An Unlikely Hiking Partner
Bringing along a furry friend seems a natural fit for a day exploring trails in the wilderness; after all, if you’re going to enjoy nature, why not bring along your animal companion to share it with? For most hikers, this means bringing along a canine, but a subset of outdoor enthusiasts believe that felines can get in on the action, too.
As a cat lover and cat parent myself, I was skeptical when I heard about people hiking with their cats. While I’m lucky and have a very loyal and well-trained cat, I can’t imagine she’d enjoy a lengthy trek through the Sierra Nevadas. But it’s true that cats are natural explorers and can benefit greatly from regular hikes alongside humans.
Animal website BestFriends.org profiled several cat owners who hike with their cats on the regular. Although there are some unique challenges (cats are notorious for wriggling out of their harnesses), most of the cats take to hiking well and are enthusiastic about it. This makes sense given that the lineage of small household cats is tied to the large cats who prowl in the wild. Cats tend to be harder to train than dogs, but it’s not impossible for your cat to grow accustomed to a leash. Most owners start small, especially with indoor cats. A quick stroll in the backyard is a good first step. This is also a good test to see if your cat seems eager to roam. While most are, there are many cats who prefer the comfort and familiarity of a house to the unknown outdoors.
Training a cat to respond well to a leash or harness is also excellent training for an emergency plan. Trying to round up your cat during an evacuation is an unreliable plan, but even indoor cats can be cooperative if they’ve been exposed to small trips to the backyard. Working up to longer walks or hikes means that your pet won’t be as traumatized if it ends up in a chaotic situation.
One explorer takes cat adventuring a step further. Rock climber Craig Armstrong brings his cat, Millie, with him on treks and climbs. In a Backcountry.com article (entitled “My climbing partner eats chicken liver“), Armstrong talks about his experiences bringing Millie along. Millie is an adaptable cat who has spent most of her life exploring with Armstrong. Together they’ve traveled around the country.
For those interested in a new venture with a feline familiar, there is plenty of cat camping, hiking, and outdoor gear available through specialty pet websites. Ensure that any animals you bring along with you are vaccinated and able to keep up with you. Bring food, water, and snacks for long day trips, the same as you would for any hiking partner.