Hiking with a cat may seem like an odd notion at first. This is not something you see often in movies or in real life for that matter. But, believe it or not, this endeavor is not only possible, but also becoming more and more common. What is more, leash walking provides both mental stimulation and physical activity for your beloved animal companion. Then again, there are some rules to follow, as you need to introduce the cat to everything from a harness to the trail.
Testing the waters
In general, cats enjoy outdoor escapades and exploration, although not all felines are cut out for outdoor exploits. So, before you hit the trail together, there is some legwork to do. First off, it is recommended to check whether your cat is in good condition. Likewise, assess your kitty’s personality and figure out whether hiking is something it will like or not. Another thing to note is that the outdoor environment bears a wide array of risks, including flea, ticks, and heartworm exposure. So, make certain that your cat is vaccinated.
Furthermore, when choosing the trail, take into account your pet’s fitness level. There are lots of virtual tools which enable you to track their health condition. I personally use PetPace mobile app since I’ve found it pretty helpful. Also be aware that older cats and those with medical conditions are not able to tackle rough terrain and long distances. The same goes for cats that are accustomed to walking and being carried around. You can, of course, always talk to the vet before venturing outside. Pay attention to weather conditions as well and avoid hiking on a rainy day. On the other hand, a partially hot day may bring other problems, especially for cats with longer coats.
Next, make sure to gear up and know that it is a good idea to prepare for just about anything. One essential piece of equipment is a collar with an identification tag with your name, address, and phone number on it. A harness is paramount to safe hiking and in case your local pet store offers only a few types of harnesses, you are better off browsing rich offerings on the internet. Personally, I use a Puppia soft mesh harness, although there are many other quality products out there.
I even ordered a Melody Chaser Active Mouse from Net to Pet and packed my backpack with everything I could think of. Indeed, it is convenient to purchase pet food and accessories online, as they are only a few clicks away. Finally, bear in mind that hydration is important for both you and your pet. Do not allow your cat to drink from ponds, streams and creeks, regardless of how clear they appear: Parasites and bacteria elude our senses and can pose a grave danger to animals.
Leash training starts at home, not outdoors. The goal is to make your cat comfortable with the harness and walking in that fashion. This can take a few days or weeks, so show patience and be prepared to take things slowly. The next stage can involve a yard, after which you can take the cat to a quiet outdoor area. It usually takes time for felines to acclimatize to new surroundings and the first few hikes could be much less graceful than the photo-worthy moments you had envisioned.
One of the tricks you ought to teach your cat is to come when called. I learned the hard way that this comes in handy in case the animal gets off the leash. This brings us to the point that the cat should be on it at all times. Wandering far away from the trail could face your feline friend with dangers such as poisonous plants, snakes, birds of prey, etc. Any kind of threat, even if it is a leashed dog, should be taken seriously. In these situations it is advisable to simply pick up the cat. It will feel much safer with a visual and tactical advantage.
Every step you take…
There are few things as soothing and joyous as immersing in the great outdoors with your cat. However, make baby steps before leaps and bounds and do not presume that your pet will be over the moon with the whole idea at first. Proper preparation is key to sound and exciting adventuring. Thus, pack the essentials, stay vigilant, and expect occasional pick-me-ups. Steer away from wandering off the beaten track and fuel yourself and your cat with food. That way, you will be able to stay on the safe side and make the most of the breathtaking hike.