What about pets? Can my daughter keep her goldfish when we go on the road?
Some families recommend no pets because they are extra trouble and there are extra expenses for food, cat litter, shots, etc. Pets do limit your daily activities as you can't leave them locked in the RV all day. And your camping neighbors will not appreciate a dog that barks all day. Many campgrounds may not even allow pets so you will need to plan accordingly if you do decide to bring them along. Other families highly recommend having pets along.
We asked several families who have pets on the road to share their experiences so you can decide for yourself what is best for your family.
"We took our hamster with us on the last trip and he really seemed to enjoy it. I'd just like to say be careful leaving them in the 5er alone if there's no temperature regulator. It could get too hot for them. We lost our fish because it got too cold one night. :( "
~Vicki "FuhKaui" (FOTR since 1999)
FOTRs with Pets
Spears-Thomas Family of six and a 3-year-old Beagle dog, three cats, one guinea pig. Sadly, we lost our rat due to old age in January - he was a terrific road pet! This fall, we are trying two goldfish - We have no idea *how* to do it yet. The kids got them this summer while we were stationary for a couple of months.
FOTR since September 2003.
The Wild Tribe (John, Karen, Saylor, Stone and Sage)
FOTR since September 2006
FOTR: What advice do you have for those families that are just starting out and are thinking about taking a pet on the road?
Spears-Thomas Family: With cats, make sure you set up their space well. It's just as important for a cat to have its "own" space as it is for the people in your family. Cats get moody and nasty when they don't feel comfortable, and they tend to make intentional "mistakes" because of it.
An under-counter cabinet without a door is a good litter spot. Bathtubs are also a place, if you don't mind moving the box every time you use the shower. It's important, so don't skimp on this planning.
Also, make a stable feeding area that does not change and won't tip. A tipped cat food/water combo spilled behind a sofa quickly becomes reason for the spouse to start shipping kitties off!
Secure the cats while traveling, especially in a trailer - you don't want them waiting at the door to dart when you open it, like in a gas station. Get a carrier to set in the tub, or under the dinette, etc., and just scoot it under the rig when you're parked and not using it.
For the dog, invest in a good chain, leash and collar with solid clips. Since our children often handle the dog, we make sure we can go from one "clip" to the next, without the dog ever really being off a restraint. He wears his leash in the coach - this has made a difference when he does get out and they have to catch him - he does not "heal" well! In high traffic areas, I don't risk it - I walk him.
For a tie-out, we have a plastic-coated chain to go around the tree/picnic table, etc, so that the chain will not scuff or damage anything in the park, then there's the swivel and the chain to the collar. A local feed or hardware store is the best place to get your tie-outs, as you can build your own system and not depend on flimsy or expensive pet store gear.
We have a to-go pet dish - it is a rectangle dish to hold feed, has a snap on lid, and underneath it has a small reservoir for water with a hole and a plastic cork. It works well , and helps cut down on spills. You can let out as much water as you need for travel days, or let it equalize for everyday watering. It's about a 1' by 1' by 4" tall dish. Called a Travel Dine by Blitz, Wal-Mart sells them periodically. It's not canvas or collapsible - it's plastic, so it cleans easy.
In colder months, the dog goes where we go, and stays in the truck a lot when we are in stores, etc. For summer, though, he must stay in the coach in AC - he has a large travel box to contain him while we are away, which just sits outside the door when not in use. It's always a good idea to have a travel carrier for your pets even if you don't typically use one, since you never know where you'll need it - i.e. - vehicle trouble along the interstate.
Prepare your kids for strict "doody" duty - and don't neglect it! Dog sanitation goes a long way with park officials and owners, and the general public.
Remember to keep health papers in the glove compartment or with vehicle registration papers so you have no nonsense if asked questions about vaccines, etc.
On rodents - guinea pigs need a LOT of cleaning - everyday in a small space, so make sure your child is prepared! Otherwise, they are great - a small shelf put in at the end of a bunk accommodates the cage, and a lip on the end of the shelf secures them during travel -easy enough. Our rat was twice as nice - minimal cage cleanings, very friendly, and handled travel well. Where temperature changes in a rig can bother birds, reptiles, etc, rats make a house and nestle in, and can be fed in advance if you have overnight away trips.
The Wild Tribe:Call the campgrounds ahead of time to see what the pet guidelines are.
Is it OK to put the animals in the 5th wheel or travel trailer while we drive?
Spears-Thomas Family: We kept two cats restrained in the carrier mostly so they did not rush the door when we entered, but also because it kept them secure and less likely to be jostled around. Some cushy towels or blankets in the carrier kept them cozy, and we used the larger dog-size carrier so they had plenty of room to move around and stretch within their confines.
We made sure that, in warm weather, the windows were cracked and the roof fan was running to circulate air. It never got too hot while in motion. Now that we have the coach, only the dog gets in the carrier - so he doesn't rush the door. the cats ride wherever - on the sofa, backs of seats, the beds - they love watching the world go by!
The fish - I usually pour out some of the water and set them in the sink with a towel around them. They have a one-gallon tank.
The only pet so far that has not faired well was the parakeet -- we tried that about three years ago, and the temperature changes were too much in the winter in the TT, even wrapping the cage in blankets, etc. In the coach, with power on the road, we could probably keep it warm and healthy, but haven't been willing to try it again for the sake of the poor bird.
Spears-Thomas Family: People expect the cats and dogs - they smile at the beagle, and at the cat who loves to ride in the driver's lap. But, the rat always drew a crowd - for better or worse! In the state parks, bringing the rat outside means a gathering of curious kids, and instant friends, along with many mothers saying "Now kids, come back over here and wash you hands!" I remember one mother of six in Mississippi, though, who eagerly reach for our "Peanut Butter" the rat, and amazed me how she enjoyed him! She looked just like a proper Southern lady, and you'd never have guessed her secret love for little creatures - instant friend for me, too!
The Wild Tribe: The boys were playing at the playground at the campground. I was keeping a close eye on Max, because he wasn't on his leash and I didn't want him running off into someone's space. I had my back turned long enough for the boys to all head over to the teeter totter, while I sat there on a pile of rocks for a moment by myself. Then I panicked, thinking "Where's Max?!?" I looked past the trees that were between me and the boys and there he was, diligently sitting right there with them, watching them play and keeping them safe. I'm grateful to have him along just for that reason.
Learn more about taking your pet on the road at Road Trip America.