The concept of traveling with a cat used to be ridiculous and impossible. However, people have recently started taking their felines on trips more frequently. And although many still find them lazy creatures who spend days lying on the couch (it is still partially true), cats can be extremely active and zealous about exploring outdoors! We aren’t here to write an argumentative animal essay, about which is the best animal to hike with, just here to explain that you can hike with a cat.
Aside from being excellent companions, cats become resistant to various ailments and diseases when hiking (or staying active). But before taking your pet to the actual hike, there are some things that you should know.
Before Taking Off
First and foremost, is your cat trained? Not every cat can easily accept wearing a harness and walking on a leash. If you see signs of stress from your cat, you may want to just avoid these trips. Depending on the breed and the way you treat your feline friend, it might be challenging to make the pet accustomed to wearing the mentioned gear. If you haven’t hiked before, ensure having some practice at home or in the backyard. Leash train at home and slowly move outdoors to help your kitty acclimate to the outside environment with its colors, sounds, and even distractions.
Also, it would be plausible to try teaching your cat to return to you when called. Indubitably, it can be a mission impossible, considering cats’ nature (some of them can be real capricious). But it is worth giving it a try.
The Right Gear Is A Must
Wherever you want to hike, the gear is essential. Even if your cat is well-trained, it should wear an appropriate harness and sometimes hiking boots (terrain and cat dependant). Plus, you never know what can happen during the trip. A spontaneous rain or a scorching sun are the two most unpredictable aspects, which will do you and your kitty no good if unprepared. Thus ensure having:
- Hydration: Plenty of portable water for you both. Dehydration is a common among hikers. Make sure you have enough water and don’t rely on streams or rivers. Also, have some purifying tablets because cats are susceptible to giardiasis and other waterborne diseases. Simply put, bring water, or a water filter for both you and your cat.
- Harness and leash: An adventure, harness, and leash are three indispensable units. Whenever you start your trip, make sure the harness and leash are in the right places. You can also add reflective paper or LED lights to the harness and leash to make your cat visible at any time of the day.
- Poop bags: Cats can’t read Leave No Trace, but we are responsible for them since they are with us. Clean the poops up after your cat and carry it out.
- Collar: Ensure purchasing a collar with a special compartment where your address and phone number will be found. You can even add a trackable chip to know where your cat is.
- Rain gear: A pleasant trip can become unbearable in the blink of an eye. Rain can often prevent us from savoring the moment. In such cases, having rain gear and additional layers can save the day. Of course, this is for yourself, but you likely want to consider something for your cat as well.
- Sun protection: The sun can be scorching when hiking. Apart from having sunglasses that block UVA and UVB light, consider taking and applying sunscreen on you and your kitty if it has light-colored fur, not much fur, or no fur.
- First-aid kit: No matter whether you plan a one-day trip or two-week hike, taking a first-aid kit is vital. Provide things necessary for you as well as your cat. Bandages, tapes, antiseptic, painkillers, tweezers, and a tick key might come in handy.
- Nutrition: Your furry friend doesn’t necessarily need to be active to burn a lot of calories. Sitting inside your backpack and observing the new surroundings will make it burn calories similar to a workout. Prepare snacks in abundance. Take some lightweight food to give your cat whenever necessary. This is recommended for any longer hike.
- Bring a cat carrier: Be sure you have a way to carry your cat. This is in case of injury illness, weather, wildlife, or any need. Baby carriers, dog carriers, and other items are commonly available specifically made for hiking or emergency situations.
- Photo: Have an updated photo of your feline friend to be on the safe side. If you two get separated, you can show your cat’s image to others to help you find your kitty quickly. We hope and expect you’ll never need this.
Tips For Hiking With A Cat
Once you complete every preparation step, and both you and your cat are comfortable, you’re ready to go. The following are suggestions to make sure you and your feline friend are safe and sound and, most importantly, have fun hiking.
Keep Your Cat On a Leash and Harness At All Times
Your cat will be eager to know the new world. Walking around and sniffling will be common whenever you take breaks and stay in one place for some time. Even if your friend has never gone too far from you, keep it on a leash and harness. Think of potential dangers your cat may experience. Numerous poisonous plants can pose a threat to your cat. Your younger fellow traveler can also chew some plant or drink from a contentious stream.
Also, think of disappearing into the woods. Since cats are curious, they may follow bugs or other creatures and vanish. Remember that they are not aware of the wildlife and its rules, so make sure to always keep an eye on your friend.
Be Ready to Pick Your Cat Up
If you think something may happen to your kitty – pick it up. Felines always feel safer when they are up high, regardless of whether it is a child or a friendly dog that wants to befriend your kitty. You can train your cat to climb on you, first your arm, then shoulder, and atop your pack.
Apart from threats, be ready to pick your partner when it is tired. A scorching sun, rugged terrain, or a long climb can tire your cat. Your friend is always curious, but it doesn’t mean it should always be on its paws walking around and exploring the surroundings.
Needless to say, hydration is an integral part of our lives. Bring plenty of water and take frequent breaks from active hiking. You may be more resistant to dehydration, but it doesn’t mean your cat follows your lead. It may think since you don’t drink, it is not the time for him/her to drink, as well.
Never let your kitty drink from open streams, rivers, and other water sources. Suppose your friend shows similar symptoms to lethargy, panting, elevated heart rate, loss of appetite, dry gums and mouth, or decreased skin elasticity. In that case, he/she probably experiences dehydration. Make sure your cat drinks as much water as needed. Also, if your cat eats more dry food during the journey, it is imperative to provide much more H2O.
Avoid The Rain
Many cats will simply be miserable or uncooperative in the rain. Consider not bringing your companion on rainy days or days with high chances of rain. If you know your cat can handle it, go for it!
Hiking with a cat is an exciting and worthwhile experience. Not only do you have a perfect companion, but you can keep your cat healthy through activity. However, every hike must be preceded with exceptional preparation and training. Whenever you plan to hit the trail, make sure to get familiar with the mentioned list of essentials and rules to ensure the trip is safe and enjoyable both for you and your feline friend.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about