Camping with your dog or cat can add an extra layer of pleasure to your camping trip, but it is not without its challenges and it pays to be prepared. Here are some tips if you are thinking about taking your pet on the road.
Know your pet and plan your trip accordingly
How old and active is your pet? How friendly are they around other people and animals? You will need to ask yourself these types of questions to decide whether it is realistic to take your pet on a week-long hiking trek, or to a family friendly camping site which is likely to be full of people, children and other animals.
For cats in particular, be realistic about whether your cat has the personality for camping. Indoor cats won’t suddenly be prepared for the great outdoors, and hunters can be hard to control and represent a significant danger to local wildlife (not to mention be in danger themselves). If you do decide that your cat has the temperament for camping, remember that no matter how well trained, cats generally can’t cope with long hikes. The attention and discipline required to keep them on leash and away from the wildlife is just not appropriate for them. For cats you should be thinking of short hikes that don’t take you too far from base camp.
When picking where to go, make sure you do your research. There is nothing worse than finally arriving at your destination after a long drive to find a ‘no pets allowed’ sign. But don’t just check your campsite. Make sure the surrounding trails and activities also allow pets and check the related leash laws.
Prepare your pet
It is important to make sure your pet is prepared before taking them into the great outdoors. For cats the very first thing is do is to make sure your cat is appropriately leash trained as you will need to keep them on leash for a significant part of the trip.
For all pets you should double check their training. It is particularly important that they have a good response to a ‘recall’ command. This will keep them out of danger and stop them from exploring other campsites or getting too friendly with other campers that may not be animal lovers. The ‘leave it’ command is also important in case they encounter snakes or other animals, or someone else’s BBQ.
You should research where the closest vet is to your campsite in case of emergencies, and perhaps also plan a pre-trip vet visit to make sure that their flea and tick medicine is up to date. Also make sure that their tags and microchip are up to date in case you do get separated.
It is also a great idea to let your pet become accustomed to what will be their new home for the duration of the trip before you head off. Set up your tent and other gear in the backyard and let them explore and become familiar with it. Also consider wearing some of your gear so that they get used to the idea of you in it. In the past we’ve had pets that were particularly freaked out by our head torches, so wearing them around the house and garden before the trip gave them a chance to become accustomed to it.
We all know the importance of packing for a camping trip, especially if you have ever arrived at a site and realised that you have forgotten something important. The same is true for pets. What exactly you will need depends on your pet and the type of camping trip, but for me must haves include:
- As well as food and water bottles for the campsite, portable food and water receptacles for when you are on the trail. We are currently using the M&M Water Bottle which releases the water into a handy bowl.
- Bring water from home or use bottled water rather than the water at the campsite for your pet. Just like humans, the local water supply can upset their stomachs. If you don’t have enough space to carry enough water for all your campers, bring a water filter.
- Bags for cleaning up poop! For your cat you might also consider a travel litter tray. While some cats are happy to do their business in the great outdoors, others that are accustomed to using the tray can struggle. We’ve used the Petleader collapsible litter tray before and it worked well. Make sure you use the same litter that you do at home so that it feels and smells familiar for your cat. And remember, whether your cat uses the tray or goes outside, you need to clean up after them.
- Sleeping pad and blanket for wherever they will sleep. It is important to know where your pet will sleep in advance: inside the tent, a crate, or somewhere else?
- For your cat, even if you don’t use it during the car journey, bring their carry tray in case they get spooked or something happens and you need to restrain or transport them.
- Reflective leash and collar with clip on flashlight. Also bring a stake so that you can tether your pet on the campsite when needed. You might also want to bring leashes of different lengths. Shorter ones for when they are walking with you and you want to keep them close, and longer ones for when they are tethered so that they can still explore within an appropriate distance.
- A bandeira to act as an emergency muzzle.
- Tweezers and mineral oil for removing ticks and thorns.
- Pet friendly insect repellent such as this Cedar Bug Spray deet free repellent.
- A complete record of their vaccination and health history should something happen.
At the campsite
When you are camping with your pet you need to supervise your pet at all times, even on the campsite. This is for their safety, and also the comfort of other campers.
Don’t assume that because your pet is leashed and tethered they are safe, as in the wild things can change rapidly, and a leashed animal unattended can be attacked by wild animals and be unable to run or defend themselves. A tethered dog left alone is also likely to bark, irritating other campers and attracting wildlife.
As well as being in danger from wildlife, your pet can be a danger to local animals. Make sure your pet has a good ‘leave it’ and ‘recall’ command to prevent them from chasing animals, and try and prevent them from barking at animals. This kind of training can be particularly difficult for cats, but is extremely important as they represent a risk to the local animal life, especially birds.
Never leave your pet unattended inside your tent! It is easy for them to claw their way out, escaping and ruining your sleeping space!
Make sure you have a safe space for your pet to retreat should they get spooked. This is especially important for cats. Leave your tent or car door open so that they can retreat inside should they need. For cats, they will also feel more confident exploring if they know that this retreat is available to them.
Finally, if you are planning any activities in which your pet will not be able to participate, leave them safely at home.