Here’s What You Need to Know About RVing With Pets

RVing with pets might feature a happy golden retriever with its head out the window

You love your pets. You love your RV. So, you’ll definitely love RVing with your pets, right? Well … maybe. RVing with your beloved animals can be a wonderful experience, but only if you do it safely, considerately, and with a thorough understanding of the pros and cons. 

Honestly, the list of pros is pretty short unless you’re a full-time RVer. Bringing your pet on an RV trip means you get to enjoy more time together, assuming your pet enjoys the trip too. The only other pro is not having to employ a pet-sitter, find a boarding facility, or entrust a friend or family member with caring for your pet. You wouldn’t want to owe your sibling any favors, now. 

The cons mostly cover extra logistics, such as checking for pet-friendly places to stay and visit, plus potential inconveniences. But, the logistics aren’t too much trouble, if you start planning early. Plus, all that thorough planning prevents most inconveniences. 

RVing with your pet is very much doable, and in fact, it’s a major reason to choose RVing over other styles of vacation. Above all, you must prioritize your pet’s safety and comfort. Isn’t that what having animal companions is all about?

About RVing With Pets

The experience of RVing with pets depends very much on the type of animals and the type of RV you have. Generally, dogs make pretty good travel companions and are widely welcomed in public spaces. Horses are a special niche, requiring experience and knowledge before hitting the road together. Cats … well, who could tell if they’re having a good time anyway? We’re kidding — you know your own cat and whether or not they’re cut out for RV life. 

With other types of pets, use your common sense. A parrot that happily sits on your shoulder, pirate-style, could be a better RV trip companion than a neurotic dog. Exotic pets could get you into trouble if they’re banned in the states you’re visiting. Fish tanks are really not RV-compatible. Nor are most farm animals. Common sense, please.

For all RV travel with pets, it’s essential to book pet-friendly campsites, check their policies, and pay applicable pet fees. Some have limits on dog breeds, sizes, or numbers of pets. A first-time test run with your pet is an excellent idea. Start with just a drive, and then a one-night trip before judging whether a longer RV adventure with your pet is a good idea. And, of course, all animals should be up to date on their shots and vaccinations.

RVing With Dogs

Dogs are probably the most popular (and easiest) pets to bring on an RV trip. They’re usually happy to travel with you, enjoy outdoor adventures, and aren’t much more trouble to care for than they are at home. Dogs that stay calm on car rides and behave well at home will generally be good RVers as well. However, unfamiliar noises, sights and smells can cause even the calmest dogs to go on high alert. While you’re driving, make sure your dog is secured with no access to the driver’s part of the cab. A dog seat belt or secure crate in the RV are both good options. Make frequent stops at appropriate locations for potty breaks and some exercise.

Along with knowing campground regulations, dog owners must research the rules at every recreation destination. At most national parks, for example, dogs are welcome in campgrounds and along paved roads, but not on hiking trails. Dogs can stay with you almost everywhere on public lands, such as national forests and BLM-managed lands. Most beaches are not pet-friendly, but you can often find designated dog beaches and dog parks.

Leaving your dog inside the RV is an individual decision, but should only be done for as short a time as possible, and only when it’s essential. If your RV is roomy, with reliable air-conditioning or heating, your dog can be comfortable there for a short time. Some RVers invest in an electronic pet temperature monitor or camera linked to an app. 

Remember that just because your dog doesn’t bark at home (or so you think — ask the neighbors) doesn’t mean they won’t bark when left alone in an RV. Their favorite toys, blanket, and dog bed can help your dog feel more at home. Crate-trained dogs are probably happier in their secure crate inside a climate-controlled RV. Local kennels, doggy daycare, and pet sitters near your campsite might be a good alternative. 

RVing With Cats

Do cats enjoy road trips? It’s hard to say, but as a species, cats are not known for their love of car rides. With enough time and slow acclimatization, cats can certainly get used to RV travel. Some cats, that is. Let them explore the RV while it’s parked in your driveway. The more time you allow your kitty to slowly get used to the environment before your road trip, the better.

While the RV is on the road, use a pet carrier, a crate set up securely in the RV’s space, or give your cat freedom to roam in a safely prepared space. Bring your cat’s favorite toys, cat bed, scratch post, and other home comforts. Be extra vigilant about closing doors and windows. Consider a suction-cup cat window perch so they can enjoy the sights of the campsite. Take the opportunity to attempt leash training (kudos if you succeed!) so your kitty can explore outside and become a real happy camper. 

RVing with pets: A grey cat lying on its back in the sun on an upholstered seat

RVing With Horses

RVs that accommodate horses are among the largest recreational vehicles. They include costly and luxurious motorhomes with horse stalls, towable horse trailers with compact living quarters, and toy haulers configured with a horse stall.

RVing with horses usually means basing the entire vacation around your animals. Equestrian-based RV camping trips can be incredible experiences, but they do take considerable planning. You’ll need to find and book equestrian campgrounds, which might be ranches, specialist resorts, or designated spots in conventional campgrounds.

Write out a separate packing list and checklist for the horses. Bring the horses’ paperwork, including proof of ownership and health records. Have a plan for carrying enough water and feed and replenishing supplies when needed.

Three riders on horseback ride up a rustic trail between tall trees in rural Colorado

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