Are you thinking about hitting the open road? Traveling around the country in a campervan and living by the rules of the road, enjoying every single moment. Lots of people are joining vanlife and many are doing van life with a dog. What about van life with a cat? You see many people out there with their dogs but is it possible to travel in your campervan with a cat?
After many van life meetups and making plenty of connections online, I can confidently say that yes, people do van life a cat. In fact, we sat down with one of our friends Sam who has had two cats, separately on the road with her in a span of three years. On top of that, we did all the research for you, from the top cat essentials and training tools to make life easier.
So if you are considering taking your cat along with you in your travels whether it is full-time or for a short road trip, keep reading to discover the secrets to having a blast with your feline best friend.
Can You Do Van Life With A Cat?
Photo Credit: Samvanzam
Can you even do van life with a cat? This is a question I personally have had as well as many others that are considering van life. There are many logistics to consider like where to put the litter box, is the van big enough for a cat, how will you exercise it, will the cat like driving and the list goes on. Even though there are quite a few pretty big logistical concerns, the many people who have done van life with a cat would say yes, you absolutely can.
Personally, I believe, what you need to consider isn’t whether you can do van life with a cat, it’s whether you want to do van life with a cat. Is your cat so integrated into your world that you can’t imagine a life on the road without him/her? If your answer is yes then it’s time to deep dive into the how.
What it is Like to Van Life With a Cat
Photo Credit: Samvanzam
When I spoke with Sam about van life with a cat, she gushed about her life with her first van life cat Zamboni and next, her life with Cashew, the cat who now resides in the van with her. For Sam, it was never a question of whether Zamboni would go with her but rather it was a priority of how to incorporate her cat into van life.
When asked about what it was like to live in a van with a cat, Sam speaks only highly about her and her cat’s experiences. Talking about how her cat Cashew comes alive when they are on the road and able to explore new places every single day. Cashew loves chasing wild animals and going on long walks in the evening. Cashew seems genuinely happier on the road to Sam and she believes it’s because there is something new every day for him to discover. Not to mention all the incredible quality time they get to have together.
Traveling with a cat in a van
When you live full-time in a campervan, you already have such limited space. If you decide to bring a pet along that can quickly cut down on storage and living space. So if you decide to bring your cat with you, it is important that you keep them in mind when building out your van.
So what exactly do you need to consider when traveling with a cat in a van? The most important parts are having space where your cat can go and feel safe, possibly an area that is dark where they can cool off in the summer, and having a clear area that they know is their space only.
Where Do You Put A Van Life Cat Litter Box?
A great example of a space that your cat needs to know is their space and that doesn’t move, is their litter box. Sam put Cashew’s litter box below the passenger front seat. She keeps the seat pushed forward and leaned toward the dash. This allows Cashew to feel safe when going to the bathroom and he often rests and plays on the back of the seat. It’s his personal safe area. She did warn that he often gets upset if she has a passenger and they have to move his litter box for the drive.
Other great places to put the litter box are under the bed, under the couch, or in any space close that can be all theirs.
Does having a litter box in a van smell?
A top concern with having a litter box in such a small area is the smell. Sam recommends pine pellets over clay litter whether you are in a van or not. They are cheaper, healthier for your cat, and better for the environment.
According to Sam, the litter box doesn’t smell at all. However, she recommends bagging up their poop and throwing it away every single time. The pellets become pee dust so you know when it is time to change the box. Then you can scatter the sawdust or bury it and as a bonus, it is also a mouse deterrent.
How To Keep Your Cat Cool in The Summer
When you have a pet in your campervan with you, you have to be more aware of the temperature outside and in the van than you might if you were alone. If it gets too hot you can’t simply go inside to the A/C, you need to consider how your cat or dog may feel.
The good news is, most cats prefer hot weather. Although you do need to do proper research for your specific cat’s needs rest assured that likely your cat will enjoy weather that is on the warmer side. A pro tip from Sam is “If I’m too hot, then Cashew is too hot”.
Some tips to keep the van nice and cool for your cat:
- Proper Insulation in your campervan build
- A Maxx-Air Fan
- Having a safe space or cubby your cat can go to cool off
- Have ice packs or cooling pads out around the van when it’s hot outside
How To Keep Your Cat Warm In The Winter
Photo Credit: Samvanzam
The same basic rules apply to keeping your vanlife cat warm in the winter. If Sam is too cold then likely her cat is too cold as well. A benefit to the cold weather is Cashew loves to cuddle and will get under the blankets with her at night, keeping them both toasty.
Tips for keeping your cat warm in the winter:
- Proper Vanlife Insulation
- Consider having a campervan built-in heater
- Tons of available blankets
How to Train a Cat For Van Life
Just like any pet in any lifestyle, you have to train them. It’s important that you train your cat so they understand what the lifestyle is going to be like and you can both live harmoniously.
Some top tips from Sam when training your cat for van life:
- Put a harness on them right away, and have them wear it most of the time during the day.
- Attach a leash to the harness and then to the van. This gives them room to roam but keeps them safe. Sam says Cashew doesn’t mind the leash when they are on the road. He chases bugs, lays on the grass, and digs holes.
- Get a longer leash so they have room to roam. She uses a leash about 6-7 feet long.
- Take your cat on multiple walks every single day. Let them lead.
Van Life Cat Essentials
To make van life with a cat a tidbit easier here are a few must-have van essentials. From harnesses to toys, you don’t want to start your journey without them!
What do you think, could you do van life with a cat? Or do you already do it and have some tips for others? Let me know in the comments!
To catch up with Sam and Cashew on the road find them here:
Liz @ Living Purrfect
All the photos are so gorgeous and thanks for sharing the hands-on tips on living in a van with a cat! Especially the tips on how to train a cat for van life are spot on.
Liz @ Living Purrfect recently posted…Create a Cat Friendly Apartment and Call It Home!
I’m so happy to hear you found the tips useful and correct! Are you considering living in a Campervan with your cat?
Thank you for the tips! We really want to hit the open road, but our biggest concern is whether or not it is doable with cats. This article was very helpful. Thank you!
I’m so glad to hear that!
Brie Goumaz recently posted…Bright Campervan Lighting Ideas and Step by Step Installation Instructions
Hello! I am currently training my cat for traveling and was wondering if you, Sam, or other people who travel with cats let them off leash in any areas or if they are always on the harness and leash when outside the vehicle? If you’re camping out for the night and have the doors open, would you just stake the leash in the ground or something? I have a few years so I could spend a lot of time training him, but I know in the wilderness their instincts would definitely take over.
Thanks in advance for any advice!
Hello! I am currently training my cat to travel in a few years, and was wondering if you, Sam, or other travelers with cats ever let them off leash in certain areas or if they’re always on leash when outside the vehicle?
Thanks in advanced!
Adrian at Best For My Feet
Beautiful pictures Brie (and beautiful cat as well 🙂 )
Having a cat (besides my wife :D) and a van it’s something I’m thinking to do in the future. I’d love to go around Europe in a van and I was thinking to bring a pet as well with us.
I think a cat it’s better than a dog in this case because just like you said, the space it’s already limited, and a dog will go crazy in a space so small.
Another thing that worries me is the cat pee smell. It’s a strong smell…and I believe that’s a con for me.
Adrian at Best For My Feet recently posted…5 Reasons Your Work Boots Smell Like Cat Pee (And 5 Easy DIY Solutions)
Hey there! Nice post. I have questions about security. 2 questions:
1) What do you do to keep the cat from jumping into your steering wheel while driving? My cat loves to sit on my lap or on my belly.
2) What do you do so that the cat doesn’t hit the window when I have to brake suddenly? There is no way I can leave her in the box all the time while I drive. That would be torture.
Make sure they’re microchipped!!
Mmm great point! I’ll add it later this week. Thanks!
Thanks a lot for sharing such a great piece of article! I found it a good helpful write-up with a good sound and explanation. Please keep sharing more updates!