because it’s easier to store.
So, if you usually feed your cat wet food, you might need to bring a refrigerated container to keep the food fresh. Freeze-dried raw food can work as an alternative as well.
Similarly, unless your cat is already used to going to the bathroom outdoors, you’ll need to bring some kind of litter box. This could be a disposable litter box (with a litter mat) or a storage bin. If you’re using a storage bin, make sure it has high sides and ideally a lid.
7. Trim Your Cat’s Claws
Right before you leave for your trip, it’s a good idea to give your cat’s claws a little trim.
Don’t go overboard since your cat may feel more anxious in a new environment if you cut their claws too short, but it’s wise to make sure that their claws aren’t super long or sharp since you don’t want them to damage your tent and potentially get out as a result.
Setting Up And Settling In
Once you get to the campsite, you’ll need to take time to set up camp and familiarize yourself and your cat with your new surroundings. This is an integral part of making sure your camping trip with your cat goes to plan.
1. Put The Tent Up
The first thing you should do when you get to the campsite is make sure your tent and your cat’s inside mini-tent or pen are set up.
While you’re getting everything ready, it’s best to keep your cat in their carrier. This way, they can get used to their new environment from the safety of the carrier and you can focus on making sure everything is set up properly.
2. Inform Fellow Campers
Before you get your cat out of the carrier, or at least before you take your cat outside the tent, it’s wise to walk around the site and tell other campers that you have a cat with you.
It’s become very common for people to bring their dogs to a campsite, but it’s still pretty unusual to go camping with a cat. Therefore, the safest thing is to let everyone know and ask if they’d mind keeping their dogs leashed.
3. Familiarize Your Cat
Now that everything is set up and the campers around you are aware of your cat, you can start introducing your cat to the site.
Put your cat in their harness and take them on a little walk. Take your time and let them sniff out their surroundings so that they feel comfortable.
Best Practices For Bedtime
Bedtime can be the trickiest part of camping with a cat. Cats are naturally nocturnal creatures, so when you’re ready to settle down and go to sleep, your cat would usually be getting their nighttime zoomies on.
Luckily, there are plenty of tips and tricks you can use to make sure your cat is safe and comfortable in your tent overnight.
1. Create A Sense of Normalcy
Cats, like most humans, don’t really like change. They’re also particularly sensitive animals, so any deviation from their normal routine could be stressful and lead to problems around bedtime (see also ‘Medicine To Keep Cats Calm During Travels‘)..
Therefore, it’s best to try and stick to their regular routine around bedtime if you can. That might mean giving them their evening meal at the same time as usual and getting into bed (in this case, your sleeping bag) when you usually would.
If you usually give your cat a treat before bed or have evenings as designated grooming time, bring what you need to go through those motions and create a sense of normalcy before you go to bed on your camping trip.
2. Get Some Pre-Bedtime Exercise
One way in which you may need to deviate from your cat’s usual nighttime routine is by making time for some exercise before bed.
It’s generally recommended to play with your cat before bed anyway to prevent them from being too rambunctious at night, which is why we recommend bringing some toys with you on your trip.
However, some cats have a different playtime routine, and your cat may be feeling more alert than usual due to being in a new environment.
Because of this, you may want to take them on another little walk around the campsite before you settle down to tire them out a bit.
3. Secure The Tent Zippers
Remember we suggested bringing some bread ties for your tent zippers? Now is the time to use them.
Cats are surprisingly adept at getting things like zippers open (ever seen videos of cats opening doors by themselves?) so taking extra security measures for your tent is really important.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Safe To Go Camping With A Cat?
Most cat owners are very attached to their cats. If you’re considering bringing your cat camping, we’re assuming you’re one of them. That means you might love the idea of bringing your cat on a camping trip, but you may also feel anxious about your cat’s safety.
The good news is that if you follow the guidance in this article, your cat should hopefully not run into any dangerous situations while you’re camping.
Keeping your cat safe from harm in the great outdoors just involves making sure they have a well-fitting harness and leash (plus extras just in case), securing your tent properly at night, and keeping a watchful eye on your cat during the trip.
Clipping their claws before you go can help to prevent them damaging and escaping from the tent, and letting other campers know you have a cat with you will help to prevent any unexpected encounters with dogs.
Can I Leave My Cat Unattended While Camping?
We absolutely do not recommend leaving your cat unattended at any point while camping.
As we just mentioned above, one of the most important things you can do to keep your cat safe on a camping trip is to watch them at all times, and if they’re unattended, you can’t do that.
Leaving your cat unattended at the campsite opens them up to a lot of dangerous situations. Outside the tent, your cat could have a run-in with another animal, fall down somewhere, or get stuck or lost somewhere.
They could wander into a road and get hurt. Even if you leave your cat in the tent, they might somehow escape while you’re not watching or even be taken by someone while you’re gone.
Err on the side of caution when camping with your cat and never leave your feline friend unsupervised at any point.
Do Campsites Allow Cats?
Some campsites allow cats, but it’s still fairly uncommon for people to take their cats camping, so many campsites either don’t allow it or haven’t made any actual rules around cats at the site.
Additionally, since many campsites allow dogs, they may wish to avoid stressful situations by now allowing cats at the site. That’s why it’s always best to check with the campsite beforehand.
Can Cats Live In Campers?
If you’re worried about your cat camping out in a tent, you might be wondering whether cats can live in campers.
You can bring your cat camping in a camper as long as the site allows it. In fact, many cats might be more comfortable with this since it’s more similar to their normal home environment, and it’s safer to leave a cat alone in a camper than inside or outside a tent.
Still, you should make sure your cat has food and water if you’re going to leave them alone in a camper, and always check the temperature and lock the door before you head out.
Don’t leave your cat alone for too long, even in a camper, and don’t risk it at all on a hot day.
Camping with your cat can be a fun and joyful experience for you and your feline friend. Just make sure you have all the gear you need and that you’re prepared to supervise your cat and keep their routine consistent for the duration of the trip.
Get your cat used to their harness and the tent beforehand and check that cats are allowed at the campsite. Let other campers know you have a cat and fasten your tent securely before bed to keep your companion safe.