Living with pets in a small space seems to be a hot topic these days. We’ve had a few questions come through from new readers about how we do it, so here’s a special on how we make it work for our home with our non-human family members.
Our motorhome is about 300 square feet. It houses two dogs, Teddy and Piper; two cats, Lila and Ellie; a bird, Pica; and a betta fish, whose name continues to change. This is in addition to Andy and myself.
Q: How do you manage living in a small space with so many animals?
The biggest issue we face? Cleanliness. We are constantly cleaning, from vacuuming to wiping up messes, to cleaning counter tops, to changing the paper in our bird cage. We purchased a Shark Rocket Ultralight vacuum before hitting the road, and this has been our cleaning savior. It breaks down for easy small-space storage, and it’s awesome.
We scoop the litter box daily (or every other day sometimes), and we use a walnut-based cat litter by Blue Buffalo to cut down on the dust. Pica’s paper at the bottom of her cage gets changed regularly — we use old newspaper. And we have to pull things out from different areas periodically to do some “deep cleaning.” Those hair/dust bunnies can build up quickly if we don’t.
We are constantly in a state of needing to clean something, though it is a bit easier when we are traveling and not working. But we’ve found that it’s worth it for us so that we can live with our pets on the road.
Q. How do you make it safe for your bird, Pica?
Before we went on the road, we purchased an acrylic cage for Pica to live in. We hoped it would help protect her from some of the temperature fluctuations and give her more security from the cats.
When parked, her cage hangs from a support system that Andy configured in the windshield. When we drive, her cage is secured to the dining room table with ratchet straps.
We are very careful about cleaning supplies and other odors — we only use non-scented, natural cleaning supplies in the RV. When cooking, Pica is in her cage up front, and we ventilate thoroughly.
We also have to be mindful when fixing things in the RV; we can’t use anything with too much of an odor. Have a squeaky hinge? I use Pam cooking spray to get rid of the squeaks, or I’ll rub a little bit of olive oil on them.
We don’t use air fresheners, perfumes, or bathroom sprays. She is probably the most sensitive to our travels. I constantly worry about exhaust fumes coming into the RV, or when we had our propane leak. If I can smell it, she certainly can.
We recently added a homemade air filter to help our air quality — both for us and for Pica. This has helped immensely.
We also added a ceramic heat emitter near her cage with a temperature controller to turn it off and on, keeping her at a more stable temperature. We like it cool inside at night, and she doesn’t. So we came up with a solution other than running a space heater (which we cannot run at the same time as our A/C to create our cold space and her warm space). This seems to be working well now that we are in Minnesota.
After Pica was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection in July, something we believe was caused by the water leak under our bed creating mold spores, we stepped up our game for her care even more.
Q: How do you keep your dogs entertained?
Our dogs, Teddy and Piper, are a huge part of our life. So naturally, we want to take them with us when we travel.
But they are an added responsibility. They have needs outside of just food and water. Their energy requirements also need to be met. Aside from finding the space to carry their necessary supplies, we learned how to entertain them in a small space and while traveling.
On nice days, they can get outside for hiking or to have a little fun.
But when the weather isn’t great or it’s too dark outside to do much, we have to find ways to entertain indoors. In 300 square feet.
That’s where games come in handy. Piper is a smart dog (an understatement). We often play games outside such as hide-and-seek, where one of us hides while the other distracts her and she needs to come and find that person. Then we switch. But in our motorhome, we play “find it” with one of her favorite toys, often a tennis ball. The idea is the same — we ask her to wait in the other room while we hide her toy and then she has to go find it.
It wears her out much faster than playing a traditional game of fetch, which isn’t something that works well in our small space anyway.
Our dogs are part of nearly every activity. From laundry…
To everything in between.
Q: Cats in an RV, really?
Yes, really. They actually travel quite well. Lila is not totally in love with drive time, but she is quick to recover, and she has found a couple of places that make her feel comfortable while we drive.
They add to the mess, obviously, so cleaning is very important. But their entertainment is also important.
They find entertainment at most campsites because the scenery outside the window changes. They love to watch the birds, other people, other animals — everything. We created a kitty crawl space where the television used to be in the living room, and we have several scratching posts and corrugated cardboard around the house. We try to keep things changing so they don’t get bored.
And when we can, we take them outside to explore.
Lila recently found a new place to nap — the corner where we store our couch blankets and vacuum, behind the end table in the living room.
Q: Why do you do it and is it worth it?
Yes, it is very worth it. We do it because we love our pets; they are our family. Though it would be much easier without them, I don’t know that it would be as fulfilling. And I think we would have felt very alone after first leaving home. Piper, Teddy, Lila, Ellie, and Pica all made our transition to life on the road much easier emotionally (maybe not physically, but definitely emotionally).
I don’t regret it in the slightest.
If anyone has questions about how we do things on the road or about life in a motorhome, please feel free to comment on this post or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about our story at http://www.motorhome.com/top-stories/traveling-with-pets-2/