Are you ready to hit the road with your feline friend? The term “adventure cat” is booming, and traveling with a cat is becoming almost as popular as with a dog. But cats, however, need more training and preparation than dogs to be comfortable in the outdoors and in unfamiliar environments.
But with enough training and patience, it’s totally possible to train a cat to love being outdoors.
In this post, I’ll share some of the basic training steps we use to teach our cat, Maya, to be comfortable and happy being outdoors.
Introducing A Cat Backpack To Your Cat
This is the most simple and fastest way to introduce your cat to the outside world. If your cat feels safe staying inside a backpack, your cat would feel comfortable pretty much anywhere.
To do so, you will need to follow the steps below. Each step might take a few days (or less, hopefully) to a few weeks (or more, unfortunately) depending on the cats so just be patient, and you’ll get there some day!
1. Place The Backpack With Favorite Toys & Blanket Inside
In general, cats are always curious about new things, but they never let their guard down.
The very first thing you can do is to place the backpack near your cat’s favorite toy or blanket. The goal is for the cat to feel that the backpack’s presence is no longer intimidating and simply a part of his or her daily routine.
2. Reward Your Cat When It Interacts With The Backpack
If your cat starts to do anything with the backpack, such as sniffs around or plays & sleeps inside, reward your cat with treats EVERY SINGLE TIME. You want your cat to associate being in the backpack with a pleasant experience.
3. Walk Your Cat In Backpack Inside The House
Once your cat is comfortable enough being inside the backpack, it’s finally time to start walking! Walk around inside the house for a few minutes to start with, and increase the amount of time and change the location everyday. Then you can do the same practice in the backyard or just outside of your house. Repeat this routine total for a week at least, and don’t forget to give him or her a treat after each walk!
4. Walk Your Cat In Backpack Outside
Once your cat gets used to being in a backpack while walking in the house, it’s time to go outside!
Cats are very sensitive to sound so pick a place in the neighborhood where it’s quiet. Go to the same place to walk everyday until your cat is comfortable enough. After that, you can pick a different location, then do the walk for another few days. You can pick a few places and mix up the location to walk, just like you practiced inside of your house.
Remember to bring your treats!
Socializing A Cat With Other Humans & Dogs
It is difficult being an adventure cat if your cat is scared of other humans and dogs. When you backpack walk your cat, start adding a spot where humans and dogs are around.
My recommendation is a pet friendly cafe, preferably with an outdoor seating, and make sure to avoid rush hour. Cafes are a great place to start getting your cat comfortable with other humans and dogs because people and dogs are usually seated and relaxed.
There isn’t much opportunity for confrontation in a cafe.
Harness & Leash Training
Once your cat is comfortable with a backpack, it’s time to introduce a harness & leash. Although it is more tricky to train than a backpack, being actually able to walk on their feet outside is a great way for cats to get physical exercise and mental stimulation without being in danger outdoors.
1. Introduce Harness & Leash without putting them on
Practice the exact same training as a backpack. First goal is to make your cat get comfortable with these items being around all the time. Place the items near his or her favorite place, and also put them close to the food bowl at meal time. Everytime your cat shows any curiosity or reactions around these items, give them a treat.
2. Show The Harness & Leash In Your Hand Without Putting Them On To Cat
Introduce the harness & leash in your hand, every time your cat shows any positive reaction like sniffs or touches them, reward them with treats. Do this exercise between meal time for a few days to a week, when your cat is hungry.
3. Put a harness on your cat
Try putting the harness on your cat, without buckling or tightening it. I recommend doing this just before meal time, so that your cat associates wearing a harness with yummy food.
If your kitty seems happy and doesn’t mind wearing the harness, slowly fasten and adjust the harness. It should not be too tight on the body, you should be able to put two fingers inside. Once it perfectly fits, reward them with his or her favorite treat right away.
Repeat this exercise at least for a week, make them wear it a little bit longer each day.
4. Walking On Leash Indoors
Once your cat is walking comfortably with the harness on, it’s time to move on to leash training. Attach the leash slowly and walk behind your cat with loose tension. Never pull or try to drag your cat towards the way you want to walk, if the cat starts walking toward somewhere very hard for humans to walk into, just drop the leash and let it drag behind your cat. (Watch out for leash not to tangle)
Walk on leash with loose tension, then drop, let your cat walk by him or herself. Repeat this exercise for at least a few days before meal time, so that your cat gets used to between being loose and slight tension. Don’t forget to reward them after each practice!
5. Leash training outdoors
With the harness and leash on, let your cat observe outside with the door open for a while. Then carry your cat and put him or her down on the ground outside.
Start exploring just outside of your house, so that your cat can get familiar with the territory just outside. Your cat probably won’t walk straight like a dog, but be patient, and never force your cat to walk more than he or she wants to because you don’t want your cat to think walking is a negative experience. Reward during and after the walk, and increase the walking time a little bit more each day.
Things To Consider When Leash Walking Your Cat
1. Pick a quiet place and hours
Cats are very sensitive to noise and fast movement. Especially in the beginning of training, you should avoid the place with busy traffic of cars, people and dogs. Early stage is crucial to the leash & harness training, the negative experience in the stage would affect further training, it may cause your cat being traumatized about walking outdoors.
2. Leash Train your cat before meal time
In order to train your cat, your cat needs to be food motivated. If your cat doesn’t walk straight towards you ( cats usually want to zigzag walk to observe and explore the surroundings), you can guide him or her with a treat. It also encourages cats to have more positive experience with frequent snacks given, they can associate walking with yummy treats = positive experience.
3. Bring A Cat Backpack With You
No matter how the short distance or time of your leash walk would be, make sure to bring a backpack with you. Cats only do what they want to do, they can boicot walking more in the middle of the way. It is important to always have an easy solution to transport your cat with you, in case your cat doesn’t like to be held in your arms for long.
4. Up to date vaccination, flea & tick medicine
Going outside means your cat has a higher chance of being exposed to other animals, fleas and ticks. Make sure your cat has an up to date rabies vaccination and ask your doctor for a prescription for high quality flea medications.
5. ID tag
In small chances your cat gets away from you, make sure your cat has a collar with your contact number on it.
Essential Items For Adventure Cats
The Best Backpack Overall
One of the most irritating things about most backpacks is that because most of them are foldable, they have a weak, unstable bottom that makes them collapse and disrupt the shape of the backpack. Backpacks with an unstable base are very uncomfortable for both cats and owners to carry.
Covono conquered this problem, while maintaining the foldable features for easy storage, they managed to keep the sturdy base and shape to prevent it from collapsing.
The Best Backpack For Large Cats
While most of the cat backpack width is 13 inches, this one has 15 inches. It is also great for cats who prefer to lay down while in the carrier.
The Best Cat Harness
Our best cat harness choice is rabbitgoo Cat Harness & Leash; covers all important features for cat harness; easy putting it on, comfortableness and safety.
Best Expandable Cat Leash
If you have young and active cats, keeping one expandable cat leash is a good option. It stretches much longer than the regular leashes that comes with harness.
Final Thoughts About Training A Cat To Be Adventurous
All cats are different and unique in their own ways just like humans. Your cat might enjoy outdoors just watching outside from the safe place, or running and climbing up the trees by themselves. You have to find the best solution for your cats to enjoy outdoors with proper items and training. We all want our cats to be healthy and happy, and experience outdoors in anyways, either in backpack or on leash, help cats become more stimulated, active, eat and sleep better.