Tuesday, September 27, 2022


RV Mods: An access door for your cat or dog

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
We’re not sure where to lay our (pardon) paws on any hard statistical information, but if an eyeball survey of RVers carries any weight, a lot of you are traveling with cats. These furry little bed warmers can be welcome traveling companions, but they also come with their own set of issues. For one, where does one install the cat litter box? Some place it in the shower stall – which may not be such a bad location provided the door doesn’t close, locking Fluffy away from her biffy.

At one point, our traveling research rig was a truck camper – a far cry from the space afforded by our full-timing fifth wheel. The idea of having a litter box underfoot in those limited few square feet of floor space was just unthinkable. There was, however, a plethora of space available outside the camper, yet still enclosed by the truck bed, in the wheel well area of the truck. The camper manufacturer had made that space available by putting access doors through the sidewall at floor level, but the thought of leaving one of those doors open to allow Ithmah (our cat) in and out only stirred visions of blasts of hot or cold air, depending on the season. Tripping over that open portal – especially during dark night trips to our own “sandbox,” didn’t sit well either.

What about an access door?

The solution was waiting at the big box building center. A small “pet door” installed in the existing access door would allow our friend to go to her powder room, while the clear flap on the pet door would (generally) keep the outside and inside temperatures segregated.

What to do when the truck and the camper were separated? We’ve had some experience in this field. Our fifth wheel was equipped with a pet door just under the dinette table. Outside that pet portal lies another litter box – but this one cleverly assigned to our “Kitty Kondo.” The condo, which can be dismantled to lay flat for transport, is a secure “Arizona Room” with screened walls and rain-shedding roof, almost sized correctly. Actually, the condo was designed for Ithmah’s predecessor, who weighed in at a “whopping” 6 pounds wet; Ithmah tips the scales at 17 pounds, so the condo could stand to be a bit bigger. For our “research vessel” we had another, more appropriately sized condo constructed to cling to the side of the camper box.

Litter box in the storage compartment

After the truck camper became unworkable (too many steps up to bed for tired bones), we swapped over to a travel trailer. Here a small pet door was cut into a storage compartment that housed the rig’s batteries. There was space for the sandbox, and we carefully built a cover over the top of the batteries to prevent cat paws from coming into contact with the batteries. Later, from the same compartment through the outside wall, we put in yet another pet door to an outside condo unit. With the condo in place, Her Nibs has to make the trip through two doors to reach the cat pan, but, so far, she hasn’t filed any complaints.

How can this work for you? It may be a matter of stretching your imagination out a little bit. Does your motorhome or trailer have basement storage that shares a common wall? Imagine a pet door allowing your feline friend to access his bathroom 24 hours a day without assistance. Or perhaps you travel with a more independent canine companion. Where it’s safe and neighborly to do so, an appropriately placed “doggy door” could allow your hound access to the great outdoors.

The mechanics of it all

Adding a pet door to our existing access door wasn’t all that difficult. It does require some careful planning, and measuring. Since walls (and doors) in many RVs are a lot thinner than in conventional land-based homes, you’ll probably need to add framing around the perimeter of the “cutout” hole you make for the pet door. In our case, 1 x 2 lumber, laid flat against the existing door, was plenty thick enough to meet the pet door’s requirements. But, in haste to get the job done, the distance from the edge of the existing door wasn’t taken into account. The full width of the 1 x 2 didn’t allow the original door to close. Carefully splitting the offending 1 x 2 in half solved that problem. But it goes to show the old saw is still valid: “Measure twice, cut once.”

When installing a pet door through an RV wall, more caution needs to be exercised. Are there “vital organs” that might be in the way? Consider the possibility of water lines or electrical wiring. If in doubt, consult with an RV professional before sticking the saw tip in the wall. You’ll also need to carefully apply sealant between the exterior wall and the pet door pieces to keep the weather out.

Pick out the right access door

Picking out the right door is important too. Most pet doors allow for a method of securing the door to keep out (or in) your animal companion. It’s also helpful to keep out stray critters – who needs a squirrel running around in their rig?

For the most part, the actual installation of a pet door is pretty straightforward, and the doors come with instructions – and usually cutting templates – from the factory. You’ll likely need access to a drill and bits, plus an appropriate cutting saw. While most instructions call for a simple saber saw, if you’re cutting through fiberglass or metal siding, you might be in need of reciprocating saw – a “sawzall,” as most refer to it in the trade. Of course, when installing a pet door anywhere in the rig, keep in mind the future sale of your rig and take resale value into consideration.

The psychology

We found that while a cat door into the truck camper wheel well seemed like a great idea to us, for some reason, Ithmah didn’t initially cotton to it. We laid the brand-new, freshly filled litter box in the wheel well area just inside the new cat door, and made coaxing noises to the cat. Ears went back, and suspicious looks were the order of the day. After several attempts, we took the bull by the horns and stuffed the reluctant feline through the new portal. A gray streak shot back out of the cat flap, and the suspicious looks turned rather murderous.

It’s really amazing how long a cat can keep her legs crossed. We finally relented and kept the original access door open. After holding out as long as she could, Ithmah crept into the new powder room, took care of business, and flew back into the camper. Finally, after a few trepidatious trips to the loo, Her Nibs was induced to use the cat door. Since that time, it’s been a lot easier on all of us.

It may take a little bit of work to adjust your pet to the new idea. In our case, it seems the confined, dark wheel wells were the problem, not so much the actual pet door. In the travel trailer setup, the fractious feline often vanishes from the trailer and hangs out in the storage compartment-cum-throne room.



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Pat Brown
11 months ago

When we remodeled the interior of our 38 ft 2003 Allegro Bus a few years back, we had a pet door installed from the hallway to underneath the bathroom sink vanity on the other side. A plastic tub was installed in the opening cutout underneath the vanity. Easy to clean-just sit down on the toilet, open the vanity doors and scoop or take out the plastic tub to redo. Sometimes kitty would scare me when coming through the pet door while I was cleaning. And, sometime one of my lab dogs would poke their head through the pet door to see me on the other side. That was funny. I don’t hear the laughter–I guess you had to be there……………..Oh, the 2003 Allegro Bus is now for sale if anyone is looking for an RV with a kitty ready toilet…………………..

Kathy Niemeyer
11 months ago

We travel with a 14 year old Siamese mix male cat. We started full time in 2020 and he had never traveled except to go to the vet. Dusty now loves to travel and has adapted well. We have a 32 foot Class C motorhome. When on the road his litter box travels under the dining table. When we are set up at a campground his litter box goes between the cab seats up front. I hang a curtain from the cab top bunk that falls to the floor behind the cab seats. He gets his privacy with the curtain. Cat litter is so much better than it was even 10 years ago. It really holds in the smell of a litter box. I find myself cleaning it out every other day.

2 years ago

Most folks I know put the kitty pooper under their bed… easy to cut a cat door and no risk of leaky weather seals.

2 years ago

Since we have a little 23′ camper, there is not much room to “hide” a kitty box. Why hide it anyway, as soon as someone steps in they know you have a cat. We also have a dog who thrives on kitty snickers. It’s why she loves her kitties so much. I added a cat door to the bathroom. There is space for a litter box. We don’t get the smell because I use the bathroom a LOT (old age and iced tea) so I clean it every time I am in there or can smell it (sniffer works just fine at any age). The cat door also does double duty for when we are setting up, I grab the cats from the truck, slide the panel in place and toss them in the bathroom. I also do this if we stop some where along the road instead of keeping them in the truck. I can open windows and vents to keep them cool. Dog goes into the main part of the camper. Our cats are strictly indoor cats, so no kitty condo’s. They have their windows they look out. I have 3 cats and this works great.

2 years ago
Reply to  mdstudey

We got a suggestion from my daughter that is a cat owner. Get a plastic bin w/ cover. Big enough to cut a hole in any side high enough so they don’t kick the litter out. Yet high and wide enough so easy in & out and move around inside. We started with one but found out it wasn’t big enough. Ours measures 28″x 19″ x 21″ hole is 9″ high. What ever size suits you and your cats.

5 years ago

Hi, I’m writing a blog post about ideas for hiding a litter box in an RV, and I was wondering if it would be okay if I used your photo above on my blog with a credit to your name a link back to your website or preferred URL?

Thank you!


5 years ago

So what do you while you are on the road with your cat? Do you keep a litter box in your truck?

11 months ago
Reply to  Gary

Yes we have a covered litter box in the back seat and the cat lays in his bed on the other side. Thought our cat could make a six hour trip without one but we found out the hard way he could not.

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