10 Tips To Keep Your Cat Happy In Van Life

Keeping your cat happy during van life is no easy task. They’re regularly outside their comfort zone, propelled to interact with strangers, and forced to spend long hours couped up inside a small camper van.

But even with these challenges, we’ve managed to keep our cat, Maya, happy and healthy throughout the three years that we’ve been traveling in our van. And in this post, we share 10 of our favorite tips to ensure your feline stays content throughout your travels.

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1. Play With Your Cat

Not only does it tap into their natural instincts to hunt and pounce, but playing with cats also provides exercise and mental stimulation that contributes to a happier and healthier cat. As natural predators, cats need to release pent-up energy and stress – playing with them provides just that.

Playing before mealtime can help them fulfill their hunting instincts. Engaging in playtime for a minimum of 15 minutes, at least 3 to 4 times a day, allows cats to experience a sense of satisfaction before eating. This also aids in promoting healthy habits and behavior for your feline companion.

Whether it is a simple game of chasing a piece of string or hiding toys for your cat to find, more is better; playing with a cat is a beneficial and enjoyable activity for both of you.

2. Rotate Cat Toys Regularly

Cat playing with a toy
Maya playing with her toy dog

With a variety of toys, cats can engage in a diverse range of activities such as chasing, scratching, hunting, and pouncing. Different toys also provide different tactile experiences, enhancing cat sensory stimulation. Having an array of toys also prevents cats from getting bored with the same toy and reduces the likelihood of destructive behavior such as scratching furniture or chewing on cables.

3. Walk Your Cat

Cat standing in a tree
Maya chilling in a tree

Living in a small space like a camper van can be challenging for cats to stay active and happy. However, one way to keep your feline companion content is by taking them on leash walks. Outdoor exposure can benefit a cat’s mental health by reducing stress and providing sensory stimulation. Taking your cat outside also allows them to engage in their hunting instincts while addressing any problematic behaviors like anxiety or boredom.

Walking a cat may be difficult at first, but by starting slow and practicing with patience it will become a bonding experience for both you and your cat.

4. Feed Variety of Food

Does your cat love to eat?

Just like us humans, cats enjoy a diverse and delicious diet.

One of the most effective ways to ensure your cat is healthy and happy is by providing them with various high-quality food. By offering your cat a diverse menu, you’re boosting their health and making every meal a joyful experience for them. It also prevents a cat from becoming bored with their food, often leading to them refusing to eat altogether.

Treat your feline friend to a variety of tasty options to make every mealtime special and keep your cat happy.

5. Reward Good Behavior

Cats crave positive reinforcement, and by acknowledging their good behaviors with treats and affection, we show them that we appreciate and value them.

For example, when your cat uses the litter box or scratches on their designated post, take a moment to let them know they are doing the right thing.  With every positive reinforcement, you are helping your cats to thrive and feel fulfilled. Your cats will sense your love and care for them and will only continue to exhibit more good behavior as a result.

Keep rewarding the good in your furry companion, and watch your friendship grow!

Woman with a cat standing on her lap
Reward time for Maya!

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There’s nothing that makes our furry companions happier than a delicious treat! Our cat’s favorite treat is Churu, and it’s not hard to see why – it’s like a magnet that attracts her every time. Even when feeling unwell, she finishes the entire tube in seconds!

This soft and creamy puree comes in various flavors, such as chicken, tuna, and salmon – the perfect reward for any well-behaved kitty! These tubes are also extremely portable, making them ideal as a travel snack or for training sessions.

6. Create Safe Spaces For Your Cat

Cats are territorial animals and need a place to feel secure and comfortable. Their sleeping habits differ from humans, as they sleep multiple times daily. Understanding your cat’s preferred sleeping locations can help you effectively place beds in different parts of the van.

Cat sleeping in the front of a camper van
Maya sleeping on top of the dash

For example, cats love warm and cozy spaces, so you can place a bed by the window where they can get natural light and be able to look outside. Cats also like dark and quiet spaces, so providing hiding spots where they can be left alone, such as a cardboard box or a cat tree, can help cats feel secure.

7. Clean The Litter Box Regularly

Cats are notorious for their cleanliness; having access to a clean litter box is crucial for their physical health and keeping your cat happy. Dirty litter boxes not only make your camper van interior smell unbearable, but they can also lead cats to defecate outside of the box or even develop urinary tract infections.

To ensure a comfortable living environment for your feline friend as well as yourself, it is recommended that you clean the litter box at least twice a day. Additionally, it is important not to use scented cat litter as the strong scent can be overwhelming in a small space, such as a camper van and may cause discomfort for your cat.

Also Read: RV Cat Litter Box – Storage Ideas & Tips

8. Spay & Neuter Your Cat

Spaying (for female cats) and neutering (for male cats) can help reduce a cat’s stress.

When cats aren’t spayed or neutered, they have a strong desire to mate and reproduce, making them frustrated, restless, and anxious. For example, male cats that haven’t been neutered can show stress through aggressive behavior, territorial marking, and fighting with other cats.

Spaying and neutering can also have a calming effect, reducing the instinctual drive to reproduce and roam searching for a mate, which is very important for cats in van life. This can lead to a healthier, happier, and more relaxed cat while also reducing the risk of specific health problems and life-threatening situations that may arise during mating and reproduction.

9. Keep Water Bowls Away From Food & Litter Box

Water placement is an important factor to consider when keeping your cat hydrated. Cats naturally prefer to drink from running water sources, and they also tend to avoid drinking from water placed near their food bowl and litter boxes. Also, placing your cat’s water bowl in multiple locations in a quiet corner or on a higher level can encourage them to drink more water.

If you have enough space in your camper van, it is a good idea to place a water fountain or an attachment that creates a gentle stream of water to mimic their preference for flowing water.

Regularly changing out the water and cleaning the bowl or fountain can also encourage your cat to drink more water and stay healthy.

10. Love Your Cat!

Every cat is a unique and special being with their own personality, just like humans. It’s important to embrace their individuality and make sure they’re happy. For example, your cat may not enjoy being touched, and that’s okay. By understanding their needs and preferences, you can create a loving and comfortable environment for them.

Woman holding a cat in a camper van
Love your cat!

Our cat prefers to be independent during the day, but at night, she craves attention and snuggles with us in bed. Knowing and respecting her desires has allowed us to form a trusting bond with her. Remember, every cat deserves love and acceptance for who they are.

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