I get asked a lot about traveling with a cat and how I handle the litter box. One of the reasons I bought the Airstream Basecamp was because I knew I could hide the litter underneath the bed. Read on for our litter tips & tricks!
Where do you keep the litter box?
I present to you, the “Cat Suite!” Napoleon officially has his own level in the Basecamp under the bed where we keep his litter, food and scratching post. Whether I’m using the full bed or half bed setup, part of the bed is always down. This keeps the litter area out of the way so we’re not tripping over the box.
How we constructed the Cat Suite:
This was probably my third or fourth attempt at getting a litter box that would work in the Basecamp. I went all the way from an open box with no lid (what a mess!) to a plastic storage bin with a door cut into it (way too big for the space under the table). Napoleon never liked litter boxes with lids, but after about 4-5 months with more litter on the floor and bed than I can explain, and smells galore, I decided we had to give the hooded box another try.
Finding a litter box with a lid that would fit under the bed was tricky. I literally went to several pet stores with measuring tape in hand. I would assemble the different hooded litter boxes, measure, replace on the shelf and try the next one. It was at the second pet store that I finally found the one pictured above that fit just right! It’s also well constructed and has held up well over time. For this specific box I had to buy the pan and hood separate, but overall it was still comparable in price to a lot of the complete sets.
The litter box sits snuggly between the back bed post and the side wall. Luckily with the weight of the litter and the snug fit, I don’t have to worry about it moving around while we travel. The gray mat underneath is also a rubber material which keeps everything in place.
Another smelly and gross part of having a litter box is the litter scoop. After I clean the box, I wipe the scoop clean with a Clorox wipe, place it back into the dog poop bag that it’s stored it in, and hang it up on a command hook stuck to the side of the litter box. I also bought a cheap scoop which I can easily replace from any pet store when this one gets gross.
Does the litter get on the floor?
Yes! We have learned some tricks which help limit the amount that spreads, but Napoleon still drags litter all over the RV. Somehow, he comes shooting out of the litter box at turbo speed and you can just hear the litter flying everywhere!
One big help is the mat underneath the litter box. It is a Gorilla Grip Cat Litter Mat which is designed to trap litter and works much better than any of the other mats we have tried. To help prevent even more litter from escaping the Cat Suite area, I taped the mat to the bed legs and tucked under the bungee cords on the other side. This creates raised sides which help keep the litter in one spot. If you end up purchasing this mat, let it air out for a few days! It arrives with a very potent smell, but it does go away over time.
For the other bit of litter that does escape into the kitchen area, I keep a small broom and dustpan under the kitchen cabinet, and sweep the floor once or twice a day. This may sound like a lot, but with an RV the size of the Basecamp, I literally just lean down, sweep for less than 30 seconds, and the whole floor is clean.
Does the litter box smell?
Well, after Napoleon goes #2, you can bet that it smells up the whole RV. The best is when I leave for too long, he leaves me a spiteful, unburied present for when I return. Luckily, even in his worts of moods, he always goes in the litter box! I’ve never found one of these gifts on my floor, which I am beyond thankful for.
I keep the smell down but keeping the box as clean as possible. About every other day I will scoop it out (or after a really smelly #2), and then change the litter completely every 1-2 weeks. I purchase the 42lb box of litter that is broken down into individual bags of litter. This works great, as these are much easier to store than a full box, and in one trip to the pet store, you now have 4 litter box changes worth of litter.
How do you handle Napoleon’s bathroom breaks on a long drive?
Napoleon has adapted to life on the road much better than I ever expected. He has his own seat in the front of the 4Runner, with a comfortable fleece blanket. So he just hangs out there quietly and sleeps. If he starts meowing and making a lot of noise, then I know he has to go! We then pull over as quickly as possible, and I let him in the Basecamp to go. He runs into the litter, grabs some food, and then I buckle him back into the 4Runner.
This was definitely a growing pain for us. Napoleon used to cry in the car a lot more. So there were times where I just wanted to get miles under our belt so ignored his pleas and just kept on driving. He has so far peed in his booster seat in the front, and once when he was loose running around on the entire bed in the back of the 4Runner. You can’t get the smell of cat pee out so I had to throw everything away and start fresh. Luckily the mattress in the back has a really good waterproof mattress cover which saved the mattress itself. Thankfully after these few incidents, we have learned how to communicate with each other and haven’t had any issues in awhile.
Cat litter in a small RV is definitely going to be some work. No matter how many accessories or re-designs I have tried, litter still gets out of the Cat Suite area. But with a bit of maintenance and cleaning, you actually end up not noticing or smelling the litter. And having an adventure cat join you will create so many amazing memories!
If you have any travel cat litter tips, I would love if you commented and shared below!
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Thank you for writing about this. I have had a hard time finding information about traveling with a cat.
You are very welcome! If you have any other cat-related questions, let me know and I’ll try to write some more.
This design is spectacular! You certainly know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!
Thank you for such a nice comment Layla. Made my day! Really glad you are enjoying the content.
It was a game changer when I got the lidded litter box, reduced the amount of mess dramatically. My older cat Frank certainly let’s me know when he needs me to stop driving so he can use it, as you say, it’s about good communication. The other cat Pixel much prefers to wait until we’ve made camp, but if desperate Will go indoors. I use my own spray mix of lavender, orange and cedarwood oils in water, to freshen the interior air.
Napoleon looks very handsome.
Thank you for the information on that spray! Those smells sounds like they would be amazing together.
You should try use sifting cat litter. I use it and found that being able to clean the litterbox more easier and often helps out alot. I use a couple of grocery bags to drop the waste in a dumpster . It’s better and easier than scooping litter
Thanks for the tip Michelle! I just switched to the Breeze system. Giving it a try and will then update the post!
Also, another Tuber uses the top entry litter box. She found it a great space saver. the top is sort of grated so litter falls off the feet when they climb out. My cat at home would not accept it though.
Thanks for the tip! I would love to give one of those a try, but unfortunately with my trailer setup, there is no place to put a top entry litter box.
Hi – great summary of your litter box adventures. Have you tried a litter box behind one of the front seats of your 4 Runner? I’m wondering if a box in there would work so you don’t have to stop whilst driving, or if it was just too messy.
Hi Sallie! I’ve had one in the 4Runner but Napoleon drags litter everywhere and it is very hard to cleanup.
Not an RVer but my setup at home might be a great help- Try puppy pads. We used to use to Tidy Cat Breeze system (also good!) but we cut out the bulk to make a dust free, quick cleaning option.
1. Litter box (we use compostable ones to just throw out after they get gross)
2. Puppy pads (we use the heavy duty ones that go with the tidycat breeze system, but dollar stores have good options too)
3. Doggie bags or small garbage/compost bags- roll up the soiled pad, tie the bag and done
4. Took my cats about 2 weeks or less to transition. Again the process TidyCats Breeze recommended for their system is easy and transferable for getting them used to this process.
Bonus: soft on older kitty paws, dust free.