Outdoorsy folks might be surprised to find that their spirit animal can take the form of a cat. If we find a cat with the right temperament for outdoor adventures, then we’d have found the perfect nature buddy.
The stereotype has always been that cats are for introverts or quirky old maids. Supposedly, if we’re outdoorsy and want to share our interests with our pet, we should not get a cat. Fortunately, author Laura J. Moss has redefined what it means to be a “cat person.” She penned the bestselling book, Adventure Cats: Living Nine Lives to the Fullest, which became an instant hit and started the “adventure cats” trend. AdventureCats.org is the home of countless classic cats enjoying the outdoors, safely.
In a gist, the book is an entertaining and informative guide on how we can nurture the “wild” in our domesticated felines by taking them with us out into the wild. Whether it’s camping, hiking, kayaking, mountain-climbing, or even spelunking, cats can be the perfect companions.
One of the keys to cat training is great treats. EcoTreats are low-calorie so they won’t hurt kitty’s diet. They’re also all-natural, made in the USA, and the salmon is wild-caught from the Pacific Northwest. Give EcoTreats a try and watch kitty work harder for her favorite tasty treat.
What it takes to be an adventure cat
As temperamental as they are, some cats may not be suitable for outdoor activities because of their age, health, or purr-sonality. When it comes to a cat’s purr-sonality, there are three general types, as determined by the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
- Green cats are “savvy, unflappable and adventurous.” They are natural adventure cats when they are dauntless and can adapt exceptionally well to new environments and situations.
- Orange cats are “good company.” They are not as dauntless and adventurous as green cats, but can still be trained for outdoor activities.
- Purple cats are “affectionate, mostly quiet, and tend to stay out of trouble.” These cats are cautious and prefer to be alone. They will not enjoy outdoor excursions, and might even find them stressful.
Adventure cat training
Get the proper equipment for kitty.
Just using her collar is not advisable, as it does not provide adequate support and safety. And we don’t want to risk our cat dashing off and getting lost. A harness for kitty is an adventure essential. There are two general types of harnesses: a strappy harness and a vest. The harness should fit properly, so be sure to head to a store that has an educated professional available to help get kitty fitted properly. The harness should not be too tight and not too loose. If we can fit one or two fingers underneath, then the fit is just right.
Get kitty adventure-ready.
Harness training kitty for her first adventure involves getting her used to her harness and teaching her to follow basic commands. It takes a little time and patience. And everyone should remember that cats cannot be trained the same way dogs are trained. They understand the world differently. Their motivations are different. And they have different ways they respond to commands.
Kittens are easier to train to walk with a leash and harness. Older cats can definitely be trained. They just require more patience as they aren’t used to being introduced to new things. Time, patience, and fishy treats are the key ingredients to getting kitty ready for our first outdoor adventure together. Here’s a quick training guide:
- Introduce kitty to the harness, which has already been properly fitted with an experienced professional, by simply by letting her sniff it and getting her used to the snapping or velcro sounds of the straps and vest.
- When she’s familiar with the harness, we can put it on kitty, leaving it unfastened. We should do this for the next several days right before her mealtimes, to keep her distracted and make it a positive experience.
- We can leave it on for a few minutes, or until she’s finished eating if she doesn’t like being disturbed during mealtime. But if she gets upset or seems uncomfortable, we must first distract her with a treat before removing the harness. The next time we try again, we should give her a more appetizing treat and remove the harness before she gets upset. We can start fastening the harness when she’s comfortable wearing it and still removing it after a few minutes or when she’s done eating.
- Freezing up and refusing to walk or move is a normal reaction during the first few times that our cat wears her harness. It may take kitty days or weeks to become comfortable wearing her harness, and we should not rush the process. Once she relaxes a bit, we can begin leaving it on for a few more minutes every day.
Pro tip: the key is to keep kitty from hating the harness. Once she hates it, she’ll remember that she hates it, and we’ll have to begin all over again. This is why patience is vital.
- When kitty starts walking and moving normally while wearing the harness, we can try attaching the leash. Let’s not forget her treats. We should hold the leash loosely and let her roam freely inside the house, giving her a treat every now and then. We should do this once or twice a day for several days.
- When she’s used to the leash, she’s ready to be trained to follow commands and to get used to being guided by the leash. The basics of this simply involve putting slight pressure on her leash when she’s walking. Tell her to “come” and then give her a treat when she obeys. This should be repeated several times per session. Later, as an advanced move, we can teach her to “heel,” but let’s take this one at a time.
- When she’s ready for her first venture outside, we should open the door and let her make the decision to step outside when she’s ready. Some cats will bounce right out the door. Others will tentatively take a few steps, then sit, then take a few steps, then sit. This is normal cat behavior. If she is pushed outside or made to stress out, she won’t be likely to venture out.
Pro tip: cats are naturally careful creatures. When startled, they will make a run for safety, which means they’ll run for the door. If the door is closed, they run for the nearest shelter and will likely hide. Even though we can take every step to make kitty comfortable, something as benign as a car sound, or a dog barking in the distance can startle kitty. Leave the door open the entire time kitty is outside. That way if she becomes determined that she needs safety, she won’t experience the trauma of not being able to get into the house. Eventually, we’ll want to get her used to her safe place being her carrier so when we are on our adventures, we can still give her a safe place to be when she’s tired or startled.
- Our backyard or front yard would be the ideal place to get her used to the outdoors on her leash. It’s essential that her first few outdoor explorations be someplace quiet and near our home to make her feel more safe and secure. We should leave the door open and have a heavy towel handy in case she does panic. When this does happen, we need to wrap kitty in the towel to avoid getting scratched and then carry her back inside.
- When all goes well, and kitty stays consistently calm when we take her outside, we should hold the leash loosely and give her time to familiarize herself with the new sights, sounds, and smells. When she starts exploring, we should just follow her and let her take the lead.
- Kitty may sniff around, or she may simply sit on her haunches and chill. Whatever she’s interested in doing, the important thing is to make her feel comfortable and happy in the great outdoors.
- We shouldn’t leave kitty unattended and with her leash secured to something, for any length of time. As lithe, limber, and playful as cats can get, kitty can easily get tangled in her leash. And she won’t be able to get away from too much sunlight, bad weather, and approaching wildlife, which includes dogs, raccoons, and birds of prey that may mistake kitty for lunch.
- When kitty gets accustomed to going outside on a leash, she might start crying and pestering us to take her out. We should not give in to her demands. If we do, we will be “rewarding” and encouraging her behavior. Although, we can certainly take pride in the fact that we have successfully trained her to love the outdoors and to want more. We can get her accustomed to understanding that when we say “no” to her demands, she isn’t going out. When we say a command, like “outside,” and then we take her out, then she knows it’s happening.
Pro tip: be careful never to carry kitty outside without her harness. She should learn over time that the only way to be outside is if we’ve put her harness on, and we are with her. This helps to keep her from dashing outside when the door is open.
- “Adventure Cats: living nine lives to the fullest,” AdventureCats.org
- “Adventure Cats: living nine lives to the fullest,” get the book
- “Adventure Cats of Instagram,” WIRED
- “Meet Your Match: Feline-alities,” ASPCApro