The ability to keep a cat was something I looked forward to when changing from being a tent camper to owning a motorhome. I had seen many motorhomes and campervans with cats happily snoozing on the dashboard and could not wait to have our own. I didn’t anticipate the extra work that would be required.
Bringing an existing cat into your motorhome
Already have a cat and want to introduce them to motorhome life? If you have an older, indoor only cat this should be possible. An outdoor cat that likes to roam is unlikely to adjust.
Before bringing the cat into your motorhome, you will need to get down to a cat’s level and look for every possible escape route, hidden danger, and hiding spot (more on this later). Introduce them to their new environment slowly. Let them spend the day inside while parked. Make sure you have created a few hiding places. We keep a cat carrier covered behind the driver’s seat and a small cat bed under the passenger’s seat.
Cats like to hide and a scared cat may head straight under the dashboard and attempt to hide there. This surprised me because I had no idea that there was so much available hiding space underneath the dash. When we brought our new kitten home, this is the first place she headed for and it was difficult to get her out because she was so small. We ended up blocking the entire area underneath the dash with blankets and pillows while she got used to her new home. She did manage to squeeze in once more during this time and knocked a wire down from under the steering wheel. Fortunately, it was only an extra ground wire that had not been connected to anything and the mechanic just taped it back up.
Adopting a cat or kitten while traveling
If you are already travelling and want to adopt a cat or kitten, you should be aware that many animal shelters and rescues will not allow you to adopt unless you are a resident of that country. You might check with local vets or look on local facebook groups that advertise pets that need adopting. That is what we did.
This is our kitten, Cola. We adopted her from a veterinarian’s office in Rincón de la Victoria, Spain. As soon as I saw this adoption photo on a local cat adoption Facebook group, I knew that I had to rescue her so that nobody could ever force her into a silly Christmas sweater again.
Cat allergies and motorhomes, or, how the heck can one cat shed so much fur?!?
Before you even consider bringing a cat into a tiny living space like a motorhome, you need to consider whether any family members have the tiniest bit of an allergy to cats or any form of asthma. All that fur and dander builds up fast in a small space and a person who might only have itchy eyes around a cat in a house may become quite ill when living with a cat in a small space.
You will need to sweep the floor every day. You will also need a handheld vacuum, like a dust buster to get fur off of the seat, dinette cushions, bed and pillows. Make sure you lift the mattress up and vacuum underneath the edges every time you change your sheets..
We try to go to a car wash with a vacuum every 2 weeks to vacuum out the front seats and cab area. You can also take the dinette seats out, place them on sheet or something, and give them a good vacuuming as well since the suction on a car wash vacuum is going to be much better than your handheld vacuum.
You need an air purifier. We have the LEVOIT LV-H126 Purifier and it helps a lot. We keep it on the dinette table.
You need to brush the cat. This will make a big difference in the amount of fur on your floor and seats. Long-haired cats need to be brushed every day, medium-haired cats at least 3 times per week but you can brush them everyday if they are going through a shedding cycle.
If you are really serious about cutting down on the amount of fur flying around your motorhome, then you need to buy a Furminator. This device helps remove the undercoat and it makes a tremendous difference. Trust me, you want this, you need this.
If all this extra cleaning sounds like too much trouble, you might want to reconsider bringing a cat into a motorhome.
Where do you put the litter box?
Some motorhome owners are able to create a small door in a cabinet or one of the dinette seats and hide the litter box inside. This was not possible in our motorhome so we currently have the litter box between the front seats while parked. This is far from an ideal situation. For one thing, it prevents me from using the passenger seat as a cozy reading spot.
Keeping kitty safe while driving.
When we are driving, we keep the cat in the bathroom so that she doesn’t try to get under the driver’s feet. The litter box is placed in the shower. I put a strip of duct tape over the drain to keep out spilled litter since we only use the shower as a coat closet anyway. I move her cat bed from under the front seat to the bathroom floor and leave her with dry food and a small amount of water (so it does not spill).
The first few times we drove, she was not happy with this arrangement and meowed loudly for over an hour. She quickly got used to it and now uses the time to nap uninterrupted.
When she was a smaller kitten, she somehow managed to squeeze into the cabinet under the sink by climbing through the side. Be aware of this possibility and don’t store anything under there that is not safe for the cat. If you leave any toilet roll out, you can expect a bored kitty to shred it.
Can you ever let a motorhome cat outside?
Cats are very different from dogs. The majority will not come when you call to them. A cat that gets outside is most likely to try and hide under the motorhome or under a bush. I think it is a really bad idea to let them out but I have seen some people do it that were obviously staying at a campground long term.
I have also seen a couple in a campervan who had their cat in a harness on a leash and the leash was tied to the open van door so the cat could explore a small area outside the van. The cat looked pretty happy with this arrangement but your results may vary.