Can You Bring an Indoor Cat Camping?

The idea of travelling with a pup by your side has become so routine that most people wouldn’t bat an eye, but what about the growing adventure cat trend?

Adventure cat is a term used to describe any cat that enjoys travelling outdoors with their person – whether it’s camping, hiking, paddling, or even just visiting your local park. It’s all about spending time outside together, whatever that may look like for you.

Many animal lovers instantly worry when the words “outdoors” and “cats” are used in the same sentence.

It may leave you wondering, can you take an indoor cat camping safely? Will introducing my cat to life outdoors encourage them to try to escape and always be outside?

As someone who frequently tent camps with two indoor cats, I’m happy to report that it can be done safely while still creating boundaries that prevent your cat from roaming freely outdoors, introducing them to the many added risks of outdoor life.

In this article, we’ll look at how to take a cat camping, including introducing them to an adventure life. I’ll also share some tips for a successful cat-friendly camping trip.

cat lying in a camp chair | Can You Bring an Indoor Cat Camping?
Pippen, our princess, having stolen my camp chair

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click and buy, we will make a commission (at no cost to you). See my full disclosure policy for more details.

Do Indoor Cats Miss Going Outside?

As cat parents, we often hear the argument that keeping a cat indoors is unfair. After all, they are descendants of wild cats that roamed the wilderness freely, right?

While true, today’s domesticated cat has come a long way from their ancestors.

If you have an indoor cat, they can live a full, rewarding, and happy life indoors without going outside as long as they are provided with enrichment opportunities in their home environment.

But if you are introducing your cat to the world of adventuring, be prepared that they may fall in love.

This doesn’t mean our cats are running outside every opportunity they have – to the contrary, Pippen once got out when a screen on a window failed, and she stood outside frozen in place and crying until I found her and picked her up.

However, when I pick up her harness and leash, she comes running excitedly, and she has been known to paw at her leash while meowing to ask to go out.

Can Indoor Cats Go Outside Safely?

Yes, there are ways that you can allow your cat to explore and enjoy the great outdoors safely. This does NOT mean opening the door and just letting them go freely.

Some cats thrive outdoors, like barn cats. But your indoor cat doesn’t have the skills necessary to survive.

As I previously mentioned, Pippen and Jinx are both indoor cats. However, they still join us camping and hiking all over the province in a way that ensures they remain safe.

Our cats are not allowed outdoors unless in an enclosure or on a harness and leash.

Additionally, they are not allowed to spend any time outdoors unless we are right here, supervising them carefully the entire time.

How Do You Travel with an Indoor Cat?

Whether you’re on your way to an exciting camping adventure or visiting friends and family, there are a few essential factors to consider when travelling with your indoor cat.

First and foremost, always travel with your cat in a carrier. This serves many important safety roles, including keeping your cat safely contained while driving so that you aren’t distracted, preventing your cat from being thrown during an accident, and effectively eliminating the risk of your cat bolting out of the car when you visit a rest stop or reach your destination, opening the car door.

Introduce the carrier in the comfort of your home by setting it out and allowing your cat to explore it at their own pace.

Adding your cat’s favourite blanket can make the space feel more cozy and secure. Not only will they be able to enjoy snuggling into the blanket, but it will also carry a familiar scent. This is shown to have a relaxing and calming effect.

Set your cat’s carrier up in the vehicle on one of the seats, using the seatbelt to secure it in place. Avoid doing this in a front seat with an airbag, as the airbag could cause serious harm during an accident.

For cats unsure of being alone in their carrier, consider setting them up in the backseat with the carrier’s door facing you so they can see you.

When planning your road trip, include regular breaks for plenty of fresh, cool water and the opportunity to use the litter box.

We use a travel litter box with a zip-up lid. This makes it easy to allow the cats to “do their business” when we are stopped, scoop any waste (like you would scoop dog waste), and then zip it back for travel, preventing spillage and odours.

Can You Take an Indoor Cat Camping?

Returning to the original question of this post, can you take an indoor cat camping? The answer is a resounding yes!

Our cats love joining us on our camping adventures just as much (if not more so, in Pippen’s case) as our dogs.

But this isn’t something that happened overnight. If you are considering your cat’s first camping trip, you will need to introduce your cat to the idea slowly, allowing them to adjust to spending time outdoors at their own pace.

When the time comes that you are ready to take your first trip, keep it short. Plan a night or two close to home so you can easily call it off if the experience isn’t going according to plan.

Always remember that the goal is to create positive experiences and associations so that your cat will want to go camping with you in the future. If your cat starts to freak out on their first overnight trip, don’t be afraid to cut it short and try again next time.

Can I Keep a Cat in a Tent?

If your idea of the perfect camping adventure involves spending time in a tent, you’re not alone. While I recognize how a trailer or RV may be appealing for some, there is something magical about spending the night in a tent that I adore.

But can you take cats camping in a tent safely? Will they settle in a tent and enjoy their trip?

Like any new experience, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Some cats will learn to love the tent and enjoy tenting adventures. However, other cats will find the many smells and sounds sleeping in a tent overwhelming, creating stress and anxiety.

Not all humans like tent camping either – we’re all individuals, and so are they!

The best thing you can do is introduce your cat to the tent, condition them slowly to create a positive association (see below) and observe your cat’s body language.

If, during the conditioning process, you notice that your cat isn’t becoming more comfortable despite your best efforts, this may be a sign that the tent camping life does not excite your furry friend.

Some cats will be happiest spending their vacation hanging out with a friend or family member while you enjoy your outdoor adventures.

You can also try taking your cat in a trailer or RV to see if the structure allows them to relax more on your trips. The walls of a trailer or RV can help buffer the sounds that surround you. You can also mask some of these sounds with white noise, like a portable camp fan.

cat in a camp chair | Can You Bring an Indoor Cat Camping?

Tips for Camping with an Indoor Cat

Introduce Your Cat’s Gear Slowly and In Advance

Your cat’s first camping trip will involve many new sights, sounds, and experiences, which can be overwhelming. You can help to reduce the stress that this creates by beginning to introduce their gear at home well in advance.

This includes conditioning your cat to the following aspects of outdoor travel:

  • Cars and car rides
  • Their carrier
  • Harness and leash
  • Tent or trailer
  • Any weather-related gear (sweaters, raincoats, etc.)

Start early by bringing out the items that can be left out in your home, allowing your cat to explore at their own pace.

For example, if this is the first time your cat has seen their carrier, place it open on the floor and leave it for your cat to look at, smell, and climb in/out as they choose. Avoid closing the carrier in the beginning.

You can take the next step as your cat becomes comfortable with this gear.

Try encouraging your cat to go into the carrier on command. Close the door briefly (just a second or two) before opening it again and offering praise and rewards. Slowly increase the time the door is closed before you reopen it.

This sounds like a lot of work before ever stepping foot (or paw) on a campsite, but don’t rush it! Working through this process will set you and your cat up for long-term success.

Choose a Private Campsite

The secret to success when camping with an indoor cat starts with the booking stage – you want to seek out a secluded or private campsite where your cat doesn’t have to worry about crowds of people or dogs adding to any stress they may feel.

If you are at a campsite and find it’s not entirely as private as you would like, there are steps you can take to set up your site for your needs, including:

  • Set up larger shelters like your tent, trailer, or dining shelter to block open areas between sites or view of the road
  • Hang a tarp to create a “wall” to remove visual triggers
  • Park your vehicle in a way that blocks visibility of the road

Avoid booking a campsite in an area with a higher risk of off-leash dogs, like near a trailhead, a dog beach, or a designated dog exercise area.

Always Keep Your Cat Contained

The biggest concern most people have when it comes to bringing an indoor cat camping is the risk that they will be unable to survive outdoors.

But this shouldn’t even be a concern – because your cat should never be left to roam freely.

Instead, keep your cat safe either by using a secure enclosure like a covered exercise pen or playpen or by keeping your cat on a leash.

Otherwise, you run the risk that your cat will take off after a bird or squirrel, becoming lost in the forest where they are left to fend for themselves and, as an indoor cat, lacking the necessary skills for survival.

Plus, a loose cat can also be incredibly destructive to the environment!

Car Camping with a Cat Versus Backcountry Camping

Are you a backcountry camper enjoying your time as immersed in the natural environment as possible?

Cats can become incredible backcountry camping companions, but heading off into the backcountry isn’t the best starting point for your cat’s life of adventure.

I highly recommend starting with a car camping trip. After all, as I mentioned above, there is a chance that you will need to cut that first trip short and head home – a more difficult decision if it involves hiking or paddling back out of the wilderness.

This also allows you to bring a few extra “creature comforts” to help keep your cat comfortable as they adjust to this style of travel.

Like anything else, pay attention to your cat and their body language as you introduce new experiences or elements of outdoor adventuring. They will let you know what they enjoy and what they don’t.

For example, Pippen thrives on all adventures and is a happy backcountry companion.

Our other cat, Jinx, however, needs the added comforts of our kitty playpen at night and her outdoor pen setup versus spending longer periods on a leash. Knowing this, we exclusively car camp with her.

Never Leave Your Cat Unsupervised

Even the highest-quality products fail sometimes, so don’t trust that your cat being in an enclosure or on a leash means they are safe to be left alone.

Always set your cat up somewhere on the campsite where you can keep a careful eye on them.

This will allow you to recognize if they are potentially setting themselves up for escape. For example, Pippen once slipped half out of her harness on a campsite and was luckily caught before she slipped the rest of the way out.

It also makes it possible for you to keep an eye open for potential threats, like off-leash dogs that run onto your site and react accordingly.

Final Thoughts: Can You Bring an Indoor Cat Camping?

The short answer is yes, you can bring an indoor cat camping. But there are some essential considerations during the planning stages of your trip and while you’re at the campsite to ensure that everyone has a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experience.

Start by introducing your cat to your camping gear at home with positive conditioning. This means plenty of praise and rewards to create a positive association.

When booking your campsite, pay careful attention to the site’s privacy. Avoid booking a campsite near an area frequented by dogs, like a dog beach, as there may be off-leash dogs in the area.

Set up a safe and secure area for your cat on the campsite. This includes ensuring that your cat is always contained or on a leash to prevent them from getting loose.

Create a safe hiding space by setting up your cat’s carrier, a portable cat condo, or a cat cave where they can reach it, providing a secure place to retreat if they feel stressed or anxious.

Finally, never forget why you wanted to bring your cat camping – to build a stronger bond and create memories together.

Your trip may not be perfect. You may even have to cut it short if your cat struggles to settle in. But that’s all part of the journey that you are travelling together.

can you bring an indoor cat camping pin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *