You’ve probably heard of hiking with dogs, but did you know hiking with cats is also a thing? Adventure cats are quickly becoming a hot topic in pet circles, especially for those who spend considerable time outdoors. We know what you’re thinking: “there’s no way I could get my cat to hike with me!” But you might be surprised. With a little patience, training and experience, many cats come to love exploring the outdoors with their pet parents. Hiking can also be super beneficial for cats, supplying them with much needed mental stimulation and exercise. Like with any new activity, you’ll need to adequately prepare to enjoy a successful hike with your cat. Here are 6 tips to get you started.
1. Bring the Proper Gear
Bottom line: If you don’t pack the proper gear, your excursion will not be successful. At the minimum, bring the following:
- Water: Always bring enough for both you and your cat. Never allow your cat to drink from natural water sources like ponds and streams, the risk of parasites and bacteria is simply too great.
- Snacks/food: Hiking burns lots of energy, so you’ll both need to refuel. Consult a vet to find the ideal food for hiking with your cat.
- Harness: The type will depend on your cat’s unique needs, consult this resource for help choosing the proper harness.
- Cat-safe bug repellent: flea, tick and mosquito protection is essential when exploring the outdoors.
- Collar with ID tags (we also suggest microchipping your cat).
- Cat-safe sunscreen (especially if your cat is short-haired, no-haired or fair-haired)
- Cat pack: For when your kitty gets too tired to walk on their own
- Pet-specific first aid kit
- Foldable litter box and/or poop bags (cat poop contains harmful bacteria and should never be left in the wild)
2. Stay on the Trail
Veering off the trail exposes you and your adventure cat to countless safety hazards. Poison ivy, toxic plant life, hungry predators, dangerous terrain—all lurk just off the trail. The environment can also suffer from walking off trail, as delicate ecosystems can easily be disturbed by trampling feet and curious cats. For the benefit of nature, you, and your fur bae, stick to the designated trails.
3. Train Beforehand
Transforming your cat into an adventure cat doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience, training and lots of treats to get your cat ready to hit the trail. First thing, you need to get them used to using a harness and leash (here’s a helpful tutorial for that). Spending a few weeks using the harness around the house and in the backyard is a must. Training your cat to come when called is also important, as accidents and other dangers can occur on the trail without warning.
4. Start Young
The sooner your cat gets acclimated to adventuring, the more likely they are to enjoy it. In fact, kitties are often better at wearing a harness and being walked than adult cats. Before hitting the trail with your young cat, consult your vet to ensure they’re physically ready for hiking (make sure they have all the necessary vaccinations, too!).
5. Beware of Dangers
Nature is fun, but it’s also wild. Owls, eagles, hawks, coyotes, parasites, snakes, biting insects, domesticated dogs—all pose a threat to your cat while hiking. Be prepared to face these risks and plan accordingly. As a rule, always keep your cat close, harnessed, leashed, hydrated and well fed. Apply pet-safe insect repellent and cat-safe sunscreen (for fair, shot-haired and no-haired breeds) to guard against bites and burns. As a precaution, read up on the signs of exhaustion and heat stroke, too.
6. Prepare to Carry Your Cat
Even veteran adventure cats get tired faster than most dogs. Whether from exhaustion or nervousness, at some point you’ll have to pick up your kitty if you take them hiking (hence the cat pack in the suggested equipment above 😉). Simply put, cats tend to feel safer on high ground, so especially at first, your cat might want to “hike” sitting on your shoulders or safely tucked in their cat pack. For these reasons, make sure your cat is comfortable being carried and that you’re physically capable of towing them around before hitting the trails.