On Tuesday we asked our Question of the Week; “How do you keep your pet comfortable and safe when you go truck camping?” We received over five pages of pet care advice. Here’s part one of your answers. We’ll have part two next week.
Here are the responses:
“Hi Angela. We enjoyed reading the Stephn Lewis article about traveling with cats. Sherri and I have been truck camping the last four years without a pet, but this past July we rescued a stray eight week old kitten from our backyard. We named him Spridget, but he should have been named Lucky.
Anyway, we started traveling with him when he was about twelve weeks old. We initially made a couple short one-day practice camping trips. We started training him on a harness almost immediately. He seems to do okay with the harness and leash, but needs occasional refresher training if we don’t use it for awhile.
I made a traveling litter box out of a fourteen gallon plastic storage container that works well and he likes it. I do not have a pass through between the camper and the truck cab, so we have to move the litter box back and forth as needed. A sliding window in the front of the camper is on my list of future modifications.
Spridget is an indoor cat but, as shown in the photos, we do take him outside on a leash when we are camping in a safe place. We have not experienced any troubles at campgrounds because of our camper cat.
He is still a very energetic kitten, so we take a few of his toys, his bed, and his scratching post. He still has all his claws and he has not practiced his scratching on the camper seats, so far. The scratching post serves double duty as a hitching post when we let him outside on the leash.
The longest trip so far has been only five days and he seems to get more accustomed to the traveling the longer we are out. When we first start on a trip, he cries for maybe the first thirty to forty minutes and then just settles down. Spridget usually just sleeps in his bed or on the console between the front seats.
We have not traveled with him in hot summer weather yet. When we have to leave him alone, we just put him in the camper and crack a window or vent and he seems to do okay. I think he just sleeps when we are gone.
We are still newbies at traveling with a camper cat, but so far it has worked out okay. As far as advice to other newbies traveling with pets, what I can say is that I think it’s easier to train a kitten than an adult cat. The harness training is well worth the effort.
Your articles in TCM about traveling with pets are very helpful. Thanks.”
Buzz Merchlewitz, Sherri Williams, and Spridget, the lucky cat
1998 Dodge Ram 2500
2007 Four Wheel Grandby
“Hi Angela. I enjoyed your story about Stephn Lewis and his wife, and how they camp with their cats. I haven’t been able to yet convince my boyfriend to take our kitties along, but I would like to try it. Our cat, Roo, looks a lot like Harley, which I use as an argument that he would take to the road. That argument hasn’t gotten me far yet.
I have been successful harness training my cats though! We adopted them from from a family who was losing their home when the cats were five. They were accustomed to being inside/outside cats, but I prefer to have inside only cats. The first summer was fine, but by the second spring, they were anxious to get out. I bought a MetPet cat harness (brand is important, I think, for pet security and safety) and watched a few videos on YouTube. There were a few good videos introducing the harness and walking a cat on a leash.
Like Stephn, my Roo would flop over as soon as you put him in the harness, at first. So I would put the harness on him, carry him outside to the deck, and put him down. Flop, “My legs are broken mom!” I would let him lay there and wear it for a few minutes, then bring him in and take it off. Soon, he understood that if he wanted to go outside, the harness was part of the deal. He and his sister, Tubby, took about a month to acclimatize, but they got used to going out and walking around wearing a harness. They didn’t love being on a leash, but they wanted to be outside more.
It is important that if you have a cat in a harness or on a leash, you do not leave them unattended! Even with me outside with them (usually reading a book in the shade as they wandered as far as the leash would let them), they got scared a few times and tangled themselves up.
I don’t imagine we’ll be taking the cats any time soon in our truck camper, but it sure would be fun to try. Thanks for the great stories.”
Linda Becker and Roo, the cat
1989 Sunlight Hideway
1994 Ford F-250
“Hi Gordon and Angela. The camping cats article was great! She taught him about camping and he taught her about cats. It sounds like Stephn and Lee Lewis have a marriage made in heaven! Their cats are gorgeous and reading about them makes me miss our five cats all over again. I’m a little tempted to get another cat, but I’ll resist, for it hurts too much each time you lose one. Five times is enough. But it sure is fun to read about others’ adventures with their cats. Thank you! PS: I like their pop-up too!”
Lori Markoff, Austin, Texas
“I have a ninety pound Flat Coated Retriever and a Northern Lite camper. My dog, Trango, rides in the back seat of the truck. If I have to go into a store and I feel it is too warm, I put him in the camper, open the top vents, and turn on the Fantastic Fan. I have two solar panels so I have plenty of power. I also will pull the shades down on the sunny side. Even in places like Salt Lake City where it can get very warm in the summer, the inside of the truck camper stays cool.
In most National Parks, you cannot have a dog on the trail. I’ve had good luck using the internet and finding nearby kennels and making arrangements for Trango for a few days.
If I’m going to be in a desert area, I’ve found that dog booties really protect his feet from hard surfaces and cactus spines. In that regard, I also always have some needle nose tweezers to pull out very thin spines from his paws. If you’re going off the beaten path, it’s also a good idea to have first aid supplies for your dog and yourself.”
Al Stebbins and Trango, the dog
“As the picture shows, our Cocker Spaniel (Lucy) is most happy when her child is helping her nap, or if she has toys around. Most of the time though she is an excellent traveler. The entire back seat is her domain for most trips. Our current unit (a Chalet TS116) doesn’t have a pass thru window which she is still coming to grips with. She is happy to be with us no matter where we take her. Heat is not usually a problem for us as we’ll open windows and set the Fantastic Fan to run continually or, if we feel it’s too warm, we take her with us and bring plenty of water.”
Jerry Rohan, Tina Rohan, and Lucy the dog
2008 Ford F-450
2011 Chalet TS116
“This time last year, my fiancé and I had neither a pet nor a truck camper. Now we’re married with pre-owned models of both and almost 10,000 miles of road behind the three of us.
There is a longer story for another time, but after picking up our adopted canine from his foster home in Illinois, we traveled West as far as Wyoming, before heading Southeast to Florida (to watch the last shuttle launch), and finally back to our home in Vermont. As you might imagine, the road trip took us through some fairly fearsome heat, and keeping the three of us cool was a constant concern.
I had removed the backseat from our extended GMC, so Dakota (a 70 pound mutt) had plenty of space to relax while we were on the road. In the evenings, he was with us in the truck camper. The first night he spent trying to climb into bed with us, but consistency paid off and now the floor of the truck camper is one of his favorite sleeping spots. As for our sightseeing, some places we could take him with us. Unfortunately, many places are not dog-friendly, so we occasionally had to leave him behind with lots of water, but never left him for more than thirty minutes at a time. Fortunately, we could usually back the rig into a spot next to a shaded patch of grass.
Going truck camping with a pet is a major endeavor, but well worth the companionship, although I’m sure our friends think we’re completely crazy. There are some great websites that list dog-friendly towns, parks, and attractions. For the rare occasion, you might consider a local doggy-daycare if you’re want to leave your pet behind for the day (for example, a day at Disney World), but be sure to bring your pet’s vet records as they won’t accept your dog without them.
P.S. Did I mention how much we all loved the occasional McDonald’s ice cream cone on the hottest of days?”
John Pile, Helen Pile, and Dakota Pile, the dog
1983 8’ Skamper 180-S
2004 GMC Sierra
“Without a doubt, we always seat belt our dogs in the back seat while we’re underway. They won’t ride in the camper alone. Click-it or ticket should apply to any pets in the cab as wells as people. Cheers!”
Gary Lech, Monroe, Oregon
“Hey there! We travel with our two german shepherds in our truck camper, an Adventurer 90FWS. The dinette is their bed when we are setup for the night. I had to make a snap-in barrier to the cab over bed as they really like our bed better!
We recently purchased a 2012 Dodge 3500 Crew Cab dually and I constructed a deck for the rear seat area that gives them more room than they had with the 1999 Dodge Quad Cab. I had to make a barrier for that situation too as Kenai thinks he should be driving!
Because the 90FWS is a basement model truck camper, and the Dodge trucks tend to ride high without a lift kit, I made a plywood dog ramp with a non-slip surface. This should prevent any joint injuries to the dogs getting in and especially out of the camper. Smart as the dogs are, they refuse to use the Torklift steps!
Our camping experience with the dogs has always been positive and they are well behaved around other people and dogs. When we walk them through campgrounds on leashes, we get lots of complements about our beautiful dogs. It seems like most campers have the little ankle biter size dogs so the sight of two large german shepherds always draws attention.
When traveling in the summer, we try to look for camping areas next to water features like lakes or rivers so the kids can swim! Having dogs along can be restrictive, but we enjoy them too much to leave them home!”
Bob Holland and two German Shepherds
2012 Dodge 3500 CTD