How To Go Camping With Cats

Camping with a cat can be an absolute delight or your worst nightmare. So, before you plan that outdoor vacation, ask yourself if your four-pawed friend has a sense of adventure or at least a tolerance for a change of scenery. However, camping is not for kitty if she spooks at dust bunnies.

But even if you have a cat that will love it, there are a few (twenty) tips on how to go camping with cats:

  1. Only bring cats to pet-friendly areas
  2. Never leave the cat alone
  3. Use a cat harness and leash
  4. Get the cat an LED collar
  5. The cat must sleep in the tent with you
  6. Do not feed the cat in your tent in bear country
  7. Use a cat backpack for hikes
  8. Have a cat first-aid kit
  9. And more…

1. Acclimatize Your Cat For Camping

Acclimatize your cat to the adventure in the run-up to a camping trip. Even curious and bold cats on their turf tend to be much meeker and timid in a new setting. However, showing your kitty YouTube videos of your destination will be of little use.

Instead, set up your tent in your backyard or living space for at least a day, so this dwelling is an object of familiarity during your vacation. Let your cat observe you sorting out your camping gear, encouraging them to sniff and explore items such as sleeping bags and camp chairs.

Also, show kitty any new items you’ve purchased specifically for your cat, such as a food bowl, pet tent, or pet carrier.

Upon arrival, set up the tent before releasing your cat out of the carrier. Begin with kitty in your arms and walk him around the site so he can easily scope out the new surroundings.

If your cat cowers in the tent or under a chair for a while, let them. Most will settle after an hour or so in the new surroundings.

2. Only Bring A Cat To Pet-Friendly Camping Areas

Ensure you only bring your cat to campgrounds and areas that allow them. Even some places that permit dogs might not be welcoming to cats due to endangered birds or other wildlife concerns.

Trying to smuggle kitty is not worth the hassle. Any toddler or preschooler in the vicinity will rat you out in their sheer delight of spotting your cat.

3. Start Your Cat In Quiet And Spacious Camping Areas

First-time cat campers do best in quiet campsites with ample room. Cramped and noisy grounds can be overwhelming for many people, never mind an animal not known for their social skills. Small children from other campsites gravitate towards cats like moths to a lit citronella candle. Even an attention-loving kitty can be overwhelmed by too much enthusiastic attention.

4. NEVER Leave Your Cat Alone Or Tied Up When Camping

Cats should never be left unattended while camping. Cats are natural explorers and can wander off into dangerous areas, be it another campsite with an aggressive dog or play with a poisonous insect, arachnid, or reptile.

Zipping your cat inside the tent while you’re away isn’t safe. Your tent is no match for a larger predator that has become fascinated by what’s inside.

Also, clever cats can break out of tents with skillful ease. When a cat does this, it not only leaves your cat vulnerable but also your tent. However, if you need some hands-free time from your cat, keep them in sight with a play tent like this one from Purrfect.

Lastly, tying up your cat and walking off leaves your pet defenseless. Unable to climb or run, they are left vulnerable to animals they usually could escape from with ease. It also prevents them from finding shade, warmth, or new shelter if circumstances demand it. In short, tying up a cat risks her life.

5. Ensure Your Cat Has A Harness And Leash

It is essential to have your cat in a harness and leash, such as the Pangdi Escape Proof set. Many people mistakenly believe they only need one if their cat is prone to wandering. But this isn’t the primary use of this device.

Your adorable predator is much further down the food chain in the camping world. The harness and lead allow you to whisk your cat to safety.

The other advantage of a harness and leash is to save your cat from poor life choices. Take our friend’s cat, who, during a trip on the kayak, decided she had the power of Jesus and tried to walk on water.

Thanks to the harness and leash, her owners quickly fished her out. Thus, consider using an XS dog life jacket if going out in the water is in your cat’s future.

Make sure your cat has practiced with the harness before the trip. Cats tend to freeze up and tip over the first few times they wear one. It is better to have the cat adjust to the new device in the comfort of familiar surroundings than to add it to kitty’s “What the?” list on the first day of camping.

6. Consider A LED Cat Collar With Bell

Cats are masters at stealth. Their skills increase tenfold in the dark. However, trying to find one by flashlight alone is hard. Thus, save yourself a massive headache and get your cat an LED collar and fit it with a bell. The best LED collars are USB rechargeable and waterproof, such as this one from YFbrite. It gives you peace of mind while making your cat easy to spot.

An LED collar is wise even if you try to follow all the cat-camping safety rules. Mistakes happen, and cats are curious and clever.

For example, the cat might follow somebody out of the tent during a midnight bathroom trip. Or, more commonly, the tent isn’t secured as well as believed, and the cat manages to slip out (those grabby paws can work zippers).

7. Ensure Cat Is Up-To-Date With Flea, Tick, & Dewormer

Critters and parasites roam the great outdoors and will love your domesticated friend. So, offer them the best protection you can provide by ensuring their flea, tick, and dewormer is up-to-date.

Lyme disease is extremely rare in cats, although not impossible. However, that isn’t the only illness carried by ticks. For example, cytauxzoonosis, known commonly as bobcat fever, can be deadly to a kitty. The disease is cat-specific and transmitted by the Lone Star tick.

Another example is anaplasmosis, a bacteria carried by ticks found in the Northeast of the United States and Europe. Thankfully, a quick tick bite is not enough to infect a cat. Normally the tick must go unnoticed for 24-48 hours to have transmitted the bacteria.

The highest rate of infections occurs in May, June, and October. But there is never a “safe” month to leave your cat unprotected.  

8. Your Cat Should Sleep In Your Tent

Your cat should sleep in your tent at night. If your kitty isn’t a nighttime snuggler, give him his own area inside the tent with his favorite blanket and perhaps put it in a pet bed or cardboard box (some cats can’t resist a good box).

If you have a pet backpack, some cats will happily use it as a bed. If you are a camp cot user, many cats will love sleeping under it on a blanket.

The problem with zipping cats up in its little pet tents on their own is predators. A cat can’t defend themselves when trapped in a tiny pet tent.

Even a grumpy raccoon or a porcupine can pose a significant threat to a confined cat. But if the cat is with the big scary humans, your typical campground visitor isn’t going to bother your tent.

9. Bring Your Cat A Litter Box

Your cat should have a litter box available, especially at night. Even a cat that prefers to do her business outdoors will need a place at night. However, you might want to use a smaller litter box than is your cat’s norm, given the cozy nature of tents.

10. Bring Your Cat Water As Well As Food

Cats require plenty of food and water during a camping trip. However, wet food is not enough hydration for a cat camping.

If you use raw food, you’ll need to find an alternative for the vacation. Consider freeze-dried as a substitute. Whatever you decide on, ensure you’ve slowly introduced it to your cat’s diet in the run-up to the trip.

11. Do Not Feed Your Cat In The Tent

Pick a spot to feed your cat during the day. This spot must not be in or near your main tent. The cat’s outdoor play tent can be an excellent choice, so long as it isn’t brought inside the main tent at night (it will now smell of food).

Food smells attract predators. Keeping food out of a tent is crucial, especially if camping in bear country. Thus, keeping any food, pet or human, out of the tent is essential.

Anything that has held your cat’s food, including a mat for the bowls, must be kept out of the tent. However, kitty litter and droppings are not a cause for concern.

12. Bring Your Cat’s Favorite Blanket And A Toy

Cats love being in their territory. Thus, bring some of kitty’s territory with you, such as a favorite blanket and a few toys she enjoys. The familiar comforts will help her settle in the strange and new environment.

13. Use A Cat Carrier For Vehicle Transportation

While play tents and pet backpacks can be excellent for camping, they are not a substitute for a cat carrier when in a car.

14. Get A Cat Backpack For Hiking

YouTube and TikTok are filled with cats hiking alongside their owners. However, as adorable as these cats are, do not assume your cat will embrace walking across the land with the same level of enthusiasm. Most do best inside a pet backpack, such as a bubble style from Fat Cat or a mesh panel hiking style from The Navigator

Remember, even the intrepid cat-hikers typically desire breaks and to be carried for part of the way. While some will happily perch on your shoulders, not all are so polite and accommodating. Plus, it is a safer method of transport for your pet and will cause you less stress.

15. Bring A Printed Photo Of Your Cat

It’s not fun to imagine your beloved pet going missing, but it can happen. Bring a printed photo of your cat along in the event the pictures on your phone are not accessible, or you need to leave one behind with the campground hosts.

16. Use A Tracker App For Your Cat

Getting your cat hooked up with a tracker is excellent for peace of mind. It will help you locate your wayward pet quickly.

A waterproof model to consider is Joibit, which can be attached to your cat’s collar or harness. However, the tracker doesn’t mean letting your cat wander is safe. No dog, fox, coyote, bobcat, or bear will give two hoots if your pet is being tracked.

17. Attach An ID Tag Or Label To Your Cat

Trackers can be pricy. A less expensive alternative is to put your contact details on your cat. For example, just use a keyring tag to write your information and attach them to your cat’s collar or harness.

18. Pack A Cat First Aid Kit

Cats can get into trouble while camping, just like kids and adults. Thus, buying a pet first-aid kit or putting one together on your own is a good idea.

Smart things to include are:

19. Bring Bread Bag Ties To Secure Tent Zippers

Cats are escape artists. They also adore playing with zippers. The combination means many cats can easily open their play tent or main tent. Thankfully, you don’t need to get a combination lock to keep your cat from exploring on their own. Just use those old bread twist ties to secure zippers together.

20. Consider Trimming Your Cat’s Nails

You might want to give your cat’s nails a trim before the trip. Cats can do serious damage to a tent. That said, this is not a simple task with some cats.

So, if your cat can turn a round of nail trimming into a fight that an MMA fighter would fear, maybe it isn’t worth it. Then again, tents are expensive. Pack a scratching post? All we can say is good luck.

Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

James has been escaping to the outdoors for as long as he can remember. This first started in family camping trips but soon turned into adventure camps and hiking through the Scottish Hebrides. Now he has turned towards trying to make camping more comfortable and accessible.