How to Start Camping With Your Cat

If you are thinking about taking your cat camping for the first time, but you’re not sure what you need, or how to start, this is the place for you! Personally, I think camping with your cat is a great activity to do with your cats, since it involves a lot of hanging around the same place, which is what cats like to do naturally. I will be focusing on tent camping, but if you’re camping in a van, RV, or trailer, it would be even easier as you won’t have to worry about them trying to escape as much! Continue reading to find out more about how you can bring your cat(s) camping with you.

If you’ve never brought your cat outdoors before, you will need some preparation work before going on your first camping trip. Here are some guides to get you started:

Adventure Cat Training Guides

I also have another blogpost I wrote after the first time I went camping. There is a lot of information there, but after going a few more times, I’ve changed the way I do things slightly! If you’d like to read my other blogpost, here is a link:

First Time Camping With a Cat

What Gear Will You Need?

Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. This will not affect the price of your purchases.


You could sleep in a tent, RV, van, or trailer, or whatever you feel like camping in. When purchasing a tent, try to make sure that the tent doors have double zippers (which you can clip together), or that they open from the top. This way, your cat won’t be able to open the doors up themselves. For the size, you’ll want to go at least “1-person” size more than the number of people that will be sleeping in the tent. For example, when I am sleeping with only myself and my cat, I will use a 2-person tent. This way there will be enough space for your cat’s things.

These are the tents I personally own and use:

MSR Elixir 2 (2-person tent): Amazon USA / Amazon Canada

Coleman Carlsbad Darkroom Tent with Screen Room (6-person tent): Amazon USA / Amazon Canada


A harness is absolutely essential in any adventure cat activity. You’ll want to have a good harness that you and your cat are used to, and you can trust to be secure. You’ll also want to make sure to spend some time harness training your cat, so they accept the harness instead of trying to escape the harness. When its dark, I will turn on a little light that goes on his harness, so I can see him easily. When I didn’t have the little light, I would always be paranoid that he was gone because I couldn’t see him at all. Even if you have a white cat, don’t underestimate how dark it gets!

Nite Ize SpotLit: Amazon USA / Amazon Canada

If you are looking for a new harness, check out this blog post: Best Cat Harnesses 2022

Leash System or Enclosure

When you’re hanging out at the campsite, you might be busy with something, so you’ll want to have a system to make sure your cat doesn’t wander off. I like to use a long leash line, tied to a tree or the picnic table. The long line is a DIY from 15ft paracord (dollar store) and two S-biners (Nite Ize S-biner: Amazon USA / Amazon Canada) tied to either end. I like the long line system because it allows the cat to interact with the environment, and it packs up very small. Alternatively, you could get an enclosure for your cat to hang out in, such as a foldable playpen, or a pop up tent. Either way, you’ll want to keep an eye on your cat to make sure they’re not over heating, tangled, or escaping their harness.

Long Line DIY
Cat Food

I like to bring a foldable pet bowl, and a metal bowl. For food, I usually bring freeze dried food which I rehydrate with water, or kibbles. I don’t bring wet cat food because its difficult to portion and keep fresh. This is the same food that he eats at home, so I’m not too worried about him not wanting to eat, or the food making him sick. Make sure to put away all cat food before sleeping, either back into the car or into a bear safe container, if you are camping in bear country.

Cat Litter

My cat knows how to use the dirt as a toilet, but I will still bring a foldable litter box and unscented litter which I will keep inside the tent overnight. I would prefer to not have to bring litter, but every time we’ve gone camping, he has used it in the middle of the night. If you’re staying more than one night you’ll also have to bring supplies to clean the litter box every day.

Litter box in tent

If you’re looking for a travel litter box, check out this blog post: Best Travel Litter Boxes in 2023

Cat Backpack

This one is technically optional, but to me it is very essential. I use the backpack as a carrier in the car, and whenever I need to carry him around. The backpack is a familiar space to my cat, and I often find him sleeping inside the backpack overnight, if not on my legs. Also, something that doesn’t seem obvious, is how the backpack allows my cat to sit on top like a little chair and be able to see outside the tent.

If you’re looking for a cat backpack, check out this blogpost: Best Cat Backpacks 2022

Special Considerations

Is the campsite pet friendly?

Make sure to check if the campsite allows pets (not only dogs), and check the rules to see which areas of the park are not pet friendly. Here in BC, usually pets are not allowed on beaches or picnic areas. There usually will not be an extra charge for pets, but its good to check that as well.

On the other hand, pet friendly campsites means there may be dogs camping next to you. You won’t know this until you’ve arrived, but I haven’t had much trouble with dogs at campsites. They are usually leashed or stay close within their space. I find campers are usually respectful, but this could be different where you are.

Can I leave my cat at the campsite?

I know that sometimes you have to step away for a few minutes to use the washroom, or throw the garbage. You should NEVER leave your cat unattended while tied up. My cat gets anxious when I leave the area, and will frantically try to escape to find me, and probably end up slipping out of the harness. When I am leaving the campsite (and there’s no one staying to watch him), I will take him with me. I’ve taken my cat into the washroom in his backpack, and hung the backpack on the bathroom door, or I will take turns with my camping buddy watching him.

I would also never leave my cat in the tent and walk away. That would be asking for the tent to be shredded! If you have a enclosure or kennel, that may work for a few minutes, depending on how sturdy it is. A van, RV, or trailer would be fine to leave your cat.

If you have any activities planned during the day, make sure they include your cat, because they can’t stay at the campsite alone. (If you have a temperature controlled van or RV, and you are comfortable with that, then maybe it would be fine)

Will my cat destroy my tent / sleeping bag?

This is an excellent question and probably something only you can answer for your cat. My cat is not very destructive and tents not to use his claws, so I don’t worry about him scratching things up. If your cat likes to scratch everything then maybe it would be a problem… One thing I’ve noticed is that my cat will try to get out of the tent if he cant see outside. There must be a lot of noises and he’s just wondering what’s out there! In order to let him see outside, I will usually position his backpack next to a mesh window, and he will be able to sit on top and look outside. I found that this really quietens him down and he will stop pawing at the tent door to get out.

Are there any other limitations with a cat?

Whenever you decide to bring a cat with you, it will be an amazing experience for your cat (rather than sitting at home alone waiting for you to return), but it also changes the way you will do things. Rather than relaxing by the campfire, you’ll have to check on your cat every few minutes. Instead of peacefully sleeping through the night, your cat may walk over you and wake you up. If you need to go to the washroom, guess what, you’re taking your cat with you. Also, if there are any other activities on your trip (such dining in, going into stores, hanging out by the lake), you’ll have to think about bringing your cat too, and making sure they’re okay with it. All of these are minor things, but can change the logistics a little.

How do I know when my cat is ready to try camping?

Deciding to go camping for the first time is a big milestone! While it is something you need to do some preparation for, I think that it will be fine, as long as your cat:

  • Is harness trained and being outdoors doesn’t overwhelm them
  • Has travelled with you and is fine sleeping in new places

Good luck!

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