If you travel with pets, you realize how much enjoyment they can add to the motorhoming experience. With a little preparation and a few precautions, these special companions will enjoy the journeys as much as you. Here are tips to help ensure happy travels for all.
1. Take a few trial jaunts
Turn on the water pump, generator and air conditioning while parked and let the pet familiarize itself with the sounds. Then take a short drive around the neighborhood to acclimate the pet to the noises and motions specific to an RV. Even better, consider going on an overnight trip prior to embarking on an extended journey.
2. Keep your pet safe
For your peace of mind and the safety of your pet, many veterinarians recommend using a pet carrier when the motorhome is in motion. It should be large enough to allow your pet to stand, turn and lie down. A cat's crate needs to be large enough to include a litter box. At first glance, a carrier may seem confining and an unfriendly environment. It will quickly become your pet's most comfortable area, however —- all its own, where it always feels safe.
You may decide to restrain your pet with a pet harness. These work similar to seat belts for humans, and are available from pet supply retailers.
If you allow your pet to roam free inside the coach, always make sure that medicines, exposed wires, cleaning products and other chewing temptations are out of reach. To limit your pet's wandering inside the RV, consider using a standard pet gate.
3. Are your pet's shots up-to-date?
Before traveling far, your dog's or cat's vaccinations need to be current. Carry your pet's health and rabies certificates with you when you travel. When boarding your animal at a pet hotel or crossing national borders, you must present this information.
For information about importing pets into Mexico or Canada, contact the appropriate embassy or customs office.
4. The first-aid kit
Always keep a first-aid kit in the motorhome. Your veterinarian may recommend carrying items specific to your pet. Several Web sites offer free veterinarian locator services.
Check with your veterinarian for other suggested items to carry in your motorhome.
- cotton gauze bandage wrap
- Ace bandage
- first aid tape
- cotton gauze pads
- regular adhesive bandages
- cotton swabs or Q-tips
- oral syringes (for liquid oral medicines, ear solutions)
- needle and thread
- small blunt-end scissors
- canine rectal thermometer
- antibiotic ointment
- eye rinsing solution -- a mild eye wash
- 3% hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol
- alcohol or antiseptic wipes
- any specific medications your pet may need
5. ID, please
Verify that your pet's identification tags are current. Your pet should wear a secure collar at all times with a tag showing proof of rabies vaccination. An ID tag also should include your name, address and phone number in case you and your pet become separated.
Make a set of temporary paper ID tags containing the address and phone number of your intended destination. If you do not have one constant phone number, consider providing a friend's or relative's number..
Safety collars, which attach with elastic or Velcro, are recommended for cats.
Keep photo identification (a few favorite snapshots) of your pet onboard and write a description of its height, weight, color and any distinguishing marks.
A more permanent form of pet ID is microchipping. It's a veterinary procedure in which a microchip with an identifying code is implanted with a needle just under the skin, between the pet's shoulder blades. Scanners operating on the chip's radio frequency can read the code and cross-reference it with central databases that contain contact information for pet owners. Though more costly than a collar, the microchip can increase the chance of finding your pet if it gets lost far from home.
6. Don't forget to pack
Obviously, food, water and feeding dishes are "must-pack" items. To prevent digestive upsets, take an ample supply of food -- enough to last the entire trip in case you're not able to find your pet's regular type. If possible, avoid changing brands of food. Sudden changes in diet can aggravate an animal's stomach.
Remember to bring your veterinarian's phone number and any medication your pet needs. Other take-along items include towels, pet shampoo, grooming tools and plastic bags for proper disposal of animal waste.
Your pet will be grateful if you remember to pack familiar playthings. Does it have a favorite toy or bone? Make a little play box for your pet, for it will be more comfortable if surrounded by cherished possessions.
7. When it's time to hit the road
Before departing, take your dog for a walk. It can relieve itself and get a little exercise before entering its crate for naptime. Then, schedule regular stops so your pet can stretch its legs and get a drink. It's best for it to eat light throughout the day and save that large meal for the end of the day at your evening's destination.
Cats and dogs should be on a leash whenever they are taken out of the coach for exercise. It's a good idea to use a reflective pet collar so the pet is easier to see at night. If your cat tends to bolt for an open door, be sure to tuck it safely in its crate before you leave the coach.
8. Call ahead
When visiting a national, state or private park, call in advance to inquire if pets are welcome and if extra fees for pets apply. Upon arrival, you'll want to ask whether certain areas have been designated as pet walking zones. This is a much-appreciated show of courtesy to others. It also gives the park manager a chance to alert you to any hazards to pets, such as a recent chemical treatment of the grass for weed control.
Most campgrounds require that pets be kept on a leash when outside of the motorhome. Painstaking care should be taken to ensure that your pet is secure at all times. Heartbroken are pet owners whose pets become lost at a campground, and a frantic search ensues.
Of course, campgrounds and fellow campers expect you to pick up after your pet and keep it as quiet as possible. Respect property and privacy.
9. Boredom breeds mischief
When you will be out for the day, make sure the animal has its favorite playthings close at paw. Some pets can become annoyed and aggressive if not invited along on your outings. You don't want to return to a damaged screen door or torn or soiled upholstery. The carrier may be the best place for him or her to await your return. Or, perhaps you will prefer to board your dog or cat for the day if you must be away from your coach all day. Many campgrounds prohibit leaving pets unattended.
Climate control within the coach is essential for your pet. High heat and insufficient airflow can cause heat stress, suffocation or even death. Excessive heat can harm a pet in less than 10 minutes. Always keep plenty of fresh water available.
10. Pets are creatures of habit
Any change in your pet's environment may be unsettling to its sense of security. Established routines should be maintained while traveling. Does your cat or dog normally walk with you at 8 a.m. each morning? Try to keep that morning date with your special friend while traveling.
Although cats may prefer to forego the exercise routine, most do need a special time daily where they have your undivided attention. Some cats will let you know when and if you may have their undivided attention.
With love and reassurance, your pet is sure to be a happy motorhomer who eagerly awaits that next adventure.