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Beacon Senior News

Is my cat an adventure cat?

May 03, 2022 10:36AM ● By Sara Ferguson

Doing fun things with your cat can enrich his or her life and deepen your bond. Backpacking is great for some cats, but please ask these two questions before taking your cat out: Is she confident enough for this activity? And are you patient enough to train her? 

Tail up, ears forward

One way to tell if she is confident enough is to watch her reaction when the doorbell rings. If she comes running to the door with tail up and ears and whiskers forward, she may enjoy new experiences. A confident kitten under 4-6 months may be more easily trained for outside adventures.

If she hangs back or hides with new sounds or people, please reconsider. Cats instinctively know how vulnerable they are outside. That’s why they get low to the ground and head for cover when scared. 

Walk indoors

Next, find the right equipment. For her own safety, she should be harness trained before going outside. This is a process of gradually adapting her to a secure harness or walking jacket so she feels comfortable walking around (or even playing) in one while still inside. 

Once she’s accustomed to the harness, take her for practice walks around the house while giving her treats. If she likes that, you can start to take her outside. If you live in an apartment, practicing walks in the hallway is perfect.

Choose a quiet time when she will meet the fewest people. If neighbors do appear, take time to introduce them to her and show her they aren’t strangers. Let them feed her a treat, too. 

Take her outside

Once she’s comfortably walking around your home or hallway, you can take her outside. I suggest carrying her over the threshold every time so she does not turn into a door darter. Again, choose a quiet time outdoors with the least foot traffic. Let her move around at her own pace. 

Once you know she enjoys being outside (tail up and ears forward), you can introduce her to the backpack. Choose a backpack big enough so she can lie down, both for rest and if she needs to retreat from anything scary. Introduce the backpack inside. Make it a fun place to hang out in, just like you would her carrier. Place her favorite food and toys in it so it becomes a normal part of the furniture. 

Once she’s very comfortable with the pack, put on her walking jacket and let her go outside. Zip her in (many packs have a hook inside to attach her leash to) and go for a short walk around the house. Reward her when she’s inside. Let her out and reward her again. Use high-protein, yummy treats and give her lots of rewards to make everything as pleasant as possible before you even go outside. 

Just like carrier training, go gradually, treating all the while, to make going outside a fun thing to do. This is where training a confident kitten will probably lead to your most successful adventures. 

Read her body language

Pay attention to what she is telling you with her body language. If she crouches with ears low, whiskers back and dilated pupils, she is afraid. A fearful cat is not having fun outside in your backpack, no matter how much fun you are having. 

A recent webinar with Kimberley Freeman, a professional tracker who finds lost cats, reported that the adventure cat trend has dramatically increased her lost cat cases. If your cat is a less confident adult, please ask yourself if trying to make her into an adventure cat is worth it if you lose her forever. 

If you have a confident cat (tail up and ears forward), plan thoughtfully, go gradually and train thoroughly. For some cats, travel is a wonderful extension of your time with them. For the other 95 percent, a walk in the back yard may be adventure enough.

Sara Ferguson is the Director of Happy Cats Haven in Manitou Springs. Her monthly blog, Ask Ms. Kitty, offers advice and resources on cat behavior. Read more articles at www.happycatshaven.org