8 Ways To Make Your Cabin Pet Friendly

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Taking pets along to your cabin this summer? Keep them safe by creating an environment that steers them out of harm's way.

If Memorial Day Weekend is any indicator, a lot of people are planning to take road trips this summer. Some, of course, will head to beaches, resorts, theme parks and family reunions. Not everyone, though — many folks just want to relax at a woodsy cabin or chill at a summer lake house. According to one recent survey, cabins have increased in popularity by 80 percent since the start of the pandemic.

This type of vacation is enticing for lots of reasons, one being the option to bring your pets along. (Note: If you are renting a cabin, be sure to ask about the pet policy in advance so there are no surprises.)

Does this mean cabins are automatically pet-friendly zones? Absolutely not! Cabins and the surrounding area actually can be dangerous for pets.

Potential hazards include wildlife, toxic plants, bodies of water and an unfamiliar environment, according to Michelle Sathe, public relations manager of the Best Friends Animal Society. For this reason, it is imperative to make your cabin or lake house a safe and healthy place for your dog or cat.

“If you want to bring the whole family, your cabin should be a home away from home for both pets and people,” Sathe says. “After all, the goal is to relax and recharge, so it’s important to make a cabin as comfortable as possible for everyone in the family.”

First, Prepare Your Pet

Before your first trip of the season, take your pet to your veterinarian for a checkup. Once you’re there, be sure to:

Here are eight ways to make your cabin a pet-friendly zone this summer:

Bring Comfort Items From Home

Does your dog or cat like to sleep in a specific bed, play with a particular toy or retreat to the safety of a crate when feeling stressed? If so, bring those items along. Cats in particular will appreciate having a cat tree and/or scratching post to keep them occupied, a perch so they can look out the windows and a blanket from home that smells familiar.

You should also bring plenty of your pet’s regular food, as well as the treats they enjoy the most. “Your cabin should represent the environment that your pet has at home,” says Sathe.

Likewise, your pet will have a lot more fun (and be less likely to get into mischief) if they have plenty of stimulation at the cabin, says Stacy Choczynski Johnson, a veterinarian with Pumpkin Care Pet Insurance. She lives full-time in a lakefront cabin in Washington State with her family and pets.

She suggests engaging dogs in some kind of activity first thing in the morning before they have a chance to get bored. A walk, a game of fetch or a swim would work. And while cats won’t be up for a swim, they may appreciate some time outside (keep them on a harness, if possible) or a game of hot pursuit.

Create a Pet Medical Kit

Hopefully your stay will unfold without incident, but it is always possible your pet will experience a minor injury or illness while at your cabin. With that in mind, it’s always wise to have some supplies on hand.

Your pet medical kit should include:

  • Their prescription medication, if they take any. Be sure to have enough to last your entire stay, and maybe a little extra.
  • The phone number for your vet, plus contact info for an emergency veterinary clinic near your cabin.
  • Hydrogen peroxide three-percent solution, which can be used to induce vomiting if your pet accidentally ingests a toxin. Before administering, be sure to seek medical advice because correct dosing is critical.
  • Chlorhexadine pads for cleaning wounds. Chlorhexadine is a pet-safe antiseptic.
  • An ear-cleaning solution, especially if your pet likes to swim and is prone to ear infections.
  • Cotton balls, gauze and non-stick bandages/tape.
  • Tweezers and tick-remover tool to remove a sliver or tick.
  • Other supplies recommended by your veterinarian.

You could also save time and buy a ready-made first aid kit designed for pets.

Pro tip: If you pet is sick or injured, never give them medication without speaking to a vet. Many over-the-counter medications can be extremely harmful to animals.

Upon Arrival, Inspect the Area

You pull up to your cabin and everything looks great, but dangers could be lurking. Before you let your pet explore, survey the property to make sure it is truly safe, Choczynski Johnson says. Anything potentially harmful should be discarded or relocated.

She suggests checking for and removing wildlife feces, often found at the base of trees. Raccoon feces in particular should be removed because it contains a bacterium that can cause roundworm in pets and humans, the CDC says.

Deceased wildlife should also be removed. Check for things like bee nests and hives; poisonous plants (the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has printable lists of plants toxic to dogs, cats and horses); and any rusty or damaged items, like loose nails.

Identify and Remove Indoor Hazards

When you closed up your cabin at the end of last season, you probably performed a few rudimentary tasks to make sure it would be in tip-top shape next time. Maybe you set mouse and rat traps, or placed moth balls in and around cabinets and corners,

However, to make your cabin safe for your pet, you’ll need to undo all these things before your pet steps inside. This means disposing of all traps and their contents, removing all moth balls (they’re extremely toxic to pets), and storing dangerous household chemicals where your pet can’t reach them.

You should also look around for and clean/fix things like:

  • Broken windows;
  • Mold;
  • Rotting food, if you accidentally left some behind,
  • Loose floor boards;
  • Anything else in disrepair that could potentially hurt your pets, you or your guests;
  • Other pests or pest-control paraphernalia.

Keep Dangerous Equipment, Tools and Products Out of Reach

Be mindful of things you may bring to the cabin that could harm your pets, Sathe says — things like bait and tackle boxes. “If you have a curious pet, keep sharp or toxic items in a pet-proof container such as a cabinet or shed,” she explains.

The same goes for indoor or outdoor household chemicals, or any household hazards that might be found around the cabin.

Provide Shade and Hydration

Dog Shade Spot gollykim/Getty Images

Choczynski Johnson recommends putting up mosquito netting outside the cabin to provide shade and bug protection for your pet. Keep a steady supply of water there, too.

Precisely where and how you put up the net will depend on your location. Generally, mosquito netting can be hung from trees, attached to portable canopies or even secured to your deck or patio. Freestanding mosquito nets are another option.

Keep Leashes, Harnesses and Life Jackets Accessible

Chances are, hiking, kayaking or canoeing are among your intended cabin-related adventures, and you may want your pet to join you. Don’t assume that being in a remote area means you can take them anywhere or let them run free. Just the opposite.

To be safe, Choczynski Johnson says your dog needs to be on a leash and your cat needs a harness. Life jackets are also recommended for dogs if you intend to take them out on to the water with you. Don’t bring the cat on water-related activities.

To avoid hunting around for the leash, harness or life jacket every time you need it, keep them in a designated spot at the cabin so you can easily grab them as you head out the door.

Pro tip: Speaking of hikes, Sathe recommends never taking dogs into unfamiliar territory. “Stay on designated trails and away from bushes or other dense areas where snakes may be hiding,” she says.

Dawn Weinberger
Dawn Weinberger is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon who has contributed to numerous publications and websites over the past 20 years, including RD.com, Glamour, Women's Health, Entrepreneur, and many others. Dawn has a BA in journalism from Western Washington University and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She writes about everything from health and medicine to fashion, shopping, and business.