One of the common concerns we hear when pet parents consider including their pets in their travel plans is the risk of damage to their gear. After all, outdoor travel gear can be expensive! The good news is that you don’t have to choose between quality gear and pet-friendly travel. You can pet-proof your tent with a bit of preparation and a couple of minor changes to your setup.
Over the past 10+ years of camping together, we have taken countless trips with our furry family members.
During this time, we have made some (big) mistakes, experimented with different gear options, and discovered some great hacks. To save you the hassle (and the cost of our errors), we’ve put together this list of 8 easy ways to pet-proof your tent.
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Introduce the Tent at Home
The best advice we can offer to any camper considering bringing a pet along for the first time is to start at home.
Damage caused by pets to tents and camping gear often results from a pet being nervous, anxious, or unsure about the tent camping experience. Your pet may feel overwhelmed by being thrown into a new place with new sounds, scents, sights, and surroundings.
This feeling of stress and anxiety can lead to behaviours you wouldn’t usually see from your pet. For example, a typically calm pet may act out or cause damage while trying to escape.
If possible, set up your tent at home, either in your yard or in a larger room in your home. Leave the door open so that your pet can enter or leave the tent as they choose, but don’t force your pet to go inside.
This will allow your pet to explore it at their own pace and in a location where they feel safe and secure.
When you see that your pet is comfortable being around the tent, you can try closing the tent door. Keep an eye on your pet’s actions, as this can trigger stress from feeling confined for some.
The final step would be to take your pet out in your tent to an unfamiliar location. Stick to just a night or two on the first couple of trips, and don’t be afraid to cut it short if you see that your pet is not handling the experience well.
In time, you can work up to longer trips without the fear of your gear being destroyed.
Trim Your Pet’s Nails
One of the easiest ways to reduce damage to your tent is to trim your pet’s nails before each planned camping trip.
Not only is this a great way to protect the tent floor from dog and cat claws, but it’s also an essential part of your pet’s care. Nails that have grown out too long can be incredibly painful.
If your pet isn’t comfortable with the use of traditional pet nail clippers, you may want to consider using a nail grinder or training them to use a scratch board. Should this fail, you can make an appointment with your veterinarian or a local groomer to trim them professionally.
Pet-Proof Your Tent Floor with a Protective Barrier
The best way to protect your tent floor from damage throughout your camping trip is to use a tent floor protector. Depending on your budget, this could mean purchasing something specifically designed for this purpose or repurposing gear that you already own.
To begin, use an appropriately sized tent footprint or tarp under your tent to protect the bottom from stones, twigs, and other possible damage.
The footprint should be the size of the bottom of your tent without extending beyond the tent walls. If necessary, fold your footprint under the tent to keep it tucked away. Any portion that extends beyond the tent may collect water when it rains, leading to a wet tent (and everything in it).
For inside your tent, there are tent carpets specifically designed and marketed for this purpose. But other popular solutions include moving blankets, quilts, an extra sleeping bag, or interlocking foam floor tiles.
Each of these options will put a layer of protection between your tent floor and your pet’s nails. It will also protect against damage from other gear used in the tent, like the legs of a cot.
A Tired Pet is a Happy Pet
If you have a high-energy pet, you already know they can be destructive. From the trouble they get into when bored to the collateral damage from their random bursts of energy, they can definitely pose a risk to your gear.
We understand that all too well with our little tornado of never-ending energy, Lucifer!
The best thing you can do for pets like this is to give them opportunities to burn that energy throughout the day safely and positively.
Physical exercises like hiking and swimming are easy to come by when spending time outdoors. But you should also find ways to work in mental stimulation by allowing your pet to enjoy a “sniffari,” doing some training, or feeding them using an interactive feeder.
We always bring a snuffle mat along for Lucifer’s meals. The process of foraging for and sniffing out his food works his mind, allowing him to channel his energy in a positive way. Plus, it packs away in a small, lightweight bundle ideal for travel.
Keep Zippers Secured Out of Reach
Safety is always a top priority when camping with your cat or dog. This includes ensuring that they are unable to sneak out of the tent during the night while you’re sleeping.
Even the most well-behaved pets may be tempted by local wildlife if the path out is an easy one.
We recommend zipping your tent door so that the zippers sit at the top of the door, out of your pet’s reach. To take it one step further, you can use a small carabiner or luggage lock to prevent them from separating the zippers and opening the door.
You may need to take extra precautions for pets at risk of trying to break through the screen windows or side of the tent during the night.
As a young puppy, before he was fully trained, Lucifer would sleep in his crate next to our bed each night, where we knew he was safely contained. This gave everyone peace of mind at night.
Our cats always sleep in a portable pet playpen. In this space, we place their beds and a litterbox. It keeps the dogs out of the litterbox, encourages everyone to sleep instead of playing all night, and keeps them from climbing the screen on the windows to chase a bird or squirrel.
Create a “Pet Space” in Your Tent
Rather than giving your pets full roam of the tent, consider designating one space for them to occupy. In this space, you can keep their water dish, a comfortable bed, a litterbox (if needed), and campground-friendly toys (no loud squeakers).
By doing this, you can separate any important or valuable gear, placing it in another location of the tent to discourage them from getting into it.
Use crates, playpens, or exercise pens to keep younger puppies or cats contained. As your pets get older, you can determine if you feel confident enough to give them the run of the tent.
While our dogs all have complete freedom in the tent at this point, we keep all their belongings in one spot where they can usually be found (unless they are cuddling with us in bed). We find this helps to keep everything organized.
Nightly Tick Checks
Your efforts to pet-proof your tent shouldn’t be exclusively focused on how to keep your tent clean while camping or the best way to protect your tent floor from claws. There is one other element that we believe is very important!
Anytime that your pet is outdoors, they are at risk of encountering ticks. Even with the use of tick repellents, there is a risk that one of these hitchhikers has found its way into their coat.
Every night, before allowing your pet to settle into the tent, take the time to do a full tick check. This means checking your pet over manually to check for any small bumps or the sight of any ticks that they may have encountered.
The highest-risk areas that you should pay careful attention to include the following:
- In and around the ears
- Around the eyelids
- Under the collar
- Around the base of the tail
- Between the back legs
- Between the toes on your pet’s paws
- In the front “armpits”
If you find a tick, place it in a sealed bag or container until it can be disposed of properly. This can be done by submerging the tick in rubbing alcohol before flushing it or tossing it in the garbage. Never try to crush or squish a tick with your fingers.
Pack a tick removal tool to help you safely remove any ticks that may have already latched on.
Do you live in an area that is high-risk for tick-borne diseases? If you are concerned about transmission after a tick has latched on, you can send that tick to a service like TickCheck to have it tested. This will allow you to address any problems before they are allowed to progress.
Know Your Dog’s Limits
Be honest with yourself about your pet’s limits and current training when making plans. Some pets can handle a situation better than others, and no one knows your pet better than you!
When we set up for camp, we set up our tent first and place the dogs inside before working on getting the rest of our gear in place. Our dogs are VERY well-behaved and trained to stay calm in the tent, whereas seeing the site being set up can be overstimulating.
However, if you have a dog that is newer to tent camping or more likely to try to break out to get to you, leaving them alone in the tent would not be a good idea.
It is your responsibility to set your pet up for success.
This means recognizing where a problem could occur and taking the precautions necessary to keep everyone safe. You may need to make some sacrifices or adjust your plans to suit these needs, but it’s worth it to be able to include your best furry friend in your adventures!
Do you have any tips and tricks to pet-proof your tent? What steps do you take to ensure your pet is safe and comfortable?