Traveling with pets can be a lot of fun, though with two cats and a dog in tow, it does take a little extra thought to figure out how best to maintain their welfare on the road. I’d like to address a few of the questions we hear most often from friends and folks we meet in our travels.
Why did you decide to take your pets?
Our pets had already been a part of our lives for years when we first purchased our bus in 2014, so when we were finally ready to hit the road two years later, you bet we weren’t willing to leave them behind. Taking them with us felt like a no-brainer.
How did your pets adapt to the Bus?
Our dog had spent a good deal of time on the bus throughout the construction process, and so was already familiar with the space. For her, the transition was pretty easy. The cats, on the other hand, weren’t introduced to the bus until it was finished. Despite the surprise, they had a pretty seamless transition to accepting their new home and quickly claimed their favorite hang-out spots. (They love the driver’s seat and underneath the bed.) As a whole, all three of our pets seem happy with the bus’ interior and, despite there being three furrballs on board, it never feels crowded.
Where do your pets ride when traveling?
When we first designed the bus, we had built out two kennels underneath the bed for the cats to ride in. Our dog, we assumed, would ride in her own bed. We thought these would be the best and most comfortable options for each of them. However, during our first road trip, all three pets showed us that they had different ideas.
Despite doing our best to make the rear kennels as comfortable as possible, our cats hated riding in them and communicated their displeasure by meowing loudly and incessantly for half of our first trip.(We thought they’d settle down, but alas, they had other ideas.) Ultimately, we had to rethink how to travel with the cats and ended up installing a large, collapsible pet-crate in the front of the bus where our table sits. (Ryan has since figured out how to turn the space underneath our dining room table into a more stylish/functional kennel.) Moving them up front made them much more comfortable, and now the cats spend our driving time calmly napping in their beds.
Our dog was initially made so nervous by the new road sounds during our first road trip that she wouldn’t stay in her bed and instead bee-lined straight for the couch. Rather than fight this, we decided to embrace it and now the couch is her designated traveling spot. We installed an eye-bolt into the frame of the couch that enables us to hook her leash to it, acting as a doggy-seat-belt. Now she’s unfazed by driving and spends travel days napping or looking out the window.
Getting the pets used to traveling down the highway at 50+ miles per hour took a few weeks, but eventually they adapted to the noise and occasionally bumpy roads.
How do you find vet care on the road?
This has been an easy question to answer due to the number of national chains that offer comprehensive veterinary care at consistent prices across the U.S. For all of 2016, we used Petsmart’s Banfield Pet Hospitals for our pets’ care. Because they’re a national chain of veterinary clinics, we can take our pets to any Banfield anywhere in the U.S. and know that they’ll be able to pull up our pets’ vaccine histories & medical records and deliver consistent services. (If only it were so seamless to find healthcare anywhere in the country as a human!)
To lower our costs in 2017, we’re switching over to Tractor Supply’s Low Cost PetVet Clinic for our pets’ annual vaccines. We also found that Tractor Supply offers the lowest pricing for OTC flea & tick prevention – which, if you’re sharing a 200sqft space with three indoor/outdoor animals, is pretty important to keep up with.
Do Campgrounds Allow Pets?
By and large, the answer to this question is, yes! We’ve visited fourteen U.S. states and one foreign country during our travels so far and haven’t had a problem taking out pets along for the ride.
We’ve found that state parks, national forests & recreation areas, and BLM land are the most pet-friendly destinations. National parks do allow campers to bring pets, but domestic animals usually aren’t allowed on any of the trails.
Private RV parks can be more restrictive of the number and type of pets that you can bring with you (quite a few have a two-pet limit and have breed-restrictions for dogs), but so long as you plan in advance, finding a place to stay isn’t usually a problem.
What do I need to travel with my pet?
The universal rule at campgrounds and parks seems to be that pets are required to stay on-leash. Because of this, make sure your pet is used to walking on a leash before you start traveling. It took about two weeks (and a lot of patience on our part) before our cats became comfortable walking on-leash.
Secondly, be sure to keep a copy of your pet’s current rabies vaccination certificate on hand (in addition to the collar-tag). This is required if you want to cross the border into Canada or Mexico, as well as by a number of state parks.
Thirdly, having an understanding of your pets behavior is essential to ensuring smooth travels. This might mean that you have to change habits depending on how they respond to new situations. For example, after spending two and half weeks camping in remote areas, we stayed in a super crowded RV park where our dog quickly became overwhelmed by all of the new people, other dogs, and sounds/smells. To prevent her from getting worked-up, we had to shift her daily walks to early morning and late evening when the campground was quieter. If you’re not sure how your pet might react to strange sights & sounds, consider taking some short mini-trips or even completing basic obedience training before you start traveling extensively.
Have another question? Ask it in the comments section and we’ll do our best to answer it!