How to manage greetings when hiking with cats is probably not something you’ve given a lot of thought. And you’re not alone! Although it’s becoming more common to see people taking to the trails with their cats, it’s still pretty unusual.
For feline owners, this means we’re experiencing a range of reactions when we’re hiking with cats. We have to be prepared to encounter people and dogs while protecting our cats and respecting that the trail is meant for everyone. This post describes the precautions we take and discusses what hikers and dog owners can do to make the outdoors more cat-friendly.
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As responsible owners, the most important thing we can do before hiking with our cats is a bit of research. Consider whether your cat will be comfortable on popular trails, which means more human and dog encounters. Or would your cat prefer seldom used trails that you’re likely to have to yourself?
READ MORE ⇒ Tips and Tricks for Traveling With Cats
Fish has always enjoyed meeting new people people and especially loves attention from young children. When we’re out hiking with him, he’s happy to roll over so kids can pet his belly. Chips, on the other hand, is a little more weary of strangers – especially loud ones. He prefers hiding behind a tree or riding on our shoulders as people go by.
If you’re unsure how your cat will react to strangers, I’d suggest playing it safe and opting for a less popular trail. Or, if your schedule is flexible, go at a time when you know the trail will be quiet.
For those of you who don’t hike with cats, be sure to ask before petting any that you see along the trail! Cats need their space and should be respected, just like you would do for a dog.
Before embarking on your first outdoor adventure with your kitty, you’ll need some gear. Start with a harness that fits well and is comfortable for your cat. Also make sure you have a backpack style carrier that your cat likes riding in. This will be their “safe place,” and you’ll always want to have it with you.
READ MORE ⇒ Choosing the Right Harness for Your Cat
Fish and Chips were just kittens when we started hiking with them. Teaching them to ride in our backpacks was incredibly helpful. Not only could we carry them when they got tired, but it provided them somewhere to go when they felt scared or nervous. Over time, they learned to run toward us if they were frightened.
Back in February, Fish tore ligaments in his knee (while playing indoors, ironically). That kind of injury takes a long time to heal, and affected his balance and his ability to jump and climb.
When we started taking him out after the injury, we could tell that he felt vulnerable and afraid. It’s been a process to make him feel more comfortable and safe, especially since he can’t balance well enough to ride on our normal backpacks right now! We’re using a pet carrier backpack, and it’s working great. He still gets to go along, but he feels safe and is secure. If you cat is naturally more skittish, a pet carrier pack may be best for you, too.
Introducing your cat to dogs will help build his confidence when you come across unknown dogs on the trail. Start with a dog you’re confident will behave during meeting and make sure your cat is somewhere he feels safe. Fish and Chips grew up with a couple family dogs, so they feel quite comfortable standing up to most dogs.
Still, when meeting unfamiliar dogs on the trail, it’s a good idea to pick your cat up and let him decide if he wants to meet the dog. Also, just because a dog’s owner believes their pup is good with cats, it doesn’t always mean the dog will react well towards your cats. It’s always best to err on the safe side.
I believe that cat owners have every right to take their feline friends outdoors. However, not all people feel the same or are willing to make accommodations. It’s important to remember that dog owners have been bringing their pets along for a lot longer. We respect that by allowing them to continue to have places to bring their dogs where they don’t have to be concerned about running into cats.
That’s why we always avoid off-leash trails and dog areas. And, when we do encounter dogs on the trail, we’re always the ones to pick up our cats and move over. We also try to call ahead to dog owners to let them know we have cats on the trail so they can be prepared. Some dog are prey driven and will instinctually will chase cats, so we want to give the owners enough warning to get their dog is leashed.
On the other end of the spectrum, some people are over the moon to meet our cats on the trail. These are the interactions we love. People are caught off guard by the cats hanging over our shoulders, and we love hearing stories from people who have tried to do the same thing.
We also get asked frequently if people can take our photo, which we’re usually more than happy to do! We enjoy sharing the message and showing people that it’s possible to enjoy hiking with cats. So if you happen to see us out on a hike, feel free to stop and say hi. Just make sure you offer to pet Fish or he’ll be very offended.
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