For pet owners, the world is divided into two camps: Dog lovers and cat lovers. Sure, some pet parents own both, but for fans of felines, dogs drool while cats rule!
Perhaps you’ve wanted to bring your cat along on your next camping trip, but you wondered whether she would survive the experience. In fact, both of you can have a blast if you adopt our list of practices and tips.
The first adventure is always the hardest, so be sure to take lots of photos so when incredulous friends say, “You took your cat where??!!!” you can deliver on the proof.
Is William Shakespaw ready to camp?
The answer is a resounding yes if he wears a collar or harness and will tolerate a leash, say cat lovers writing for AdventureCats.org. A great way to test the waters is to hold a dress rehearsal, especially if your kitty spends the majority of his life inside.
Invest in a kitty playpen like those featured on Chewy.com , try it out in your yard, and see whether he responds to being outside in a safe, enclosed environment without going completely bonkers. It helps to throw a few treats into the enclosure.
Where are you going and for how long?
Will you sojourn at a relatively cushy campground or head for a place that’s so remote, your phone signal disappears like the proverbial Yeti? What about sleeping accommodations, trailer, R.V. or tent? You probably won’t find a better directory of pet-friendly parks anywhere on the internet than the GoPetFriendly.com blog, and while the list is designed for dog lovers, where does it say that cats aren’t welcome?
Some campgrounds charge extra if you bring your cat, and we consider that highly discriminatory if the same policy isn’t also extended to dogs. And it’s never a good idea to sneak your cat into a campground because you could be banished from the facility. The length of your trip is highly dependent upon the past experiences your cat has had in the past, so a short trip as a first-time go may be a better option.
How about the weather?
Unless you are a masochist and prefer to camp when the weather is abominable, you won’t want to take your cat camping during weather extremes. “Cats don’t fare well in the heat as they dehydrate rather quickly,” writes Charles Joseph for Campersmarts.com.
“They’re also not good with frigid weather. If you want to take your cat camping with you, make sure it’s during a mild season without any extreme temperature changes,” he adds. And if you own a hairless cat and venture forth during inclement weather, what’s wrong with you? At the very least, bring sunscreen to protect your hairless Sphynx cat.
What should you bring to assure your cat a good camping experience?
We return to the wise Siamese at AdventureCats.org for the definitive list of 14 essentials that you’ll want to bring along when you camp with your fluffy little dude.
Items on this list cover all bases and should keep your companion in good shape during your outing, especially the emergency kit. This is not the time to acclimate your cat to backpack; especially if you’ve never tried one before, and your Maine Coon Lucifurr weighs 22-pounds. We’re as concerned about your cat as we are about your back, mate.
Is your cat a feline gourmet?
Cats need between 250 and 300 calories a day to maintain their weight say vets, and only a crazy cat mom would bring cans of cat food to a campsite that require the use of a can opener.
Further, there may not be receptacles to hold trash and recyclables at your destination, and it’s wrong to litter by leaving cans behind. Apportioned packages of dry food are ideal ways to keep your furry friend fed because they’re lightweight, nutrient-dense and may already be part of Genghis Cat’s regular diet.
Hydration is as critical for your cat as it is for you. No “fresh from the stream or lake” water (unless you plan to drink it, too). It’s just too dangerous to take a chance on fresh water from unknown sources these days.
What about the poop issue?
Author Ben Kerns obviously cares as much about the environment as he does about his cat’s comfort, so you would be wise to follow his lead and memorize this mantra: “The outdoors is no substitute for a cat’s litter box. Cat poop can be disruptive to the environment, and it’s your responsibility to clean up after her if you’re going to take her into the woods.”
Bring along a small litter box so she can relieve herself when nature calls and remember to properly dispose of that box post-trip. “That means taking it back out with you when you leave,” Kerns adds. We couldn’t have said it better.
Do I need a cat carrier to get Notorious C.A.T. to and from the campsite?
Every true cat lover knows that having a carrier on hand for everything from vet visits to vacations is essential, but who wants to drag a hard plastic carrier on outings that add to the weight of the gear you are bringing along? Invest in a soft-sided one that looks stylish and keeps kitty safe and contained.
Make sure the carrier you choose folds down when not in use and requires little storage space. These carriers make safe places for kitty to sleep at night because even if she is used to sleeping with you, there’s a chance she could leave your sleeping bag while you snooze in search of scampering rodents.
Are there camping ground rules every cat parent should know?
You bet! Keeping your cat on a leash can stop him from wandering off and encountering dangerous wildlife, eating something that looks yummy but could kill him, and there are plenty of dangerous situations we won’t mention here because we don’t want to scare you so much you leave your cat at home.
Need a reference guide? Check this article to see which plants are most dangerous. On the other end of the continuum, keeping Katy Purry on a leash for walks isn’t the same as keeping her tied up 24/7. That’s just plain cruel, and if you’ll have no time to attend to your cat, please leave her home. Alternately, a long tether suffices when you’re around.
Campfires and cats: A match made in hell?
Cats are fascinated by anything that moves, and that includes dancing flames. That stated cats tend to be smarter than humans, so if you worry that your feline friend could get a little too close for comfort consider a fold-down fence.
But if your cat happens to be a large breed, it may not be worth the time, effort, or money you expend to buy one, so consider that long tether instead until the fire has been extinguished. A cat that has lost whiskers to close proximity to fire may turn your camping trip into a short one if you have to rush Furrgie to a vet.
Will taking a cat change the nature of your camping experience?
Count on it. Cats love routine as any owner can attest when they arrive home from work and fail to produce the treat that Chairman Meow has grown accustomed to receiving daily in return for putting up with the solitude. So make your camping experience as familiar as possible by keeping her eating time schedule, litter cleaning, and other familiar routines as normal as possible.
You’re going to find that everything about your journey is improved by bringing along your cat because it’s life-affirming to watch them as they explore nature. Erin Verplaetse tells readers of her Adventure Cats blog that her cat Quandary loves camping. “Quandary loves watching the birds, bugs, and fire crackle. She sleeps like a rock, snuggled in my bag with me at the end of the night.”
Are you intrigued, convinced, or somewhere in-between? Every cat-inclusive camping trip is unique – especially for cats who rarely go out for one reason or another. If your cat is FIV positive or has a compromised immune system, you may not wish to take a chance, and if you practically need an anti-anxiety medicine every time your kitty goes out into the backyard, the cat may be a good candidate for a camping trip, but your nervous system may not be!
This educational report published by the Central California SPCA is a must-read if you want to be fully prepared to take your cat camping. If for any reason, you’re reticent, a great cat sitter is a fabulous alternative. And as an addendum, we strongly urge you to bring some toys along. How would you feel if you arrived at a lakeside campsite and you were told that you couldn’t put your boat into the water?